Friday, May 07, 2010

How Can I Help

In 1972, as a Junior in High School, I read a guide to "The Bhagavad Gita" by Ram Dass. My group of friends were all reading it and finding it filled with profound insight and "enlightenment." Me, not so much. I thought it was all marijuana and/or acid induced mumbo-jumbo. Perhaps I was wrong? Or at least partially wrong. I think it was a book intended to introduce Americans to Buddhist thought of mindfulness and enlightenment. Later in life, as I delved deeply into meditation, I came to appreciate much of what Buddhism offers from the practice of meditation and mindfulness....

Now flash forward some 20 years after that high school time. It's 1992/93, I am now 36, married, mother of one child with a second on the way. I am training to be a certified massage therapist, a 14 month intensive course. In the library of the school where I am training I see a book, recommended by one of my teachers. It's called, How Can I Help? and the author is Ram Dass. This book, filled with true stories of people helping others and being changed in the process, deeply impacted my life. It impacted me by causing me to think about why I was doing what I was doing any time I helped someone else. Was I doing to really be a part of their life and journey with them? Or was I doing for some other self serving, better than thou, idea? In other words was I "other-motivated" or "self-motivated?" Was I hoping to find my meaning in life, my purpose, through this helping? Was I thinking that my helping of the other was because I was somehow better than they? Was I going to become overly involved, enmeshed in the lives of others so that I did too much and "needed" to do too much in order to feel validated? Yes, those were the kinds of questions this book raised, it was a help the helper manual that actually really helped me. It set the precedent for my work as a priest and social worker.

That's why when asked the question in the RevGals Friday Five about who I think stands for political integrity, Christian or Other, I mentioned Ram Dass. The book, "How Can I Help" is truly a spiritual book, a transformational book for me when I read it 18 years ago, and showed me the way to help others with integrity for both of us.

3 comments:

Sherry Peyton said...

Thanks Terri, it seems I must add another book to my list! lol...i'm reading nearly 4 hours a day as it is, trying to keep up. But this one sounds like a must read. Important questions for all of us to contemplate and reflect upon.

altar ego said...

The questions you raise are truly valid. My nephew, and the wise old age of 16, contended that nothing we do is selfless: in some way all our actions benefit us.

I, too, want to help, and it feels really good to help others. But note that I can speak to the impact on me, and how the "feel good" part of helping will more likely motivate future actions.

Then again, last fall my husband and I took a mother of a family of four shopping. Her family is from Malawi, and they depend a great deal on financial support from sources other than themselves. (They are here while her husband is in graduate school). When we got home following the shopping trip I got all teary thinking about how the shopping trip made a huge difference to that family, providing them with staples for their cupboard, and basics like ice cube trays, dish towels, and storage containers for leftovers. Those tears emanated from knowing how her heart felt, so in fact it wasn't all about me.

angela said...

Oh, now I got the reference. Thanks for explaining. I have read him--at my sister Suz's; she has Be Here Now--always been intrigued by circles in logic.

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