The human senses are our contact to our environment. Perhaps the most important organs of sense are our eyes. An English proverb attests: “Eyes are the window of the soul.”
In Part Two of my blog series on dementia and the senses, I focused on eyesight. Our eyes not only connect us with our surroundings, but help us maintain sharpness of our minds.
I often take my eyesight for granted. But the eyesight of persons with Alzheimer’s and dementia may change as the disease progresses. This will cause them to perceive and interpret their environment differently.
One of my favorite poets, Rumi, wrote, “Everything that is made beautiful and fair and lovely is made for the eye of one who sees.” With the following reflection, I hope to focus your awareness as a caregiver on seeing, appreciating, and “experiencing” objects in your daily life and surroundings. It was composed by my mentor and friend, Merle Stern.
Take a few moments to relax. Let your worries drift away as you dwell in appreciation of our remarkable sense of sight.
Find the time of day when you know that your life will be without distractions, not easily disturbed, and therefore an opportunity for reflection. Find a spot where you know there will not be any external intrusion. Take a comfortable position whether sitting or lying down.
After you have settled, focus your awareness on your breathing. Experience the movement of your breath as you quietly breathe in and out. Now feel your entire body in rhythm with your breathing.
With your eyes still open, scan your surroundings. Allow your eyes to settle on something to which you feel drawn. Depending where you are, it might be a flower, an arid landscape, a tree, an empty vase, a piece of furniture that you hope to refinish, a precious memento like a trophy, plaque, or favorite painting.
Become aware of what you are experiencing as your eyes settle on this object. What is your sight communicating to you? Even though you have seen this object before, somehow it is as if you are seeing it for the first time. Feel yourself drawn to connect to what you are seeing. Become aware of the feelings generated within you. Do you feel relaxed, serene, anxious, restless, or distracted by suddenly remembering you had something else to do?
Now engage in a dialogue in order to develop a relationship with your chosen object. Formulate your own questions that specifically apply to that object. For example, had I chosen an empty vase, these are some of the questions I would pose:
- I notice you do not have any flowers. Are you often without flowers?
- Do you like having water and flowers in you?
- How do you feel when you do not have any flowers?
- Do you feel you are just on display?
- Do you feel that there is a purpose to your existence? If so, what is it?
- Are you here because you were given as a gift? Are you appreciated as a gift?
- Do you have any favorite flowers, and if so what kind?
- How do you feel when the flowers are gone?
- How do you feel when the flowers have died but not removed, and the water emits an unpleasant smell?
After you have had all your questions answered, and you feel that you know your chosen object, take a moment and absorb what you are experiencing.
Now gently close your eyes. You are deliberately closing out light. Notice how your environment changes? Take a moment and absorb what you are experiencing. What is it that resonates with your being, e.g., the emptiness of the vase? What has awakened inside of you? How has the sight of the chosen object connected with what you are experiencing at this given moment in time? In the darkness you cannot see the object, but you know it is there. What are you experiencing? What is the difference between seeing the object in light, and knowing it is there in the darkness even though you cannot see it?
When you are ready, gently open your eyes and come back to the room.
What is the value of this experience for you? How can you be more sensitive to your loved one’s changing perception of their environment? Take a few minutes to write your reflections in your journal.
I wish you peace, patience, and joy in your caregiving today and every day!
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Many thanks to Merle Stern, my friend and mentor, for composing this meditation. Feel free to pass it on to friends and family, but please give credit to Merle and this website.
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Here is a unique version of the song, “What a Wonderful World,” sung by the English boys’ chorus, Libera. The lyrics describe seeing the bountiful beauties of this world: https://youtu.be/b4nmVhnGtDw.
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My younger sister Marcia and I recently published a journal called My Blessings Journal. It can be a useful tool to introduce you to the joys of keeping a journal. You can order a copy through my website: CaregiverFamilies.com/book/.
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