I have been going enough times now, to Zen Hospice, to notice a trend. I come out of my days there, in a markedly improved mental state compared to how I felt when I went in. Other volunteers report a similar experience. We are also all feeling an overall change for the better in terms of the way we deal with life in general.
This may seem kind of strange, and definitely at odds with the public perception of work with the dying. The "How do you do it?" type of reaction.
What has been happening is a mental shift, realizing that I can take nothing, absolutely nothing for granted. As in the fact that I am able to type these words on the keyboard right now, and see the letters dancing on the screen, and smell the incense burning on my desk, and not feel pain in my body, and enjoy the full capacity of my mind, and not being tired, and being able to sit up straight, and not having to wear a diaper, and being able to breathe freely, and knowing that I can get up if I want to, and that I don' have to rely on others for the littlest things . . .
I call it lowering the bar of my expectations, to almost nil. A dramatic overturn of the way I used to be before the dying taught me. A lesson I had read many times before, in the books, but never quite got.