Is it possible to save another?

What is the first urge we experience when a dear friend or family member comes to us with a problem or dilemma?

For many of us the urge to help can be so strong, so compelling that before we know it, we have ‘dropped what we are doing’ to render whatever assistance we believe is necessary.

To be the sort of person that unstintingly helps others is highly regarded in this world – it is deemed to be a valuable quality and the mark of a truly good person, it makes us a good member of community and society. It is hard to argue against this attribution of value, especially in a world that seems to have become harder and more callous with every passing year. The volume and sheer intensity of problems people face in getting through life appears to be insurmountable, when even simple processes are now bound in complexity, and society is plagued by troubles such as drug addiction, physical illness and disease, poor mental health and financial difficulties.

How many of us still hold on to childhood dreams of being saved, of being swept out of our difficult situations and placed somewhere, safe and secure, out of harm’s way? How many of us take on the role of saviour, hoping we can lend our strength to others to see them through the travails of their daily life?

But can we ever be truly saved? And can we ever actually save another?

I was recently starkly reminded of how compelling is the urge to leap into a situation and act as the life-saver – to the point that I found myself deeply immersed in the wash of a friend’s drama and suffering, before I stopped to ask myself these very pertinent questions.

The details of her problem are not important, and even with the preservation of her anonymity, they do not need to be told. There is not a story on this realm of life that has not been told at least one thousand times before – is that not the lesson that Shakespeare so beautifully revealed in his vast and rich body of work – a library of fact dressed up and served to us as fiction? To tell another’s story sits in the realm of gossip and is utterly unnecessary to the point.

For me, the real richness of our conversation was in me (too late) recognising my almost reflexive response, not just to leap in with grand ideas, solutions, possible websites of value, and various things they could/should/ought to say or do . . . but to take their grief into me – as though it were my own.

Bearing witness to her suffering was akin to watching a person, arms flailing, overwhelmed, frightened and sinking in a deep body of water. In the case of my friend, the drowning was not in the ocean, but in the series of choices that had been made, and made and made again – all of which had delivered them to this inevitable point of catastrophe.

Many options were available to me at this point. I could have simply shrugged and said (quite validly and honestly) ‘I told you so. What did you think was going to happen?’ And if delivered with the requisite judgement, blown them off with a thick cloud of arrogance and smug.

Instead, I started down the well-worn path of playing life-saver, making my way out into the deepening waves as though I, somehow, could hold them above the consequences of their neglect and unwillingness to make the firmer and more deliberately strict loving choices much, much sooner.

It is a well-known fact in life-saving circles that a drowning person can, in their panic and terror, drown the one who attempts to save them. This is the nature of desperation – it will ‘take out’ anyone or anything in its dread of what seems to be inevitable. It will sink one it loves in its bid to survive.

In my case I did not move so far as to be completely submerged by her panic, but I let myself get plenty wet – the consequences of this will sit with me for as long as I allow it to dominate my next steps and next breaths.

The fact is that the consequences of a fully clothed dip in the ocean are fairly simple to remedy – a good wash will remove the salt, and hanging on a clothes line in the light of the sun will dry them back to their original state. The absorption of another’s emotions is another issue though. Emotions are quite harmful enough when they are our own. When they are the emotions of another, they become a slow spreading poison, difficult to account for or make sense of as they infiltrate our being, influence our choices, our movements through life, even the quality of our breath. We find ourselves at some point after our life-saving venture, lacking precision and clarity and not quite knowing of who we are.

No wonder so many people feel somewhat lost as they (we all) muddle our way through life, dealing not just with our own emotionality but the dilemmas of everyone else we have so unthinkingly absorbed and unconsciously made ‘our own’. All of those life-saving rings we have cast to each other, binding us together in an apparently inescapable meshwork of complication and normalised toxicity.

"The key to true compassion is to live like a fish in the sea and not get wet."

Serge Benhayon Esoteric & Exoteric Philosophy, ed 1, p 103

There was another option available to me (and us all) and it is an option that does not occupy some touted, mythical and in truth non-existent ‘middle ground’. The simple fact is that between judgement and sympathy, arrogant dismissiveness and self-sacrifice, lies the barren ground of sundry emotions and reactions, none of which contribute a jot to anyone’s situation in life. There is no middle ground – it does not exist in the range of offerings human life has bestowed upon us thus far in our history on this planet. All of it designed to keep us tied together in drama and never truly One.

No. This option is found deep within the innermost of our being, and carries with it the resonance of that which is eternally untouched by the most rigorous, demanding and tumultuous of human circumstance.

This option would have packed away the life-saving ring and saved the drenching. Nor would it have had me reaching for the protective shield of ‘high and mighty’ dismissiveness of this ultimately avoidable plight.

It would have been to simply observe and bring genuine compassion to the occasion – this being one of the most loving gestures any human being can offer to another. It is appreciated that this statement will make many people deeply uncomfortable. It is almost untenable for them to ‘do nothing’ in the face of another’s suffering. To those of you so discomforted, I make two offerings.

The first that observation is powerful beyond human reckoning. The second is sit with your discomfort a moment or two longer – no one can take it away from you. Because we have been so highly conditioned to ‘jump in’ and help, to not make the leap is deeply uncomfortable . . . at least until the power, clarity and genuine love of observation are richly experienced. This takes practice.

Observation does not belong only to the realm of science, although science would, as a whole, greatly benefit from advancing it to a greater degree than it has thus far mustered with its commercial interests tending to blindside (pun intended) its clarity in seeing and reporting the outplay of events, uncontaminated by bias.

Observation is a practice that calls on great steadiness of being and a depth of stillness and presence – these being qualities that, although innate to the human body, have been largely sacrificed by the majority of us in favour of the whirly-gig of emotionality, busyness, excitement and need for things to be a certain way. In observation, in its truest form, observer and observed are one. There is no vast sense of separation, nor callous indifference. Oneness equally does not have the merest element of absorption of the other’s situation. It allows them to sit in what they have chosen, and to have the opportunity to understand what they have made their way in life – unjudged and unsaved. There is no false elevation by the rescue that can never ultimately save a human being from the consequences of their actions and inaction.

When I examine why? and how? I came to immerse myself so deeply in my friend’s situation, and wet myself in the waves of her consequences, it was not difficult to see how perfectly I had set myself up for the drenching. Several days of slow erosion of my presence and stillness, taking on unnecessary problems here, saying yes to issues that were none of my business there. Busy, doing far too much and not stopping to take full stock when I recognised I had stretched the elastic band of my body’s fabulous capacity to work and recover just too far.

Having recognised that I had attempted to rescue my friend and had taken on a dousing of her state, my duty to myself and to her now is to bring my body back into a quality of order and wholesomeness that is its natural, and preferred way. Simple food, the honouring of timely sleep, delicacy and grace in movement, observation of the breath such that it is, at the very least, gentle . . . This is the real ‘salvation’ of her and myself equally. Her emotions have no place in me – and holding on to her state, whilst it might alleviate some tension, does nothing to help her realise that she has far more say in the matter than she has given herself credit for to date.

We could say this is part of the life-savers adage, to ‘save yourself first’. Although this line has a sprinkling of truth to it, it is not the whole truth.

The fact is that we are not here to rescue by sacrifice, nor to neglect each other with indifference borne of armour over old wounds. We are here to be the Living Way of love, and this calls us to a level of attentiveness to the details of life, not to ‘save ourselves’, but to dive into and hence draw deeply from the riches of the innermost of our being – that which is accessed by our consciously developed presence and stillness.

We are here to ‘observe and not absorb’ (Serge Benhayon).

It has already been stated that observation is powerful beyond human reckoning. This cannot be proven in words, but offered by experience, and as such recommended to anyone sick of the constant strain and strife of the emotionally charged life-saving way of being. At some point we all realise that life-saving people from their constant dilemmas ultimately does not work. How many people need to be rescued over and over again (and this might be a sobering moment if we are the perpetual ‘rescuee’), never learning, never gaining insight, never adjusting their participation in the things that hurt them?

Observation is the only true answer, its razor-sharp love cutting through those tangled binds that seem to hold us together only by desperation and need – and false ideas of ‘what love is’. It holds the observed one as the might and strength of an essence they have simply neglected to make the source of their life’s way. It holds the observer in the same and equal quality – the beholder of their own essence as they behold the other so. Thus the two become One – not in wretched need and the inequality that ensues – but in the simplicity that we are all of the One Soul.

Had I done this, what then would I have offered my friend? Certainly not a partially thrown life-saving ring and a friend caught in a matching state of emotionality – rather she would have felt a deep pool of grace and the inspiration to draw from her own, should she be willing to embrace her own untapped depths of presence and stillness.

The lifesaver ultimately saves no one, for this is not what we are here to do. We are here to live the preciousness of our own essence, as uncorrupted as can be in a world made to corrupt us with its manner of emotionally binding, co-dependent existence. We are here to allow each other the steady grace of true recovery, to responsibly face the choices we have made and regather ourselves by the way we live and breathe. Offer each other this and genuine salvation by self-realised empowerment becomes not just a possibility, but a reality.

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  • By Anonymous

  • Photography: Steve Matson, Electrical Engineer, Chef, Photographer, Forklift operator and student of life.

    I am someone that looks at something that is complicated and sees the simplicity behind it. Life needs to be fun and lived. Making mistakes is an important part of this process.