In part one, we explored the path of karma yoga, or seva, considered an essential spiritual practice which means “self-less service. “However, it is important to recognize that, like most teachings, giving can become out of balance, and even detrimental to both giver and receiver if coming from an egoic need. Could this be your experience?
Are we Serving or Avoiding?
If you are on a spiritual path you probably know how good giving to others can feel and have no problem finding myriad opportunities for offering your service to others. However, this may come to a point of over-giving at the expense of your own well-being, health, and financial stability.
In some form we may still be doing it for the “feel good” as in “I am a good person because I am helping you.” Service from this place can feel needy or sticky. This is not detachment, and may in fact be still coming from a sense of ego. Underlying the giving may be a belief that unless we do all these good works for others, we are not a good person, or not a spiritual person.
This belief and consequent over-giving to depletion stems from a deeper well of unworthiness. This foundational unworthiness, or need to constantly prove our “goodness” stems from a lack of loving self. It is ultimately easier for many of us to focus outside of oneself, going to great lengths, great debt, great exhaustion to continue to try to “buy” our way to heaven, or worthiness, or love of Creator, instead of doing the unthinkable– directing that loving attention to ourselves.
Why is this so hard? Why can’t we forgive ourselves? Why do we feel so unworthy and unlovable? This is why we need to also be attending to our spiritual and personal growth work. Sometimes we are using outer service and busyness to avoid the deeper work of uprooting the unworthiness in all of its myriad forms; of healing the old wounds and hurts.
Finding Balance Between Service and Spiritual Practices
“You don’t complete your inner work before you do your outer work. Nor do you say, “Well, the hell with the inner work: I’ll go do the outer work because it’s so important and pressing.” That’s not conscious either. The conscious thing is the simultaneous doing of both.” ~Ram Dass
My first teacher busted this pattern of ours early on. In the ashram, many would come and want to mobilize the troops to do service projects rather than waste so much time on spiritual practices when there were such pressing needs around the planet. When faced with these critics, she would always say there is nothing more important than the inner work; nothing more powerful than an awakened consciousness.
She even commented on the issue of over-giving. It was traditional to offer a coconut, money or some other offering when you were in the presence of a holy one. Night after night I offered something as I approached my guru for a blessing.
She chided us all: “Don’t give if you don’t have it. This is NOT service; going into debt is out of balance. Take care of your own finances first; don’t become a burden to others!” That hit me; I certainly didn’t wish to be a burden to anyone! Under this scrutiny, I realized my giving was really out of balance as I was deeply in student loan debt. I felt really embarrassed; but I stopped making any offering that cost money. I did become more creative, and offered flowers I grew or something handmade.
Knowing what is needed in each situation requires an astute sense of discernment plus detachment. Depending on where you are in your spiritual path, you may very well need to come into balance by offering more service to others. This is often true at the earlier stages of spiritual growth.
However, at some point, you may need to shift and spend more time going within and tend to your own garden, and really focus on truly loving and nurturing yourself. It seems to fly in the face of the teachings, but in the higher states of awareness, you recognize that you are now serving the many. Your energetic transmission of higher love and serenity bathes and soothes the whole of humanity, and even all of creation.
Higher Consciousness Creates a Saving Presence
“Via silent transmission, the energy from the advanced teacher or saint is incorporated into our aura, our brain function, our whole being. It’s because this energy of peace is transmitted outward into the world that mankind is still alive. It would have destroyed itself a long time ago without this energy to counterbalance it. That’s why our own evolution serves all of mankind…by reaching these higher states of lovingness and peace within ourselves, we become a saving presence in the world.”
~David R. Hawkins, M.D., Ph.D, “Letting Go: Pathway of Surrender”
More recently I am noticing a deeper level to this aspect of service through developing higher consciousness. There is a space where I am aware that I am serving at a very high level, yet going nowhere, doing not a thing. For in this state everything is just perfect, there is no one to fix, and nothing is broken. All is unified, one breath, one heart, one mind.
There is a deep serenity, and that peaceful loving energy is flowing through me to the earth in each footstep, each breath becomes a blessing wave, each thought a precious offering of love to everyone. I can see the scintillating radiance of each blade of grass as it laps up the energy from my feet, until I feel that my whole landscape is aglow with light, awash with a soft tenderness of appreciation and gratitude. I can no longer tell whether I am giving or receiving, there is a flowing emanation of which I am both part of, and the source of.
In meditation this morning I asked Yeshua (Hebrew for Jesus) to speak to me of service. This was the response:
“Self-love is the only service truly needed. When truly loving Self, it is as natural as breathing to serve others. In fact, there is really only one service, and that is to Love. Love is the thread that holds the fabric of the Universe together. We are all woven of the same cloth. When we serve with love; that is, when we perform any action, or birth any thought from the cradle of love–this is the highest service. All creation is a mirror of our own Consciousness, therefore when we are loving towards creation, we are loving towards self, and vice versa.”
Selfless Service Affirmation: I give lovingly to myself and others, my time, experience, skills and resources without expectation and in perfect balance and alignment in each situation. I offer the fruits of my duties and actions in devotion to _____________ (Higher Power, God, Nature, Love).
Contemplation: Observe your Giving
Take a day to journal about your service, your giving. Begin to see what is easier for you to give (time, money, experience, or to a certain person) and what (or to whom) it is more difficult. Notice especially the feelings before, during, and after each giving exchange.
Does the offering of a gift produce happiness or well-being?
Does it result in weariness or resentment?
Begin to explore what seems to produce these different results. Was there expectation involved? A feeling of imbalance? Of always being the giver and not being the receiver?
When in doubt, ask: WWLD? What Would LOVE Do?
Published in Transformation Magazine November 2015. Love my article? If so, read many more inspiring articles every month through Transformation Magazine, available on iTunes, Kindle, Nook, or Android and at http://www.transformationmag.com/online/author/kumari/