How Far Away Do You Need to Be to Care?


In my qigong class, I talk a lot about the benefits of learning how to stand in wu chi...  being still and relaxed, yet rooted, grounded and ready for action, no matter what comes at you. This stance is useful for doing the routine, but can be also quite valuable amidst the stress of life.

But what about where to stand?

I'm learning a lot about the choices we have over what we take in and how it affects us. Just like choosing nourishing food, and avoiding the questionable stuff, we have a lot of say over what experiences, observations, dramas we subject our senses and psyches to. For example, some people (myself included) take news fasts, or ditch the tv altogether.

'But I want to stay informed!'

Being informed is one thing. Being vulnerable to the emotional manipulation of the media (which is what most news seems to be anymore) is another. If tuning in to the strife of the world inspires you to be of use and make it a better place, great. But there's a point at which it becomes less empowering and more depressing and paralyzing.

Like passing a car wreck on the highway, we can't help but want to see what happened. But unless you're able to get in and help, or at least pray for their well-being, how will that imagery now embedded in your mind affect the rest of your day? How are all these affirmations of suffering slowly adding up to affect how you ultimately see and interact with the world?

'But isn't turning away being detached and uncompassionate?'

It's not really about turning away. It's about finding your position in relation to what's happening where you can be of the most service and still stay in touch with your best intentions. Sometimes we have the strength to be in the fray, sometimes we don't. Sometimes our bodies are healthy enough to resist germs and toxins, sometimes they're not, and we have to take care as to what we expose ourselves to.

If, when trying to help someone you care about, you find yourself being drawn in to drama, pettiness, defensiveness, and you lose sight of your own best intentions, it may help to put some distance between you and them - finding your stance of strength where you can remain in love and service, but outside of the range of fire.

We know that in order to save a drowning person, we have to turn their flailing, grasping arms away from us lest we get pulled under the water as well.

Or, like when finding a temper-tantrum-y child on your hands. if you've had this experience, you know that the kindest, most loving thing you can do is to get out of each other's hair for a minute, and give either them or yourself a time-out.

I think this speaks a lot to our own sense of responsibility and self-worth - how involved do we really need to get in order to demonstrate our caring, how thin do we really need to spread ourselves, and how much of that is really necessary or healthy.

So, how do we determine where to stand?

What if our guiding principle was to root our stance where we allow our interactions to come from a place of love - not ego, self-preservation, defensiveness, guilt, or a need to be right? What would that feel like? It would take practice, no doubt.

It would mean abandoning the battle to win the war (and by 'war', I mean the one we have with our own irresistible urges to get sucked in to everything that demands our attention.)

Going on a 'drama diet' has the potential to free up so much of our precious life energy - that which is needed for our own health and well-being - and to reclaim the vista from the hilltop where we can see the peace beyond the mayhem, and the larger picture.

We're not escaping, or isolating ourselves permanently - just building a little cairn to remember its location... like a wellspring, or a place to return to for strength and perspective in order to be of the most service.

This can take a lot of forms. What are your thoughts? Let me know...