This article has been bubbling up for 5 days now. At first a jumble of confused ideas were jotted down, explored a little in the Daily Gathering, but now on this sunny Sunday morning I am starting fresh.
Tears are close for me today a sign, not, of the times, but of the vibrancy of this human instrument, feeling depths, as yet, unfathomable.
Feeling deeply has never seemed more of a gift than it does now. When tears and laughter tumble one after the other like children chasing a stray ball, there is an expansion of the heart that allows our perspective to be blasted open, and take us far above our usual worm’s eye view.
There is something that wants to be said, and I’m not at all sure what it is, but here goes……
Helping and serving
The helping/service instinct never dies. It lurks close by, ready to surface whenever the murk clears. It can hibernate; sometimes for years and then all of a sudden it blooms like one of my Grandfather’s home bred orchids that threw a single bloom after a drought of 15 years.
Stories of service are spreading around the globe faster than the virus. And sitting here in a small village in self-isolation, they are coming thick and fast; in all shapes and sizes; from a myriad of sources: virtual and physical.
A hot meal on my doorstep, covered with tin foil; a neighbour’s wave up at my window as they turn their car; daily video chats with my love, 10,000 miles away; the much loved sound of an old friend’s laughter on the phone ; a daily online gathering bursting my heart open again and again.
I feel the dilemmas of those wanting to serve yet being fearful, for themselves, for those they love, wondering about their capacity, their resilience. Those in confusion; those who are lonely; those who are scared; those who bridle at the restrictions; those who want to shout and scream and those who want to hide.
I see the ebb and flow of emotions through me and all around: now, more than ever, in glorious technicolour. Frenzied activity; crying in the toilet; dazed; desolate; arguing; stressed; moments of peace and joy; tenderness; tantrums; bonhomie; nostalgia.
The disorientation on waking and forgetting, then remembering. Guilt over stolen moments of peace and joy as if these times call for seriousness and worry.
And through it all, rather than seeing right or wrong; appropriate or inappropriate; helpful or unhelpful; I feel my horizons being expanded, all the while in confinement, and I am invited to wonder at how things are in service, even when, especially when, I cannot see how.
Service ~ an act of help or assistance
The more acts of service I see; the more I am open to look for the act of service in what I see.
In the impossible dilemmas facing so many of us: helping ourselves versus helping others; helping strangers versus helping our families; not helping others lest we become a burden; fearing others versus accepting help; keeping our distance when our hearts want to throw our arms around those we love; keeping our distance because our hearts can’t bear to do anything else; striding towards the front line because we come alive in the service of others; exhausting ourselves with frenzied activity; the unsung carer, quietly sitting by the bedside of a 91 year old at home with Corvid19 symptoms, well versed in the care of the sick and dying.
The old codes of sacrifice, moral duty, greater good do not go far enough.
For at this time; the old parameters and measures of what is helpful, what is in service are to be thrown up in the air.
It is a time to question what we are ‘in service to’? What impels us to act or not act.
Beyond service to self and loved ones, community, country, the natural world, there is being in service to Life.
What is Life?
Whatever you imagine it to be.
That which stirs your heart. The mystery that animates all living things.
How could we ever know what is or isn’t in service to Life? For every act in the end is an act of Life. Life in motion. Life expressing through us all.
It is only our judgement that says an act is cruel or kind, helpful or unhelpful. But how could we know? How could we possibly zoom far enough out to get a perspective vast enough to see how all the threads of every action of every living creature make, unmake and make the whole over and over again.
And what if we began to trust that every cross word, every loss, every change, every reaction, every action, every thought, word and deed is part of a bigger picture that we can never see or understand?
And what if it is all guided by an unseen hand?
Am I talking about God?
No, not in the sense I understood God, as a young person attending Protestant Church of England services. Not an external deity.
I’m talking about the mystery behind life which I don’t understand.
So what is the point of looking in this direction?
Some may call it delusional but if it is, for me, it’s a helpful delusion.
The sense of Wisdom at play does several things for me.
It allows me to relax more into whatever is happening in my head and just go about my day.
After all, inside our mind is where the drama of our lives plays out
Realising I don’t need to understand, nor do I need to make sense of my experience in terms of analysing, explaining or justifying it, gives me welcome permission to simply experience whatever is running through me at any given time. To act or rest with less and less comparing, judging, analysing and drawing conclusions.
Worrying less about the tumult of feelings running through me, means I sometimes, get to pay less attention to them, and when I pay less attention to them I start noticing some interesting things:
- How changeable my experience is: one moment, still and contented, the next teary, comic, manic, reflective, insecure. Like xx men lining up.
- My experience is not directly related to what is happening out there (what is even happening out there? All I can see from my window is a peaceful sunny street).
- How thankful I am that my experience keeps changing regardless of circumstances, as my mother used to say to me when my children where toddlers and I was tearing my hair out about the latest phase, ‘if you don’t like what’s showing up now, there’ll be a different phase along soon’. That alone is a huge help. Short hand – this too shall pass.
- When I begin to trust that every experience is brought to me by Wisdom, my own bespoke navigational system, it takes a big load off. It’s not all up to me, I don’t have to fix/control/sort out everything.
- I don’t have to like every experience; that’s not the point. If I think of Wisdom in action it can get me wondering how being uncomfortable, scared, confused might be ’in service’. That can lead to some shedding as I get radically honest with myself. Perhaps feeling like I can’t cope is protective, stopping me from taking on too much.
- A productive day is nice and I’m grateful
- A day of feeling lost, weepy and wandering round my place, not knowing what to do, is probably also a gift, even if I can’t see it. A ‘step off the bus day’, allowing my system some down time and much needed release and reset.
- Feeling guilty about my privilege is a herald of gratitude
- Wondering about how everything is ‘in service’ expands my heart.
- The story of a woman complaining loudly about the socially distanced queueing in the local food store, reminds me we do not know what is going on in people’s heads nor what might be awaiting them at home or work. Following this woman’s reactions and actions (trying to sneak into the front of the queue) led another woman to offer her place in the queue.
- Seeing others’ heartache and vulnerability shared openly and honestly; touching a place in my heart that floods me with compassion one day and walling up against the flood the next. Both gifts to self and others
- My human system, our human system, the system of life moving, shifting, creating, sustaining, destroying over again responding, reacting, and interacting simultaneously in billions and billions of unseen movements from the cellular level to the level of continental drift.
- Seeing service in the sunny days and the wet. Service in the arguments and the love. The possibility of service in the violence and the loss (yes, that is hard).
- Looking for and trusting in the unseen hand of Wisdom and wondering about the act of service inherent in every breath of life, doesn’t lead to passivity or not caring, on the contrary it opens us up to ever richer, more high definition participation in the web of Life.
- Knowing we cannot see the significance of our tiny part but just knowing that it has significance. Knowing only that we are part of something far bigger, far more beautiful, far kinder than we could ever know.
What if, at every turn, our rage, our despair, our hopelessness, our joy, our tenderness, they are all in service. Our judging, our taking offence, our numbness, our reaching out; they are all in service.
What if our fascination with our small selves and others fades, as we get to wonder at the marvel of Life in motion, ever ceaseless motion, and wonder at the gift of consciousness, that allows us to have a sense of that motion. Every twinge we feel in muscle, heart or gut, is a note in the human string section, that is joined with the grand orchestra of all living creatures.
This article was written 29 March 2020. Since then I have begun an exploration into uncovering my hidden biases around racism and so I pondered about whether to publish this article now or not. In the end, I am publishing it as a record of what I saw at that time. Every moment feels like the moment to look unflinchingly at what we are up to. Consider if words, thoughts and deeds are self-serving, protecting our ego, our privilege or are they in service to something bigger than us? Are we willing to open our hearts, to surrender, to be wrong, to discover new horizons?, to surrender, to be wrong, to discover new horizons?
What are you seeing around being in service? What are you curious about?