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Do What You Can

--by Bernie Glassman (Jan 03, 2005)


I'm basically a simple person. The way I look at the issues you're talking about, which are issues of the globe, is to bring it back to our own bodies. My understanding is that we are all interconnected. But it's not so easy to think that way.so I like to talk about it in terms of our own bodies. Because in a way, all those issues that you talked about for the planet are constantly happening within us, within our own bodies. I have diabetes and prostate conditions, and if I look at it, it could be extremely overwhelming. I mean, I could say, "Well, I can't do anything about it." And yet, if we don't do anything about it, we die. So the point is, we do do something about it! We do something to the extent that we can see clearly.

For example, if I see myself on the streets as a homeless person or as somebody who's defoliating the forest, I'll say, "That's me doing this, so what can I do about it?" I'll do what I can. That's my only answer. I don't have any solutions, because I don't know. That's the first tenet of our Peacemaker Community. We may have lots of tools -- knowledge, languages, equipment, whatever -- but we approach every situation from the standpoint of not knowing. That means being completely open, listening. And then doing whatever we can do. Not saying, "I don't have enough money. I don't have enough knowledge. I don't have enough enlightenment. I don't have ..." But saying, "Here's what I do have" -- and then doing the best actions that we can.

So approach the situation in a state of not knowing. Then bear witness to it. Try to become it, and out of that, I believe, automatically will come the right actions. Those actions are loving actions just like the action of trying to stop our own hand from bleeding. That is, they will arise automatically.

If we're trying to solve issues, then we'll be trapped. Our role is just one piece of the whole picture, and that's all we can do. There's a story of a bodhisattva who finds an empty well and sees a mountain covered with snow and climbs up the mountain with a spoon and gets a spoonful of snow, comes down, puts it in the well, and then goes back up the mountain. He keeps doing that, not with any sense that he's actually going to fill the well with water, but simply because that's what's needed. I preach activism. What I try to encourage folks to do is to do whatever they can with whatever they have at the moment.

--Bernie Glassman

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On Jun 12, 2006 Viral wrote:

Doing what you can: flying kites, thread gets tangled up. Seems unsolvable, but bit by bit, it all get resolved. Take whatever step you can, and maybe after that, further steps become clear. Sometimes we're numb to the pain of the world. Until stuff like Tsunami hits us. Not doing what you ought to, but doing what you can. Connection: Satish Kumar: "Only Connect". I don't know how to connect to 100,000 people whose faces I don't know. Answer is somewhere in the keyword connect. Media turns it into entertainment. Everything is countdown or count up. Number of people dying or amount of aid. Human beings are eternal optimists. We never give up. Even when someone is dying of cancer, you breath your next breath till you're able. Lot of times I feel guilty about the lack of activism. Bodhisatva story: every snow flake counts. No effort is wasted. If the intention is right, it's all good. Going to give up caffiene and TV, after going to a 10-da  See full.

  • Doing what you can: flying kites, thread gets tangled up. Seems unsolvable, but bit by bit, it all get resolved. Take whatever step you can, and maybe after that, further steps become clear.
  • Sometimes we're numb to the pain of the world. Until stuff like Tsunami hits us.
  • Not doing what you ought to, but doing what you can.
  • Connection: Satish Kumar: "Only Connect". I don't know how to connect to 100,000 people whose faces I don't know. Answer is somewhere in the keyword connect.
  • Media turns it into entertainment. Everything is countdown or count up. Number of people dying or amount of aid.
  • Human beings are eternal optimists. We never give up. Even when someone is dying of cancer, you breath your next breath till you're able.
  • Lot of times I feel guilty about the lack of activism.
  • Bodhisatva story: every snow flake counts. No effort is wasted. If the intention is right, it's all good.
  • Going to give up caffiene and TV, after going to a 10-day meditation camp. Sometimes it's hard to go outside of yourself.
  • I sat outside in the cold, because I was late. That connected me to what others must be feeling.
  • When you start with your body, you start with yourself. Then it eventually flows to the Boddhisattva, and something that encompasses everything.
  • Shouldn't be thinking about I don't have this and I don't have this.
  • Instinct of doing things one at a time is very prevalent in the animals, like insects.
  • Love the first line -- "I'm a very simple person." That ties into doing what I can.
  • Watching the news sensationalizes the castatrophe. At the same time, I was able to connect with random story about a kid seen on tv, who'se gone through a horrible thing. I like seeing the pics because it makes me face reality and am part of it.
  • Connectedness and lactive. We should send our loving thoughts to our friends in other parts of the world; best thing we can do.
  • In rural Costa Rica, a man reached out and offered his hand. I didn't. Another person helped and I realized all he wanted a hand!
  • "Love poems from God": St. Assissi -- God came to my door and asked for charity and I fell to my knees, "My Beloved, what can I give?" Just love.
  • Andrew Cohen's insight -- timeless enlightenment. There's also enlightenment in time and in action.
  • Horrendous toothache on the day of the tsunami. And then fever. Realized that I can use this pressure to widen the scope of my heart.
  • Mom, roommate, coworker -- all are connected.
  • Arot?... measured the circumference of the earth with a stick. Took a measurement with a shadow. If one guy with a stick, can measure this -- what can we do?
  • Do you want to be on the simple side of simple or the complex side of simple?
  • With natural disasters, we come closer; with man-made disasters, we grow farther apart.

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