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Mindful : February 2015
58 mindful February 2015 Imagine you’re teaching some simple breathing exercises at a n urban middle school to children who did not choose to be there. When a student makes a rude comment or sneers at a practice, how do you respond? One such instructor refuses to take the intrusion personally. She sim- ply repeats the offering, as many times as needed. She’s convinced that through her very presence in that difficult setting, something will be received, if not at that moment, then in one of those that follow, even if it takes a decade or a lifetime. She doesn’t allow herself to get discouraged if her students appear not to be listening, because, she says, their physical presence mea ns that something is happening. We’re not always so successful in remaining calm. In intimate relation- ships, especially, we feel an exceptional vulnerability. An action or word may, in fact, be intended to do harm; our parents or our partners can lash out. At such moments, we need to pause, step back, create some space and ask ourselves: Did the impulse to help come out of true kindness for the loved one, or from a feeling of guilt or duty or even self-righteousness? Take a deep breath and do a moral inventory: A moment of relaxed mindfulness can often allow us HOW TO GIVE HELP WITHOUT BECOMING A NUISANCE When you feel that a friend or loved one needs your help, pause and listen carefully and attentively to what’s really needed. Don’t try to change him or her. If you can be truly pres- ent, you might be surprised by how much you can actually do. 1. Really Care Begin by asking yourself: What can I do or say that might be helpful that is coming from a place of peace and non-cling- ing within me—genuinely caring about your friend’s well-being without obssessing about a par ticular outcome or wanting to ease your own discomfor t. 2. Offer What’s Needed It can be hard to know what someone really needs, and often what they want is not what they need. So probe as best you can to identify the real need. Recognize that giving is a rela- tionship. Be open to receiving: Even as the one “helping,” you are likely to learn something about yourself and others. 3. Be Practical Come up with a practical list of helpful actions: cleaning your friend’s home, going shopping or doing the laundry, taking the kids to soccer practice. The simplest acts are sometimes the most powerful expressions of generosity and compassion. It can be hard to stay the course when attempts to help are resisted and rebuffed, especially by those who are close to you. Here are a few things you can do to turn that around. If Good Goes Bad to tap into the right action. If we can cultivate a n attitude of wishing to help without clinging to particular outcomes or wanting a specific response from our loved one, then things may unfold in unexpected ways. Clinging—identifying with “our attempts to do good” or wanting partic- ular results or outcomes—will inevitably lead to suffering. Our internal work is to ca re and act compassionately with- out clinging—monitoring when we are wanting things to be a certain way and inviting a release of a ny pattern of hold- ing. Can we simply wish that the person be free of pain a nd suffering—and accept that her happiness and freedom are the fruit of her own actions and intentions, not dependent on our wishes for her? Releasing expectation is difficult but possible with practice. Consider the instructor above. She’s convinced that the phrases of kindness she sends to herself and to her students transform her relationship to the diffi- culty. She hasn’t hardened herself to her students’ reactions. She simply knows that their happiness or suffering depends on their own actions, not on her wishes for them. For more kindness practices, blogs, and video resources, go to mindful.org/ kindness getting started: kindness