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Turning to the Inner Landscape

"Turning to the inner landscape" may be an unusual phrase for some, particularly in relation to caregiving. Caregiving is, after all, about the externals, right?

A resource by Kevin Sharpe

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Turning to the inner landscape. It may be an unusual sounding phrase for some, particularly in relation to caregiving. Caregiving is, after all, about the externals, about the physical details, right?

That is right – in part.

The days and nights of caregiving can become filled to overflowing with the physical details of providing care. The caregiver somehow finds a way, though, to manage them – either by moxie, miracle, or magic. As care becomes more involved, as it becomes more hands-on, a near-constant flow of adrenaline seems to support the movements of hands and feet that are always doing, doing, doing, going, going, going.

When focused solely on the physical details of the externals of giving care, the act of caregiving can quickly become all-consuming.

The result

All of it can begin to take a toll on the caregiver. This toll can show up in the caregiver’s body as exhaustion, stress, mental as well as physical pain, often leading to the caregiver’s own set of health concerns.

For as physically challenging as caregiving can be, it is significant – and not just for the person receiving care. It is significant because all the doing and all the going get us out of our heads and into our bodies in a very real way. This being in our bodies has the potential to take us to a threshold of sort, a deeper aspect of the caregiver’s journey where we are offered an opportunity to move into a liminal space of transformation and authentic healing.

Of course, we’re not obligated to take this deeper journey. If we do, however, we caregivers find that it’s not a journey that uniquely takes place in our exterior world. It is a journey that moves us through our inner landscape – an intimate world that is usually quite foreign to most.

And, so, this curious sounding phrase – this inner landscape – points to a very intimate place within each of us that offers the opportunity to heal through the pain and suffering and hurt that often comes out of the experience of giving care.

The Inner Landscape

The inner landscape is a vibrant, fully alive, continuous environment that we can enter into any time we choose. If hearing the phrase inner landscape creates some confusion for you. In part, it’s because the phrase is not all that common in most circles of conversations.

The fact that we can’t touch or see the inner landscape with any of our five physical senses doesn’t help matters much. But it’s worth remembering that this non-physical landscape has a direct and tangible impact on our physical, day-to-day lives. That alone is reason enough to become more familiar with our inner landscape: all those peaks and valleys of our emotions and feelings and non-physical aspects of ourselves.

Consciously learning to shift from our external experience to the experience of our inner landscape is something any of us can do. This process actually allows us to dive below the surface of our caregiving experiences in order to be with them and learn from them and heal through them.

A very good place to start to explore this path of healing is Kevin Sharpe's book I Am Here: The Healing Journey of Caregiving.

This article ©Kevin Sharpe.

My Inspiration

This article and the book I Am Here: The Healing Journey of Caregiving come out of lived experience. In the Spring of 2010, my life turned upside down as I found myself stepping into the role of full-time caregiver for my father, who suddenly became critically and later terminally ill. Despite having a complete set of “tools” at my fingertips for managing the intense stress of this new life as caregiver (I was a stress management consultant, after all.), I didn’t use them. The result was a tidal wave of crippling stress that impacted most every area of my life, including my health and the quality of care I was able to offer my father. But it didn’t stop there. I continued to try to ignore and then push through the stress, the exhaustion, the hurt. I managed to hobble through, with each passing day becoming more and more difficult, more and more painful. Then one particular night, after yet another intense “shift” of caregiving, I came face-to-face with a suffocating tightness and gripping pain in my chest. It literally took my breath away and brought me to my knees. With one hand pressing against my chest and the other holding onto the wall, trying to support my collapsing body, I finally faced the reality that it was time for me to start to listen to all that was happening inside my body, inside my mind. It was finally time for me to take a dose of my own medicine and start to listen to and explore my inner landscape. This was a painful, scary, and yet life-saving turning point for me in my caregiving journey. It was this unyielding acceptance of life-as-it-is that paved the way to a transformation of my caregiving journey into one of real healing – for both myself and my father.

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