Tuesday, June 27, 2017

“Late Bloomers” – Life May Not Be As Shitty As It Appears

by John Boodhansingh of Zero Mindfulness

Are you a young-ish adult?

Are you hoping for, wanting, working for success, but you only really get the “succ” part?

Perhaps you’re a “late bloomer.”

I would like to offer you (and remind myself of) some thoughts I’ve had about this. For, yes, life can be pretty shitty at times. But there is also the truth that the beliefs we have about how our lives should unfold plays a large role in the level of shittiness we perceive.


We all know the “acceptable” ways of our culture: We’re supposed to go to college, get a solid job with a good income, get married, buy a nice house and a car or three, have two or eight kids, and so on. We should be moving on up the ladder by our early 30’s, if not sooner.

This being reinforced by nearly every aspect of life we encounter, be it family or the education system or whoever, we come to accept that “this is the way it is.” Even if we accept resentfully for fear of being punished, ridiculed, etc., we’ve accepted nonetheless.

So we push on.

For me, I’d thoroughly bought into this whole bastardization of life and hated on myself terribly because of it. I’d struggled like mad. I’d self-degraded, self-sabotaged, and hurt others regularly because I’d not been able to “get it right,” all the while bent on the belief that, “My life is not supposed to happen this way.”

Words of Hope To Late Bloomers

To whom it may concern:

We may struggle so much. It seems like we’re only getting older yet our lives continue running at the same rate: nowhere fast. We may feel like utter wastes of space.

We must learn to take it easy on ourselves. It’s important to acknowledge that our apparent troubles are not necessarily due to any inherent faultiness.

Yes, sure, we’ve probably got a big, ugly load of false beliefs, fears, and all that slop which is causing us simultaneous trouble. And for sure, it is most useful to work on this. But there are many people who also carry loads of inner garbage and are still in some way successful early on, even if all "success" means is a satisfying job or a loving partner. So, what gives? Why can't we have these things?

It could simply be that our lives are pre-designed such that we come into our own later in life rather than earlier.

Why so? I don’t know that there needs to be any specific reason.

Personally, though she’d been speaking of a different topic, the words of a friend sum up the situation in a way that satisfies me here. She said: “The Universe is not interested in making clones.” (Thank you, JN.)

It is cultural conditioning that drives us into imagining—to the point of hating on ourselves and others—that we all have to do it “the right way, right away.” Reality is, the conditioning is all a lie.

So, Then, What To Do?

We have to do as we do and work with what we have, accepting where we are and letting life unfold in its own timing. In parallel, we can do any inner work required to resolve arising discomforts.

Of the first few items: We’re in it until it’s over, whatever that means. We may have aspirations to be an accomplished musician or a business owner, but if it’s a card that life won’t be dealing us for another 20 years, then patience and acceptance are a must.

Of inner work: I think this point is the most important. We can’t make peace with our situation and it's harder to get anywhere particularly notable in life, late bloomer or not, if we’ve got all sorts of inner blocks. Many of these very obstructions could be reason as to why we’re in the condition we’re in. Life is asking us to see and resolve the troubles now lest they act as invisible chains holding us back later on. Yet even if this isn’t so, by helping ourselves we have to be, well, helping ourselves.

Will changes show immediately? Maybe, but probably not. Life has a way of doing things in its own timing for reasons we may never know. But when our time does arrive, any inner work we’ve done will ease our transition as well as allow our life expressions to have that much greater of an impact.

Our earlier years could be described as a preparation for stepping into our life’s purpose—if we so choose. In a generalized example, consider the following: For some folks, maybe they do everything The System tells them because that is the experience their soul has an interest in experiencing. Nothing much comes out of their lives and they may not even question it, but, again, their souls are looking for that experience. Contrarily, maybe other folks start off doing everything The System tells them because they need to feel really horrible as a push to break free. Assuming they do, an understanding of the system, wisdom gained through hardship, and so forth are necessities for freeing others, are the very foundation of their potential success and fulfilment of soul purpose.

Life’s Timing, Not Ours

I hope this has provided some consolation to any frustrated late bloomers.

There’s no doubt that life can seem super crappy as we watch so many others succeed (whatever that means) while all we can do is “succ.”

Still, we can do our best to be patient, to do the inner work. At some point life has to give, for life does not stagnate.

Ending with a quote from Sri Ramana Maharshi:
“Whatever is destined not to happen will not happen, try as you may. Whatever is destined to happen will happen, do what you may to prevent it. This is certain. The best course, therefore, is to remain silent.”

Friday, June 23, 2017

Using a Microscope When a Magnifying Glass Is Sufficient

by John Boodhansingh of Zero Mindfulness

A man began having pulsing eye pain on a daily basis. He tried to resolve it in a few different ways on his own but to no avail.

On going for help, he told the doctor that the pain comes every time he drinks coffee. The doctor asked him, “Do you mix in cream and sugar?” “Yes, in fact, I do,” said the man. The doctor then asked, “And do you leave the spoon in?” The man said, “Yes. How did you guess?” The doctor replied, “Sir, it seems to me that every time you take a sip of coffee you poke yourself in the eye with the spoon.”

Learn From My Mistakes

In my ignorance I brought upon myself a tragic amount of pain and suffering.

Incidentally, the very things I was ignorant of were the things immediately before me.

Through this hell myself, I would like to help others avert similar miseries where possible. I thus share with you two personal experiences and a perception shifting suggestion.

The World’s Most Vital Choice

In the first experience, I had a decision to make: Choose “A” or “B.” Both options were equally enticing, but both would run different paths to different outcomes. A or B? A or B? This hounded me constantly, for weeks.

All the while, I did self-inquiry and journaling in an effort to make sense of things. I also tried listening to intuition.

But while these methods played their roles (for whatever they were worth), I continued to experience great inner conflict due to the yet unresolved feelingless, all-my-thoughts-are-true over-intellectualism that I’d spent the majority of my life reinforcing.

A or B? A or B? Regularly, intuition/higher guidance would come. Even more regularly, ego-mind would point to anything remotely relatable and subtly claim it as “very meaningful guidance.” Unbalanced, I’d become overwhelmed by rationalizations and fears which upended any real guidance.

Then, perhaps around the two-month mark, just after a moment of decision-overwhelm craziness, I saw a cat in the alley behind my house. I thought maybe the cat had a message for me, so I looked up the cat animal totem page at Spirit-Animals.com. The message I walked away with was that I must step back from the situation and look objectively.

And so I did. What I came to realize is two-fold.

Firstly, my approach to the whole situation was wrong.

For so long I’d been trying to make sense of many different but seemingly related data points that in total equaled great confusion. I kept feeding this confusion by putting loads of energy into it as if all the inputs were right and I was merely unable to figure out the correct message. More troublesome was me trying to figure things out and thinking, as the days went on and I hadn’t made a decision, that maybe the “right” path had changed, perhaps multiple times.

Secondly, the questions I was seeking clarity on and then fretting over we’re errant.

These question were along the lines of, What decision am I supposed to be making? and, What decision is intuition guiding me toward? Too much thinking and not enough feeling had driven me to ask such questions under the previously unnoticed assumptions/beliefs/fears that:
  1. I had to choose A or B,
  2. there was only one appropriate choice, and
  3. if I didn’t make the choice correctly then I’d be punished, failed, criticized, and so on.
These two realizations came to a realization-choice point. Thought I in a frustrated a-ha moment:

Fuck it all. It doesn’t fucking matter. The point is that I just need to make a fucking decision and let life play out how it plays out.

And quick as the snap of a finger the mental-emotional fiasco disappeared.

I made a decision. The results we’re unexpected yet I am happy with them.

When “Health” Is More Like “Hellth”

This second experience pertains to adequate sustenance.

For the vast majority of my life I’ve had loads of physical, mental, and emotional issues; countless persistent ones like allergies, weak joints, poor circulation, off and on depression, self-sabotage, and so on.

Then four years ago I became outrageously sick with an illness based around dietary woes. Having neither an income nor health insurance and with minimum financial support otherwise, I had to work nearly everything out myself.

In a bit of an understatement, I had a lot of problems. Sets of symptoms (usually major flare-ups of the life-long persistent issues) would come and go and come and go seemingly endlessly. I’d research like crazy, listen to intuition, try this thing, that thing, and 115 other things. Yet, no matter what I’d try, nothing would work. Or something would work for a few days but, in the instances I didn’t self-sabotage (a different story altogether), I’d repeatedly see that my move would help one thing but negatively affect another. Feeling like a “diet test dummy,” I’d tried “everything” for about two and a half years but to no gain.

Then one day it came to me. Then one day I realized why I’d tried “everything” but not everything: I’m undereating, and I’ve been undereating since at least 11 years old when my growth really began accelerating. I’ve never consistently given myself adequate nourishment and about one-third to one-half of that “nourishment” has been junk food.

To make matters worse, during much of the sickness, I’d inadvertently cut my caloric intake down, sometimes drastically. But I’d never noticed (beyond dramatic weight loss I’d attributed as a hyper-thyroid symptom) because, not only was my body so stressed out that I couldn’t think or feel straight, but I was so used to feeling hungry that I’d not realized it was abnormal to feel hungry so often!

Wrecking my body as I did, healing is no speedy process. However, I’m seeing that eating enough and eating in a way my body requires is the endgame for seemingly every chronic trouble I’ve ever had.

The Point Is…

If you’re trying to figure something out that’s distressing you, maybe you all you need to do is alter your perspective a little bit. Maybe you’re assuming/believing/fearing that it’s one thing but it’s really something else.

Perhaps you’re asking the wrong questions, so the answers you’re getting (if any) seem only to add to the confusion. Or, even if you’re asking the right questions, perhaps you’re over-thinking your way to a conclusion—“paralysis by analysis” as some would say.

Also, although undiscussed here, it could be that certain sources from which you attain your answers are the same sources that, deliberately or unknowingly, are perpetuating your difficulty. An example of this would be repeatedly looking to the same religion for the answers to life’s toughest questions, always being dissatisfied by them, but neither checking in with a different religion nor seeking within for personal answers.

Maybe what you need to grasp the truth of your situation is a magnifying glass rather than a microscope—or maybe nothing more than an objective look with the naked eyes themselves.

If your situations are anything like mine at their foundation, it may well be that your manner of living itself is already providing you the needed answers to the right questions, which you may or may not yet have asked—this probably being true considering that outer life is a mirror of the inner.

Step back and see. It may be that you’ve become so used to what is right in front of you that you don’t even notice that the answers you seek have been around you for years, if not decades.

Step back and see before life drives you so batshit miserable that you’re practically forced to ask the questions.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Clashing Clichés, Catch-Phrases, and Cover-Ups

by John Boodhansingh of Zero Mindfulness

Let’s look at some phrases that people commonly use for perceived benefit yet often clash with their behavior. These phrases may seem to prettify one’s self or one’s experience, but typically they serve only to crap-ify what is already soiled.

We’ll start with love and hate clichés as an example, and then touch on catch-phrases and cover-ups.

Not-So-Lovely Love Clichés

What Is Spoken
  1. “I’m a lover, not a fighter.”
  2. “I don’t hate. I love everyone.”
  3. “I hate the action, not the person.”
What Is (Usually) Meant
  1. “I’d like to kick someone’s ass.”
  2. “I hate a lot of things about a lot of people, but actually… [see #3]”
  3. “I hate the person because I cannot discern between who they truly are and who they appear to me to be.”

  4. …“But deeper than all this, I just hate all sorts of things about my own self. I cannot see who I truly am, and because this discomfort haunts me endlessly and I don’t want to face it, I sugarcoat the truth so it’s easier for me to swallow and so it doesn’t look so bad to others.”
What did Mary Poppins sing? “A spoon full of sugar makes the medicine go down…”

Let Me Explain…

What’s ironic about the behavior of many people who use the above types of love clichés is that the behavior completely belies word-to-action integrity.

It’s not difficult to see because we’re always giving ourselves away. Although there is some wiggle room in the middle for those who are into self-improvement, we’re generally either in integrity with regard to an issue and do what is best in those areas—that is, we’re showing our true colors—or we’re out of integrity and using various coping mechanisms to deal with the stress that non-integrity causes—we’re being fake.

If you don’t quite see what I’m saying, here are two things to work with:

One: Start by getting to know yourself. The keyword being: self-inquiry. If you’re too busy trying to uphold the ways of fashion, the ways of family, the ways of religion, government, science, and so forth, you need to detach. Your truth is in you, not “out there” somewhere—“out there” is for everyone else’s lies and truths. As you let go and realign with your own inherent nature, “seeing” will come to you. (This “seeing” not being some woo-woo concept—it’s simply you making space for what is currently hidden yet already available and far truer and deeper than what the intellect and mere visuals can provide.)

Two: In the interim, think of it like this: If you’re someone who’s not trained as one such as a psychiatrist or investigator, you’ve probably at least noticed on TV or maybe with your kids how when someone is guilty of something they’re not necessarily silent about it. Meaning, they hint about what they’ve done. Maybe the police officer says, “I better go check in the basement before I leave,” and the homeowner-now-killer says, “Ah, c’mon. It’s five o’clock somewhere. You’ve checked the whole house. What do you expect to find? There’s junk all over the place down there. I wouldn’t even want to go down there donning a hazmat suit and lightsaber.” And on and on he rambles.

The thing is, in having the issues yet being unwilling to face them, we can’t help but give ourselves away. Partly consciously, partly unconsciously, we know we have issues and we’re afraid others can see them. We therefore attempt to maintain a facade to protect ourselves both from seeing our inner truth fully and from being seen by others as imperfect.

Interestingly, however, most people can’t see nearly as much as we're trying to hide because they either aren’t trained and/or haven’t developed their intuitive senses. Regardless, because the fears exists within one self, that is enough to fuel a false image which, contrary to our intentions but exactly as happens, reveals to others the very things we don’t want them to know.

In this case: That we hate people and we’re fighters.

Which isn’t meant to imply that any suspect individual is necessarily carrying the hate needed to kill someone or throw a Molotov cocktail through the front window of their house. But the manifest forms of negativity to potentially arise out of this hate can be quite intense. I’ve seen it, I've been a perpetrator of it, and I've been a victim to it on many, many occasions. I can assure you that whatever had happened, no matter how pretty the justification, it was absolutely not aligned with love.

To clarify further, yes, I did write a post in the past titled: “Hate Does Not Exist.” I still agree with this. As far as I am concerned, hate is a motive-defining cover-all label that can be used to describe the appearance of a variety of underlying factors such as fear, resentment, etc.; in itself, hate is nothing. I use the term hate in this writing due to its contrasting nature to love.

Beyond Love and Hate

Although the examples and explanation above are focused on love and hate, there are many other cliché-ish phrases people use for which their behavior isn’t half as pretty as their words.

To see where you fit in, if you fit in, the most obvious way is to see if you use any other clichés about yourself and your experience and then observe whether or not your behavior aligns with them.

A second possibility is to see if you have any personal catch-phrases. For example, maybe you have difficulty maintaining a schedule, hard as you may try. You sort of sense there’s a deeper reason, but you avoid inquiry because the thought of facing it makes you uncomfortable. You therefore decide to start telling people things like: “I’ll be there. Don’t worry. I’m timely as Big Ben.”

What’s funny about such phrases is that people say them as if they can truly fool themselves and others, as if using such a phrase is going to resolve an issue they’ve been struggling with for the last 18 or 81 years. All the while, others may be rolling their eyes as in, Does he really not realize how ridiculous he sounds? Dude was probably late for his own birth.

It’s important that time is taken to look into any perceived need for these phrases. In the timing example, you could have childhood trauma. Maybe you unconsciously fear being shamed for arriving on time; that “authority” will criticize you for being “so perfect all the time.” When struggles come down to deeper issues such as this, we can put a lot of energy into trying to overcome them yet never actually do so. Many times, unpleasant as it may be, we do have to go deeper for resolution.

But the issues are then resolved, at which point we can live without silly phrases, without people thinking we’re crazy, without fear, without perpetual tardiness. Or however it may play out in any given instance.

A third and final consideration is what could be described as a flagrant cover-up. No, it’s not so flagrant to those who are upholding the same, but these things are pretty obvious to me, and I suspect they’re probably quite evident to many others.

A super-prevalent example of this is, “I’m doing well.” In the US, we have the sickest and fattest population in the world, the middle class is drastically shrinking, our unemployment rate is through the roof, we’ve got astronomical debt, and on and on.

“How are you, Ken?”

“I’m doing great. Yeah. Really. Can’t complain!”

The majority of the time (at least from my own observation and experience), this is utter crap. The happiness and such is totally manufactured. People are generally so unsatisfied. So many people are constantly complaining, judging others, eating abusively, hiding in their phones, and so on, and yet if asked how they’re doing they put on a smile and tell you, “I’m doing well these days,” or, “Can’t complain, you know? Just graduated, I’ve got a good job, [and blah, blah, blah].”

I can’t speak for anyone else, but at least for me, I so often hear people say these things and I get thinking like, Wait just one damn minute… The last 46 times I saw you you were complaining like mad. Now I just heard you bitching for 10 minutes about how lousy your job is, you look like you don’t sleep and eat right, [and blah, blah, blah.] What gives?”

Anyway, take it for what it’s worth. My experience and observation has shown me a great deal of fakery. Maybe that’s not your experience at all, maybe it is, or maybe it doesn’t seem to be yet but you’ll see it so when you clear out any of your own toxic needs for false clichés, catch-phrases, and cover-ups.

Parting Words

Regardless of what clashing phrases you may use and, really, even if you don’t use them at all, if you only remember only one thing from this post, let it be this:

The qualities of love are those such as compassion, empowerment, integrity, acceptance, forgiveness, joy, and peace.

Do these traits align with your internal experience of life?


Click here for Cutting the Crap: A Follow-Up To Clashing Clichés, Catch-Phrases, and Cover-Ups.

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Second Coming / A Hero’s Return

by John Boodhansingh of Zero Mindfulness

Wired (or Wi-Fi-ed) for Weakness

We live in a very “connected” society.

We stare at our phones while the people standing right next to us are trying to talk with us. We tweet and text ceaselessly. We go to the houses of relatives and friends to socialize, but we spend most of our time watching TV. We spend hours on websites of little if any practical value. We set up our e-mail for instant notification. The list goes on, and I’m sure you can input a few items of your own.

Ironically enough, while none of this ever brings us the satisfaction we desire, we continue doing it—increasingly so.

The reason: We’ve been so indoctrinated into the fear of who we supposedly are, how horrible we supposedly are, how sinful we supposedly are, that we’ve come to exist in a state of perceived worthlessness, hopelessness, and helplessness waiting for a redeemer to come save us.

Personally, I know well what it’s like. I know what it’s like to check Facebook, AIM, and email accounts 98,475 times a day with the hope that someone sent me the magic words that will bring about heaven in my life. I know what it’s like to carry a cellphone from room to room as if someone is actually that desperate to get a hold of me; as if they have a message of bliss-inducing importance that will be here any second…Wait for it…Wait for it… I know what it’s like to visit pointless the-next-thing-I-click-will-satisfy-me websites for extended periods of time, only to feel exhausted, depressed, and empty… and then click on a few more.

It sucks. Such things literally drain the life force out of us. Yet this is the way many of us have allowed ourselves to (dys)function.

A Societal Snapshot

To understand how we’ve come to be this way, let’s look at a snapshot of our society:
  1. We’ve got countless religions suggesting there will be a second coming of some external entity who will save the “Chosen Ones” who’re currently innately stained and need that savior for redemption.
  2. Our books and video games end with a good guy defeating a bad guy and saving some portion of a helpless, innocent, victimized humanity just in the nick of time.
  3. We’ve got a whole menagerie of superhero movies and comics telling us that a special someone will save us, the average, powerless Joe and Jane, when things get really bad.
  4. Our politicians tell us that if we vote them into office, they will protect us, the mere citizens, from the ravages of debt, war, drugs, and inclement weather.
Do you see the commonality in these things?

They are all major aspects of a society that we put massive amounts of energy, money, and faith into with the interpretation that we are powerless; that someone external will save us helpless peons when shit hits the fan. We believe it’s okay—advantageous even—to give our power away because someone bigger, faster, stronger, wiser, holier, sillier, sexier, or God-knows-what will save us in the end.

Savior Loading… Please Wait…

But what if someone external isn’t coming to save us?

What if the savior-promoting religions are simply here to induce us into facing the depths of our falsely perceived guilt, shame, sinfulness, and so forth rather than providing absolute truth?

What if the protagonists’ heroic victories are simply a metaphor for those who allow their higher selves to take precedent over their lower, animalist ego-selves?

What if the scumbags who want our votes are simply playing the role of devil’s advocate in order to wake us up? (Does, I have to choose the lesser of the two evils, ring any bells?)

What if our external world is naught but a mirror of our individual and collective internal worlds?

What if our excess texting and tweeting is nothing more than us distracting ourselves so that we need not see what’s truly happening; so that we need not take personal responsibility for our lives; so that we can completely tune out from the unease within us that cries out desperately for acknowledgment and healing; so that we can more easily justify sitting idly by waiting for a hero as we watch the world collapse around us and our very selves collapse within us?

How much death, destruction, dis-ease, dishonesty, diversion, disconnection, and dysfunction have to occur before we realize that not only did the shit hit the fan a long fucking time ago but a hero isn’t coming, either—least of all through a TXT MSG, a new animal on Farmville, or live updates from ESPN?

The “Savior.” The Hero.

The keyword here is hero. For the “hero archetype” is another commonality to be found in the snapshot of our society.

We must understand what the hero archetype implies. It’s that we are each the heroes, or “saviors,” of our own respective journeys.

The stories of superheroes are exciting because they take the human imagination to a place of fantasy where adventure abounds and the good guy always wins. What people don’t generally realize, however, is that the villains the hero must face are never more than the personification of the weaknesses within the hero’s own self.

No, unlike Peter Parker, none of us will ever be bitten by a spider only to find we can climb up walls. (Although, if bitten by a brown recluse we may find ourselves flying to the hospital…) But, truth is, it’s not actually the super powers that tug so strongly at us. We’re so infatuated by heroic tales because we unconsciously recognize that we also are inherently capable of outwitting our “villains” and becoming “super” ourselves.

The Hero’s Journey, as Joseph Campbell put it, is the theme of this little universe of ours. Ain’t no one coming to save us but us. Yeah, maybe once in a while someone might speak up for us when we’re being belittled or, as happened on June 5, 1989, a solitary man may stand in front of a column of tanks in Tiananmen Square in non-violent protest. But these things only occur because the people who perform such acts realize they have the power within them to do it, perhaps developing this power over months, years, or decades.

Even with all our struggles weighing us down, we have forever been agog over “superheroes” for the very reason that we unconsciously resonate so powerfully with them. Seeing this, we can begin to grasp that we are each heroes-in-the-making.

If any of us broke a leg, not a single one would get a cast, allow the leg to heal, and then say: “Yeah, ya know what, Doc? Just leave the cast on. And these crutches, I’m gonna hang on to them, too.”

Yet when it comes to our own internal baggage—our “villain”—we typically act like sissies about it—the complete opposite of what a hero does.

Yes, any hero will lose his or her footing—and maybe family, friends, job, car, and house. But the hero does face his/her “villains” and the hero does overcome them.

…The hero starts by unplugging.

God’s Savior

A man once stood before God, his heart breaking from all the misery and injustice in the world.

“Dear God,” he cried out, “Look at all the suffering, anguish, and distress in this world. We’re on the brink of destruction. Are you not going to send help?”

God said, “I did send help.”

“It surely doesn’t look like it,” the man replied.

“Oh, but I did,” God responded. “I sent you!”

Note: This text is a modified version of a post originally published on 6/5/12 to former personal blog “Without a Story.”

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Compassionate Service: Sometimes It's Better To Do Nothing At All

by John Boodhansingh of Zero Mindfulness

We’ve all done things that we shouldn’t have: lying, cheating, punching others—just to name a few that the average person partakes in. But there’s a whole different category of uncalled-for behavior that doesn’t get nearly the attention it deserves.

This is our speaking and acting from a false sense responsibility—when we speak or act believing it’s to someone’s benefit when it’s really to their detriment.

The Mailbox Overfloweth

One example of this false responsibility is as follows. Please apply the theory to any aspects of your life as appropriate.

Suppose where we live the mailboxes are located at the street, a fair distance from the houses. And when we go for a walk one day we notice that our neighbor hasn’t bothered to collect his mail for a few days.

The box is over-full and we worry: What if it rains? It could all get wet. He could have important documents in there. What if the mail carrier runs out of space to put the newer mail? What if someone steals the mail in the middle of the night?

This seemingly reasonable concern prompts us to do our neighbor the favor of taking his mail to him. He’s perfectly capable, we see him out and about all the time, but, well, look at what could happen if Mr. Neighborman doesn’t collect his mail. So we deliver his mail directly to him, maybe he thanks us, and it’s done… Until next week… And the week after that… And the week after that…

Why We Do It

We think that our motivation for performing such an act is kindness; we think we’re doing a good thing looking out for our neighbor’s highest and best, protecting him from unnecessary discomfort. We know how much it can suck to have soaking wet mail or to get a letter from someone who’s charging us a late fee on a bill we can’t recall receiving. Plus, we’re friends with the guy—we’re just showing concern and being helpful.

Trouble is, this is all faulty and irrelevant reasoning.

The real reason we do it is because we carry a false sense of responsibility.

For one, we may carry the “savior mentality,” an unwittingly inherited trait carried by most people due to our strong dependence on religion, government, and many other forms of “authority.” We’ve been taught that we’re not good enough as is and need help from a “greater power” (whatever that may mean). One way this sense of lowliness effects itself is by causing others to appear to us as helpless and in need of our support.

Similarly, we may unconsciously fear things like guilt and criticism. Even if our neighbor isn’t going to send us on a guilt-trip or criticize us for not hand-delivering his mail—such a thought would probably sound ridiculous to him—our current experience may be subconsciously reminiscent of traumatic false responsibility experiences from our childhood. Looking within we’d see that our parents had forced false responsibility onto us and would really lay on the guilt and criticism when we’d said no.

Which leads us to a third aspect of false beliefs. Whether because as a child it had seemed rational or had been done for self-protective purposes, we may have taken on beliefs such as:
  • To be worthy of love, I must be “a helpful person.”
  • If I think it should be done, and someone’s not doing it, it’s my responsibility to help them, to show them the “right way.”
  • Mom and dad would rip me apart if they know I didn’t help.
  • It’s my responsibility to prevent hardships of others.

False responsibility can also come down to self-image. If we believe we’re worthless, we may seek to help others under the pretense that external approval will finally make us feel “good enough.” If we perceive ourselves to be helpless, we may try to help others without waiting for a request for help because they appear to us too incapable of doing certain things themselves. False responsibility may also be quite arrogant, like the religious zealots who go door-to-door preaching that their way is the only way and nearly refuse to take no for an answer.

Lastly is the possibility of hypocrisy: We think we see in others the very things we unconsciously see in ourselves but would rather not admit openly. We therefore seek to change our external world as a means of “destroying the mirror” and ending our discomfort. We do this by telling others what to do and how to do it and try to get them to do things in ways that justifies our self-protective mindset.

Altogether, such a load of perception-skewing baggage can really throw off any healthy sense of responsibility.

Compassion and Self-Inquiry

Truth is, a fair portion of what we call “help” and “service” is not actually positive in nature. It can’t be because we’re doing it for the wrong reasons.

On our part, this “help” doesn’t serve us because to behave in such a manner we must buy into trauma, fear, and false beliefs. Since these things are inherently negative, word and action founded in them must create a negative outcome.

Our “help” isn’t really helping others, either. As with the mail example, we have no idea why our neighbor doesn’t get his mail, and he’s never specifically requested that we get it for him. He’s always around and about and goes past his mailbox quite regularly. And the fact that his mail could get wet or fall into the gutter should be obvious to anyone with at least half of a brain cell. Unless the guy had recently experienced some unbeknownst-to-us trauma and now fears his mailbox could blow up if he opens it, he may well have become lazy or careless or be craving attention—any of which imply that our “help” is only serving to support his egoic nonsense.

In our modern day, we synonymize giving help with compassion. But if we can understand that our services are not always for the good as we may believe, then we can see that neither are we necessarily being compassionate.

What, then, is compassionate service?

Compassionate service is heart-based. Meaning, it’s help without the involvement of self-interest, fear, false beliefs, approval-seeking, etc. and has the quality of intuitive awareness of appropriate action in any given circumstance.

As for what the heart says is “good service” or “bad service” doesn’t exactly matter right now in the sense that what people believe, perceive, and are willing to act on or avoid is so varied and subjective. Were anything too specific noted here—this necessitating only examples that my own heart offers—some folks would agree completely and some would think the suggestions to be mean-spirited.

We would all be better served by self-inquiring as to how we serve others, why we serve others, and what we’re trying to get out of it. We’d be best off making a practice of this, probably needing some quiet time and journaling at first. As we do it we’ll find that our perception will evolve to provide us the heart-centered discretion of knowing when to speak up and when to keep quiet, when to act and when to sit still, for optimal good. At a point, correct action in any given circumstance will come to us spontaneously.

Intense Non-Action

As we become clearer internally, we find that people generally have a lot of unhealthy behaviors and manifest a lot of discomfort for themselves. Although the cause of these things is typically unconscious, there is the truth that the way their lives are unfolding is a choice they are making.

It is very possibly that when we see others hurting themselves the impulse will arise to change it, to fix it, to end it—they hurt, and we feel hurt because they hurt—especially when it’s a loved one.

This is where true compassionate service, where “intense non-action,” may be pivotal. For although, say, a family member is causing his- or herself all sorts of struggle, heart-centered guidance may tell us, “Do nothing. This is not yours to deal with.”

Sometimes we simply need to accept that just as we are learning our life lessons in our own time, so must others learn their lessons in their own time. Attempting to help another who does not choose it is often interference that ends up creating resistance to improvement and/or supporting even-negative-attention-is-valuable-attention egoic programming.

Compassionate Service Doesn’t Always Feel Good

In every case, the highest help we can give to others comes in first helping ourselves. Through which we see that the greatest service we can sometimes provide to others is saying and doing nothing at all. Because sometimes compassionate service is about sidelining ourselves and allowing people to clean up their messes in their own time.

Can it be upsetting? You bet.

But if it’s the heart’s guidance, then letting go is truly compassionate service.