If we are to help heal the world, we need to remember that it is a sacred place. Our actions need to be positive statements, reminders that even in the worst times there is a world worth struggling for. We need to find ways to keep the vision alive, to acknowledge but not get caught in the dark side, to remember that even the worst aspects of suffering are only part of the whole picture. We need to enter lightly.
Entering lightly means not ignoring suffering but treating it gently. We don’t want to ignore another’s pain, but our becoming depressed or angry about it doesn’t relieve it and may increase it. The delicate balance is in allowing ourselves to feel the pain fully, to be sad or angry or hurt by it, but not be so weighted down by it that we are unable to act to relieve it. It is a matter of ends and means again: to create a caring, loving, peaceful world, we need to act with care and love and peace.
Easy to say, you may think, remembering your heavy hearts, tears, and anger when you first saw babies in Ethiopian refugee camps dying from malnutrition. But it is exactly at these times – in the presence of pain, injustice, and horror – that our equilibrium is most needed. How can we keep it? Meditation can help; singing or walking can help; talking with people we respect can help; simply being quiet with ourselves can help.
It is the continuing work of life: of learning to trust that the universe is unfolding exactly as it should, no matter how it looks to us; learning to appreciate that each of us has a part in nurturing this interconnectedness whole and healing it where it is torn; discovering what our individual contribution can be, then giving ourselves fully to it. Demanding as that sounds, it is what, in the spiritual sense, we are all here for, and compassionate action gives us yet one more opportunity to live it. It is an opportunity to cooperate with the universe, to be part of what the Chinese call the great river of the Tao. It is not a coincidence that Hanuman, who in the Hindu cosmology is called the “embodiment of selfless service,” is the son of the wind god; when we give ourselves into becoming fully who we are by doing fully what we do, we experience lightness, we are like kites in wind, we are on the side of the angels, we are entering lightly.
- Excerpt from Compassion in Action: Setting out on the Path of Service by Ram Dass & Mirabai Bush