I recently saw a Facebook post that read: “You have never really lived until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” The wise friend who posted this beautiful sentiment added below, “and they never know who you are… Nothing as dangerous as ‘spiritual’ pride!” This made me think about the shadows along the spiritual path that may arise when we feel inspired to serve others.
Until we wake up to realize our divine self, we look for opportunities to feed our wanting ego and its projection of a limited and incomplete self. When we become enlightened, permanently established in the reality of eternal love, we no longer see value in maintaining this projection. But until such time, we are called to vigilance of our ego’s tendency to feed. We must witness the ego’s tendency to feed, so that we may choose otherwise.
Like the delusion of an addict who believes a drink will solve his or her problems, our ego leads us to imagine fulfilment for an incomplete self can come from the false gods of temporal happiness. This can manifest as the idea, for example, that doing something “right” makes us more worthy of love, or that our worth can be measured by comparing ourselves and our actions with others.
Feeling better than or worse than others is a form of spiritual pride that creates a feeling of separateness from the beauty of this moment and from who you truly are. These places obstacles in your journey back to the One state of pure consciousness. The antidote to spiritual pride is to know that you are literally no-thing. Being a hero on the spiritual path means being a zero, to paraphrase my teacher Amma. Without preconceived notions or a personal agenda of wants to fulfil, you are maximally present and able to serve a dynamic world full of needs.
CONTEMPLATION: AWAKENED ACTION
Try this visualization to help you align with the true arising to serve.
In a quiet and relaxed environment, sit with your spine straight and close your eyes. Take a few breaths and become present with your body and with this moment as it is.
- Recall a situation where you felt called to serve.
- Allow yourself to be right back in that situation, and notice what you see. Perhaps you see trouble, discomfort or even pain there.
- Then notice how you feel moved by the situation. How does your body feel? Do you feel a knot in your stomach? Are you anxious? Do you feel a swell in your heart? Do you feel compassion arising within you?
- Become clear about what you are feeling. Genuine compassion is always rooted, vital and expansive. Sentimental emotion can feel like a swirl of energy. If emotion arises, simply remain present as a witness until you find a feeling of rooted, vital expansion.
- Now expand your view to see how your potential for pain and the pain of others is the same. You are not separate.
- Deeply inquire, from this place of interconnection, “How may I serve?”
- As an idea comes to mind, consider whether it feels rooted, vital or expansive. Feel your whole self in this impulse to serve.
- Notice whether part of the impulse is fueled by the desire for recognition or validation. Sense that desire and notice what it feels like. Does it feel expansive or constricted? Where do you feel it in your body?
- Stay here and take a few breaths. Let there be space around this desire. No need to judge it, or engage with it. Simply notice it. As you remain feeling rooted, vital expansion, see if your desire naturally begins to dissipate.
- You are within the whole. You already have all the love you need. You already are all the worthiness you crave.
- From this place of interconnection, notice what service could have looked like.
- Remind yourself that everyone in the situation was doing their best, including you. Release all others from your desire for them to acknowledge you in a certain manner. Allow them to simply be as they are and follow their own soul directive.
- Engage in any action from this sense of connection and non-attachment.
- When you feel ready, gently open your eyes and thank yourself for the compassionate learning.
For a sincere spiritual seeker, selfless service is to act without any need for praise or personal gain. In selfless service, there is no ego, no divided sense of self.
May you light up the world with the beauty of selfless service.
Known as the Positive Possibilities Lady, Parvati inspires magnificence through music, yoga, words and activism. An award-winning musician, Parvati brings joy and hope to top 40 radio with her celestial pop songs “I Am Light”, “Yoga in the Nightclub”, and “Shanti Om”. Founder of “YEM: Yoga as Energy Medicine” and author of “Confessions of a Former Yoga Junkie: A Revolutionary Life Makeover for the Sincere Spiritual Seeker”, Parvati has been featured on radio and television talk shows and news and wellness magazines globally. She is the founder of Parvati.org, a not-for profit dedicated to realizing MAPS: The Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary to help stop global warming. More about MAPS, free YEM videos, self-help articles, her music and more at parvati.tv and parvati.org.