Sunday, September 6, 2009

'Service' I: Is 'Service' Spirituality?

On a spiritual forum in which I participate, there was a big conversation going on about the importance of ‘service’ in our spiritual life. I will share my 3 postings:

I completely hear you about the value of loving in palpable ways – in my tradition, love includes:

• reality (real on the physical, in ways that are real for the body)

• affinity (an experience of our actual spiritual oneness) and

• communication.

Love is not about concepts, thoughts, especially not about feelings, or sex!

I am in agreement that service and giving are fruits (end products) of our spiritually-focused life – although how it looks may not Always live up to expectations.

Although I appreciate your several recent posts reminding us of the value of love/service/giving/etc as priorities in the spiritual life, I am not in full agreement.

I used to believe in the centrality of these activities

I no longer see them as spiritual behavior per se (in themselves)

I see spiritual behavior as (non-exclusively, but fundamentally)

1) being with God, giving and receiving from God.

2) being/doing in the direction of my unique spiritual path, in alignment with God – within myself and in my interaction with the world.

I believe Jesus and other 'spiritually advanced' folks did/do this.

I am on my path to do this and I encourage my students to do this.

Doing this is More than enough to fill my plate!

Sometimes it may look like serving the poor, or serving the rich, or serving myself…

Sometimes this will be on another continent, or in the wild places, or in the city, or in my own family (ug!)…

Sometimes it will look like a perfectly ‘normal’ life, or living as a hermit, or as a ‘star’, or as an impoverished wanderer…

An example, Jesus referenced in Luke 7, different ways one can be led to live a dedicated spiritual life, and how this often jives (not!) with social/religious expectations:

And the Lord said, 'To what, then, shall I liken the men of this generation? and to what are they like? they are like to children, to those sitting in a market-place, and calling one to another, and saying, We piped to you, and ye did not dance, we mourned to you, and ye did not weep! 'For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and ye say, He hath a demon; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and ye say, Lo, a man, a glutton, and a wine drinker, a friend of tax-gatherers and sinners…

I invest a good deal of my time with my students to assist them to work with God to see and release ‘nice pictures’ and ‘ethics’ as well as ‘religious programming’ – and other concepts / beliefs / attachments / energy of that ilk – the kinds of love / service / giving / etc this post is about.

From my perspective, these concepts serve us on the physical level – they help the body be comfortable with others, grease the wheels of societies, serve religious and political systems, etc

But, from my perspective, ultimately they do not serve us spiritually.

I will say again, IMO, as a rule: being nice, following generic morals and ethics, as well as general religious rules do not serve us spiritually.

From my perspective, it is our job to listen (see, know, etc) to the ‘still, small voice’ which says ‘this is the way, walk ye in it.’

Sometimes God will say go left, sometimes right.

Sometimes we will be called to do/be what others (and ourselves) agree with (and then may will say: oh, you are so, wise, smart, loving, caring, giving, etc).

Sometimes disagree with (and then may will say: oh you are such a sinner, evil, rotten, selfish, etc)

Doesn’t matter.

Sure our bodies don’t usually like going against our social and religious programming.

But we take care of our bodies, love them, retrain them – they can quite easily learn to enjoy going the way of God instead of the way of the world, by and large…

In the old days, following our spiritual information could get us dead, imprisoned, etc – and there are times and places it still can – but usually not.

Often it leads us to the dreaded social ostracizing (or the Fear of it) – which Feels like potential death for many of us – and most of us try to avoid like the plague. (in my tradition we call these 'death pictures', they are very valid experiences in our internal experience – and God can help us see and release them… yes, there is a theme here...)

Our spiritual freedom is a gift from God. A gift that our society tries to steal (pretty much) every minute of every day, and IMO/E a gift I do best to re-own and hold onto with both hands – so I am free to be my unique self in the world, and to follow my unique spiritual path. In this way I best love and serve God and best love and serve my neighbor, as well best love and serve my self.

In my tradition, On A Spiritual Level, we believe strongly in personal responsibility. Not as a punishment or competition - but as a gift! (free will, always, and again)

I Cannot do stuff (helping) for anyone else on the spiritual level, although I can assist if they choose to do it themselves.

I cannot heal anyone but myself (of course together with God), although I can assist others if they choose to do it.

(Trying to do these things is a great way for me to lose energy, health, joy, life… and make a very small difference in the world - been there, got the T-shirt!)

But, the up side is – the more I allow God to heal me, and fill me; the more I learn to own my own space, my own path, my spiritual power, my spiritual abilities, my relationship with God and the many spiritual friends available…
The more others around me do these same things for themselves.

I learn new tricks, it is easier for them to learn new tricks…

This is not just theory to me – I have watched it happen, over and over and over.

I invested my 20’s working in non-profits. I have seen first hand so many examples of how ‘good’ is done with the right hand, while ‘evil’ is done with the left.

I have spent a lot of time with spiritual people and do-gooders (as I am one myself!) And it is interesting to watch our shadows playing in our ‘good works’ (we see it on this spiritual board with almost every post - except our own!)

One of my dearest and longest friends, as an example, is the most sweet, caring, giving, loving Christian one would ever want to meet. She does many good works and makes my life and many lives around her So much better. And at the same time, she has a big streak of meanness / hate / cruelty running right down the middle. She doesn’t see it, most folks don’t see it – but it creeps out and does ‘evil’ – like the snap of a whip.

I am not bringing this up to judge my friend (and I have similar shadow stuff myself, of course), but to point to the absolute necessity of allowing God to heal us, deeper and deeper. This is of primary importance before going out to 'save the world,' IMO. Because if we don’t, the ‘good’ we mean to do, can sometimes (often?) come in a dung wrapper.

If I am doing stuff, even obviously ‘good’ stuff, but I am doing it because I think it is a good idea, or the religion/ethics I was trained in says it is a good idea, or I am compulsively trying to look or be good, etc (anything other than: God told me to do it, here, now).

Then there is a chance that my ‘helping’ could be hurting.

There is a very good chance that my ‘helping’ isn’t helping.

There is an almost definite chance that I am diverting time/energy from the unique contribution I could be making, that possibly only I could be making, that it is my blessed opportunity to be doing in the world right now.

I am missing that opportunity and the huge and multiplied effect that service may have in the world for others…

more about this 'Service' conversation here.


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