I love poetry. For years I have written it and read it. I love to hear people read it … find it tucked in strange spots throughout a novel, open mic night, or in corners of the library. I love poetry as art. Poetry is a large part of how I find, feel, and express my spirituality. Here’s a good one by one of my favorite poets: Hafiz, The Great Sufi Master. Enjoy.
Want to know the secret to happiness? Get outside of yourself. When we reach out to others and help make someone else’s life better we actually help ourselves. Acts of service help you stay healthy – mentally and physically. Get out there and help today.
Many religious and spiritual practices speak of service. Service is a key piece of 12 step programs and many say they didn’t really get sober until they were able to give back. It was the act of service that helped them realize the bigger picture and reason for sobriety. Most of us talk a good game regarding service, however many of us do not perform much service.
One reason we do not offer acts of service as much as we might like is because we haven’t set our lives up to give back. It takes time more than anything and it’s much easier to write a check than it is to spend the day working with someone who needs help. Work to structure time to give back into your life. It will make your life more purposeful and help fight diseases, depression, anxiety, and stress in your own life.
Another reason we skip the service aspect is because we do not know what to do. We feel that it must be BIG to be any good, and the opposite is really true. It is the small, everyday acts of grace and kindness that make the greatest differences in our lives and those we reach out to. These small acts help us realize we are not alone. They help us feel connected and part of something larger than ourselves. Again, keeping us more healthy over the long haul.
Today challenge yourself to perform as many acts of service to another as you can. A little secret is … when you work to make others happy, you actually make yourself happy. The Dali Lama says “if you want others to be happy, be compassionate. If you want to be happy, be compassionate”. Today make your goal to give as much as you can. See how happy you can make yourself by helping others. Notice how doing nice things for other people changes you, gives you different perspective, or helps you see something you hadn’t noticed before. When we give to others we begin to see how similar we are, not how different. We are more the same than not. It’s hard to hate others when you realize this. When you hate less or fear others ideas, actions, and motivations less your life gets better. You start to see the beauty that surrounds you instead of all the things you negatively judge.
Here are some ideas to get out there, get connected, and offer help:
- Hold the door open for someone
- Smile at everyone you meet
- Give the driver in front of you the benefit of the doubt.
- Listen. Really listen as your partner, kids, or co-worker talks to you – without coming up with your response while they speak.
- Shovel, cut the grass, rake, sweep the sidewalk for your neighbor. You are already doing your own, just go a little farther.
- Teach something to someone who wants to learn what you already know how to do. Be patient and let them learn at their own pace. Work to enjoy watching their progress as a support person not the director.
- Play with your dog, your kid, your friend … go out have a good time and laugh and laugh and laugh.
- Tell your family and friends how much they mean to you. Maybe even send them a handwritten note, flowers, or let them know in another way that would be special to them.
- Offer to help with the car pool, cleaning, cooking, laundry, etc for a group you are a part of, a friend, neighbor, or your family member who usually does those tasks.
- Read to someone – a kid, a person who can no longer read for themselves due to failing eyesight or other disease, or someone who never learned to read.
- Volunteer in your community. Many communities have a volunteer listing where organizations list what they need help with. Look it up and volunteer your skill set to help them out.
- Help set up a fundraising event for a group you are interested in. Big commitment, but it sure feels good when you come together with a team of people and accomplish something for the greater good.
- Do something nice for yourself. You can’t take care of anyone, if you haven’t taken care of you first. Make sure to include yourself on your acts of service list. It helps you be a better person, less stressed, and ready to help others if you have been taken care of too. Do not forget about you.
Ever thought about finding the spiritual all around you? I’m sure you’ve heard that before … but what about when you clean house?
I bet you often do not think of cleaning house as a spiritual event. Sometimes I don’t either. More and more I do and here’s why.
Three years ago we decided we wanted to downsize. We were tired of vacuuming spaces no one walked on because the hallway was bigger than it needed to be, the bedroom was larger than we really used, and we preferred to hangout together in the upstairs living room, so the downstairs one often sat empty. We were tired of worrying about a yard bigger than we could keep and gardens that brought joy but could be condensed. So we decided to take on the challenge of creating a space that fit our family of 5 (3 growing teenagers and 2 labs) and allowed us to downsize into a space we used. As a result we found the joy that comes with cultivating the space you are in.
Every corner, nook, and cranny were considered so we could fit into the space comfortably. We got rid of extra bedsheets, towels, and clothing so what we have – we use. We created storage systems to maximize space to store all of our gear and got rid of what we no longer use. We are an active family in the growing stage of life. Every 6 months someone outgrows a pair of boots, a bike, a set of skis. We can now see and timely rotate it out. This house was a labor of love. Lots of light and functional flow created a home we love to care for.
Even if you can’t build a new house or remodel your existing structure, cultivate a space you love. Curate every item. Only buy what you want to clean and maintain. Trinkets and decor become dusty. It takes energy to keep them. Pay attention to what you really like. Purge the rest. Decide what it means to have things. What kind of things bring you great joy – cheap and easy often replaced or selective items you keep forever because they were made to last? It doesn’t matter as long as they bring you joy and you want to care for them.
As you purge what you do not use, do not need, and do not want to spend energy cleaning you end up with a home you love to clean. Each item you dust, vacuum around, and wipe down becomes something you take pride in. It feels good to take care of it. It feels good to pick it up, remember why you own it, and remember where it came from.
Cleaning becomes spiritual. The care you give to the space that reflects you and your personality brings you closer to yourself. Closer to things that have made your life worth living as you enjoy the pieces you’ve curated, and closer to the connections that bind us all. Maybe you remember the person who made the item you bought or delivered it. Maybe you remember the unique place you bought it or the people you were with.
As you methodically move through your space dusting, tidying, and cleaning you begin to enjoy it as a journey through special moments in your life. As this experience unfolds gratitude follows … and before you know it you are feeling the flow of something larger than yourself all while you toil away at the mundane task of cleaning house. The spiritual side of housekeeping.
An often overlooked piece of our health is spirituality. Spirituality is so important to our health. We all crave purpose and meaning. Spirituality is a tool to help us access the values we want to manifest in our lives. It is a way to live into the values we hold dear.
Although religion can fit within spirituality, religion itself is not spirituality. Spirituality is broader, where religion often has sets of rules or rituals related to the particular dogma/denomination one adheres to.
According to a quick google search spirituality is “the quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things”.
One is not necessarily better than the other, especially if it gets us to our goal of being more connected to something larger than ourselves.
When we access the great power of looking beyond ourselves we come into service of each other. This connection lifts us. From a human development point of view it helps us build our brains. We have these things called mirror neurons in our brains. When I see you do something I to go through a process of “doing” that thing. So when you smile at me, you get a hit of dopamine and so do I. By sharing these moments we connect to the larger system outside of ourselves and get a better understanding of the huge circle of life we all live within.
Many people like to use prayer or mantras to help them access the deeper connection we all share. Finding a statement, habit, ritual, or perception that gives us a spiritual focus can be a way to help us live into our desire for purpose and meaning.
Today, try this prayer, it is one of my favorites and often reminds me to consider my role in relationships to others, myself, and the world at large.
Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu
“May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.”