Notes on the book entitled HOW CAN I HELP by Ram Dass and Paul Gorman

This book has been very important to me. It answered many questions that I had. It gave me direction. It gave me a vision for myself and my life. It gave me something to work towards and to become. Over time it helped me like myself more and more.

People on a spiritual path commonly speak of the value of service to others. That sounds so right and good because it is. Many people, with wonderful intentions, jump into service work but after further examination it becomes clear that their help isn’t really helpful after all! How could that be?


The value of this book is gently delivered through stories of giving. Definitions of compassion, love and respect help the reader better understand the questions of helpfulness. We can learn specific steps to take to assure that we’re not straying from our intended goals.

A few of the nuggets of wisdom that I got from the book include:

  • A truly helpful helper must start with learning about what helps and what doesn’t help. Some helpers mistakenly think that any and all efforts to help are helpful. They aren’t. A focus on the action followed by reflection on the process and the outcome is the source of wisdom in this book.
  • All truly helpful energy starts with honoring our efforts to help our own selves. Later, this energy can easily be transferred to others.
  • Compassion is learned when we stop and truly listen to another person. Our reaction to what we hear can cause us to experience pain and it can increase our awareness of our own vulnerability. For this reason, sometimes true compassion is replaced with a need for the helper to relate to the helpee from a superior position. The essence of this superior to inferior relationship can feel like, “You are weaker, needier, less capable, less intelligent, and generally less than I. So, I will not feel the pain that you feel.” From that angle, the person being helped often feels worse about themselves which is far from helpful.
  • True compassion is experienced between two equals with an understanding about what is the same about us all. It is marked with a sincere, caring and authentic connection. When others are seen as equal, compassion becomes our natural response.
  • If a helper hasn’t done their own personal work, their efforts to help can sadly become selfish if the motivation for their helping is to make them feel better about themselves.
  • It’s not possible to help everyone and that’s ok.

Before ending this summary, I want to say that the greatest value of this book isn’t about walking away with those nuggets of wisdom that I listed above. The value is from reading the stories yourself and the process of internalizing compassion yourself.

I highly recommend this book to you, dear reader.

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