In playing the role of a parent, a caregiver, a supportive friend, a healer, a mentor and the like, one of the most delicate balances to achieve is that between ‘being’ and ‘doing’. The meaning of these oft used spiritual phrases are likely best understood through personal experience.
Theory cannot restrain the empathy or impulse to reach out actively to the ones we care for. Nor can we be blind or deaf to the sometimes stated and at other times silent cries for help. The teachings do not draw clear boundaries demarcating, “Here, it is best you step in. Here, it is best you wait it out.”
Byron Katie’s sound advice to “Mind your own business” will make complete sense at times. And at other times, the Dalai Lama’s words, “Our prime purpose in this life is to help others.” will make one wonder if not ‘doing’ anything is misguided, or erroneous in some way.
I, myself have struggled with which place to operate from often enough. I described my swing from ‘Empathy’ to ‘Detachment’, before coming to a more balanced rest at ‘Compassionate Understanding & Non-Attachment’ in my post, “Breathe in Pain, Breathe out Joy”.
But over the years, I have found that the response arising from this understanding can yet take various forms. There are times when simply being available as a safe, holding space is appropriate and at other times, being straight-forward, as clear and impassive a mirror as one can – is the healthiest response. There are times intervention is the requirement, for the person may be too emotionally or physically hurt to pick themselves up. At yet other times, we must sit with the pain of watching loved ones falter their own way through the falls that teach them how to rise and move on.
This post was prompted by a friend sharing a touching video (see below) with me. It shows a newly born foal attempting to stand up for the first time. It reminded me of a similar scene I had witnessed at a stud farm many years ago. When I reached the stables, the foal was barely five hours old. An awkward, tottering delight, the foal stumbled around as its mother stood by with a fond, watchful eye.
To say I was awestruck would be an understatement. The foal’s tenacity, determination and also dazed sense of wonder at this whole new world was tangible. The mother’s pride, concern, patience and overwhelming love was palpable. I was reeling at the thought of how quickly this animal had to learn to stand on its own feet and how intense this process of learning and caring was.
I could not help but compare this with my own protective watchfulness over my nephew. (He was only a couple of years old at that time, and had been in my care much of the duration.) I wondered if I would ever be able to stand back and let him get his own bruises and knocks. How does one ever learn that?
Well, over the years, life teaches us many things. I found that while it may have taken a couple of decades, I am able to be centered far more often now. With those closest to me, it is the most difficult. There is still the occasional temptation to jump right in and urge them to move in a way that I believe would be best. But I know that such entanglement is not healthy, as at such times I have disconnected from Source. My identification with a role and my perception of its duties and responsibilities actually interferes with allowing inspiration. The way to return to flow is by revisiting what I have learned so far:
- Learning to be comfortable with pain and uncertainty: The more I am at ease with these, the less of the ego-centric, fear- based compulsions to ‘fix things’, prod myself or others.
- Learning to let go of the need for fixed outcomes: I remind myself that what I imagine as the best outcome may not necessarily be so. There is much that I do not know. Whatever happens, eventually turns out for the best.
- Letting go of the need to play savior: Many of us tend to buy into the savior complex in our early days. When you find tools and processes that have demonstrated change, you become eager to spare others the pain that you have known. I remind myself that no matter how close they may be to me – everyone has to lead their own life. At their own pace.
No amount of the most intelligent, analytical, or disciplined ‘doership’ can substitute for life’s innate wisdom and happening. Much like the mother horse instinctively knowing when she should nudge her ward, and when she should be available non-intrusively in the background, we too can find the space of being – where all doing arises optimally.
The above are only broad brush strokes of layered subjects. The critical point being: the more I get myself out of the way, the more empty, present and aware that I become – the more spontaneously and easily – an appropriate response arises.
Then there is no longer any intellectual quandary between being and doing – in its stead is a simple, clear knowing and it’s natural, effortless expression.
PS: My apologies to those who continue to be at the receiving end of my remaining ‘doership’ habit 🙂
Image Source: The Rainforest Site FB Page