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reflections by friends



DISCLAIMER:  The views expressed below are those of our friends, the authors of each reflection.  “Do No Harm” is not associated with any organization or religion.  We understand ‘do no harm’ in terms that are meaningful to each of us, but ‘do no harm’ is not limited to our understanding.


January, 2013

I work as a Spiritual Carer (Chaplain) with the marginalised, alienated and disadvantaged in a serious offenders correctional centre and two psychiatric hospitals one of which is for Veterans.

My meditation sessions are very popular but, like my Dharma talks, are not compulsory. My major role is one of simply listening and not passing judgment.

Ahimsa or No Harm is often raised as an issue by the residents. Some violent offenders and those suffering from deep depression often seek inner peace by an attitude change.

By a fortunate accident, I stumbled across a "non-organization" which offered several simple secular products, free of charge, plus an essay on a basic moral principle . . . DO NO HARM.

After an exchange of emails, Chuck, Clyde and Mike welcomed me to their Circle of Friends. I am pleased to give Do No Harm items to those who seek my assistance. The response has been remarkable.

Venerable Eido
Soto Zen Monk


May, 2012 
The tenet of "Do No Harm" has been part of this family for over 25 years. My husband is a physician, and one of the tenets of the Hippocratic Oath is to "Do No Harm" to patients. I have practiced speech language therapy for 23 years, and I also follow that same tenet for my patients and students. Additionally, I stress to students who are "regular ed" to show understanding and compassion for all students, but especially to those who have special needs, the type of students I see. What is most inspiring is to witness a student who can courageously challenge a bully and demand that he or she stop doing harm to another student. I just received our "Do No Harm" wristbands that will be distributed to the 8th graders at their promotion party. We hope that there is still time, that they are yet open and impressionable at this age, to be inspired by this noble and basic humanistic concept. To "Do No Harm," which essentially, is interchangeable with the message of "Do Good." 
Shirley Sigmund


May, 2011 
I was at a show in Memphis, TN when I first encountered the Do No Harm organization. A display table had been set up with an outpouring of these amazing little messages. "Do No Harm". I was at once inspired and curious.  
Thoughts flashed through my mind like: "what a great idea!", "what a great product!", "how much do they cost?", "they're gonna clean up selling these." So I moseyed up to a person behind the desk and inquired as to the cost of these nifty items with the succinct and profound message. I sweet smile in a tie dyed sarong replied, "They are as free as the idea printed on them." 
I was sure that I had misunderstood so I inquired again to clarify. The sweet smile came back again with a nod of reassurance, "Really, take one. Take two and pass one on." I was elated and floored at the same time. "What an amazing idea", I thought. "That's how it should be done."  
After my performance I was speaking to the venue manager and he sent me with a stack of stickers and wrist bands to distribute at shows. It's really awesome to get to be the smiling face in tie dye behind the desk who says, "Really, take one." People are transformed just a bit and it's an amazing thing to behold. 
They come expecting to have to give something up. To give a bit of their hard earned wages to strive in the furtherance of a noble cause. But when they come to the realization that it is a gift, there is a tiny change that occurs in their hearts. It's like a tiny hug that just won't quit. They realize that they are not alone in the cause.
They realize that there are others out there that they don't even know who are striving for the same ideal. And every time they see the sticker or put on the bracelet they know that they are loved. They know that there's at least one person out there, that they don't even know, who thought enough of them to send them some encouragement. 
It's these sorts of selfless acts that will build a brighter tomorrow. It is these sorts of selfless acts that will inspire other selfless acts. Can you imagine a world with a majority of people who know the joy of giving... loving... caring? I can. And every time I give out a Do No Harm item I know that I've brought that bright tomorrow just a tiny bit closer to being a bright today. 
My love to you,

July, 2010
As a clinical ethicist, the phrase, DO NO HARM, is very important to me.  I saw a car the other day with the DO NO HARM bumper sticker and I was stunned.  I was determined to find out where the sticker came from and learn more about the organization.  In my job, I aim to minimize harm and maximize benefit for those who are sick.  I advocate for those who are being kicked to the curb or not getting a fair shake.  The DO NO HARM organization is a breath of fresh air to someone like me who sometimes feels that in her work she is all alone.  I now feel I have a partner.  Thank you for being there and for spreading this important concept to humanity.

June, 2010 

For some Do No Harm suggests passivity where we pass by others for fear we might do more harm than good.  I for one do not see it that way at all. I think Do No Harm suggests becoming active in addressing people's needs with an awe and reverence regardless of who it is. For me Do No Harm is difficult because it suggests that I listen first and act second.  Do No Harm for me suggests that I shouldn’t retaliate and flip the bird at a driver. Do No Harm suggests that I should endeavor to react appropriately in all circumstances. Overall Do No Harm implies I relax my personal bias or I may do more harm than good with individuals.

I also believe that in life people fluctuate back and forth between Host and Guest. Practitioners & religious leaders grow accustomed to being the Host and generally they may be the Host but not always. Sometimes that role changes for instance as a good citizen I decide to stop and help a man living under a bridge – I am the Guest in that setting. When my friend comes over to my home I am the Host until they decide to share a personal story of pain and then all of a sudden I think the roles reverse and I am the Guest invited to hear and very likely validate someone's personal story.

Do No Harm is difficult for me because it means that I need to remember my limitations, relax my biases, recognize my boundaries, and know my strengths and weaknesses. For me Do No Harm means I shouldn't be found guilty of assumption yet that is exactly what I do – I assume too much.


Chaplain Kevin Kurtz

May, 2010 

When I think about Do no Harm, I think about how many times the concept has been present in my life. 

I think my first occasion to practice harmlessness was as an animal-loving child. Caring for them over my lifetime has taught me a certain level of compassion that I don't think I could have learned any other way. Even though I was bitten by a dog at the age of 5, somehow, I could see his point of view. It was winter and my mittens were caked with snow. He was chained up at a Service station. I could imagine he didn't like to be chained up, and I imagine he might not have wanted me to pet him with icy caked-up mittens.
Over the many years that followed, I had a series of cats. My parents weren't fans of them, but somehow, they let me have them, although they were outdoor pets. I lost count of how many I cared for. I watched them give birth, I watched  one of the  kittens get killed by a bird, and I watched my first cat Sydney get  hit by a car and die while playing with the neighbor's cat--who lived. Somehow, I always knew how they felt, and in the years that followed, after marrying another animal lover, I was graced with more dogs and cats, all of whom knew how I felt.

Caring for pets is wonderful practice in nurturing. As a nurturer, I spent much of my teenage years babysitting. More opportunities to connect.
I was however, considered thin skinned--sensitive--by my family. I've never wanted to hurt anyone. I have a high degree of Empathy. However, as a human being, I have hurt people, and I've felt remorse.
After my third child was born, I began to practice Yoga. It's been a theme in my life for 15 years now. When I came upon the concept of non-harming it rang true with me. I don't like killing insects. If I can, I scoop them up to take them outdoors--even ticks I remove from my pets. I've often thought "Do Unto Others" would solve all of the world's problems.

Recycling as much as I can, I practice non-harming. I'm trying to keep my usage of things down to a minimum. I'm realizing how little I really need. Having spent a lot of time outdoors, barefoot and camping out as a child, I feel a very certain connection to Mother Nature.  Feeling this connection makes me strive toward non-harming. I've studied Native American Animal Totems and feel a very certain gratitude for the animals that grace my life's path, and the symbolism they're capable of providing me when I need it most.
Deep down, I've always been one to seek Peace. Non-harming is one way to bring us all closer to that feeling.

As a writer, I like to share. Writing helps me find the other side of the coin.  I believe that wearing the wrist band will be a nice reminder to me, throughout my day, that I have a choice; that I always have a choice. There are situations when you can say what's on your mind, to speak your piece, or you can choose not to. There may be some grey areas there, but I believe I'll be aware more often as I wear the wrist band, and the grey area will become more black. More white.

Thank you for including Me in your Circle Of Friends. It is my intention to Do No Harm, and to pass that message on, through my actions, and non-actions.  I look forward to distributing the bumper stickers and wrist bands and pins, and will incorporate creative ways of doing so.

Signed This 19th Day of April, 2010
Gloria Orlando Ives
Malvern, PA


April, 2010 

Do no harm - three small words - how perfectly they describe the lesson we humans are here to learn. Do no harm - three small words that remind me moment to moment to think before i act. Three small words that remind me that all of creation is interconnected, interdependent, and there is nothing that any of us can do that does not ripple out and touch every corner of the universe. Do no harm - three small words with the ability to remind us that everything we do, does matter - it matters very much. May i do no harm - May my children do no harm - Let us leave the world a better place for our having walked here.  
Do no harm.  
Elise Stone
mother, artist, vegan, human being -

 striving each day to Do no harm 


February, 2010 
Doing no harm is impossible, but that isn't the point of contemplating this very worthy aspiration. It's about noticing how we are always implicated, inseparable from whatever is going on. Haiti is not elsewhere, across the street is not elsewhere. By contemplating "Do No Harm," we are pledging our allegiance to showing up again and again in the present moment, reaffirming our commitment to working gently on the impossible-to-master endeavors of mindfulness and compassion.
Ethan Nichtern
The InterDependence Project

December, 2009 

So much of society is built upon reputation and repetition that people like celebrities are branding their actions as much as their image to get ahead in the world today. When individuals identify with the behavior and image that another person displays, the challenge is getting them to pay attention to the consequences of that perspective without having the individual accept it as part of who they are. Simply telling someone about an alternative perspective is often not enough to make it real or motivating so that it might be tried out. When we look at behaviors that center on and around alcohol and drug use there are many attitudes and examples that easily come to mind and have both positive and negative aspects. There are many industries that rely on stupid and impulsive choices to replenish the individuals that will promote as well as buy their products. You may think I am talking about the porn industry but I’m not. In my opinion the fashion industry is much worse. 

Celebrities are a brand onto themselves and are marketed by reputation and successfully selling movies/products by their performance. For them bad press maybe just as good as good press coverage. For the average person who goes to work every day the same notoriety is usually not a good thing. So the decisions we make everyday demonstrate to others our attitudes and norms that we deem worth continuing as well as the expectation of the communication we are expecting back for them. When we have two standards of behavior, often the one we will adopt is the one we feel will be the most accepted by those we care about.  

All of us can see the opportunities and lives of people who we can model across the globe; so why is it that so many people are apt to pick bad behavior and models? Celebrities happen to have the largest audience and therefore the largest reach.  I can hope that they will choose to put forth the good choices they make as much as they show the bad ones. As a society it is my hope that we will emphasize the good ones without ignoring the bad. We all need to learn different things at different times. What I choose to be remembered for alive as well as dead is the spirit and the events of my life. Gives me pause looking back on the times that I thought I was protecting people from bad influences only to find that since they were not exposed to it and able to talk about it they found an equally bad influence somewhere else.  

What we think is awful may create a resource that will help one person later and hinder another. The difference that I can see is the ability to communicate with someone else without judgment that made a difference. If the people you love can’t talk to you about it, they are talking to someone else. Often it’s the case that we think of prejudice and discrimination as unfavorable, bad, or even the product of a weak mind, and that is not always true.  A favorable view of an individual based solely on their skin color, ethnicity, or religion, is still a form of prejudice.  Similarly, favorable treatment of someone based solely on these things is a form of discrimination. 

Both prejudice and discrimination can be products of the stereotypes we hold. When talking with people in a way that appreciates who they are we have to recognize that our models don’t need a defender. If we believe in ourselves and what we have to say, what people will remember is what we represented and affirmed in them. It comes down to the fact I believe we teach who we are no matter what else we think we are teaching. If nothing else we should all agree of the sentiments of DO NO HARM. These words translate into behaviors that make everyone's lives better, and everyday we are the models of this philosophy. Thanks for reading my rant. 

Santiago, Inc.
Joseph A Santiago President 


November, 2009  

As I read these reflections I see a lot of talk as to whether it is possible to "do no harm". The concept is ancient. Buddhists, Hindus and Janists started with the concept of Ahimsa, "do no harm". Romans 13:10 in the Bible says "Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law." And even some non-religious organizations, like the entire medical profession, promise to "first do no harm". There is truth in your statements that no one can live perfectly without doing any harm but I ask you this: can anyone perfectly believe, perfectly love, do anything perfectly? I dare say most of you would answer “no.” But every one caring enough to be on this site would say that it is worth the effort to try. The ingenuity of "do no harm" is not in the fact that it's new or can be followed perfectly but that it excites unbiased discussion. It sets a tone for those around us that states that how we treat people matters. It's not perfect, but nether am I. I am, however, able to tell my kids to try and that the first step in that direction is to integrate the ideal into my values and let them know its importance to me. Let them know that the first step to making a better world is to "Do No Harm".  

Josh Medina


October, 2009 
A stranger gave me a "No Harm" pin at the 2009 Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, and I have worn it on my jacket ever since. I never thought all too much about it, until a few days ago when I was sitting in my car, crying over many events that had gone poorly that day. As my thoughts turned dark and toward revenge and hate, the phrase "do no harm" came to mind. I started to think about that, and although it didn't lift me out of my depression completely, it kept me from making the violent decisions I was considering making that night. The next day I decided that I would "do no harm out of anger, do no harm out of fear, and do no harm for personal gain". That was yesterday. Today I've decided that this is the way I want to live my life. In the last several days, whenever I've had negative thoughts, I have said "do no harm" and they passed, leaving me feeling positive, elevated, and clean.
The only reason I can think of that "do no harm" would have come to mind is having seen it on that pin so many times. I know it wasn't because of your website (which is wonderful, by the way), because I just accessed it for the first time about a half hour ago.
What I'm getting at is that having the message of "do no harm" come into my view so often has changed my life. Whether it's for the long term or the short term, I obviously don't know yet. What I do know is that at least for that for several days now, having the message of "do no harm" in my life has saved me and other people quite a bit of grief. And so I would like to spread that message, as far as I can. Anything to spread the message that did so much for me. 
Do no harm, to yourself or others,

September, 2009
'Do No Harm.'  It seems quite easy, and yet we see people struggling with their own actions every day.  Long ago I happened upon a wonderful poster which I have shared below.  No matter how many people come to our Inn, they stop to read and find that basically all the religions of the world, in their own words, practice 'Do No Harm.'  Some who read the poster are rather shocked to see this... and often it seems there is an 'ah ha' moment.
There really is no distinction between those who walk this earth...other than skin color, looks, etc.  The same heart beats in all of us.  'Do No Harm' is a beautiful and meaningful way to live share and give.
Do No Harm,
Baha’i Faith
Lay not on any soul a load that you would not wish to be laid upon you, and desire not for anyone the things you would not desire for yourself.
Baha’u’llah, Gleanings
This is the sum of duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you.
Mahabharata 5:1517
Treat not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.
The Buddha
Udana-Varga 5.18
One word which sums up the basis of all good conduct... loving-kindness. Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself.
Analects 15.23
Not one of you truly believes until you wish for others what you wish for yourself.
The Prophet Muhammad, Hadith
What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor.
This is the whole Torah; all the rest is commentary.
Hillel, Talmud, Shabbat 31a
One should treat all creatures in the world as one would like to be treated.
Mahavira, Sutrakritanga
Do not do unto others whatever is injurious to yourself.
Shayast-na-Shayast 13.29
Native Spirituality
We are as much alive as we keep the earth alive.
Chief Dan George
We affirm and promote respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
Unitarian principle
In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.
Jesus, Matthew 7:12
I am a stranger to no one; and no one is a stranger to me. Indeed, I am a friend to all.
Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1299
Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.

Lao Tzu, T’ai Shang Kan Ying P’ien, 213-218


August, 2009

To me the words “do no harm” mean to speak and react to people in such a way that you cause them no emotional or physical harm. Of course that requires a conscious effort, a thought process to be used before you react to any given situation. Even more than do not go out of your way to hurt another, it means think about what you say and do before you do it. Not to hard is it?

I have written a book that is coming out shortly, Beginners Guide to Psychic Development and I started the Ethics chapter out with 'Do ye no harm to others'. Which means be careful how you give information to others, so as to not harm them. Choose your words carefully and be aware of the emotions of others and the consequences of what you tell them.

The Earth is currently, and it seems for a long time been under turmoil. Loss of jobs, financial difficulties, wars etc. We are the children of the Earth and I believe that if we were kinder to others, giving love instead of violence we could make this a better place. We need to learn to give more and hurt less.


Love & Light & Do no harm,


July, 2009

It's wonderful to see somebody trying to get the message out of Do No Harm. What does it mean to me? It means on a physical, mental and spiritual level I should try to minimize any actions or thought processes that intentionally try to do harm. However, I'm only human and that means I'm bound to have temptations in which I wish to cause harm. Physically, I've not harmed anybody intentionally since I was a kid when I got picked on a few times. Mentally, now that's a different story and I've not managed to be perfect in this department at all. Who is? However, I'm consciously trying to change my thought processes so that I don't get the urge to think bad things of people. It's hard work, it's really hard work but every little time I resist the urge to think bad things means that it becomes easier next time round to not think bad things.

I've done a lot of research into the phenomenon known as the Near Death Experience, you know the one with the bright light at the end of the tunnel thing. Sure, mainstream media takes the proverbial out of such things, but when you research into the masses and masses of anecdotal evidence you begin to wonder that there might be something to it. One of the main underlying things that has come out of my research is that my actions have a ripple effect on others. So, if it's a bad thing I've done, it has a bad ripple effect on others and I not only affect the person I've done something wrong to, but I may also affect that person's thought process in a bad way, which in turn may affect his/her actions towards somebody else.

This concept of a ripple action is a powerful influence on me today to try and Do No Harm. I try and think less bad things these days, I try and prevent animals and insects from being harmed (like removing worms from my drive after a rainstorm so that I don't run over them) and above all, I try and spread the message of Do No Harm through my actions. Is it working? For me it is, as I'm comfortable knowing that the little ripples of kindness and doing no harm I practice these days is pushing those little ripples out further and further.

Mike Bright

June, 2009 

I stumbled upon Do No Harm when I was on Google searching for self-injury awareness wristbands. I saw "Do No Harm" on the list and clicked on it. I first started self-injuring when I was a sophomore in high school. I transferred high schools and had no more problems. Soon after I started college in the fall of 2008, three years after I'd stopped, I began cutting again. I am in counseling, but the concept of "Do No Harm" has changed my mentality. As someone who struggles with self-injury, "Do No Harm" is a reminder that I should do no harm to myself.



September, 2008


I first heard the Do No Harm message more than a year ago. The concept wasn’t new, of course, but the combination of timing, context, and the way the message was put together seemed new and fresh to me.


I didn’t immediately “join” the movement or ask for free stuff. I let it sink in for a few months, absorbing it the way a rag sops up spilled milk, slowly drinking it in, spreading across my entire surface and deep inside until I was dripping with Do No Harm.


Over the last year, my understanding of Do No Harm has changed – evolved, actually. At first, I was gung-ho to change the world, convincing everyone I met that we could Do No Harm together and all beings would live in harmony and the earth would be returned to its previous splendor.


I still feel that we can work together and change ourselves and the world around us. What I now know, however, is that we can’t actually do no harm; not in today’s modern, global, complex socio-economy. Perhaps, we never could.


In almost everything we do, we do harm. I’m harming the planet right now writing this message on my laptop. I’m using electricity that originates at a coal-fired generator, spewing greenhouse gases and fine particulate matter into our atmosphere. In a small way, I may be adding enough pollution to the atmosphere that an elderly woman somewhere with emphysema will die on a “smog alert” day. I won’t even go into the process of making the laptop – the water usage, the effluent, the plastics, the corporate greed, etc.


Sometimes, when my actions seem noble, such as when I brew my fair trade, organic coffee at home, helping a Costa Rican coffee picker send his daughter to school for the first time, I am still causing harm. The coffee traveled to me by plane or ship, using fossil fuels, packaged in plastic and foil, that can’t be recycled in most areas.


Even spreading the Do No Harm message causes harm. The buttons, bumper stickers, decals, wrist bands, and websites, use scarce resources and cause pollution. There are also well-intentioned people selling Do No Harm stuff, feeding into our base consumer instincts.


My message may sound dark and hopeless but this understanding has actually given me more hope and cause for celebration. Rather than take the gargantuan step of trying to figuratively jump over the Grand Canyon, which is always impossible, I take small steps to improve my own relationships, my local community, and eventually someday, the world. This seems to be, and indeed is, easier and brings me considerably more joy at the end of the day.


I have been practicing meditation for a number of years but this past summer, I officially became a Buddhist and took the precepts (Jukai) in the Soto Zen tradition. Among the precepts, are what are the called the three pure precepts: do no harm, do only good, and do good for others.


As I was preparing for Jukai, I was considering my participation in helping spread the Do No Harm message. It was particularly moving for me when I vowed to “do no harm” in front of the abbot, my sensei, the sangha, and especially my wife and children.


At the risk of sounding “preachy,” I offer these ten tips for doing no (or at least, less) harm.


  1. Walk or ride your bike to work or school.
  2. Find out the name of the person who serves you coffee at your favourite cafe, call them by name when you order your coffee, and then thank them for what they do!
  3. Next time you’re frustrated because your two-year-old wants to change into her sixth outfit in four minutes, hug her and let her pick another one.
  4. Buy as much local as you can but continue to purchase your bananas, pineapples, dates, figs, mangos, etc.  Farmers in South America, the Middle East, the Caribbean need an income to feed their families too.
  5. Fly less.
  6. Love more.
  7. Find a community to practice your chosen wisdom tradition with (studies indicate that people who attend church, synagogue, mosque, temple, etc. are happier and healthier).
  8. Talk to your neighbour.
  9. Consume responsibly. People forget that the first “R” in reduce, re-use, recycle is the most important one.
  10. Cultivate a Do No Harm attitude. And, when you do some harm to others or our planet, don’t harm yourself about it – just vow to do better next time.

These are very personal rules. The may not have universal appeal. Take them with as many grains of salt as you need. And, above all, do no harm!


Shawn Cleary

Dartmouth, N.S., Canada


September, 2008


The "DO NO HARM" message and raising awareness about "Bullying: What's the Harm?"... ties together in giving thoughtful consideration to our actions.  We (all adults) do harm by ignoring the bullying problem. Bullying, aka: peer abuse, is a silent epidemic that is causing great HARM to children of all ages.  Bullying is not kids being kids - it is kids hurting other kids, and far too often results in serious and devastating consequences, such as suicide - bullycide (the bullying/suicide connection).


Everyone can help in spreading a simple message to ....DO NO HARM to others.  Thank you to the founders of DO NO HARM for your proactive and compassionate action in making a difference in this world.


Robin Todd 


August, 2008


What does "Do No Harm" mean to you? It's a phrase that conjures up many different ideas depending upon your individual conditioning of your life. For many people, it simply means don't cause harm to anyone. For me, I include that meaning, but I take it a bit further. Perhaps it is because I had the fortunate experience of having a mother who was aware of the preciousness of all life, not just human life, and she shared that with me in many ways. She saw all life as sacred because she nearly died of TB when she was quite young, in her early twenties. She watched some of her close friends die of the disease, yet miraculously she was spared.

I was shown by my mother how to love and care for a simple, tiny flower, a baby fir tree just starting to grow, and a helpless injured bird. We took care of kittens, dogs, birds, turtles, and any creature that came our way. She showed me that the discovery of a beautiful stone was more precious than money, a feather left by a bird was a treasured gift, that even the smallest of insects feel pain and have the right to live, and our beautiful earth itself was a sacred spinning jewel.

Many people and children today aren't as fortunate to have had someone in their lives show them the sacredness of all live. The "Do No Harm" movement is needed to remind us to be aware of our responsibility to be kind, to promote kindness, and to teach young children kindness toward all living beings and our precious earth.


Diane Meier


August, 2008


What a truly marvelous encouragement -- do no harm. Anyone who has been around the block a few times knows that it is better not to kick the cat, beat your spouse, or run over small children on bicycles. Morally and ethically, it's a better choice -- do no harm. In a world of choices, this is a good choice, an affirmative choice, a loving choice -- do no harm.

But for those with a bit of courage and a bit of patience and a bit of doubt, it is a choice that can raise a question: Does such a choice assure that harm is laid to rest and uncertainty is assuaged and peace is assured? Surely I may do my best to "do no harm," but does this mean that harm is somehow erased or absent? "Do no harm" in the ordinary sense is really very good, but is it enough? Does it assure a relaxed peace?

When I examine it closely, it is impossible to find a time or place in which I do not do harm. Every breath I take is a breath that might assure a more fruitful existence for someone or something else... another person, another animal, another blade of grass ... even another star in the sky. This is not just some airy-fairy smoke. It's the truth.

And for those with a bit of courage and a bit of patience and a bit of doubt, I think this is the crux of the matter: Something else...something other. Morally and ethically, separation may make some sense. But on examination and in honest experience, the notion of something else is not exactly on target, not exactly true. As long as I insist on "something else," I think there will be problems and uncertainty.

It is not enough to flee from "harm" any more than it is enough to rush into the arms of some imagined "goodness." This just perpetuates uncertainty. What works better is to bring some determination to bear and to examine within what we claim is without. Look and look and look some more. In this way, there is some chance of knowing in our heart of hearts what it is to do-no-harm. More, we become capable of doing it.

Just a few thoughts.


Adam (Genkaku) Fisher

July, 2008

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about ‘do no harm.’ These three words have transformed my life and my life vision.  I believe they mean more to me than the words “I love you.”

I started doing the little things in my life to incorporate the three word miracle. It’s a funny thing, you know. People say “I know what I do won’t change the world but I do it anyway.” I used to teach Social Justice and Peace Studies to high school students and they ventured out for 100 hours of community service every second semester their senior year. They were convinced that when they worked at the homeless shelter, the life of the homeless would change. When they worked with the battered women, their wounds would not matter anymore. When they tutored a fifth-grader with a second grade reading level, his homework would show up the next morning after getting all kinds of help from two parents who work four jobs to support five children in the projects. What they finally learned was that nothing out there would really change. There will always be homeless and wounded and children at risk. What did change was them. And they changed the hearts of others. They talked about what they saw in classes. Classes did projects, had bake sales to raise awareness and funds to donate. They called the paper. They told their stories to the parents on parent night. They told their stories at graduation to a crowd of 2,000. Hearts changed; which in essence, is what will change the world. ‘Do no harm’ is not about changing the world. It’s about changing our hearts and vision and then the heart and vision of another and another and another until, well until all hearts have been touched. I don’t think that will take so long… if we hold out for hope.

I also learned that it transcends what we typically believe is reserved for religious agenda. I appreciate the fact that some have found an association with Buddhism or Christianity. But I think ‘do no harm’ is a banquet inviting non-believers as well.

I think often about why people do harm. Why people disrespect each other and the environment - why we have no regard for our own lives sometimes and self destruct at the fast pace we do with the way we work and worry and consume and neglect our souls.

And I finally figured this out: when we believe we possess something; when we believe something belongs to us, we begin to stop caring. If I truly believed the earth was on loan to me, that it wasn’t a possession of mine, the way I walked and lived on it would drastically change. When I view people in my life as people I can use to get what I want; emotionally, sexually, materialistically - I have stopped genuinely caring. They become my possessions and I could care less if I care for them. When something is mine, I have control. I can’t possess and love at the same time.

So I decided to put in the eyes that say ‘nothing is mine.’ I’ve tried this before but this time it is accompanied with those sweet three words ‘do no harm.’

Nothing is mine, do no harm.

I have rambled on and you can take whatever you want from this outpouring. I only hope you found something to be of insightful gift to share.

Nothing is ours. Do no harm.

Kelly Ray-Grady (womanbewise)

July, 2008

Do No Harm is one of those wonderful impossible ideals that inspire us.  "Cease from ill; Do only good; Do good for others. Purify your mind." As what the Japanese call "bombu" i.e. ordinary fallible beings of wayward passion and boundless karma we all do harm while wishing to do less of it and it always helps to have that aspiration strengthened as it is by the love of our friends. The key is to embrace, to esteem all that is in our world as best we can. Esteem and embrace the other. All forms of enlightenment are intended to help us become open to others. Shakyamuni became enlightened when he saw the morning star - our life is full of such stars and if we can allow each thing to be a star it will start to glow and our world will be full of new light.

These days there is a strong tendency to see everything in selfish terms.  The reason for doing something is, apparently to be located in the good that will come back to us. No doubt good does come back... however, it is just possible that the impulse to love is actually more fundamental in our lives than the impulse to gain. Whether it is true or not, simply thinking so makes huge difference to one's life. How lucky we all are to have such a beautiful world full of loveable beings of so many kinds.

Dharmavidya (David Brazier)

June, 2008

Do No Harm

So, what does it mean to 'Do No Harm'?  Is it even possible to do no harm?  These are probably standard questions asked of ourselves (or of others) when contemplating the Do No Harm concept.

What does Do No Harm mean?

Within myself, I have come up with this definition:

Do No Harm represents a conscious decision to minimize suffering.  It is a movement for positive change in the world through the cultivation of kindness.

Note that this definition does not state that no harm is ever done, 'just' minimized and that minimization requires conscious and mindful thought.  I also see it as a movement for positive change.  I personally believe that positive and quite possibly, radical change is necessary in the world.  It might sound strange, but something as simple as cultivating kindness seems pretty radical to me considering our collective recent history.  For me, it is this movement towards kindness that will bring positive change, a change which involves doing less harm, as individuals and as a collective human race.

Is it possible to Do No Harm?

Within myself, I can answer both yes and no to this question.

, it is possible to do no harm in a specific situation e.g. someone gets angry with you and you walk away.  This is avoiding harm through non-retaliation. 

, because I don't believe it is possible to do absolutely no harm.  We harm daily without even realizing it. As humans, I don't believe we can avoid harming completely, although we can most certainly take action to minimize it.   It's this minimization of harm that represents the action component of the DNH message, for me at least.

Have a think about your daily activities.  Do you drive a car?  That's harming the environment by releasing pollutants into the atmosphere.  Do you walk on the grass?  That's probably squashing some poor ants.  Do you write on paper?  Trees and/or a lot of water have gone into making the paper, so there's harm to the environment.  Do you have a shower?  There's a precious resource flowing down the drain, meaning less drinking water for people.

Now, some of these common activities can be seen as a necessary side-effect of living as a human being in our age.  And on that basis alone, some people will abandon the concept of Do No Harm.  It is resignation like this, ultimately rooted in ignorance and arrogance, which (I believe) is one of the greatest contributing factors to the harm done in our world.

I believe that people are inherently 'good' (whatever that means) and generally do not like doing harm.  However, I also believe we are almost conditioned not to consider the full implications of our actions and therefore do not fully consider our choices.

In other words, we don't want to harm, but then again, harm has almost become a habit for humanity, so ingrained that we can barely even consider it as anything other than 'normal'.

Imagine we are all on a path to a better world.  Do No Harm (of itself) is not the path, but it is an important signpost.

Matthew Searle

June, 2008

Do No Harm? What the hell is that supposed to mean?

It’s impossible to do no harm. You can’t even survive without harming things. It’s an absurd rule to even try to live by. So I say, “Do harm.” Harm everything you come into contact with.

When the doctor smacked your ass right after you were born you most assuredly shouted, “DO NO HARM!!!” as loudly and as articulately as you could. You shouted it just as loudly as every obnoxious doofus who’s ever been offended by something I’ve written. Yet without that slap on the ass none of those whiners would have lived long enough to read any of that stuff. We sometimes have to do harm. Let me rephrase that. It’s not just sometimes. We always have to do harm. Every moment of every day. It is your duty in this life to be as harmful and hurtful as you possibly can. Don’t shirk your duty.

It is your God-given responsibility to occupy the space you were allotted in this world and to act according to the nature that God granted you. In order to fulfill your responsibility you’re going to have to kick some ass. So get out there and do it.

Just don’t get mislead by the idea that you are in any way separate from the things and people you harm. You must not only do harm, you must feel the harm that you do fully and completely, too.

You don’t have to have any kind of mystical power or deep insight to feel the harm you do to others. Just pay a little bit of attention and it’s obvious. Watch faces carefully. Watch your own bodily reactions closely. It’s all reflected clear as day.

Do harm, but do it carefully. Otherwise you could get hurt.

Brad Warner

May, 2008

Why I am Grateful for the Do No Harm Movement

One afternoon while I was at work, one of my co-workers asked me, "What does your wrist band say?" Upon hearing the simple three word message, she put on a rather puzzled look and replied, "Do you really need a reminder?" I think that her question signifies precisely why such a reminder is needed.

I come from a culture that is highly individualistic and self-serving. I know this not only from my academic studies, but also from personal experience. I struggle with the same selfish tendencies that I despise in others. Associated with having a Me-centric outlook on life is the pursuit of happiness at the expense of others. Some of the affects of this mindset are highly visible; like the heaps of trash that litter the streets in my neighborhood left by individuals who find it more pleasant to simply rid themselves of their garbage than keep it for as long as it takes to find a waste bin. But much, if not most, of the harm caused by a Me-centric outlook is more subtle. For example, when we drink our morning coffee do we consider the amount of resources that were spent on delivering it to us? When we spend many hours in front of the TV or computer instead of our partners and/or children, do we think that this won't have an impact on their well-being? Even the simplest activities in our daily routine can be harmful to others. Each one of us is provided numerous opportunities for intentional self reflection every day, and the reminder to Do No Harm can act as a catalyst for such introspection.

It is because of the indifference of humanity that the reminder to Do No Harm is not only helpful, but also necessary. It initiates a response that causes one to deeply reflect on the way they conduct their life. I believe this type of reflection is what causes one to cease living on autopilot and begin to live their life on purpose. It is for this that I am grateful for the Do No Harm movement.

Jackson Wilshire, student of Religious Studies at Marylhurst University (Marylhurst, OR)

May, 2008

“First, Do No Harm”

The thought, "I can do harm" has, from time to time, made me second guess myself, hold myself back, avoid others. The belief, "They can do harm" keeps me in judgment, separate, afraid. I've questioned these thoughts a lot, which creates some peace around the subject; and in no way does this keep me from doing what I can to reduce harm, or being an advocate for that which appears to do a lot of good. I'm all for activism that arises out of clarity rather than fear and anger; it's no good if I am in fact doing harm in the name of stamping out harm! (
Case in point: some people who call themselves animal rights activists recently invaded the home of a UC Santa Cruz biomedical researcher's home, and have made other threats.)

So I hope you will join me in supporting the
Do No Harm - um, I don't know what to call it: movement? Awareness? Club? It costs nothing to do so; they won't even take a monetary donation. In fact, the site states, "if you think you're a member, you're a member. If you think you're not a member, you're an honorary member." Gotta love it!

The site will list you as a co-author of their message, should you agree to it, and they'll gladly send you some nice free stuff to distribute—bumper stickers, buttons, decals, wrist bands and the like—with the message, "Do No Harm."

It occurs to me that there is no way to do absolutely no harm. I don't sweep the ground before I walk on it; who knows how many little plants and insects I've crushed? I'm sure that some, if not most of the textiles and furniture in my home were made under poor working conditions. I'm typing this on a keyboard with plastic components, likely not recycled, and the computer itself sends out rays which may be harmful.

This doesn't mean we (I) can't be more conscious; to at least be aware of how we can reduce, if not entirely eliminate, doing harm, even that which is inadvertent.

It's actually quite easy to reduce the amount of harm we do: for instance, by not buying water in plastic bottles (I read recently that 70% of water bottles go to landfill, even with recycling); by stopping to breathe and calm down before lashing out at our children; by not creating toxicity in our own bodies with foods that have chemical additives; by walking, biking, carpooling, or taking public transportation when possible, in order to reduce our carbon footprint; by eating lower on the food chain; by trying to purchase goods from companies with demonstrable commitment to their employees and to the environment.

With a little education ("When we know better, we do better." —Maya Angelou), a little awareness, and a little effort, we can do a lot less harm. "Do No Harm;" I can't think of a better way to capsulize the life I would like to live. I know I can be doing a lot more personally to reduce harm, and I am grateful for the reminder.

©2008 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.

April, 2008

Our alcoholic friends have a little prayer that asks God to grant us the wisdom to distinguish the things we can control from the things we can't. One thing we can control is the intention we bring to our lives. Finding our direction as human beings doesn't require any special knowledge or experiences. What's needed is an open-minded inquiry into why we do what we do. Why do I eat every day? Why do I live in this world?

If we're honest, we must admit that we don't know the meaning or purpose of our existence; therefore, we must choose. The Buddhist tradition passed down through the centuries offers a suggestion, a life-direction that we can try out. The tradition says that our true job is to "help all beings." How we help is infinitely varied according to circumstance. Regardless of the particulars, "help all beings" points to an intention or direction to bring into each new situation.
Our efforts to help may appear to succeed or fail (we'll never know for sure), but in either case, the intention remains the same: to continue trying in this very moment.

Long ago in China, the Golden Rule was first expressed in negative terms: if we don't want something done to ourselves, then we must refrain from doing it to others. Just so, there's a certain elegance to stating "help all beings" in negative terms: "do no harm." This phrasing suggests that compassion isn't some new thing we need to get from outside, and add to our original nature. Perhaps we already have compassion hidden inside. Maybe we can discover and put down whatever hinders this compassion from shining through.

Our compassion gets obscured when we cling to ideas of I/my/me, "I want to get something." We unconsciously draw lines with our thinking, separating me from you, us from them from the world. Originally, none of these distinctions and divisions exist. Before thinking, there's no separation. When we let go of I/my/me, seeing it as just thinking, then helpfulness/harmlessness functions naturally. It's like scratching your nose when it itches. Just as when you're hungry, you eat... when someone else is hungry, give them food. I can pay attention to how I cling to my own wants, ideas, and opinions; I can perceive how this hinders the flow of compassion.

Middle-aged people like me sometimes walk into a room to get something, and then forget why we're there. Our lives seem to be like this also. We can get so lost in the mechanics of survival that we forget why we're living at all. So again and again we can remind ourselves of the meaning and purpose we've chosen for our lives: to do no harm.


April, 2008

Do No Harm

I had an email at the end of last week with a link to a website called Do No Harm. A nice idea, simple and uncontroversial, and the Internet is an ideal place for it. Who knows, it might be catching...

Actually, it's Buddhism in a nutshell. The Ten Commandments? Who needs them, when they can be condensed into this exquisitely simple injunction, much easier to remember and less forbidding than all those "Thou shallt nots." I think it's probably the best of all religions in a nutshell--at least of the original spirit of all religions, if not their interpretation by fanatical followers.

All it involves is a certain measure of consciousness. Too often, the harm we do comes from our thoughtless acts, or actions when raw feelings--anger, for example, or fear--surge up and overpower the natural balance of the conscious mind. Road rage provides us with an excellent, if perhaps overly dramatic example. I don't know about you, but the same kind of things tend to happen in small scale all the time in my daily life--as when I hurt a friend with a casual, thoughtless remark.  Or think about gossip--a by no means harmless habit that most of us indulge in without giving our words a second thought.

So doing no harm becomes a continuing series of choices, an exercise of the will, a practice, the results of which is--guess what?--not only better relationships with those I chose not to hurt and greater well-being for that which I choose not to harm, but greater happiness for me! I feel more at ease with the world, less stress, more comfortable in my skin. I recommend the practice to anyone wanting to improve the quality of their life. Try it out this Monday morning: Do No Harm! And see how much better the week will be...

Peter Clothier

March, 2008

7 Billion Friends Wanted!

After reading over all the Reflections sent to us over the last year or two, it became apparent everyone has their different take on what do no harm means, and therefore what the do no harm message is about.

That's a good thing really; as the message should, and must be a personal one.

What got me thinking about this is recently Clyde and I were asked why we wrote the do no harm essay.

Surprisingly enough; at least to me, I struggled with writing the answer. I thought it would be easy and come naturally.

I made the mistake of not looking deep within my own soul, but instead searched my memory attempting to dredge what I was doing, and what I was thinking about, the moment the Do No Harm thought worked it's way into my conscious mind.

I tried to write something that would sound and feel spiritually moving and profound.... another mistake. The first answer was an honest attempt, but not honest enough.

After stripping away all the rhetoric and over dramatization, what the answer really boils down to is quite simple and totally honest.

I wish to live in a kinder and more compassionate world.

That's it.

That is the answer that came from my soul, and that simple honest answer is more spiritually moving and more profound than anything else I did, or could ever, write.

And to me, that is what the do no harm movement is about... creating a kinder and more compassionate world.

We can philosophize and meditate about what do no harm means, and delve ever deeper into the essence of doing no harm, but the simple truth is, all that philosophy and meditation, all that searching for the essence, means little without a kind and compassionate world to practice in.

If we are to create a kinder and more compassionate world, our simple message of “do no harm” must make its way into the hearts and minds of those who need it the most – all 7 billion of us

I have many friends of all different religions, beliefs, backgrounds, politics, social status and just about any other diversity you care to think of. When we get together, we do so as friends, and we enjoy each others company in spite of everything else. Yeah, we argue a bit, but we all respect each other and our differences. In fact, I think it just may be our differences we enjoy about each other most.

But one thing we all know; if one falls down, the rest will extend a helping hand. If one is under duress, we all will come to their rescue.

We know and trust each other not to take advantage, or do any harm.

That is the kind of world we should and must have.

In that kind of world doing no harm is not a hard thing to do, it's not something we even have to think about, it just comes naturally, in fact, in a world of friends doing no harm is easy.

We need a world of 7 billion friends.

Do No Harm

Chuck Keiser

March, 2008

“Do no harm.” Is it just a trite, touchy-feely sentiment? Is it an ideal that only monks and other religious aspirants can realistically expect to live up to? Or is it achievable by, and does it have relevance to, all of us living here in the “real” world? I believe that, while perhaps not possible for all of us to adhere strictly to this precept at all times, if we think of the concept as “Do no intentional harm,” then it becomes something to which we all can – and should – aspire.

It is perhaps unavoidable to entirely avoid doing harm to someone or something at one point or another as we live out our lives. The earthworm that the Buddha saw cut in two by the plow, the insect that is inadvertently stepped on as I walk out my door, the salmon that dies so that I may eat and receive nourishment – there are numerous examples of harm to other creatures through our own activities and our desire to live. But I believe that is the intentionality of our actions that determine their karmic consequences.

Simply put, “Do no harm” means not using violence, harsh words, or deceit in our dealings with others. It means learning to distinguish between our needs and our wants so that we may live simply without overconsuming and depleting our planet’s resources. You may need transportation, but you want a nine-miles-per-gallon behemoth. You need footwear, but you want a hundred-dollar pair of shoes produced by a two-dollar-a-week worker in an impoverished land. It means appreciating the worth and value of our world – our home – and of all sentient beings, and of doing unto them as we would have them do unto us.

As a youth, I was told to “Do your work as well as you can, and be kind.” If we live simply, are fair in our dealings with others, and treat others with respect and kindness, then “Do no harm” is well within our reach.

Peace to all who read these words,

Manny Fuentes,

Lafayette, LA

February, 2008

“All we can do is as little harm as possible.”

the buddha said "it's easy to be bad, much harder to be good."

i've heard that lots of things make the world go 'round:

"money makes the world go 'round"

"love makes the world go 'round"

"people make the world go 'round"

but those things are all wrong- what really "makes the world go 'round" is the second law of thermodynamics. the second law says that everything always cools down and heats up in the direction that's the easiest. take your morning liquids- the orange juice always gets a little warmer and the coffee always gets colder- it's just physically easier for the molecules to either slow down or speed up to reach equilibrium with the room around them.

it's easier.

easy to be bad, harder to be good.

people are always observing the second law- rolling down hill, as it were- doing what's easier. rushing past each other not saying a word not making eye contact not thinking about each other. easier not to involve yourself with what's going on around you. easier to just keep turning your eyes away and never asking  "can i use a little energy to make someone else's life better?"

we hurtle down the freeway absorbed in our own lives, paying little concern to other drivers on the road- we yell and scream behind the wheel. eventually we climb out of the car and hurtle into our offices where, heads down, we shuffle about our day. it's just easier. it's easier not to pay attention. easier not to care.

"do no harm" challenges you to look beyond what is easy.

imagine if the coffee could lend a little of its energy to help the orange juice stay cooler. that could be nice. and human beings don't have to oblige the second law. we are more than the sum of our molecules. we have a choice.

i can lend a small amount of energy to those around me, maybe increasing the happy in comparison to the misery- i can smile at them when i walk in. i can say please and thank you. hold a door open, maybe carry some groceries for someone with a cast on their arm. there are opportunities everywhere to do less harm if you take the slightly less easy path of being aware.

you don't have to join a religion or cult or political party. you don't have to pay a membership fee. just use your button, bracelet or bumper sticker to remind yourself.

and you can try to be just a little more kind in your life and we can be like a row of dominoes- i touch you, you touch someone else... eventually it won't be "so hard" for people to be kind because we will have influenced the temperature of the room- then we can reclaim the second law for ourselves.

lyndse rae faba

February, 2008

“If you think you're not a member, you're an honorary member.”

If we are aware of it or not, we are all part of the same reality. Each single one of us is affecting the whole universe with each of their actions. There is no way for us to excuse ourselves from this responsibility.

Sometimes we cause harm by not doing what needs to be done, and sometimes we seem to create even more harm by doing what we think is the best we can do, done with the best intentions. Being part of the same reality, we do not share the same view about this reality. The strength of the rule to do no harm is, in my opinion, that it teaches us to take the backward step that turns the light and shines it inwards.

Religions and ethic codes teach us to practice good and refrain from evil. And still, "we seem to be living in a world that is getting less hospitable every day". Is it because we do not have good enough intentions?  Or is it because "the others" do not share our beliefs? Is it because we do not practice what we preach? Is it because we aim for a wrong end, or is it because we're using the wrong means? Is it because our means contradicts the end? Is it because we try to change the world before we change ourselves? Is it because we do not push ourselves hard enough, or is it because we push ourselves in the entirely wrong direction? Maybe we should stop pushing altogether?


There maybe no clear answer. What is important to me is not to forget the question.

Do no harm. How do I do that?

Muho, at Antaiji, Japan.

January, 2008

Why do I promote “do no harm”?

Chuck Keiser wrote the initial draft of the essay and e-mailed it to me.  When I read his draft all my reflections on life seemed to converge on that phrase “do no harm” and I saw it as the perfect expression of all the teachings I had read and studied and pondered.  I was so moved that I felt compelled to respond.

What attracted me then and still attracts me now to “do no harm” is the simplicity, profundity, and practicality of the message.  I love that it is simple enough for a child to understand.  I love that when it is rigorously examined it offers insight into the nature of the world and self.  And I love that it has an obvious, unavoidable, and practical aspect that guides one’s actions which makes the world more pleasant.

And I know, with certainty, that the effort, in whatever small way, contributes to creating a world with less suffering and that is enough.


Sacramento, CA

January, 2008

Can we truly live by "doing no harm"? We certainly should aspire to it. Perhaps it is impossible to truly live without harm, as our every action or inaction will have effects we cannot always know, and may be a mixed bag of harmless and harmful results.  Certainly our harmless intent, within our heart, is important, yet often we must make difficult choices between two or more evils ... it is rare that we can select conduct that can be known as completely pure. Such is the complexity of life.  

But, I believe, the Buddhist Precepts come down to this: Live, as you can, so as not to harm, and to act in ways helpful and healthful to oneself and others ... knowing that, truly, there is no gap between self and others. Live with Compassion and Loving Kindness. Such should be our aspiration. While we may not always succeed, the Precepts are an arrow pointing toward a peaceful life and world. I think.

By Jundo Cohen, Treeleaf Zendo

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