Trying to help people can be very complicated. The goal is usually to support and encourage someone to live a “better” life but this is more difficult than it first appears. I see two major obstacles. First, I see a lot of people who don’t want help or don’t want to change. Instead of taking advantage of the opportunity to improve their lives, people often learn how to seek handouts. They can learn how to take advantage of loving kind people who are trying to help. Second, I see these giving people burning out trying to make a difference. They literally give a part of themselves to their work and efforts but if they don’t find a way to replenish that energy they quickly change from being a giver to needing help. This is obviously a more complicated issue than I can summarize in one paragraph but I’m guessing that you’re all familiar with these challenges.
The idea I want to introduce is the idea of giving unconditionally but without losing a part of yourself. I used to carry the goal of trying to help everyone I met. I found that I could inspire apathetic people by investing part of myself in their lives. I let them see that when they worked hard it made me happy and when they gave up on themselves it made me sad. If they wouldn’t try for themselves, maybe they would try for me. There’s no doubt that this works, but it’s also unsustainable. I’ve also noticed that once I’m no longer involved in this persons life, they often fall back down. They were never able to find their own inspiration within.
Vipassana meditation is introducing a new strategy to me. First, I should be loving, kind, and giving to all living creatures while maintaining my own equanimity. For me, this means sending positive energy to all of the people I encounter in my day, but not to go so far as giving a part of myself. I’m not responsible for anyone elses life but my own. Each person is responsible for their own life. This means that everyone can choose how to receive my positive energy. At the minimum, they’re receiving some love in their life. At most, they might see some qualities in me that they want to emulate. They might engage me and ask me for help. The situation is completely different if someone is seeking help.
The best thing about meditation is that each person gets out of it what they put into it. I can’t give someone peace of mind no matter how hard I try. I can explain that I’m a meditator, where I learned to meditate, and how they can receive the teachings (see “About Vipassana”). From there, it’s mostly in their hands to grow.
The one additional way I can contribute is by creating a community and space where people feel safe exploring meditation. I host a group sitting, keep in touch with local meditators, and I’ve created this blog to help create that space. These are all things I can do without giving up part of myself. The hard work is still completed by each individual on their pillow and in their lives. It’s very cool to learn that I can give unconditionally without burning out. It’s not my job to change the world. It’s my job to change myself. Hopefully my practice will inspire some people along the way. Time to go meditate.