Being of service is a hugely important part of personal growth work. It can never be underestimated. Any true inner work should lead to service or it isn’t worth much, in my opinion. If the motivation for doing our inner work is only our own liberation, and we don't care about anyone else’s, it will never truly liberate us. And any true service should lead one to the path of inner transformation. When we serve, we will inevitably face all the places in us that are blocking the full flow of love, and therefore making us less available to truly serve from the fullness of our being.
There is a saying attributed to the Buddha: “If you knew what I know about giving, you would not let a single meal pass without sharing it in some way.” And Mother Theresa said: ”When we stop giving we stop loving, when we stop loving we stop growing, and unless we grow we will never attain personal fulfillment.” Pretty clear instructions from these two spiritual giants, right?
I just came from participating in the Climate Change Strike March here in Novato, CA, where I live. One of my closest girlfriends is an activist. I saw her work tirelessly in the last days and weeks to prepare for this event. Every morning and every night before and after work she organized songs for people to sing, rallied people to make signs, carry signs, and speak at the gathering, and attended to all the many other tasks that go with organizing an event.
She put her whole heart and soul into it.
She recruited me to lead the people in singing climate change songs, and it was beautiful. It was a very uniting, inspiring and peaceful event, much like it was everywhere else in the world. Being part of a movement of millions of people that has the future of our children and grandchildren at heart felt really good.
This seems to be true of being part of anything that serves a greater benevolent purpose, doesn’t it? People love to staff our workshops, for example. It often fulfills them more than when they participated. They sometimes do deeper work holding space for others than when they focused on their own work.
Why is that, do you think?
I think, deep down, we all know how much we have been given without having done anything for it. We could start with something basic like our very lives. Our lives were gratuitously given to us. We didn’t make ourselves. And on it goes from there with endless daily gifts, like water, air, food, people who love us, pets, sunrises, starry nights…We are showered with a million gifts each day by a mysterious Grace that creates everything. And when we truly recognize that, gratitude overflows, and we want to give back, be in service and contribute. Once we start contributing, and are of service in whatever way we are called, we feel even more grateful and start to see blessings we didn’t even know we had.
I believe being of service is one of the most direct paths to true happiness. Not the kind of happiness that comes from getting what we want, but unconditional happiness.
One of my favorite parts of the work we do at COR is creating spaces where people serve each other. When I see that happening in our workshops or trainings, I often stop to watch and my heart bursts with joy. Is there something sweeter than people holding each other tenderly through their deepest pains and celebrating each other’s greatest joys? That is my personal happy place and it makes all the hard work behind the scenes so worth it.
I believe when any of us find a way to be compassionately active, when we participate in a cause we believe in, whatever form our service takes, it takes our inner process to a whole other level. I myself have experienced this so many times. Old wounds or limiting believe systems just simply relax by holding space for another in need.
To me these two approaches are two sides of the same coin: On one side we do our inner work. We bring to light whatever is blocking us from fully opening to our truest self. On the other side, we give ourselves, whatever shape we happen to be in, to serve in a way that is needed. Together these two sides are a powerful formula to wake up, grow up and show up. Which side of the coin are you tending to more at this point in life? Is there one side that is particularly calling you? How can you find a good balance between these two?
Britta Eskey is the Co-Founder and a Lead Facilitator at COR. You can read more about her story here.