Sun./Mon., February 2-3, 2002
- ED ARRONS
Serving, helping, and fixing
Rachel Remen, who runs the Commonweal Cancer Centre in
California, speaks very beautifully about this. She says:
"service is not the same as helping. Helping is based on
inequality, it's not a relationship between equals. When
you help, you use your own strength to help someone with
less strength. It's a one up, one down relationship, and
people feel this inequality. When we help, we may
inadvertently take away more than we give, diminishing the
person's sense of self-worth and self-esteem. Now, when I
help I am very aware of my own strength, but we don't serve
with our strength, we serve with ourselves. We draw from
all our experiences: our wounds serve, our limitations
serve, even our darkness serves. The wholeness in us serves
the wholeness in the other, and the wholeness in life.
Helping incurs debt: when you help someone, they owe you.
But service is mutual. When I help I have a feeling of
satisfaction, but when I serve I have a feeling of
gratitude. Serving is also different to fixing. We fix
broken pipes, we don't fix people. When I set about fixing
another person, it's because I see them as broken. Fixing
is a form of judgment that separates us from one another;
it creates a distance.
"So, fundamentally, helping, fixing and serving are ways of
seeing life. When you help, you see life as weak; when you
fix, you see life as broken; and when you serve, you see
life as whole. When we serve in this way, we understand
that this person's suffering is also my suffering, that
their joy is also my joy and then the impulse to serve
arises naturally - our natural wisdom and compassion
presents itself quite simply. A server knows that they're
being used and has the willingness to be used in the
service of something greater. We may help or fix many
things in our lives, but when we serve, we are always in
the service of wholeness."
Caring for those who are suffering, whether or not they are
dying, wakes us up. It opens up our hearts and our minds.
It opens us up to the experience of this wholeness that I
speak of. More often than not, though, we are caught in the
habitual roles and ideas that keep us separate from each
other. Lost in some reactive mind state, busy trying to
protect our selfimage, we cut ourselves off and isolate
ourselves from that which would really serve and inform our
work. To be people who heal we have to be willing to bring
our passion to the bedside; our own wounds, our fear, our
full selves. Yes, it is the exploration of our own
suffering that forms a bridge to the person, we're serving.
....If we're not willing to explore our own suffering,
then we will only be guessing as we try to understand our
patients. It is the exploration of our own suffering that
allows us to serve others. This is what allows us to touch
another person's pain with compassion instead of fear and
pity. And we have to be willing to listen, not only to the
patient but to ourselves.....
In self-inquiry most of us may glide over the issue of
self-worth for different reasons. Those who may have had a
problem with it may have built up a self-approved image of
self-worth which they will adhere to despite outside
criticism. Some will make an extra effort obtaining
recognition to maintain their sense of self-worth. Some
will slide over it, consistently reassured by their easily
gained approval, so that it seems beyond question.
Ultimately, it can be said, that everyone, everything is
worthy and beyond comparison. But the issue of self-worth
lingers steadfastly with every human being to be challenged
by the sudden twists and turns of daily living.
Unexpectedly we can be drawn into the drama of life, acting
in ways that bring our sense of self-worth into question.
Angels, we are not. Speaking for mySELF, of course. :-)
Many are drawn to spirituality as a way to develop a sense
of self-worth. I know I was.
Instead of getting my self worth from it, it pushed me into
self degradation. I came to lose every bit of self worth in
my mind's obsession with my faults, foibles and
However, this was the blessing of my life. As I had nothing
to hold on to that was valuable as a self image it lost
much of its power over identity in my life.
True self worth comes from knowing who you really are. All
other self worth is really just the other side of self
degradation. To have self worth entails being a self
instead of the Self, and to have self hatred entails
exactly the same thing.
It's not wrong to have self worth but it's not very helpful
to hold on to it.
Thanks for adding your thoughts to this subject, Jody. Im
participating with a local group exploring the significance
of self worth to the experience of self-realization and
peer communication. Actually the issue of self worth seems
more applicable in face-to-face dialog than online for a
variety of reasons. But I was interested in the thoughts of
list members on this topic.
Self worth, as seen now, covered a variety of reasons for
my moving from a problematic, conventional life style to
one offering greater freedom. Spontaneity, creativity, and
flexibility are some of those reasons. I might add feeling
inner harmony or just feeling warm and more open to others.
I didnt see spirituality as a goal in those days and
still dont care for the term, although I use it online
from time to time.
I cant say my practice lowered my sense of self worth; it
was always the attachments to the old ways that brought me
down. While some of those attachments have been released,
there is still residue. So the term self worth is still
useful in understanding my self. It also resonates with
Maslows hierarchy of needs in being the platform for
Though I dont consider a downside feeling of self worth a
blessing or a curse, neither is the upside. Somewhere in
between is a place I visit more and more where no
To become Brahman means to be completely engaged in
rendering devotional service to the Lord. Thus the mahatma
understands that if service is to be rendered, it is to be
to Krsna and no one else. We have so long served our
senses; now we should serve Krsna.
The blossom of inner enthusiasm expressed outwardly in
service can be liberating... but the type of service
prescribed by authority (religious, cultural, political,
ideological etc...) benefits authority while enslaving the
It would be most unfortunate for the institutions & gurus
to direct followers to this secret of selfless service
inspired by inner enthusiasm (or other equally valid
approaches). The newly self sufficient followers would be
given a short cut to the source, but, alas, the
institutions would see a decline in the availability of
slave labor, probably see financial donations plummet, and
perhaps that most virulent commodity, the malignant
superiority of a single creed, might gradually deteriorate,
yielding to... the genuine appreciation of diversity.
Thought you would all like to know that tomorrow, 3 Feb, is
the first day of the much celebrated doughnut week here in
Much indulging of the Great Doughnut will be taking place.
There will be jammy chins on every street corner.
Unfortunately though participation is open only to those
who can recite correctly the true spelling of 'Doughnut'.
Any distortion of the True Doughnut will bring about
charges of heresy and much burning at the stake. And ANYONE
over the age of 5 found with sprinkles on their doughnut
will be shot on sight. Sorry. (Its not a very English thing
Anyway there's gonna be a lot of Doughnut celebrating going
down over here, pity you all seem to be across the pond and
will miss out on the fun. :-)
As you travel on through life brother
Whatever be your goal,
Keep your eye upon the doughnut
And not upon the hole!
Painted on the wall of the Mayflower Coffee Shoppe
I believe this a Bhakti path message...
Reaching out to you
In this eternal Now
In this infinite everywhere
There is no time
No special you or I
Nor a message other than this smile...
If you believe in non-duality then, ultimately it matters
not if one is enlightened or not.
Which means the value of enlightenment is only while we are
in this world. And even that, it is a matter of our eyes
being opened to what we already are.
So my question is regarding people who are believed to be
enlightened yet their egos are unchanged. They are crass,
ill-mannered, and cannot control their urges. So what use
is this enlightenment? And in this case what is
enlightenment? Or are their different degrees or variations
I am bringing this up because of discussions on NDS
regarding a certain lady who is supposed to be enlightened
but still is a real pain in the butt. If your personality
or character does not change for the better than who gets
enlightened? If emotions still control you than are you
enlightened? Isn't an enlightened person supposed to be
above all that?
Taking the simple definition of a person who is enlightened
to be someone who is always in the now. Even then this
person should not be able to remember annoyances that have
already taken place and then retaliate in kind! Someone who
knows their 'true nature' cannot be annoyed by small
things? Can such a person indulge in nit-picking and
splitting of hairs?
And what about unconditional Love? Is that a myth? Is it
separate from enlightenment?
If a simple mystical experience can completely transform a
person than why shouldn't a full blown enlightenment? If a
simple mystical experience can bring a state where the only
emotion felt is that of total unconditional love ... even
though temporary, for a few weeks [in my case] ... Which
state was that?
(EDITOR'S NOTE: There were several lenghty replies to this
post, which have not been included.)
appearance vs. reality: