Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Mendocino Coast
Service ( October 2010 )
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The only people who will be truly happy will be those who have sought and found how to serve.
UU Albert Schweitzer
Service is our third UU "Quality of a Spiritual Life" ... bringing our caring, our talents, and our energy together to help others (and the planet).
I've shared before how this tends to be the natural outgrowth of our
success in the first two UU "Qualities of a Spiritual Life:"
1) leading a life of dynamic personal growth; and
2) expanding and deepening our ability to give and receive love (to others and ourselves).
For the more whole and loving we are, the more we seem to instinctively want to help others enjoy the same goodness we have.
Grand in scope, service is, at its core, the conscious effort we undertake to better the lives of others - those in our inner circle, those whom we only have casual connections with, those "who are less fortunate than us," and those organizations dedicated to world improvement.
Serving others obviously flows most easily out of abundance in our own lives: as the more we have and the better we feel, the more we feel able - and want - to help others to enjoy the same.
But service is a spiritual practice and, like all practices, it needs cultivation - conscious attention and regular work ... especially during those times in our life when we might be hurting or needy, and "keeping the home fires burning" would seem paramount.
Developing a "service consciousness" is more likely to develop from an understanding and realization that "we are indeed needed'.that 1) every human being, to one degree or another, is always carrying some pain or trouble; and 2) we always have gifts that can be of help or comfort. Even on our worst days, we always have something others can use.even if it's only our attention and validation (like a smile to a fellow shopper coming down the aisle, whose face seems hard or sad). That proverb, "The quickest way out of depression is through service," has wisdom for us at many levels.
Out of a core feeling that "I have gifts that can help others," will spring a deeper and more natural service-to-others consciousness. We will become more instinctively "there" for others.
Like so much in life, karmic law applies here as well, as we always seem to wind up getting more back more in return than we give. Our UU President, Peter Morales, writes in the current UU World,
If the purpose of a spiritual practice is spiritual growth, service is a powerful spiritual discipline. I have seen again and again how service transforms people. No one remains unchanged by the experience. When we serve, we become more compassionate, more sensitive, more understanding, and more aware. We experience our deep need for one another. We experience what love can do.
I fully believe that service offers one of the greatest pleasures life has to offer: an impossible-to-define feeling of spiritual joy - a throbbingly deep, life-is-wonderful bliss that comes only from our giving another some of our worth and happiness. With the icing on the cake being the surprising and delightful ways the universe always gives us back in return.
I believe service will become a more meaningful part of life when we move it from an abstract concept into an actual spiritual practice. That includes thinking about it and how it might take form in our daily lives; making a conscious decision to have it be a more integral part of our lives; adding "intention" to that desire; and then integrating it into your regular spiritual growth.
There are so many, many directions and forms that might take - let your imagination run wild ... consider the gifts you have to share, how others and the world would be enriched, and even how you might be different.
Like other spiritual practices, service begins best, perhaps, in silence ... in your morning prayer, meditation, or whatever you do to "set your day." A "May I be of service to others today," affirmation (find your own right words) will no doubt create wonderfully beautiful vibrations - for you and everyone.
This is one in a series of essays on spirituality by Rick Childs, lay leader
of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Mendocino Coast. You may want to:
Read more Spirituality Essays
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