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Discerning How to Help

by Beth on June 10th, 2020

In his commencement address to The Class of 2020, Barack Obama reminded us that “our individual well-being depends on the well-being of the community that we live in and that it doesn’t matter how much money you make if everyone around you is hungry and sick . . . that our country and our democracy only function when we think not just about ourselves, but also about each other”.

I heard the Dalai Lama speak several years ago about the deeply interconnected nature of our existence. He explained how, as human beings, we are all the same, we all aspire to be happy and not to suffer. Like Obama, he believes the best way to increase our own well-being is to care for the well-being of others.

The global pandemic has made it clear how interconnected we all are. And the protests have made it clear that people are suffering. This is leading more and more of us to ask how we can make things better for those who are hurting. What can we do?

There is no one answer. As you try to identify what role you could play, the Three Tenets of the Zen Peacemakers might help.

• The first tenet is not-knowing, which means letting go of fixed ideas about yourself, others, and the universe.
• The second tenet is bearing witness to the joy and suffering of the world.
• The third tenet is taking action based on what you have learned.

The first two tenets can help you really listen to people to learn how they are suffering and what kind of help they might need. This knowledge can then be used to choose what action to take.

So many things need to change and that means we can all find our own way to contribute. Take some time to listen and learn with an open heart and an open mind so that you can figure out ways to use your unique talents, connections, and circumstances to improve the well-being of others.

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