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am i being greedy?

There are times when I come away from meeting with a patient or with a co-worker, feeling unsure of how useful my visit has been to them. Of course, being fully present is invaluable and I remind myself of that. But part of me wishes for something more solid to take away, some kind of evidence to show that I’ve been of use to the other. Is that asking for too much? Am I being greedy? 

During my training in end-of-life care, Rachel Naomi Remen MD made a distinction between fixing, helping, and serving–

rachel remenSo, fundamentally, helping, fixing and serving are ways of seeing life. When you help, you see life as weak; when you fix, you see life as broken; and when you serve, you see life as whole.

When we serve in this way, we understand that this person’s suffering is also my suffering, that their joy is also my joy and then the impulse to serve arises naturally — our natural wisdom and compassion presents itself quite simply. A server knows that they’re being used and has the willingness to be used in the service of something greater. We may help or fix many things in our lives, but when we serve, we are always in the service of wholeness. (more …)

clingingTo serve, then, requires a deep trust or faith in the efficacy of my action. Hoping for tangible evidence or rewards may be human nature but, in Buddhist terms, is mere grasping at something that cannot be grasped. Attachment, according to the Buddha’s Second Noble Truth, causes suffering. Awareness leads to opening the grasping hand and letting things be as they are. And today such “things” happen to include uncertainty, wishful thinking, and grasping.


4 responses »

  1. I really appreciated this post… I feel such shame over my “negative” emotions. Like there is something terribly wrong with me and I must change “what is” for something “better.” Thanks for this timely reminder… I needed it in a big way today.

    • april, there’s of course nothing wrong with you. you are not an improvement project. please pay careful attention when such thoughts arise. Hear them and then to let it be/go by not feeding them with new energy and more thoughts. not easy, may take a life time. babysteps!

  2. Thank you. This is a very beautiful, and profound post. As someone, who like you, is a product of a ‘doing’ society, I can relate. In that context, how do you assign value to the gift of active presence? How do others value it? And how do you yourself value it?

    • marguerite, i imagine your questions to be rhetorical … and yet. value is in the moment and in the eye of the ego. and it is fleeting. walking through vienna yesterday, for example, i stopped several times, struck by the beauty of a monument or a street scene. i wanted to hold it (e.g., take a photograph) but resisted. saw a painting in a window, wanted to buy iand won it. but didn’t. watched the desire arise, then fall away.


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