In the clarity of a quiet mind, there is room for all that is actually happening and whatever else might also be possible. Though we may be mindful of myriad details, our attention never wavers from the specific situation or person in need. The intimacy of our attention becomes a heart-to-heart lifeline made firm and fast; no one need fall from the edge. The quiet appreciation of the total situation and its inherent possibilities steadily moves things toward resolution; we find ways to step back. In a spirit of compassion and reverence for life, these various skills flourish and combine appropriately.
Such feats might seem to be the result of crisis. Many of us have experienced rising to the occasion under such conditions. The intensity of the situation keeps the mind from wandering. For most of us, fortunately or unfortunately, our helping work doesn’t entail the intensity that brings forth these heightened faculties. But whatever the circumstances, and however extensive the training and experience, it’s important to recognize that the faculties of awareness being called into play are exactly those we have been cultivating and discovering in the practice of meditation and the investigation of awareness. General laws are operating under particular circumstances.
Why, for example, if one was tightly attentive to a single object – a man on the edge of a roof – wouldn’t everything else disappear from awareness? Because, as we’ve discovered, it is possible to notice a single thought, sensation, or situation arise, but not get totally lost in identifying with it. We observe the cloud but remain focused on the sky, see the leaf but hold in vision the river. We are that which is aware of the totality. And our skills develop with practice. First, we have to appreciate the value of such qualities of mind and desire to develop them. Next, we have to have faith in the possibility that we can indeed make progress. Finally, we have to explore and practice appropriate techniques. Twenty minutes a day of such practice can lead to results and the incentive to go deeper still. Continuous practice brings about great transformation of mind and leads to a new quality of service.
– Ram Dass and Paul Gorman, excerpt from How Can I Help?
Image by Tim Hamilton via Flickr. Used under the creative commons license.