We say it when offering our food and hospitality, but we rarely extend it to the treasure available in each interaction we have with each other: ‘Help yourself.’ Continuing this series of posts examining the apparent contradiction of contributing to oneself in order to contribute to the world, this piece looks more closely at my belief that I can help others, and the intriguing truth of how life actually works.
For the last couple of months I have been in more regular contact with Karaj. His presence in my life cannot be underestimated. He has contributed to me in fundamental ways, from our very first conversation in 1997, the intense years of training, our reunion in 2014, and still to this day. His continued wisdom, challenges and interventions from our recent conversations have resulted in these and three other significant blog posts.*
I believe, therefore, that I can help people in my work because I have benefitted in similar ways through my work and friendship with Karaj. The whole experience has changed my life, so it’s almost unavoidable for me to conclude that I might do the same for others.
The Truth Is…
But is that the truth, or are there more subtle, more powerful forces at work, for which I am just taking credit?
That question fascinates me because over the last six months I have begun to inhabit a more expansive world of life’s potential, and an acceptance that its magic is beyond my understanding. I feel as though I am glimpsing more of the self–organising, intrinsically conscious, order-seeking beauty of existence.
…I Cannot Help Anyone
It was in the midst of all this that Karaj recently asserted his familiar reminder that I need to see that I cannot help anyone. He has told me many times before, but this time I listened more closely. As he has done previously, he made the claim in the context of his own story, explaining that after many years he is finally seeing the same. He cannot help anyone.
When I asked him whether he thinks he has made any difference to anyone in the countless conversations he has had, he replied that all we can do is inhabit the conversation. It is up to each person to take something from it and make a difference to themselves. While that is going on (or not), all I can do is take what I can from the conversation and make a difference to my life.
But The Relationship Can
In Eisenstein’s Story of Interbeing we see that it is all about relationship. Relationship with ourselves, each other, and nature. In those relationships we are open to the wants and needs of the other. We listen, and we stand in the space with them so that we may all benefit. And they do the same for us. This is where the paradox starts to kick in.
The more I can attend to my own needs, the better able I am to create and maintain that space for the other. The same is true for them. Therefore, when two people come together and each knows how it works, the contribution each one makes to the common healing is far greater than if each arrived just with an intention to help.
Think of nature. There is nothing that we can do for nature that she cannot do for herself. She is awesome in her beauty, complexity, and sheer life force. The best we can do for her is to be still and listen. That way, she would have every opportunity she needs to heal herself. Why would it be any different with another human being?
In a conversation of interbeing a unique circumstance is created in which each party has the opportunity to take whatever they need. Each may have different needs and if they have done the work on themselves – if they are able to listen to their own requirements, connect and relate to themselves from a place of wonder and beauty – then they are in the perfect position to take whatever they require.
Taking Is Not Removing
Beautifully, let’s say that both require the same from the interaction – then both can take the same because ‘taking’ does not mean removing. There is no need to replenish supplies because what each one gains is an essence of what the two have created. Furthermore, no-one can be forced to take anything. Think back to the hospitality example in the first paragraph. Imagine forcing food on people because you think they need it, or because you need them to need it.
What really brings home this point to me is the fact that during my training everyone in the core group was exposed to the same information and the exact same challenging nature of our time together, yet some seemed to take more than others.
Therefore, whatever changed in the people who gathered every weekend must have been down to the people themselves, rather than what was offered them. Again, all we can do for another is connect with them and listen. In doing so we each provide the possibility of transformation. It is up to each of us to take whatever we can from every connection we have, regardless of what the other person does with the same opportunity.