Being Present


If we accept that the ends of our actions often prove unknowable, we’re also freer to be focused on the process of our work as it’s happening.

We can be attentive to situations as they occur. What lies before us is it. Helping is right here. Not having to know so badly, not wandering off looking, we’re more able to be present, freer simply to be.

We needn’t be troubled or worn down, then, by paradox and ambiguity. The mystery of helping can be our ally, our teacher, an environment for wonder and discovery. If we enter into it openly, our actions fall into perspective, a larger pattern we can trust. At rest in the Witness, meanwhile, we greet the outcome of our action with equanimity.

Here is a final shift in perspective which can help release us from burnout: We do what we can.

Yet we cannot really presume to know the final meaning of our actions. We cannot help but see them against a larger backdrop in which the ultimate significance of a single life may not be clear.

So, at some level, we care with all our heart…and then we finally let go. We give it all we have… and trust the rest to God, to Nature, to the Universe.

We do everything we can to relieve someone’s suffering – our dearest’s, our beloved’s, anyone’s – but we are willing to surrender attachment to how we want things to be, attachment even to the relief of their suffering. Our heart may break… and then we surrender that too.

This is the final act of service: to acknowledge and honor the integrity of another being as they, like us, pass through the beauty and the pain of a human birth.

Its immediate meaning may surpass our understanding. But we are willing to keep the faith – which St. Paul describes as “the evidence of things unseen.” Ultimately, all is well.


– Ram Dass


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