A number of years ago, while attending the Trauma Recovery Certification training, a teacher who worked with troubled youth remarked that by the end of the year she wanted all the children to know that God loves them. In response, I invited her to ponder if a better intention might be that by the end of the year each child knew self-love.
Working through my own grief, and being with many others who are grieving and traumatized, I have learned that following any tragedy the search to reclaim personal worth is immense. Crisis drives us inward there to discover the deeper meaning of who we really are and our purpose for being. The Chinese Holy Book, the Tao Te Ching teaches that only after we have discovered our true self, our own divine self, and have lovingly embraced that true self, can we love and embrace the divinity surrounding us.
Love the world as myself; for only then can I care for all things.
The Tao Te Ching describes that each person has a unique purpose in life, and is endowed with the abilities to achieve that purpose. Craftsmen of the Middle Ages conveyed a deep respect for the talent they had been given. They believed the spiral patterns on their fingertips were marks left by the soul entering the body and they infused what they touched and the things they made with their soul’s energy. They honored the sacredness of their soul’s gift and deeply invested love energy into each creation.
Our work, like theirs, is an extension of ourselves, an expression of our soul. We too can infuse with love all that we touch, all that we create. To do so, we must first feel the love within us and then believe that we are capable of sending that love from ourselves.
I like to recall the grade-six science experiment that introduced me to the concept of energy. The teacher placed a tuning fork on each of our desks. As he struck his, each of ours rang in the same tone and at the same frequency as the one that was struck. The lesson of the tuning forks reminds us that we are like a tuning fork; when we send love and compassion others can pick up those vibrations and their behaviors can change because of what we send from ourselves.
Years later, as a clinical supervisor and educator in gerontology, I was again reminded of the lesson of the tuning forks. I noted that within minutes of one agitated older person beginning to pace, a second and then a third and a fourth older person would join the first as they moved in circle fashion around the nursing unit.
Harnessing the interest of the nursing students was essential to test my assumptions. If the restless “vibes” from the first were being projected into the environment and being “picked up” by those who followed, could more positive influences not be picked up as well? Could these more positive vibes being purposefully sent to another change the outcome of the behaviors? The students agreed to the test. Each was assigned an agitated older person from the nursing unit roster. They were to read the chart, make a pre-visit, then write a “before” description of any thoughts and feelings that arose about the assigned person. They were to keep this description in a sealed envelope until completion of the assignment.
Each morning upon awakening, and each evening before retiring, the student nurse was to consciously think of, and mentally send, three positive thoughts conveying love and caring to the older person. When working on the unit, the student was to again send the same positive thoughts before entering the person’s room and prior to providing any care. In their verbal and written reports on the older person, students were to be exact in what has been observed, heard, smelled, touched. They were encouraged not to subjectively elaborate in any way.
Results, even after one week, were impressive. As the nursing students shared summaries of the week’s documentation of the older person’s behavior, and their post-description of their own thoughts and impressions of the person, they recognized the significance of what had taken place.
In every case, students felt a warming of the relationship with the older person. In the post-description they viewed each person in a different, more positive light. The restless behavior, as measured by the pacing episodes, of all five older persons had decreased with the receipt of caring, loving energy being projected their way. While striking out at staff was a familiar behavior for all of these individuals, in not one case had a student been struck.
How could eager and caring nursing students have such a positive impact on the lives of five agitated older persons? Were the older persons feeling the positive effects of the loving, caring thoughts being purposefully projected their way? How could loving, caring thoughts decrease restless, agitated behaviors? Is it possible that loving, caring thoughts can help to calm and mend the fractures in traumatized souls?
This month as you ponder the power of love, I encourage you to recall the ability of those student nurses to decrease restlessness for five agitated older persons because of their willingness to consciously and purposefully send thoughts of love and care. I ask that you ponder any changes that might be necessary in your own relationships and to then recognize the power of your thoughts and words to facilitate those changes.
Let us ponder the power of love as reflected in the words of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. “Someday when we have mastered the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love. Then for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.”
“I knew I needed to learn how to heal because I needed to heal myself”— Jane Simington
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