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Christopher Lowman: Learning To Serve With Love
Christopher Lowman: Living From The Heart
“In silence, you will listen to your heart to some deep place inside that will tell you what to do…that is always the case.”
Christopher Lowman had been living a double life of work and service until 2009, when a friend invited him to join her humanitarian team in Rwanda. While interviewing adolescents that had survived the 1994 genocide, he met a 15 year-old young man named Innocent. When Innocent was just six years old, he witnessed his mother and father killed with machetes before he was beaten and left for dead on top of the pile of bodies.
Most of us, when we hear a story like this, have a natural instinct to search through our minds for possible responses. As Chris sat in front of this incredible young man, his mind went silent, and he listened instead to what the moment was telling him.
“In extreme situations, it’s not helpful to react from the mind. You have to listen. Listening is the key word when we’re talking about serving with love, serving from your heart. This will bring your full presence into that moment.”
The experience of deep listening in Rwanda was life changing for Chris. New channels opened in his heart. He realized that his unique Truth would reveal itself through the path of service. In 2010, he set out on a two-year journey through India, Kenya, and Rwanda. His only intention was to find himself through the authentic service of others.
Suffering as Grace
As he lived with and served a leper community in India and worked with orphaned children in Rwanda, Chris’s dharma became intertwined with their karma. That’s the only way he could try to make sense of the extreme suffering and disparity all around him.
In India, while living with the Loving Community of leprosy patients and their family members, Chris met a 12-year old boy named Guru. Born with Cerebral Palsy, Guru is unable to talk or move his body. Chris visited Guru’s home twice per day to give Jin Shin Jyutsu treatments and overall caring company. Over time, Chris saw the boy gain weight and laugh with the other kids, and he was awakened to the value of life.
In his online reflections, Chris wrote, “You (and I did) might wonder what the point is—wouldn’t it have been better if he didn’t take birth? You really have to look below the surface to glean the truth that there is a special purpose to his existence, to see that life has intrinsic value.”
It was Ram Das that described suffering as grace, a gift given in order to awaken you. Ram Das explains,
“Some acts of compassion liberate on one level, but not on every level. You can give somebody food, but in a way that still traps them in their separateness. Or you can give them food in a way that liberates them. Which you do depends on where you’re at.
Seva is our attempt to see our service in the world in relation to the work on ourselves—to become a purer instrument of service, so that the service is coming from a place of nondualism. It’s not us serving them, it’s it serving itself.
"Those who are suffering and those who are serving are the same. It’s just family helping itself. By treating people who are helpless or in pain as "them," you are being divisive. You end up separating people through your kind act. You have to work very hard on yourself not to do that.”
The love and compassion that Chris felt for Guru and the Loving Community came from an authentic space of being present with Guru’s pain, without trying to take the pain away to fulfill his own ego.
“I don’t try to take their pain away or their suffering away. I assume it’s playing some part in this individual’s destiny or their karma. People have to walk with their suffering from some reason…I don’t know what that reason is, but based on my knowledge of the way the universe works and the nature of reality, I assume that it’s for a good reason.”
When in Doubt, Follow Love
Working from his heart space was again the only way Chris could be while in Kenya. In the retched slums of Nairobi, people live with 6 feet of human waste outside of their makeshift homes. After visiting the crowded alleyways with community leaders, and seeing the multitude of challenges (drugs, prostitution, sanitation) that confronted the families, the local leaders asked Chris, “What can we do?”
There was no simple answer and similar to his 2009 experience in Rwanda, Chris’s mind was silenced by what he had seen. Finally, he responded, “I don’t know what to do here but what I do know is that love is the answer.”
What unfolded from there was a very beautiful process. After agreeing to work on one sanitation project and assessing its cost of $6000, the next question was the source of funding. He decided to make a video of what he had seen, without any intention of being an activist. If people were inspired to get involved in some way after watching it, then that would be wonderful.
And someone from California was inspired. After learning about the video through Be the Cause, three individuals decided to raise all the money for the project within 21 days! Then the three of them traveled to Nairobi to meet the community members and be present for the launch of the first drainage system that was installed.
What was so special about the process that unfolded from the intention Chris planted with his video was that the community members began to feel like they were an integral part of everything. The three that visited were in the slums, talking with the residents, hugging them, playing with the children, and genuinely happy to learn about them. The residents could see that there was something different happening.
“There were two reasons why the project in Nairobi was sustainable. First, the actual labor was performed by the community members. And, second, the amount of good will and love that was poured into the construction of the drainage system inspired community members to maintain it after the volunteers left. The heart to heart connection with the beneficiaries is vital to a development project’s sustainability.”
Stay Committed...and Doors will Open
After reading these gems from Chris’s two-year journey, it is natural to wonder how he himself makes all of this possible. For people that are thinking about living a life that is aligned with their hearts, how can they do this in practical terms? For Chris, the most important element has been total, 100 percent dedication and commitment.
“Once the dedication and commitment is there, then the doors open for the sustainability to happen on its own.”
Before he was able to make that service journey, Chris was working several odd jobs while training and preparing. Several times, he wondered how he was going to make it all work and do the work that he loved while sustaining it all. But after the opportunity in 2009 came about, he realized that sustainability follows the commitment and you just have to have the patience and faith while you’re doing the part-time job or whatever else, while also doing what you love on the side. In retrospect, even though he worked many jobs that he didn’t care for, Chris acknowledges how each of those jobs had its own role to play in the necessary skills he has acquired along the way.
Chris began this journey to answer one question: What is his truth? Perhaps the answer to that is ever evolving. But the key has been living a life aligned with his heart, even when uncertainties and questions abound.
“I’m very clear that I’m not the doer of my life. …as much as possible, I try to access that place where movements are happening through me. It’s not so much what I think or the labels like “Chris Lowman” or “humanitarian”. It’s wherever those movements are coming from…that’s the real me.”
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