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  • Caleb Reese

Special Edition, Contributing

Today we have a special post. At LifeWork, we are gathering donations over the next month for the The Violence Prevention Center of Southwestern Illinois. The organization is working to end domestic violence. It seems appropriate that on Martin Luther King, Jr. day that we turn our thoughts to helping others. It also seems appropriate that we turn our thoughts to the ending of violence. We will be accepting donations at our Maryland Heights, MO location and our St. Peters, MO location. Please contact us for hours when donations will be accepted. 314-737-0020 or jbrenneman@lifeworkstl.com. See bottom of post for items.


We've interrupted the flow of skills slightly here to bring you the Contributing skill.

Part of the Distress Tolerance module is Distracting with Wise Mind ACCEPTS. One of the C’s is Contribute. The purpose of Distress Tolerance Crisis Survival skills is to make a painful situation more tolerable while also refraining from impulsive behaviors that often make situations worse. When we can learn how to bear pain skillfully according to Marsha M. Linehan, PhD, ABPP, creator of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), we can learn how to accept reality in the moment. The ability to perceive one’s environment without demanding it to be different requires being mindfully present enough to observe, describe, and participate effectively. We may not approve of reality, yet we often need to find ways to survive crises, which can include contributing to others (see Distress Tolerance Handout #7, Worksheets #5, 5a, 5b).


Contributing helps us reduce contact with the prompting event, individual, and/or situation. It creates distance as a means to get space to clear our head enough to be more effective later on, which will change emotional reactions to more effective responses. The notion of contributing assists when emotional pain threatens to become overwhelming before problem-solving.


Contributing to other can create a sense of connection and purpose, it can lead to the ability to tolerate distressing situations to the point of forgetting one’s own struggles for a while. When we contribute to others it Increases an internal appreciation of purpose and self-respect. Altruism is not a lost cause unless we fall prey to being overly helpful or giving unasked for advice.


What does it mean to contribute? There are multiple ways we can provide support to others:

- Time

- Material resources

- Attention

- Volunteering

- Donating

- Showing up

- Knowledge

- Experience

- Friendship


Some barriers to contributing include the idea of reciprocity or internalized feelings of shame, pride, or unworthiness: am I worried my contribution will not come back to me? Should I be willing to do for others when I may not get anything in return? Does my input even matter? How could I make an impact? What if I do not know what to say or do? How could others benefit from me? What if I make things worse? Barriers often lead to willfulness, apathy, and fear; however, our lives are not made up of destinations. Rather, we are constantly on a journey toward self-discovery and self-acceptance. When we can learn to validate one’s own emotions and recognize obstacles as the way through pain, the sense of suffering can diminish. The ability and willingness to be kind to ourselves by being kind to others requires strength and courage, which in turn allows for growth.


Thích Nhất Hạnh, a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist master often known as the father of mindfulness, recognized the importance of interbeing or interconnectedness in the world. We are all one. There is no separation. He created the concept of “engaged Buddhism,” which applies the teachings of the Buddha to everyday life as a means of social change and action. By engaging in the lives of others, we are able to make changes, microgoal by microgoal. When you contribute, you are making a difference in yourself and the world, one act at a time.


Contributing can also be an antidote to coveting, which can lead to resentment and suffering. By not being selfish, we provide for others in need. The idea of attachment comes to mind. When we are attached to objects, who owns whom? When we give freely, we recognize how we are all interconnected. We interare. There is no separation other than concepts or socially constructed notions of “us” and “them” in the grand scheme of things.


Thấy wrote in Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm, “The most precious gift you can give to the one you love is your true presence… ‘Dear one, I am here for you.’…’Darling, I know you are there, and I am so happy.’…When you love someone, the best thing you can offer that person is your presence. How can you love if you are not there? Come back to yourself, look into [their] eyes, and say, ‘Darling, you know something? I’m here for you.’ You’re offering [them] your presence. You’re not preoccupied with the past or the future; you are there for your beloved. You must say this with your body and with your mind at the same time, and then you will see transformation…To be there is the first step and recognizing the presence of the other person is the second step. Because you are fully there, you recognize that the presence of your beloved is something very precious. You embrace your beloved with mindfulness, and he or she will bloom like a flower. To be loved means to first of all to be recognized as existing…Even before you do anything to help, your wholehearted presence already brings some relief, because when we suffer, we have great need for presence of the person we love. If we are suffering and the person we love ignores us, we suffer more. So, what you can do – right away – is to manifest your true presence to your beloved and say…’Dear one, I know you are suffering. That is why I am here for you.’ And already your loved one will feel better…Your presence is a miracle, your understanding of his or her pain is a miracle, and you are able to offer this aspect of your love immediately. Really try to be there, for yourself, for life, for the people you love. Recognize the presence of those who live in the same place as you and try to be there when one of them is suffering, because your presence is so precious for this person…This (mantra) is for when you are suffering, and you believe that your beloved has caused you suffering. If someone else had done the same wrong to you, you would have suffered less. But this is the person you love the most, so you suffer deeply, and the last thing you feel like doing is to ask that person for help…So now it is your pride that is the obstacle to reconciliation and healing. According to the teaching of the Buddha, in true love there is no place for pride…When you are suffering like this, you must go to the person you love and ask for his or her help. That is true love. Do not let pride keep you apart. You must overcome your pride. You must always go to him or her. That is what this (mantra) is for. Practice for yourself first, to bring about the oneness of your body and mind before going to the other person to say…: ‘Dear one, I am suffering; please help.’ This is very simple but very hard to do.”


May you be well.


Items being collected: Gas cards, gift cards, African American haircare products, Leggings (all sizes), pillows, bedding (twin and full), bath towels, wash cloths, underwear (all sizes and genders needed), kid friendly snacks, body wash, pasta, canned meat (tuna, chicken, etc.), quick and easy meals, slippers (all sizes, men and women) sweat shirts and pants (larger sizes men and women), men's hygiene items, comfortable bras.

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