Building community in a changing world

May 9, 2022

The Three Tenets of Not-Knowing, Bearing Witness and Compassionate Action

Continuing on with Roshi Joan Halifax’s “Standing at the Edge,” I learned about the Three Tenets of Not-Knowing, Bearing Witness and Compassionate Action. Here is a summary of those concepts:

– “Not-Knowing” is the practice of letting go of fixed ideas about ourselves and the universe. When encountering someone suffering, ask “how can I keep an open mind and not jump to conclusions or actions?” and “why do I really want to be of service in this situation?” “Do I have what it takes in this situation to truly serve?”

– “Bearing Witness” is the practice of being present for the suffering and the joy of this world. Bearing Witness is not about being a bystander; it’s about being in a relationship and it’s about courage to face the whole catastrophe. Practice helps here to be aware of your own responses in the face of another’s suffering and having the equannimity and compassion required. Returning again and again to being grounded.

– “Compassionate Action” is action that arises from Not-Knowing or Bearing Witness and that fosters the healing of ourselves and the world as a path of practice. Grounding really helps here to discern which action might best serve the situation – including whether doing nothing is the most compassionate response.

Another lesson I learned is the difference between helping, fixing and serving. When you help, you see life as weak. When you fix, you see life as broken. When you serve, you see life as whole. A teaching by Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen…