Many of our members take care of elderly parents, which can be a stressful situation if the parent is in a negative state of mind and refuses to budge from that state. Bodhinatha frequently receives requests for how to positively manage this type of situation. He suggests that we cannot expect the person to be uplifted, it is enough to do the kindly act, to fulfill our duty in a loving way.
A related point came to mind this morning. We have a situation where many of our members are taking care of elderly parents, one way or another. Either the parents are living with them or visiting them regularly, interacting quite a lot. I get memos all the time about this subject, "Please give me advise about taking care of my parents."
Here is one message that came in recently requesting advise, slightly edited to keep the person anonymous. "The Doctor has put Dad on an even stronger pain medication. He spends his days in bed. He is very, very depressed. I pray daily that I can brighten his day in some small way. I offer to massage him. Sometimes he is open, sometimes he just wants to be left alone. Please put him in your thoughts and prayers. My husband and I try very hard to care for him in the best way we know how. I, most times, feel it is never enough, never good enough because Dad is so closed down, so critical and angry. I continually look for ways to give and to serve each day. Please offer advise and encouragement."
Sound familiar? It is a definite problem where the parent is in a negative state of mind to one degree or another, and refuses to budge from that state of mind, no matter what the children do. They are determined to remain negative, critical and unhappy, which frustrates those that are taking care of the person because they want that not to be the case.
Here was the advise. "Regarding advise in caring for your father-in-law, it is enough to do the kindly act. If it is appreciated or not, from a karmic point of view does not matter. You are creating good karma by fulfilling dharma." That was the advise.
In other words, don't expect the person to be other than depressed. It is just depressing you, the father or mother remaining depressed. So you are discouraged because what you are doing is not changing that. That is frustrating yourself unnecessarily because what you are doing is all you can do. You can't change a lifetime of mental habits of a person just by smiling and being nice. The person is who he or she is. All you can do is your duty, do it to the best of your ability. If the person is uplifted and smiles because of it or remains grumpy and depressed, you can't let that be the measure of your success. The measure of success is doing the duty in the first place, doing it the best you can, doing it with love. That is all you can do. You have earned lots of good karma by that simple action.
That ties into happiness in the sense, that you don't want to let another's unhappiness take away your happiness.
It is okay for you to be happy, even though the parent isn't happy, even though you are in the same house. It is not against the rules to smile and laugh and joke around just because the parent won't. You can't let it be contagious, that sense of negativity and depression and criticalness if they have that, because you are not able to do anything about it. But it should not ruin the mood of everyone else in the family. They should not feel they are not doing their best.
This applies to everything we do for others in life. Take this same principle. Sometimes parents get discouraged because they do the best they can with their children and the children don't respond in a way that seems at all reasonable to what they are doing to try and help. So the parents don't feel good. "Gee, the child didn't respond to all my good advise, all my love and attention. They are still doing the same old, stupid things." The parent feels sad. But why should you feel sad? You have done your duty, you have done the best you can, you have earned good karma by doing the right thing in a loving way. You can't let the person's response discourage you or take away from your own happiness. You have to learn to be happy just by doing the right thing, regardless if someone takes the advise or not.
Imagine Gurudeva. He gave so much advise over the years. If he was unhappy every time someone didn't take his advise, he would be terribly unhappy. Right? So we always have to look to Gurudeva and see how he did it. He was the Master of these kinds of insights into life. Definitely, he would just give the advise, regardless of if the person took it or not, remained unhappy, became happy, whatever. Gurudeva was Gurudeva. His consciousness was not moved by the person's response.
We need to be the same way because it influences us more than we realize. We get burdened more than we realize by other peoples' responses to our good intentions. That takes away from our happiness. We don't want to take away from our own happiness. There is no reason we cannot be happy even if others that surround us are not .
Aum Namah Sivaya.