Makowski and Epstein presented a wonderful explanation of the differences between mindfulness and mindlessness.
Mindfulness is purposeful with attention to one’s own mutual process during every day work with the goal of practicing clarity and compassion. I have to admit that being present totally takes a lot of work some days and the component of clarity sometimes comes after careful reflection. They talked about “attentive observation, critical curiosity and a beginner’s mind which is always open to the possibilities” as a great way to enter each conversation and meeting we have with our patient’s and their families. I found this reassuring because every meeting to me should not be a continuation of the ones before but a new story never told before because each person we encounter is unique.
Mindlessness as presented was a “tendency of the mind to seek premature resolution.” I do not feel it is our purpose to seek resolution but to facilitate. It was wonderful to see the reminder of music and art as a way to facilitate the mindfulness. It was introduced as a possible way to create harmony out of chaos. I think would be a great way to set the tone and bring a commonality to the purpose of our meetings, a baseline of sorts to be with and move from.
I was introduced to the term of “exquisite empathy – highly present, sensitively attuned, well boundaried, heartfelt empathic engagement.” The challenge of this for me is the continued work of knowing myself. In this work that we do, I find this an ever evolving and constant work that brings a more honest and heartfelt engagement and presence with everyone I meet in my day, and the welcoming of all the emotions that come in the family meetings, interactions with other staff, and the support required to do this work.
The take home message for me was that “empathy is emotional labor.” I had never thought of it in this way but it certainly explains why exhaustion can come from the patience and willingness to step into the world of our patients and the experience of just being.
The only way to remain mindful is to practice. How much mindfulness practice do you need? For me I want to practice this everyday by remembering to slow it down, be present, listen well, be open to accepting, and forgiving with all that I am. Will you join me?
Barbara Rogers, MSN