World Puzzle Ball: We are all pieces of the puzzle. Image by Alexas_Fotos
Service is of many kinds, and he who wisely renders it, who seeks to find his particular sphere, and who, finding it, gives effort for the benefit of the whole, is the one whose own development proceeds steadily. — Djwal Khul
You gotta serve somebody.
— Bob Dylan
What is Service Work?
For me, being of service means working on behalf of and thus taking a stand for a cause or causes that we believe in and which are dear to our hearts, and where we feel we can make some kind of positive contribution towards a healthier world. The more we allow ourselves to become a space for the Treasure that we are to “come out of hiding”, and consequently for the Force to be strongly with us, the more powerful and effective our service will be. This is why working at building up our own soul power is so important.
The would-be server, then, sees what is wrong with our planet and wants positive changes to take place and is willing to put their full heart and soul – even, in some cases, their lives – on the line to help these changes come about.
Service work can take a multitude of different forms and can occur at different levels, depending on how mature and committed we are, where our passions lie and what particular skills or gifts we can bring to the table. If we are a lawyer, we may choose to work in the area of human rights; if a doctor, for an organization like Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), or conversely, we might do something entirely different from our current careers like my friend who did fund-raising for particular charities.
Being of service can include going on protest marches, helping victims of abuse or giving lectures around the world on the importance of using solar and wind energy. Whatever one commits to, what is significant is that one is working for a cause that is much bigger than just one’s own little self.
Server as activist
Another word to describe those brave men and women who dedicate a part – or in some cases all of their lives – to being of service is “activist”. Sometimes being an activist can be very dangerous: when women in ultra-conservative countries such as Sudan or Saudi Arabia go on marches to protest against the abuse of women’s rights, they are risking their lives, as is the dissident who single-handedly takes on a corrupt regime or the whistleblowing journalist seeking to expose corruption in high places.
Get The Latest From InnerSelf
Confronting the dark face of the old story or exposing the wetiko virus – the virus of selfishness -- for what it is is never easy, as evil hates being exposed and, as we have seen, will often fight back using a lot of underhanded tactics. The power of one person to make a difference, however, can be summed up in the example of the teenager Greta Thunberg, who has dedicated her life to travelling the world lecturing on climate change. Her commitment is awesome and world leaders really listen to her. This is the power of passion and I have no doubt that the Force is strongly behind her, as it is behind all people who are dedicated to trying to do good in the world (but who are not self-righteous “do-gooders”, as this courageous young woman certainly isn’t).
So never think that “little me” is helpless to effect change. People who make the most difference in the world are often unable to see the consequences of their work, as not only do changes often take longer to happen than we think, but they often occur very differently to the way we might expect them to.
Being of service or being an activist of one form or another has become very fashionable among many celebrities, which is a good thing as their fame and fortune can add a powerful impetus to the causes they are supporting. Also, despite the negative press often given to wealthy people, many are philanthropically minded and in no way are the greedy monsters they are often made out to be.
That said, we don’t need to be a famous film star or a member of royalty to play our little role in helping make the world a better place. If our planet is currently making many positive shifts in the right direction, it is largely because of the incredible efforts behind the lines being put in by very ordinary yet very soulful and dedicated men and women from all countries and from all walks of life. In the words of the campaigning environmentalist Bill McKibben: “The movers and shakers on our planet aren’t the billionaires and the generals. They are the incredible people around the world filled with love for their neighbour and for the earth, who are resisting, remaking, restoring, renewing, revitalizing.”
Serving the planet
In the old countercultural days, the activist movement always used to be split between those who opposed the suits and went on demonstrations, those who retired to ashrams to be “spiritual” and meditate, those who stood for “alternative energy” (as wind, solar and wave power used to be referred to in those days) and those who worked on healing their psyches. Never the twain (or the four) seemed to meet.
Not so today. Today, huge shifts have occurred. There is far greater integration perhaps because the world situation is much more precarious than it was then, and so more people have chosen to join the ranks of activist/change agent. Today, you can be a political activist and go on demonstrations and also be an environmentalist and be consciously on a spiritual path, as well as wearing a suit!
The soul power of the millennials
When I wrote that last sentence, I was thinking about the millennials, and I need to say a few words about them, as I regard their presence as being of huge importance. Firstly, they do not carry the same kind of mental and emotional baggage that many of us who are older, do, and secondly, they are much more programmed to understand the increasingly technologized culture, which we now all live in. Indeed, for many of the younger ones, it is the only reality they have ever known.
The vast majority of millennials I know, I experience to be very positive in their outlook. Just recently a good friend in his twenties told me that he felt the world can get better not least because he feels much less susceptible than us “oldies” to having the wool pulled over his eyes. “We millennials have the information as to how bad a state the world is in”, he told me, “so we know where our work lies!”
In my experience, millennials living in countries governed by totalitarian regimes tend to have few illusions as to the corruption all around them and therefore the kind of challenges they face and the best strategies to use to address them. They are also terrific communicators and have the tools and know-how to be in close touch with their counterparts no matter where on the planet they live.
Spared the kind of entanglement in the system that besets so many of us, I find most millennials to be staunch realists (none of that “hippy-dippyness” that existed in my youth), very driven, sincere and many of them much more invested in having their lives “make a difference” as opposed to trying to clamour to the top of some dubious financial ladder! I think this is fantastic which is why so many younger people today have Higher Power working on their behalf, often without knowing it. Yes, my friend, I believe the best change agents in the world today are the millennials.
I can’t help feeling a wee bit sad, though, that it is the young people of today who are called to do a lot of cleaning up of the messes that my generation not only failed to do, but in many instances, conspired to create!
The need for dissolving antipathies
One thing in particular that I think the “difference maker” needs to address is the hostility and fear that so often exists between people who see the world through different glasses. For example, disdain towards those on the opposing end of the political spectrum from oneself, reflects both self-righteousness and a lack of soul.
If we happen to be someone who hates the rich and sees all wealthy capitalists as “evil”, we are simply introducing a further negative ingredient into the fray, which is a) eminently old-story and b) changes nothing other than keeping the other side even more entrenched in their old tracks. Agreed, certain billionaires of gangster and oligarchic origins I would no more like to have dinner with than they would with me. But I do not hate them or want the worst for them. Divine consciousness resides within all of us and the wetiko virus just has the effect of covering it up even more strongly.
I stress once more that what is important is that we come to find love and compassion in our hearts and learn to “feel ourselves” inside the beingness of those who see the world very differently to ourselves. From this place we can come to realize why certain people are, say, very materialistic and narrow-minded, why they are still moved to hang on to old colonial mindsets and prejudices and privileges that continue promoting injustice; or why people are fundamentalist in the religious sense.
Holding on to old mindsets and stories essentially comes from fear, and there is always a strong resistance to change in those whose lives are inherently soulless. If we try to punch rigidity in the face and play the “blame game” with it, it does not melt, but only grows stronger. What enables it to soften are the weapons of soul, truth, heart and love, espousing principles of justice and integrity, and taking stands for what is decent, good, whole and soulful. This is much more powerful than being against what is bad and confused and soulless. It is an idea summed up by a sentence from the famous prayer: “Where there is darkness, may I bring light.” The activist is a light-bringer and in some circles is even known as a “light worker”.
I remind you again that we can – and we do – make a huge difference, not only in what we do, but also in being who we are. To give one little example, if we are committed to relating to our fellow human beings and treating them in a respectful and friendly way, we are doing an awesome amount to advance the cause of a sacred culture in the world.
Small acts of kindness are in fact big acts and they affect our collective consciousness. So anytime we assist someone who needs help, or we reveal the way forward to a person who is stuck, or we make something beautiful that used to be ugly, we are doing mighty service work. Those artists and musicians and poets and film-makers and writers and designers who seek to bring beauty and truth and joy into the world through their creativity are all doing mighty work.
My wife is someone who does mighty work all the time and being in her presence has done a lot to make me a better human being. She is my great teacher. I have seen her sprint to the flower shop to get there in time to buy a bouquet for a friend who she thinks needs cheering up. Two days ago, she spent a whole day in town to help a friend who was very low in confidence buy a dress to wear at her son’s wedding. She is always there to help and give advice to her friends and many people gravitate around her for her wisdom and light which she emanates very strongly. Some people are natural servers and my wife is one of them. Her goodness flows out of her quite effortlessly.
A few months ago she was out walking and came across two tiny kittens, perhaps a week old, dying of starvation in the street. She gave up what she was doing that day to bring them home and today they are thriving, full of life and are a core part of our family. The old-story mindset might see these actions as being of small significance. Just flowers. Just a dress. Just two cats. Huh!
I call this mighty work and big work because it is work done directly from the heart. In the words of the Buddhist mystic Shantideva:
All the joy the world contains
Has come through wishing happiness for others;
All the misery the world contains
Has come through wanting pleasure for ourselves alone.
©2020 by Serge Beddington-Behrens. All Rights Reserved.
Excerpted with permission from the publisher, Findhorn Press.
Publisher: Findhorn Press, a divn of Inner Traditions Intl.
Gateways to the Soul: Inner Work for the Outer World
by Serge Beddington-Behrens
In this guide about engaging in inner work to bring change into the world, Dr. Serge Beddington-Behrens reveals how the healing of our personal wounds combined with the growing of our soul life leads us directly to the addressing of world problems. Sharing inspirational stories from his own personal journey of becoming a transpersonal psychotherapist, shaman, and activist, he shows you how, by transforming your inner world, you begin creating important positive ripples that reverberate around all areas of your outer one.
For more info, or to order this book, click here. (Also available as a Kindle edition.)
About the Author
Dr. Serge Obolensky Beddington-Behrens, MA (Oxon.), Ph.D., K.S.M.L., is an Oxford-educated transpersonal psychotherapist, shaman, activist, and spiritual educator. In 2000 he was awarded an Italian knighthood for services to humanity. For forty years he has conducted spiritual retreats all over the world. In the 1980s, he cofounded the Institute for the Study of Conscious Evolution in San Francisco. He is also the author of Awakening the Universal Heart.