SEED QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: How do you relate to the notion of service fundamentalism? Can you share a personal story of a time you discovered sacredness in a form of work that you had earlier judged as lacking in virtue? What helps you avoid the trap of service fundamentalism?
Very meaningful piece. My late husband's life's work (dealing with mysticism and schizophrenia) was interrupted numerous time and he was forced to support me and the children while doing his research. His paid job as a cab-driver was, although difficult, another way he served people. He was exceptional, a truly altruistic person.
I agree with many points made in this article and disagree with many others. I agree that living to serve will take many forms and self righteousness is a big obstacle and that even if one is a monk or a nun living through begging one is dependent on working people and society. But that does not mean that all jobs are helpful. The Buddha taught that there are jobs that harm life, he listed five trades as wrong livelihoods that should not be followed - weapons, poisons, living beings (trading in humand or animals), meat, and intoxicants. Butchers who kill living beings to make a living do not abide by the dao. One is not more humble simply because one serves from within the system. According to many teachers in many different traditions stepping away from society for a while usually to nature can be an important part of personal development. Usually this is followed by a process of integrating oneself (now hopefully more kind and compassionate) back into society through service. Wherever we are now is where we choose to be. Our work should be aligned with values of truthfulness, compassion, generosity, non-violence, etc.[Hide Full Comment]
As so many folks commented last night, a lot of it is in the intent and attitude, and compassion/kindness that we bring to our work, in whatever form. "Serve from where you are" and "Find the nooks and crannies in the world to plant seeds"--that visual will stay with me and is very powerful. I am close to someone who has spent a lifetime as a "karma yogi" and has impacted so many people with kindness, selflessness, integrity and generosity....whether mentoring, finding just the right job for someone, creating opportunities for others to grow and flourish, leading with values and never ever thinking about the "fruits" of the labors. So this example reminds me all the time that if you "go deep", always stay true to your values, and don't worry about the "fruits", service is the natural flow.....
This is a wonderful "problem" to have and to engage with. It challenges all of us to serve from where we stand, not from where we think we ought to be. Where we stand is ever and always the present moment - we are never elsewhere, all superstitions and "occurrings" to the contrary! And so we will always serve from where we stand, be it in volunteerism, corporate America, politics, the world of NGOs, at home with our loved ones, alone on the trail, on the line, sharing in the Circle. As we live our lives as stewards of love and possibility, where would we not choose to serve? Every venue in life calls out to us and even the most "unlikely" (the boardroom, perhaps?) are openings for healing and workability. A world that works at every level and for all time is made from all of these!
I relate to this so much! As a Cause-Focused Storyteller who chose to quit her job, sell her home and possessions to create/facilitate a volunteer literacy project in Belize in 2005 and then re-renter life in the US as a freelance Storyteller/Speaker/Trainer and Coach who currently serves as a Storytelling Consultant at the World Bank in Washington DC, I was told by some that I was "selling out." Perhaps I was learning that "wherever you go, there you are." Meaning that wherever we choose the serve, there we are if indeed we are serving with mindfulness and intention to the task, it matters not where we do it. <3 I have experienced deep sacred moments serving while I teach presentation skills at the World Bank: when I have connected heart to heart with staff reminding us all to listen, learn and value those whom we serve. Recently, 3 staff who had taken my online monthlong intensive course, then attended a face to face with me. When I asked why given it was the same content, all 3 separately replied, "So we could be in your energy in person and hug you to thank you." This is transformation and to me sacred. <3
To avoid "service fundamentalism" I remind myself to "serve where I am" I hope this is helpful. Hugs from my heart to yours, Kristin
All duality is here to serve us to move.... nothing is fixed or permanent. Hence the need to shift to serve in the manner best.
What holds true in this moment, will not be so, in the next. And hence drememuality serves the sacred purpose of helping us see that rootedness also has "limited" purpose. To be in one place, serve the purpose, find the ground beneath, untill we are ready to move on.
At times, the journey may be long, hard and also fraught with many msitakes, or long-turns..... but the learning is always useful so that the soul "sees" and remembers.
Thanks so much for this piece. This is a topic that I think/talk/ponder about, quite often. Such an interesting balancing act between work/home, obligation/compassion, etc. I've experienced "regular" jobs characterized by selfless service, and "charities" characterized by turf and elitism, and of course, mostly those that are somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. All wonderful opportunities to be mindfully engaged in positive change. I'm reminded of the "embrace tiger/return to mountain" concept- I need both tigers and mountains in my life.
But when we are in the "paid in dollars" service economy, I ask that we use that "status" to bring awareness to the fact that (for far too long now) we have been pretending to ourselves that this is the only work force that matters--that worth is equatable with the size of a paycheck and the commercial prestige of a job title. Consequently, we have come to hold MBA's in higher esteem than social workers, and (if they're lucky enough to be employed) social workers as more prestigious than unpaid parents or caregivers to the elderly. Thanks to unfettered capitalism, the market economy has been usurping the values of human community--and wreaking havoc on our relationships with each other and with the planet. The contributions that are Truly made when we recognize that caring and nurturing have been vastly undervalued (especially in the last couple decades) and now need deep & sincere recognition are perhaps beyond our wildest dreams. But as Charles Eisenstein says, this is the coming world that our hearts know is possible. If you haven't read his recent book , "The More Beautiful Wirld Thst Our Hearts Know is Possible", please do.ðð¼[Hide Full Comment]
My move from a corporate job (dominant system) to a startup job (soon-to-be dominant system!) to an NGO felt to me as my ideal way to gradual full-time service. But as a part of an NGO, we are always having to crowdfund money in the schools that we teach, which is when I realised we are being able to carry our "noble" work only because the others continue to serve in the dominant system. They support us with money because they don't have the time or sometime the willingness for hands activity. Basically, there is interdependence, and there is so much beauty in it too. This article gave me so much more clarity and insight into the topic. Very grateful! :)
I began reading with assumption that it will be proclaiming more on service and how typical job mindset works. As i read along, I found i was also holding an assumption "to serve fully, one has to quit his job". Life always seemed difficult working in a system. There was a constant attempt to quit the system, move out of it and say all the worse about the system. Somewhere from last one year there was slow shift towards working in system. Not fitting in the system was motive but doing work without getting attached.
Article came up at a time when all those questions had started again crawling inside head. One can be in or out, most important point is to grow and progress. Progress towards the light, the truth.
Zilong Wang has beautifully summed this us in his last line: Ultimately, the practice is to serve from wherever we are. No one form of service is superior and holier than another. We are all placed in the grand scheme for a reason.
Lots of gratitude !
Work is absolutely an avenue to demonstrate our love for God. The apostle Paul sees all work as God's work. 'whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord'. Service requires humility and always a joy to make Christ known at the workplace.
Many actions can be of service. I define service fundamentalism as service done by obligation or rule, that is, it is based on should, have to, can't, must, and got to, all of which are positions or attitudes of obligation and are ways of telling ourselves that we are powerless and victims, which is likely to result in feeling resentment and depression. What makes service virtuous is it being done freely, done out of choice. Obligation is toxic. The setting doesn't matter. That is, it doesn't matter whether a person is on the job or unemployed or what kind of job a person has. What matters is where the service is coming from. Service out of obligation or rule lacks virtue and may even be toxic, and service out of free choice is virtuous and healthy. For me, sacredness is wholeness, and wholeness involves freedom, so service that is in harmony with wholeness and done freely, is sacred service. Knowing this helps me to avoid the trap of service fundamentalism.[Hide Full Comment]
Work is worship-no matter what kind of work we do.There are many faces of work. No one face is better than the other face.The face that looks down on other faces is not a service face. Humility is an integral part of service. Service done from the heart induces inner joy, inner reward and a deep sense of fulfillment. Recognition or admiration for the service we do is like frosting on the cake. We cook the food for serving with no expectation in return.
We are a part of the system-social, financial and political. When a system serves the need of a privileged group of people by excluding others, it needs to be changed. Such self-serving systems need radical change to survive and flourish. I have witnessed the great service work done by Mahatma Gandhi for untouchables in India. He blazed a new trial which slowly became a high way.
Work does not have to be against service. This is my personal experience. I have been working as a teacher and counselor all my life. It has been my inward call. It has brought great joy, happiness and fulfillment in my life. Many lives have been gracefully touched by the work I l love do and my life has also been graciously been touched by many hands.
It is the spirit of the work that makes it service. Work and service join hands making living blissful.
May we make our work worship by doing greater good!
Jagdish P Dave