When All Feels Helpless, There is Something You CAN Do

Ann Hoffman-Ruffner founded Wayfinding Women, LLC after a 30 year career as a therapist and administrator for inpatient psychiatry. A lifelong advocate for women & girls, Ann is a certified Martha Beck coach and a Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator-Candidate. 

Ann Hoffman photoI don’t’ know about you, but lately I find myself peacefully browsing through Facebook, replaying those videos of precious puppies falling over themselves in a plump pile of puppy exhaustion.  They are so darn cute.

Then, with no warning, the next post bolts me out of my happy place like lightning through my core with some traumatic picture or tragic news.  You know the kind.  Today it was a picture from China’s Yulin dog meat festival where 10,000 dogs are being slaughtered marking the summer solstice.  The picture of a man holding a puppy by the neck breaks my heart and makes me sick inside. I know it’s a different culture but that doesn’t ease my anguish. I look at my loving and sweet Marvin Hamlisch (my fur-child, the basset hound…not the Broadway composer) sleeping next to me and tears well in my eyes.

image1I feel real pain.  I feel really helpless.

And it’s not just Facebook…you know, you get that call about a friend who has just learned they have Stage 4 Cancer.  Or you get an email that your friend’s spouse died suddenly. Oftentimes it’s the evening news where we learn about a group of people on the other side of the world that are hurting, scared and in need.

Today I learned of the death of a friend in Pakistan due to power cuts and extreme heat.  More than 700 have died from the heat so far.  If I could, I’d bring every one into my house that has air conditioning; I’d take them fans, I’d bring them ice water. But I can’t.  I feel helpless.

These are times when we need to have a way to not feel helpless.  We need a way of DOING, of making it better, even when we can’t change the outcome.

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When we feel helpless, we are not without power. We have incredible power…energy within each of us, toward love and compassion. We see it when we are with someone we care for and our loving energy provides calm and comfort.  What’s best is that we don’t have to be in the same location for the other being to feel this.  You KNOW what I’m talking about.  That’s why there are prayer chains and peace vigils.  Our energy makes a difference.  We may not be able to stop bad things from happening, but we can change the energy for those involved.

The practice is called LOVING KINDNESS MEDITATION. There are many excellent articles describing the practice and the science behind it, but this is the meditation that I used today for those animals in China and all people who are suffering in this world right now.

While you may not be able to stop what is happening, you can change the experience for those involved and yourself, allowing yourself to be freed from helplessness in order to use your energy for the higher good.

Ready? Let’s do it….

Find a moment of quiet in yourself and be still. Focus first on the loving kindness for yourself (remember, airplane oxygen masks-put it on yourself first) And quietly and slowly say:

May I be happy.

May I be well.

May I be safe.

May I be peaceful and at ease.

While you say these phrases, allow yourself to sink into the intentions they express. If feelings of warmth, or love arise in your body or mind, connect to them, allowing them to grow as you repeat the phrases. To aid the meditation, you might hold an image of yourself in your mind’s eye. This helps reinforce the intentions expressed in the phrases.

Then when you are ready, connect to the visual of those in need of peace and freedom from suffering. Focusing on the peace instead of the pain, say the following-

I care about this pain;

I care about the pain in the world.

May all beings be free of suffering and all the causes of suffering.

May all beings feel comforted, supported, and cared for,

May all beings be surrounded with peace,

May all feel only peace.

May we all feel only peace.


Other articles by this author:

Retirement for Women: A Perfect Recipe for a Midlife Meltdown

About Retire Early Lifestyle

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired three decades ago at the age of 38 and began traveling the world. As recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance and world travel, they have been interviewed about retirement issues by The Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine, The Motley Fool Rule Your Retirement newsletter, nationally syndicated radio talk shows and countless newspapers and TV shows nationally and worldwide. They wrote the popular books The Adventurer's Guide to Early Retirement (Your Simple Path to FIRE) and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible.
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