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Dignity Health 2017

Musician Terrie Miley always wears a smile. What makes her unique is who she smiles for, and how she keeps it up.

As a hospice musician, Miley’s everyday work involves going to see patients who are in their final hours and using music as a way to help people tell their stories. "The story of their lives," as she puts it.  

Image via Dignity Health/Upworthy.


While many of us would do anything to avoid the idea of coming face-to-face with our own mortality or sharing space with a total stranger who is on the brink of death, Miley has chosen to face it every single day in hopes of bringing them peace in their final hours.

Most people who volunteer walk away with the knowledge that they’ve made a difference; Miley walks away knowing that she has just said goodbye.

But with such intense emotional labor comes the need for self-care.

For Miley and her colleagues at Dignity Health, the team decided to enact a mindfulness program consisting of meditation and breathing exercises to help their employees feel present during those long, hard hours on the job.

The premise for this program is a simple but powerful one: To be compassionate towards others, we first have to be compassionate toward ourselves — if only for a few minutes.

For hospice workers like Miley, then, finding moments of pause gives them the peace and attention needed to do this work in a healthy way.

And when it's built into the work culture, this kind of reflection isn't just an afterthought. It's a practice, and it's one that's transforming how caregivers like Miley approach their jobs.

How do they do it? Have a look for yourself:

This program helps you focus on the now. And the effects on your health can be enormous.

Posted by Upworthy on Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Miley knows better than anyone that while helping these patients is rewarding, it can take a mental and emotional toll on caregivers.

When offering the humble gift of musical bliss and human connection, it’s not always easy being confronted with life’s biggest hurdle: death.

"Hospice is challenging work, in ways that you might not consider," Miley explains.

Because Miley’s job description includes being present for those who don’t have loved ones in their final hours, it requires a level of emotional investment that she has to sustain in every moment of her work.

Whether it's a guided meditation after lunch or a walking meditation on a break, these moments of reflection make all the difference for caregivers like Miley, who too easily forget themselves while caring for others.

For Miley, it’s a reminder of why we need to slow down during the daily grind.

Life is short, and while that knowledge may sit in the back of our minds, it’s important to remember that our day-to-day existence is about so much more than work.

Miley's story is an important reminder that for every connection we offer to others, it's just as important to pause and reconnect with ourselves.

To make this work sustainable, then, mindfulness is everything.

"When you’re in hospice, it is definitely about the moment. It is about being present with that person and creating healing in that moment," said Heidi Summers, senior director of mission integration and education at Dignity Health.

Miley puts it best when she says, "Being present is the only thing that matters."

Former officials from the George W. Bush administration and campaign launched a super PAC in support of presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, declaring they "knew it was time to take a stand." They claim that they seek to unite and mobilize a community that is historically Republican voters. The group, consisting of at least 200 former officials, aides and Cabinet secretaries, formed "43 Alumni for Biden" to block President Donald Trump from winning a second term. They claim on their website that there have been "far too many days filled with chaos emanating from the highest levels of government" and that "political differences may remain among us, but we look forward to a time when civil, honest and robust policy discussions are the order of the day."

When I read about "43 Alumni for Biden," it gave me a great sense of hope. Even though I didn't vote for Biden and I'm not a huge fan, I am liberal and think it's important to accept anyone willing to admit that they are disappointed in their political party. It takes someone with real strength to admit the damage that has been done to our nation by Trump's presidency. It takes even more strength to say they voted for Trump, they were wrong and now they want to fix it.

My optimism has less to do with what side they are on and much more to do with the act of reaching across the isle. Almost all politicians have their heels dug on issues that align with their respective political party. The only thing worse than someone trying to prove that they are always right is someone putting all their energy into proving that their counterpart is consistently wrong.

What is even more counterproductive is the person who waggles the "I told you so" finger in the face of someone who has the audacity to change their mind and actually agree with them. Why anyone would shame someone for having the courage to admit they were wrong is a concept that befuddles me to this day. Yet it happens more often than not. The fear of being ridiculed plays a huge role in our inability to be vulnerable. We have an opportunity to come together as a country. As long as we all grow the hell up.

When a politician changes their stance on an issue whether it is because of new information or just a change of heart—especially after reflecting on things and keeping an open mind, they are labeled as a flip flopper. Somehow it seems like they have more credibility if they can say that they believed something all along because it makes them look smart. Ask yourself, who do you trust more: someone who always says they are right or someone who can utter the words "That's a really good point?" We need to take it upon ourselves to be the bigger person.

Remember all that progress you made in your relationship when you screamed at your partner with guns a blazing telling them how wrong they were. Remember when they responded by telling you that you had excellent points and they would try and do better from now on. Oh, wait. You probably can't because that never happens. But I could be wrong (see what I did there).

Now imagine a time when you might have made a mistake, and your partner speaks to you with tenderness and understanding with the inevitable dash of disappointment because, lets face it, you deserve it. I think we would all opt for the undesirable cherry as opposed to a full on sundae of shame.

We are imperfect emotional beings and protect our psyche like a dog learning the boundaries of a newly installed invisible electric fence. Once our pride gets zapped, we are less likely to venture out as far, and in fact, will most likely recoil deep within the boundaries of our comfort zone.

The people involved with 43 Alumni for Biden have been able to reassess the state of the Republican party to which they held such loyalty. Just because they are supporting a Democrat in Joe Biden, doesn't mean they need to turn their back on their traditional Republican views. This is about more than just taking a step back and putting aside any blind loyalty one might have to their respective political party. It is unclear what percentage of the organization voted for Donald Trump in 2016. I am going to guess not very many punched a chad for Hillary Clinton.

When you vote for someone, you have put your trust in them. That leads to defending any perceived missteps they may have had because you advocated and believed in them. The more controversy there is, the more you feel the need to justify your vote and defend them even more. Then you find yourself defending the fact that you are defending them and believe the negative news coverage is a lie or a smear campaign.

I did it with both Bill and Hillary Clinton in the midst of everything that was being said about them. Then I stopped and thought about what my thought process would be if it was George W. Bush that was being accused of the exact same things. It was the moment I realized I wasn't being honest with myself. The diagnosis? We protect our ego on subconscious and primal level and fear the vulnerability that comes with admitting that we were misguided. Once we are able to face that, we can really get to the core of why we don't budge.

We are going to need all the communication skills we can muster up because if you think the months were bizarre leading up to the 2016 election, I am pretty sure Kanye West has something special planned for us. Buckle your seatbelt and open your minds because just when you thought 2020 couldn't possibly have any surprises, things are about to get even weirder.