How do you balance helping others with helping yourself?


We all have these As the World Turns kind of dramas and everybody thinks it’s real, so part of the fun is to keep reminding yourself that it’s a bubble. It’s a dance, it’s a dream, it’s a play, it’s the play of form, and it’s perfect. It’s the perfect articulation of the dance so that you can really delight in it as you are playing it. Then once you get established this way, then you really start to play with the fire. The fire I play with is working with dying people all the time.

I work with AIDS patients and people like that – people who have opportunistic illnesses and social ostracism and families treating them like shit. They have economic problems, and it’s all falling apart, they’re frightened, their dreams are gone, and there is pain, pain, pain, drama, drama, drama, and the question when I sit down with them is, “Where is my consciousness?” Is my consciousness in the drama so that if they tried to come up for air, I’d push them back in, because I think it’s real too? Or am I ‘out’ of it and also ‘in’ it at the same moment?

Experience the Empathy

That’s the art form because if I’m not ‘in’ it, my heart isn’t breaking over their predicament. If my heart isn’t breaking then they don’t experience the empathy that allows them to open their hearts in a relational way, and yet, if I am not simultaneously in emptiness, I am trapping them in the form.

I realize that what we offer one another in my metaphor is an environment in which to become free. What I’m saying to you as practitioners is the key game is the work you do on yourself, and I must tell you that it’s a very seductive power to be doing good for other people, but if you are awake to what your predicament is, all the good you are doing to other people is nothing other than work on yourself. It is not an ‘either/or’ position.

Working with the dying people is the way I clean my mind up. That’s the gift they give me. It’s freeing me because I’m dealing with their pain and coming back into the emptiness. If I get too empty, it’s too cold. I lose heart, but I’ve got to stay in it. You’ve got to be passionately in the world and not of it as Jesus said.

You cultivate …

More than one plane of experiencing and seeing simultaneously. You just keep living so that you’re living with core value and with the practical value. You realize that the minute you establish yourself in these deeper core things, everything changes in the world for you. It changes you and what you want changes. It changes how you respond to any act that distances you from other human beings.

You begin to want to be in love all the time, and the quality of love is like the quality of awareness. It has no boundary to it. It is not romantic love I’m talking about – it is a quality of being, where we are in love.

What love has been for me has been the whole ‘heart’ part of my journey. I have gone from having special people that I loved and others that I hated to realizing that everybody I meet is the ‘beloved’ in drag. Everybody is ‘the one’ and my job is to see through all the storyline their mind is caught in. Not to reject the storyline, not to judge it, it’s not better or worse than my storyline. It’s not to getting caught in it, and being able to see what is behind it.

It’s behind the soul, and because we can’t talk about it, touch it, smell it, taste it, we tend to think it doesn’t exist, and yet here we are – that’s the beautiful perplexity of it all.


-Ram Dass

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