I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy. ~ Rabindranath Tagore
Every day, tragedies can strike that send people fleeing terrorism, suddenly facing homelessness or losing their health to a debilitating disease. There is little doubt about the immensity of need in the world today or the abundant supply of those who serve that need.
Serving can span the spectrum from working in a helping profession, to giving without being asked, or helping without expecting anything in return for your service. It builds a connection that flows compassion and healing to the planet, humanity and to yourself.
By serving in big and small ways, you become a conduit for love and kindness to grow in the world.
Why are you doing what you do?
Serving others becomes a conscious and aware practice when you explore your intentions. Take time to consider the essence of your desire to serve:
- The inspiration to support others often sources from personal life experience – someone who is abused might choose a career working with abuse victims; or a person who has endured and survived a difficult disease or challenge may choose to support others who are similarly suffering.
- It can come from a heartfelt desire and authentic intention to reach out to those whom your skills and gifts can help.
The genuine desire to make a difference from this perspective will feel inspired, and clearly be focused on the other. Your efforts can make you feel tired, but they do not leave you feeling completely exhausted to the extent that there is nothing left to give. There can be a sense of tapping into a universal source of energy – an infinite pool of giving – that actually energises you.
- It can also come from unhealed places within you:
Your sense of unworthiness
The impulse to help can also be unconsciously driven by an underlying sense of unworthiness and wanting to help others in order feel more worthy and valuable in the eyes of others.
As Lissa Rankin, MD put it in this article , it is important to question your motives.
“Are you trying to feed the hungry ghost of the ego, which never gets filled no matter how many people you help? Or are you motivated by that clean impulse to ease the suffering of others?”
Truth is, your worth is never in question – You are worthy – always!
Feeling the need to say ‘yes’
There is immense need and you may discover you say ‘yes’ to more requests for support than you are able to accommodate. The impulse to do so can come from a desire to please or a sense of obligation or from feeling guilty if you say ‘no’. The resulting overwhelm and burnout can quickly follow your superhuman efforts.
When being of service to others comes from an authentic, healed part of you it can be a source for:
Joy and Gratitude
Relief from Anxiety and Depression
Greater self-knowledge and self-love
Clarity about life purpose
Genuine participation in life
How Can You Serve?
Here is a list of inspirational ways to serve others. It includes doing something as simple as smiling at another person, volunteering in your community, promoting someone else’s idea, or simply listening intently to another. The common theme is its desire to make a difference in the world.
Try this -> Choose 5 items on this list and commit to practising them each week.
Boundaries and Self-Care
It is important to know your limitations and understand how to conserve your well-being and energy as you serve others in your life by:
- learning to say ‘no’
- scheduling your time to include ‘me’ time and relaxation
- taking small steps in helping
- maintaining life balance with sacred moments of selfishness
When the gift I give to the other is integral to my own nature, when it comes from a place of organic reality within me, it will renew itself – and me – even as I give it away. Only when I give something that does not grow within me do I deplete myself, and harm the other as well, for only harm can come from a gift that is forced, inorganic, unreal.
~ Parker Palmer, author Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation