Don’t mistake activity with achievement-
The importance of selfless service can be found deeply rooted in our local communities.
My heart has been wanting to share my dedication to selfless service for some time now. Recent world events, a few long bike rides and the time I spent attending the Citizens Academy for Omaha’s Future has allowed me to collect my thoughts to present to you here. I have so much to share with you, I have finally decided that now is the time to pour my heart out. There still are some lingering thoughts that trouble me: Is it truly possible to give to others without expecting anything in return? To cast my pride and ego to the side? And of course, yesterdays post addressing compassion.
Recent world events in Nepal and locally have got me thinking about the “behind the scenes” act of charity. I think we can all agree that on its face, charitable giving is fairly noncontroversial. Agree?!? Someone is in need, we sense their pain, and we lend a helping hand in return. Over the years, we have developed the ability to respond to subtle cues in others, not only intuitively, but emotionally. We are literally tuned to feel empathy, to experience someone else’s feelings as our own. Our capacity for empathy is so deeply ingrained in our being, that we respond not just to actual suffering of living beings but to representations of suffering as well. Remember in the Star Wars movie when Luke Skywalker had his hand cut off? Old Yeller anyone?!?
Charity, empathy and harmony are in our genes. And yet charitable action, as personal habit, has some dubious, counterproductive features. First, our charitable impulse tends to be reactive, not proactive – The homeless man on the street and the charitable begging of Omaha Gives. We are “all-stars” when responding to the disaster that recently happened, not at preparing for the one yet to happen. How many of those who donated recently to Nepal’s victims would have contributed similarly to an effort to bring their antiquated infrastructure up to code years before the quakes ever happened?
Because we depend on raw emotion to spur us to give, our giving is susceptible to the many distortions that beset perception at hand. Every second of every day around the world, there are countless people in need, hungry and wounded and homeless. Just like those in Nepal, here in Omaha and a community near you. They are quite frankly, non-events; tedious and boring, and boredom does not elicit the empathy required to motivate charitable giving.
While charitable giving will always be necessary, I argue that, morally, if the life of a devastated family in Nepal is really as worthy as the life of a family in Omaha, Nebraska, then that life should not depend on whether someone in West Omaha rolled out of bed in a charitable mood; should not depend on the viral appeal of the Omaha Gives media blitz. Should not depend on whether that family’s suffering has been successfully bundled into a sufficiently sexy narrative about the latest “spectacular” disaster on another continent.
Instead of patting ourselves with compassion and kindness on our backs, as we click “donate now” for the poor people in Nepal, we should ask real questions about our own individual process of compassion, and whether better ways exist to harness it for genuine, love soaked good. Through further soul-searching, I found that you must be in a selfless frame of mind before engaging in selfless service, or your efforts may be tainted and off-putting.
It has always seemed that a fear of judgment is the mark of guilt and the burden of insecurity-
I ask of you on this lovely May morning – Are you really curious how the next five, ten, fifteen years of your life will look like?
Possibility and wonder flourish in the wide open spaces of uncertainty. If we were absolutely certain about how everything would turn out in our lives, we would have no room to consider what might happen if we choose a different direction, a different path altogether. Imagine how “life” might be like stuck in an endless one-way street, on a set deserted railroad tracks with rails so straight and narrow, we would never be able to see beyond our next step.
When we pause to think about it, like our beautiful lives, a seed is both fragile and dense with endless possibility. Provided with the proper conditions, a tiny seed can grow to be a beautiful tree or a plant that bears yummy fruit, flowers or those things called vegetables! In our hyper connected world it pays to remember that a seed grows at its own pace. For that seed to be its absolute best, it will need plenty of love, compassion, kindness and care.
Friends, we are no different, anticipation of what could be possible, is what makes life exciting. In order to breathe possibility into reality, we need fertile ground, a stable environment and a warm, kind and compassionate heart.
May a dose of uncertainty grace your lives this morning … What will become of this seed, your life? Only you possess the magic, that is your frigging awesome life, in the palm of your loving hands.
*It’s good to be back with you, my Dear Readers, after finishing the Citizens Academy of Omaha’s Future last night. There are many stories and new topics to share with you, until then – Take care and be well! And before I forget – Its National Bike Challenge Month!*
God wanted to make heaven and the earth is that heaven. Nowhere in the universe there is so much love, life, beauty and peace. Enjoy your stay with the fellow beings-
Its Earth Day/Week\Weekend once again, which can only mean that it is time for a torrent of pecksniffian-esque blog posts and woefully self-serving “talk” beating us upside the head with the benefits of green living. Plant a tree, maybe two? Recycle this and that, munch on some kale and drive a Prius. Lament about our filthy ways, buy an Earth-friendly yoga mat and a 100% recycled content bicycle saddle. Peruse green-themed cycling and yoga magazines, grow your own “herbs“, and swap the old light-bulbs, (that work perfectly fine) for the energy-saving ones because the government said we had to.
With the infinite amount of environmental issues confronting our beautiful planet: Global warming, the increasingly trash filled oceans, deforestation of the Amazon Forest, Monsanto and our insistent overuse of pesticides and herbicides? There are far-reaching global issues for us all to feel terrible about.
I spend a lot, and I mean a lot of time riding dusty gravel roads in and alongside the farmlands here in Nebraska. Nothing troubles me more than seeing the signage of a freshly sprayed field with pesticide and herbicide. Pausing for a moment, beer cans and trash bother me more, but this is a rant for another day. From my humble perspective, these “global” issues seem far too vast even to wrap my simple mind around, much less address and take action on. Its only when we, you and I, pause for a fleeting moment during Earth Day/Week\Weekend long enough to acknowledge the scale of these problems and how long it might take, to take meaningful action. I get discouraged, if not pissed off lamenting these global “problems,” and nothing pisses me off more than seeing Natural Ice beer cans strewn along a 100 mile stretch of gravel road(s).
Allow me if you may, to turn my frustration over to the beautiful and inspiring poet William Blake. Blake once remarked: Don’t think big, think small in his Auguries of Innocence. William Blake goes on to eloquently write that the ability “To see the world in a grain of sand, And Heaven in a wild flower, Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, And eternity in an hour.”
It only takes a moment, a deep breath, a gentle heartbeat during one of these rides for me to shift my attention to a simple grain of gravel on the road or a single Black Eyed Susan sprouting in a nearby field. If I look at a kernel of corn in the palm of my hand, snap another bite of a freshly picked wild apple. If I really pay attention to the parts of the world that are right in front of me, right now? I eventually witness everything I was meant to see.
Do something small with me this Earth Day/Week\Weekend. Over time? These small actions grow into something amazing! If you are curious about my “small” project? Please feel free to contact me/leave a comment and I will be more than happy to share. Take care and have a wonderful weekend!
All differences in this world are of degree, and not of kind, because oneness is the secret of everything-
Awakening experiences in life, are truly positive experiences. Personally and more recently, the Citizens Academy for Omaha’s Future has been an overwhelmingly positive experience for me. Awakening experiences and moments in this thing called “life” are when we perceive reality with a heightened intensity, when a powerful sense of inner well-being – resonates deeply. When we experience a sense of connection and meaning to so many “things” … Even while sitting in a three-hour class where the topic of discussion is community planning. My question through three classes is prolix in nature: Why are these awakening and positive experiences immensely stressful?
Revealing a more nuanced side of myself to you this lovely Spring morning – Let’s discuss attachment. I am physically, spiritually and emotionally attached to a large number of “things“, such as my hopes and ambitions for the future of our community, my beliefs and ideas about compassion, Seva, kindness, life and this amazing planet we call home. I’m attached to the knowledge and education I have accumulated, my physical body, and achievements. At the same time Dear Friends, there are more tangible attachments that have far too much influence on me – possessions, my career etc. These are the building blocks of my ego.
I feel that I am “someone” because I have hopes, beliefs, a job, possessions and because other people prop me up with false approval. Which is why I am so awkward to be around when I have to talk about myself in front of others. I’m torn between revealing my true self and what others, society expects of me.
In these moments of despair, my spirit becomes broken. My sense of identity slowly falls away. My passion(s) in life are revealed as illusions; my possessions and status have been taken away in a few awkward moments, I feel vulnerable, stressed and adrift.
After three weeks of participation in the Citizens Academy for Omaha’s Future and after much thought about my personal attachments, there is a renewed sense of clarity and openness inside me. I am starting to feel a tremendous sense of well-being and energy, now that my outward energy is no longer consumed by maintaining these “attachments“.
To review the convoluted mumbo-jumbo above (I sincerely appreciate your patience in making it this far into the post) – When we surrender to One-ness, choosing to toss aside “I-ness” and “Me-ness” … Some amazing things start to happen! Just a humble thought to digest as we head gently into the weekend – Take care and be well!