Helping others, part 2: Offering another your vision of his perfection

by William R. Yoder on June 22, 2010

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As I said in the last post, an essential part of our own happiness is how we contribute to the happiness of others.  But how can you talk to someone about the possibility of freedom from suffering without it sounding like blame? And blame certainly won’t contribute to another’s healing or happiness or peace of mind.

How can we avoid sounding like we’re blaming?

The whole discussion about how we play a role in creating our own suffering may not be appropriate in such a situation.  It might be misunderstood as an accusation of blame. And here “suffering” refers to a state of mind and not a state of affairs. It is a state of mind of fear and upsetness, of struggle and conflict. It is not determined by our external circumstances, but rather arises out of our interpretation of ourselves and our circumstances. But a person who is wholly consumed by his own suffering may not be able to make that subtle distinction. And so to talk about our role in creating our own experience of suffering would only sound like blame, and would only add additional fear or guilt or anger to an already unsettled mind.

Offering freedom

The Buddha’s First Noble Truth—and indeed, the beginning of every spiritual journey—is the recognition that “Life is suffering.” That means that life as we currently interpret it and live it and experience it as full of suffering and fear and conflict. But then the Buddha goes on to say that this suffering is not inevitable—ultimately we are making this experience of suffering for ourselves, and we can unmake it.

Now the Buddha does not say, “Hey, it’s your own damn fault! So just knock it off.”

What the Buddha says, with great compassion and kindness, is that there is a way out of the experience of suffering. He says that the way out of the experience of suffering is a change of our minds rather than a change of the world.

There is no blame involved in suffering. Suffering is the state of mind we all start in at the beginning of our spiritual journeys. In fact, the spiritual journey can be thought of as the experiential journey from the illusion of suffering to the truth of love. To discover that my own mind plays a creative role in my experience of suffering is not a damning accusation. It is the promise of hope, the prospect of a life free from suffering. I learn that moving from “here” (the illusory here of suffering) to “there” (the truth of love) is ultimately entirely under my control.

It’s not easy, but it’s simple

This journey may not be easy, although the difficulty level will be determined only by my own attachments and fears.

But it is simple. In the Buddha’s curriculum, it is a matter of letting go of our attachment to desire. In A Course in Miracles, it is a matter of letting go of the false idea of separation from God. In the context of the seven principles of happiness, it is a matter of completely embracing the principle of one power. And there are many other approaches as well. Each one is a restatement of the same idea, using different metaphors and analogies. And each one involves forgiveness and appreciation and love, and surrender of our grasping fearful egos.

Offering someone the healing gift of your vision of his perfection

You have to choose when it is appropriate to talk about that level of higher consciousness, and when to simply offer whatever care and comfort you can to the person before you. The hungry man at the homeless shelter doesn’t want to hear a sermon about God’s eternal love, or even some advice about how to get a job. At that moment, he just wants a meal. And perhaps the most loving way you can relate to him in that situation is to offer him food. But the real gift you offer him is your inner vision of his perfection, his goodness, his innate capacity to heal and to be free of suffering. Whether or not you ever speak of it at all, that vision will inform your giving and offer him the possibility of true peace and happiness.

Regardless of what you say or do,
what you really offer another in any situation
is your state of mind, your level of consciousness.
And there are only two things
you can offer another:
love or fear.

A Course in Miracles reminds us to “Choose only love, for that is what you are.”

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2 comments

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Daphne June 23, 2010 at 6:13 am

Dear Bill,

I just had to visit your blog after reading your comment on mine. There was so much wisdom there that today, a few days after reading it, I copied it verbatim into my journal. Your words are really helping me with a challenging situation now.

Then I read this post on how to help a person accept responsibility for ending suffering without assigning blame, with the Buddha approach, and I’m totally wowed.

Plus your site is so clean, clear and professional. I’m totally inspired and have become a fan. I’ve subscribed and look forward to more of your wise words.

Thank you for being an angel dropping by in time of need.

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William R. Yoder June 26, 2010 at 10:37 am

HI Daphne,
Thank you for your kind words. I’m grateful that my words were helpful to you. And I, in turn, enjoy your site as well. When I get my list of recommended blogs together, your site (joyfuldays.com) ) will be included. With my book launch coming up in a few weeks, I keep putting the blogroll project on the back burner.
Peace and blessings,
Bill

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