In case you didn't know, I have been told I make amazing chocolate chip cookies ️. I hope this doesn't sound like a brag, I am being super honest, my kids used to sell my cookies to their classmates at school - they are that good.
Recently, my youngest daughter called me up to ask what was the special ingredient in my cookies. She says she follows the recipe to the letter but her cookies never come out like mine. I told her my secret ingredient was love (I know it sounds a bit hokey, but it's true). I explained that as I make the cookies I think about how they will be enjoyed, how my grand babies will smile broadly with cookie debris smeared over their faces, how my husband will delight when there are cookies in the cookie jar for that late night snack, and how the smell of freshly baked cookies lingers in the house and welcomes visitors with a friendly olfactory 'hello'.
She was a bit skeptical but tried the secret ingredient in her next batch and to her surprise they came out AMAZING!! She called me back to share her delight and we had a nice talk about how when you pay attention to cookie making , when you are present for the baking experience - well, it's a game changer (or maybe a tastebud changer ).
Being present, in the moment, is a game changer not only for cookie making but for pretty much everything in life. When we choose to be present to our life, something magical and transformative happens.
Have you ever had the experience when you are doing something so mundane it's almost hypnotic and out of the blue you are infused with inspiration, insights and creative thoughts? This happens to me when I am ironing or when I go for a walk and sometimes at the gym. I am teleported out of my 'life situation' (a term used by Eckart Tolle) and I enter 'now'.
The power of 'now' as caring-healers is the secret ingredient for the work we do in the NICU. I often talk about the difference between 'doing to' and 'being with'. 'Doing to' is task driven, no presence needed but when we shift to 'being with' it's like everything opens up and we can see how we are touching the other person and how that person is touching us. The late Dr. Steven Hoath used the mobius strip analogy when we were creating the universe of developmental care model to exemplify that moment of presence in caring. He used the expression "the shared interface of care, where care is rendered and received". To fully engage with this shared interface, one must be present with other.
Pretty much every human being (and other mammals too) knows when they are 'seen' and when they are a passing task. It's something you feel deeply in your soul. I recently shared the story of when I had just given birth to my son Alex and was in my postpartum room when I got a call from my family to tell me dad was not doing well (he had cancer and died a few months later). As I wept in my room, cradling my brand new baby boy the nurse came into my room and very quietly sat beside me and simply placed her hand on my shoulder.
This incredibly simple act meant the world to me and in that moment my grief was seen, was acknowledged and I felt I was given permission to feel all the feelings I felt in that overwhelming moment of sadness. To this day, now 30 years later, when I retell this story the feelings I felt then come rushing back and I am reminded I want to be that nurse. I want to be that caring-healer who silently bears witness and provides comfort through presence for another.
Paying attention, being in the now can feel challenging, particularly in the fast-paced world of neonatal intensive care but for those of you who consciously choose to touch the lives of the people you serve every day, the path is presence. I invite you to try it, just for one care encounter. Be fully present to your patient, greet them verbally, place your hands on them lovingly, pausing until you know they have acknowledged your presence. Proceed with care slowly, paced by your patients response to you. Make eye contact, speak soothingly, intentionally to them as a fellow human being, be authentic, be with them.
Let me know how it goes
Take care and care well,
P.S. If you are interested in learning how to integrate mindful presence into your practice and the culture of your organization Caring Essentials can help.
Using breakthrough, evidence-based strategies Caring Essentials helps you achieve clarity, build congruence, and challenges you, your colleagues, and your organization to become a center of excellence in trauma-informed neuroprotective care.
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