All you have to do is spend a couple of minutes online, watching any branch of TV news, reading any newspaper or magazine and you will see people in need of help.
Lots and lots of people. Refugees being oppressed and run out of their homes on the other side of the globe. Immigrants and refugees being held in camps in the USA. People struggling to make ends meet. It feels like there is a never-ending flow of peoples in need.
Chances are, you have friends and maybe loved ones also in need of assistance. Some are dealing with tangible issues, like money problems, job issues, car and home repair needs, and maybe issues with their children. More are probably dealing with intangible issues, like depression, anxiety, hopelessness, fear and the like.
If you are anything like me you really want to help them. You desire to be a shoulder they can cry on, an ear to hear them, or if you are solvent enough providing a loan, babysitting, or taking them out for dinner and company and such.
I empathize with you, and damn do I wish to help.
That’s an awesome, selfless, decent action. However…is my own house in order?
Doing renovations to my “house”
I have been struggling with depression in one form or other most of my life. In general, I have it under control via the antidepressant I take, meditation, pausing to think, and having an overall Zen approach to life.
I can, and do, get worked up about things. It takes little to no effort to get me going on a tear about the awfulness of the current politics at home and abroad, the lack of care about the environment, and religious zealots increasingly impacting law and secular matters. However, I actively make an effort to NOT give my focus away to these.
When I was in my 20s and early 30s I was a lot more high-strung, sharp-tempered, and tightly-wound. But as I came to realize how very much that didn’t serve me I actively sought to relax my hold on such things.
My practice of Zen is imperfect, of course, but that is why it is called a PRACTICE. In fact, though I have been actively working to be better about daily meditation, more exercise, and making wise diet choices, I still struggle to get it right.
But the effort is there. I am practicing. And that is how I actively am constantly working on getting the “house” that is my body-temple in order.
More and more, my Zen is focused on practicing mindfulness. Being aware, here-and-now, of my thoughts, feelings, and actions in order to get myself ordered.
My practice is imperfect and being improved — but that’s good. I AM working on it. That’s probably why my blood pressure is normal and my resting heart is usually in the low 60s — despite being significantly overweight.
Because I am actively working to help myself I have more tools to help others.
Helping others also helps you
When you do things to help other people it should feel good. It should feel positive.
Offering assistance, tangible or intangible, should make you feel like you are a superstar. You are empowering both you and those you are helping.
When you are coming from a place of self-care, self-knowledge, and the work you have been doing to get your own “house” in order, you are better equipped to help others. You know the tools needed because you have used those tools for yourself already. This is a path you’ve been traveling.
Helping others, however, is NOT sacrificing. The difference is in how it feels. If you feel that you are giving something up, disempowering yourself, and otherwise not feeling good about helping — you are probably sacrificing.
If you believe that the world is lacking, that there is not enough of this, that, or the other thing to go around, that’s disempowering. Lack and scarcity are artifices of our own creation — the Universe is abundant.
Any resource that runs out can and will be replaced by another. For example, the value of diamonds is a completely made-up artifice based on supposed scarcity. Yet diamonds are not even remotely scarce and can even be artificially created. Neither are they lacking.
Further, sacrifice tends to lead to resentment. That also does not help you or anyone else.
Think of it like this: My house has been built, the foundation shored up, and I have plenty of extra materials. Let me help you with yours.
Which brings me to a really important part of this. You cannot help those who will not take or do not want your help.
You can’t shore-up the crumbling houses of others
Modern society tends to imply or outright tell you that if you have what others don’t you might be selfish. Meritocracy, often lumped together with superiority and other negative connotations is overwhelmed by propping-up mediocrity.
What does that mean? Rather than celebrity intelligence, reason, and those who work hard to make something of their lives (and maybe the lives of others), many view that as a negative. Instead of merit, they see elitism. It turns into a whole schoolyard shouting match of “you think you’re so much better than me” and the like.
Trump and most Republican politicians use and abuse this. “They’re elite, they neglect you, and they have nothing but disdain for your way of life” is one of their favorite talking points. Division gets created and widened that is, truly, utterly artificial.
Merit — rather than being seen as the result of effort and something to be acknowledged and possibly rewarded — is seen as egotism.
Reason, logic, and applying them to help others gets turned into this surreal, unwelcome notion of manipulation. This is why the people who think their way of life is threatened and being overrun — and being told they’re right by unscrupulous power-hungry leaders — won’t accept any help you offer them. In fact, they will most likely believe you are secretly undermining the foundations of their “houses.”
This is the extreme. In general, if someone refuses your help it’s best to step away. You cannot help them when they will not accept your help. Put your focus elsewhere and do good in other ways.
Helping yourself is not selfish
Finally, this is really important. Taking care of yourself and putting your own “house” in order is not selfish.
Selfishness is taking more than your share with knowledge of forethought. You take too much knowing full-well that you are causing lack and scarcity for others. The actions you do are harmful and you know it. THAT is selfishness.
The previously mentioned so-called “leaders” are the epitome of selfishness. They take for themselves while causing harm because they believe this furthers their power. Hurt the people, but tell them it’s not you — shunt that to those elites over there — and stand as their only hope. Meanwhile, in truth, all you do is undermine the foundations of those people’s “houses” for your own gain. Utter selfishness.
Taking care of yourself and helping yourself is not an act of selfishness. Getting your own life where and how you desire it to be is the best way to help others, too. When you desire to be a giver — and it comes from a place of abundance and love — you better yourself and those around you.
It is a good idea, and unselfish, to help yourself before helping anyone else. Yes, there are a lot of people who need help in various forms. But if your own “house” isn’t in order you limit not only what you can share help-wise, but how empowering it can be for everyone.
Have you been working to put the body-temple that is your “house” in order?
You are worthy and deserving of using your mindfulness to find and/or create the reality in which you desire to live. When all is said and done you and I matter, as does the “house” that is your body-temple.