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Try not to become a [wo]man of success but rather try to become a [wo]man of value.  (Albert Einstein)

I have never questioned the fact that I am here to be of service to others. I have, at times, questioned where the line between service to others, and disservice to self, lay. But, I have never for one moment believed anything other than that we are to be helpmates to one another. This whole concept has been popping into my screen for days now, and I find myself devoting a lot of time and thought to it. And then tonight, I read one of the blogs I follow, and her post drove it all home for me (http://bonesigharts.blogspot.com/2010/02/payments.html ).

I can remember a lot of times when my father gathered up his tools, and went to build something for one of his siblings. He never expected payment – he only knew that he had the necessary expertise, and willing hands. My mother has spent her life in service to others – to her family, to her extended family, to her friends, to her students. They cast a long shadow. Growing up, we were expected to do for others, and it was taken for granted that helping out is just what you do. Of the many gifts that my parents gave me, for this, I am the most grateful.

I went to Mount Mary College in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, and one of the pillars their entire educational philosophy rests upon is service. Each class seemed to include some service component – in the course of pursuing my degrees, I have done an intense amount of fieldwork and volunteering. And I can remember wondering, when some of my classmates would complain, and argue that there was no educational value in these experiences – if they could see no educational value in reaching out to their fellow human beings in friendship and kindness, what on earth did they believe we were doing here?

I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve. (Albert Schweitzer)

I am no Mother Teresa, I am no Gandhi, I am no great humanitarian. But, I look for the moments where I can be of service in the every day, in the small ways. The other day, I was on my way to lunch at work, and I saw a very elderly lady struggling to get her groceries from her cart and into her car. Without hesitation, I was there, like the stereotypical Girl Scout, with a “Can I help you with that Ma’am?” And she was really grateful. When I first saw her, she looked anxious and she was struggling – and when I walked away, she was smiling.

And afterward, I thought about the fact that I never even considered doing anything else. (I also thought about the fact that elderly people might be wary of offers of assistance, and that this was something that I was going to have to start taking into consideration, even though the entire reason for their wariness makes me intensely sad). And I realized that this was the kind of thing that makes life GOOD, and makes us feel GOOD about being here and being human.

Happiness cannot come from without. It must come from within. It is not what we see and touch or that which others do for us which makes us happy; it is that which we think and feel and do, first for the other fellow and then for ourselves. (Helen Keller)

I’ve encountered all sorts of people who believe that we aren’t here to be of service to others, that God expects nothing from us, and that we are only here to experience happiness. I find that a hard bite to swallow. I find that line of thinking impossible to believe – if that is true, then I am bereft and adrift. If that is true, then why do anything?

I think what I am really getting at here is the concept of empathy. Of being able to feel what it is like to walk another’s path, and to reach out to them based on that understanding. I have always been an insatiable reader, and when I read, I joined those worlds, became those characters – I struggled with them, wept with them, laughed aloud with them. I sank into the experience of what it would feel like to be them. I think that this is what has really helped me grow my already empathic nature.

If you have empathy for someone, you have compassion for them – you reach out to them in a way that preserves their dignity, and honors the bond we share as living beings. This is different than pity – pity puts you on a pedestal, and others somewhere beneath you. Compassion is one person reaching out to another laterally, and with detachment.

In Milwaukee, a twenty-one year old man was shot and killed by the young men who were attempting to rob him, because he had no money to give them. They shot him in the back as he fled. At the trial, one of them turned and grinned at the murdered boy’s parents, as if to say, “This doesn’t touch me. None of this affects me. I have no remorse.”

One of my coworkers was set upon on his way home from work by a group of six young men, and they attempted to beat him – when he wouldn’t go down, they ran off. When they were caught and questioned, they said that they did it because they were bored. Things like this happen every day, and I cannot understand how or why. If these attackers could empathize with others, they would not do these things, because they would know that to hurt another is to really hurt yourself.

Great and wonderful acts of generosity and kindness and compassion happen every day, too – large and small acts of service, performed out of empathy and compassion. That is what I choose to focus on. That is what I choose to spread along my path. The final Reiki Principle states, “Just for today, count your blessings and be kind to every living thing.” This is one of the easiest for me to follow (not always the count my blessings part, but I’m working on that!). This is the one that I wish was indelibly tattooed on my forehead. This is the one that I want to permeate my being – and the one I most want to spread to others.

So, this week, I plan to make a special effort to honor myself by honoring others. By looking for all the quiet moments where I can be of service. By setting my foot soundly on the path with purpose.

Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile. (Albert Einstein)

‘Nuff said.

Calm_by_Stefano83

 

This morning did not start out well. On my way to go pick up my cousin for school, I had the insistent and persistent sense that my ferrying services would not be needed today. Every single time I have had this feeling (the “I don’t know why you’re even bothering leaving. That boy is not going to school today” feeling), I have been enroute, and gotten a text message telling me not to come. Again today, I got that feeling, and again today the boy did not need me to take him to school. Only today, I discovered this after I’d been sitting outside his house for fifteen minutes. He and my uncle were both very sorry, but to be honest, that was totally beside the point.

Hot on the heels of this little annoyance, I call my sister only to discover that she has invited a virus into her computer much in the same way one might invite a vampire into their home. My sister, the inexperienced computer user (obviously), doubted that there was anything to be so concerned about. I spent about twenty minutes calling and waking my poor fiancé to get his take on things, calling her back with information and instructions, and calling him back to apologize for harassing him so early in the morning. Finally able to convince her that this was serious – call the bank, don’t even touch your computer serious – I got off the phone, heaved a deep sigh, and continued my long morning commute.

The day was not off to an auspicious start.

I arrived at Three Sisters, and I had about an hour and a half to myself to kind of decompress and invite calm back into my sphere. I also chose to turn off my phone. Dani and I had a great day (I always do when I’m there – love it, love it, love it) – very productive, busy, and fun. So productive, busy and fun, we didn’t have time to eat, and since I was having so much fun, I didn’t really notice how hungry I was until I left.

So, I called my fiancé to get the scoop on tonight’s victuals, and he (per my earlier instructions) had already eaten. Great. Hmmmm. I was flying solo, super tired, and super hungry – and I couldn’t really decide what would be the most economical and least pain in the rear…. I realize that this shouldn’t have been a major decision, but my brain had atrophied by this point, and it sure felt major.

I called Rosati’s pizza in the Falls, deciding that, since I only have to please me, I’ll get the pizza I like, which no one else does – the Chicago style deep dish, all goooey and delicious with cheese and a buttery flaky crust and rich, chunky tomato sauce smothering all of the cheese and toppings…YUM. I call to order this delectable dish fit for the gods (or at least fit for me) only to hear, “I’m sorry ma’am, we’re all out of deep dish crust.” I literally said, “You make me sad.” I have no idea what the poor man thought of this, but he was very accommodating as I attempted to make another selection. I must have sounded as disappointed as I felt.

I arrive at the pizza joint, ready to dart inside and retrieve my pizza at the exact nanosecond he said it’d be ready, only to be told that it would be another ten minutes or so. At this point, I am tired, and so hungry that I feel dizzy and have a headache blooming across my forehead. I call Wittler (my fiancé) to tell him (or warn him, depending upon whose perspective you’re viewing this through…) that I was on my way home. Poor man. He sounded somewhat alarmed and not a little bit scared, even though I told him I wasn’t gunning for him.

The entire ride home, my poor little car made the whirring, spinney, rattling noise that my uncle (the mechanic) warned me was the harbinger of doom and my car’s imminent demise. Drat, drat, and double drat. So with the annoying and anxiety-producing whirring in the background, and the litany of the day’s issues running doggedly through my head, and the issues of the past weeks thrumming along nicely just for rhythm, I drove home.

With the exception of the middle of my day (while I was at Three Sisters’), this had not been the best day.

Wittler was very solicitous when I walked in the door, dutifully oohing and aahing over the scarves I bought out of the new shipment at the shop, and keeping his distance the way you would from a dog you’d just met and didn’t want to bite you.

To survive, we must begin to know sacredness. The pace at which most of live prevents this.

                                                                                — Chrystos

For a long time now, I have kept up a punishing pace. I am very hard on myself, and more demanding of me than others would be. I am a hard and exacting taskmaster. And, I’ve decided I am too damn nice. I need to learn to say no sometimes. Even to myself.

As I trudged into the front room with the pizza and Practical Magic, and the announcement that I planned to do whatever I liked this evening without interference, I realized that I don’t do that nearly often enough.

Before the age of cell phones, which I am thankfully old enough to remember and appreciate, I used to go off the map. Get lost for a while, have an adventure, do whatever the heck I pleased, for just a little while. I don’t do that anymore – and today, I realized just what that is costing me.

Your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again.

                                                                                — Joseph Campbell

Where are my sacred spaces now? I used to have favorite and secret haunts that soothed me and fed my soul. I have starved myself of the sacred, and withheld the opportunity to replenish myself, and I feel it.

I do too much for other people. I say yes to things far too quickly. I have “dutied” myself out of the pleasure I found in just being with myself.

So, tonight I told Wittler that soon – very, very soon – I’d be taking a day just for me. That I would hold it sacred, and that I wouldn’t be answering the phone, or telling anyone where I was, and that everyone would just have to somehow manage without me for one bloody day. Dani does this for herself, and in hearing her talk about it, despite my obstinacy, the Universe finally found a way to creep through the cracks of my stubbornness and get that seed in there.

I cannot remember the last time I even took a few hours for myself that did not involve going to visit with someone or weren’t simultaneous to doing the laundry at my folks’ house. 

 

I have not been honoring my need to be alone with myself.

I have not been honoring my need for silence.

I have not been honoring my need to explore my world, to explore myself.

I have not been honoring myself.

 

Live your life as you see fit. That’s not selfish. Selfish is to demand that others live their lives as you see fit.

                                                                                — Anthony DeMello

For the course of my entire life, I have been led to believe that in order to be good, I should find ways to be unselfish (which I’ve apparently translated to mean selfless). In order to be good, I needed to find ways to be of service to others. That is not in itself an untruth, or a bad thing. It should have been prefaced, though, by the idea that in order to be of service to others, I need to first serve myself. I need to take care of me, first. I need to love me, first. I need to serve me, first. Then, I can take the fullness and breadth of my whole and healthy being, and serve others.

The wonderful irony of the Universe is that I have said this very thing to at least three people in the past few weeks. It wasn’t until today, that I could see it with new eyes and hear it with new ears, and take it into my being, where it most needed to be.

So, my lovelies, I am going to indulge in watching one of my favorite movies, and I am not going to empty the blasted dishwasher, I am not going to answer my phone. And Wittler, since he is smart and knows me so well and loves me so well, will steer clear of the front room so I can have the me time I so desperately need. And, most importantly, I am going to start scheduling time for myself, before I schedule time for everyone else.

Come have a look through my kaleidoscope eyes. Come walk with me, as I make my way down the Path of Mastery (complete with fits and starts and pitstops and potholes). Our very impermanence is what makes us burn so brightly, and struggle so valiantly, and feel so deeply – it’s what makes us seize the day, and the moment. Come in, settle in, share a moment with me.

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"Who are YOU?" said the Caterpillar. This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, "I--I hardly know, sir, just at present-- at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then." (Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 5)