There is Always Assistance

Look for the cracks and crevices in life on which you can take hold

Many years ago, I did a rock climb with a group of women, led by expert women climbers. I had heard that rock climbing was an excellent form of physical challenge and personal growth learning. I did learn a lot about myself on the rock face as security fears arose even though I was on a strong belay line that was being held by my friends and the leaders. There was one particular lesson that has stayed with me these years since and that lesson is “There is always assistance available.”

There was a particular moment as I was climbing in which I froze. My whole body stopped with the thought that I cannot do this, that there isn’t any way I can make it to the top. Never mind that it was clear I was going to do it one way or another as I wasn’t going to spend the rest of my life there. That didn’t matter. My mind said, “No Way” and my body couldn’t move. The leader gently guided me to pay attention and change my body position, to turn toward my challenge and use my senses to see and feel where I could put my hand and foot holds. With each little crack that I put my finger tips into and each little crevice I hooked my toes on, I made it to the top. The next day when I did another climb much more easily I realized that the rock face gave me assistance every move along the way. I just needed to pay attention and see what was before me and available to me.

I brought home a chunk of rock from the climb to have as a reminder that assistance is always present even when I’m sure that there isn’t any – like the moments that I get stopped by some challenge, some unwanted change, something I don’t have control over. In those moments and I’ve had a few of them recently, I look for the cracks and crevices in life on which I can take hold. It might be a line in some reading I’m doing, or some little bit in the natural world that points me in the right direction, or my inner wisdom voice that lets me know I am available for myself, and most of all, the people who are there for me to turn toward and stop my denying that I’m in this situation all alone.

This last piece about turning toward others can be a challenge in and of itself. Many of us have a belief that we need to do things by ourselves, to not ask for help in the tough moments, to not show others that we’re stuck or vulnerable, or simply don’t know something  It might be as simple as asking for directions, or as tough as needing someone to be with us while we face a really difficult experience.

This belief to go it alone often reflects previous experiences in which we were criticized, judged, or even shamed for needing others or for not knowing something. It also reflects our cultures’ “independence is good, dependence is bad” mindset. There is no doubt that we need to learn to do things for ourselves and there is also no doubt that allowing others to assist us is a survival need. These two ends of the pole of everyday living need to come together as interdependence so that we can train ourselves to know when we need to act independently knowing we have support and when we need to see and reach out for assistance.

Being the grandmother of four who are at varying stages of learning independence-dependence, I have the great opportunity to observe and participate in this development. I want my grandchildren to know they can rely on themselves and others. I want them to know that doing something for themselves is necessary for growing up. I want them to know that asking for help when needed is as essential as independence. It’s not an either/or proposition. When both are in balance and supported with kind encouragement, trust in oneself and others and experiencing the bonds of connection reinforce the power of love and well-being. An essential state for a successful life. We can turn toward the rock faces of our lives and sense/see what is here for us.

When we practice paying attention, turning toward what is troubling us and be willing to use all our senses we notice the assistance that is available. Our hearts lighten, our minds open, and our spirits can once again play with what is before us.

May you notice all the assistance that is before your today no matter what your “rock face” presents to you.

About the author

Suzanne Kilkus

Suzanne Kilkus is a Soto Zen meditation practitioner and teacher and has practiced as a therapist and counselor for over three decades. She is dedicated to assisting people in expanding their capacity for giving and receiving love, and for recognizing and expressing their basic goodness in everyday life. Her path to live with wholehearted compassion and care is an invitation to everyone. She is a teacher with Open Door Zen Community in Madison, WI.