How can we serve? In a deep desire to serve others or our world, if we are motivated by our own emotional programs for happiness, our efforts may be misguided and we are likely to either burn out or become disillusioned. However, when we ground ourselves in the contemplative practices of Centering Prayer and the Work of Inner Christianity, we become aware of our mixed motivations and can be inspired and moved from our true center — the place of oneness with the Indwelling Spirit and with all creation. From this inmost center, contemplative service can happen organically, becoming a way of life; we are fully present and creatively responsive to each moment.
"We are rooted in God, and by accessing that divine energy we are united with God and able to do what Jesus did: be a manifestation of God's tenderness and compassion among the people we serve and love."
- Thomas Keating, Fruits and Gifts of the Spirit
In the Work of Inner Christianity we learn several aphorisms that apply here: Man cannot do. In other words, out of our self-motivations and striving, we are unable to solve our own problems, much less those of others. We aim to Self-remember in each moment, receptive to inspiration from the Spirit.
We do not work for results. Not knowing what earthly results are for the highest good, we engage in contemplative service with the intention of being transformed in and through the experience.
Externally consider always; internally consider never. We put ourselves in the other's place. We listen deeply and prayerfully and we non-identify with our own reactions, judgments and ideas that we know what's best — or even that something is wrong that needs our correction.
"Helping, fixing and serving represent three different ways of seeing life. When you help, you see life as weak. When you fix, you see life as broken. When you serve, you see life as whole. Fixing and helping may be the work of the ego, and service the work of the soul.
"Service rests on the premise that the nature of life is sacred, that life is a holy mystery which has an unknown purpose. When we serve, we know that we belong to life and to that purpose. From the perspective of service, we are all connected: All suffering is like my suffering and all joy is like my joy. The impulse to serve emerges naturally and inevitably from this way of seeing."
- Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen, "Helping, Fixing or Serving," Lion'sRoar.com, August 6, 2017
"Q: What would you specify as 'your' function?
"A: To be that which I am to the world and … to facilitate spiritual awareness and thus contribute to the relief of the suffering of mankind. The energy field with which that function is accompanied does by itself silently contribute to the well-being of human life and diminish human suffering, which itself is a satisfaction and a completion.
"Q: What prayers are useful?
"Ask to be the servant of the Lord, a vehicle of divine love, a channel of God's will. Ask for direction and divine assistance and surrender all personal will through devotion. Dedicate one's life to the service of God. Choose love and peace above all other options. Commit to the goal of unconditional love and compassion for all life in all its expressions and surrender all judgment to God."
- David R. Hawkins, M.D., Ph.D., The Eye of The I
Examen: What are the causes or people in your life that you long to help? Practice non-critical self-observation of thoughts, emotions and sensations around them. Ask, "Are my efforts to help partly motivated by the desire for affection, survival or control? Am I helping, fixing or serving?" Practice non-identification by withdrawing the feeling of I attached to outcomes. Practice Self-remembering by asking to be a servant of God.
Optional Resources for Further Study:
- Read about "karma-yoga," the science of action with non-identifying in the Commentaries, "Karma-Yoga," December 13, 1941, Vol. 1, p. 88.
- An archive of previous emails may be found here.