William Martin has been a teaching guide at The Still Point, Center for Zen Practice in Chico, California. Nancy Martin is a Methodist minister and founder of Zen Compassionate Care and director of The Still Point. William Martin continues his work on Taoism at www.taoiststudies.com. In this fetching paperback, they have melded the poetic and healing philosophy of the Tao Te Ching with the feelings, duties, fears, and loving service of those who are caregivers for loved ones. More than 6.5 million people, 29% of the U.S. population, fit this description and spend an average of 20 hours per week helping someone else. Drawing on their years of experience in hospice work, counseling, and Zen practice, William and Nancy Martin provide commentary in eighty-one chapters, evoking the structure and content of the Tao Te Ching. In their introduction, the authors note that caregiving and the Tao have characteristics in common:
"Each asks that we show up and have a direct experience of life as it is unfolding in this moment. Each seems unpredictable to our conditioned mind yet follows its own course and asks us to follow along. Each contains paradoxes that our desires and opinions cannot resolve and therefore asks for our acceptance. Each asks not for a grand plan but for a willingness to take the next simple step."
The Martins take from the Tao Te Ching the idea that our agenda for what must happen in our encounters with our sick or disabled loved ones must be set aside. Although we wish for their well-being day by day, we cannot change them or give them joy. Our loved one allows the tenderness and nurturing that lies within us to come into full bloom. Trying too hard brings difficulties, and there are many times when we feel like collapsing in a heap or flying away to a faraway island where we can rest and revive ourselves. A much wiser option is described in the Tao Te Ching:
If we want a situation to change,
we must let it remain as it is.
If we want people to heal,
we must let them be ill.
If we want to be strong
we must let ourselves be weak.
Resistance keeps us stuck.
Acceptance sets us free.
We highly recommend The Caregiver's Tao Te Ching as one of the most practical, lyrical, and loving guides for those who are called to the service of others.