Grist for the Mill 

Because I derive a great deal of happiness through service, this month I am contemplating how best to proceed with the potential of service in my early semiretirement life. So far, about a year and a half in, I am quite active day to day. Teaching online and prepping a new course for the Spring, assuming an outreach role with my spiritual organization regionally, contributing as a member at large to my neighborhood housing association board, caring for my beautiful dog Sophie and cat Emily, writing, blogging, being active with family and friends, providing for the household and my home family; in short, I am very happy!

My brother at one time expressed the view that there are “producers” and then there are “servants” and that the former are inherently ‘better’ than the latter. I disagreed then, since teaching is my primary profession and teaching is most definitely a service role, and I love it! Now I see that service is a product in its own right. Service is a productive activity, not only supportive, and being supportive is a good thing too. It is not only about helping others, though I am happy to be of service in whatever capacity I can for another. It is about sharing from the foundation of accumulated knowledge and acquiring some measure of wisdom in the process; it is about giving, and giving back, to Life Itself, with love and gratitude.

Learning to be of greater service day by day provides grist for the mill, fuel for the dynamic expression of energetic outflow. That sounds rather lofty, yet simply expresses a dedicated sense of purpose. We breathe in and breathe out, every breath a divine energy of life. To receive and to give forth at least in equal proportion maintains balance, connection, and provides a grateful contribution to the Whole.

images are from pixabay.com

Building Bridges through Service: Introducing A New Year of Better Endings for Your Life Path

 

Every year in December or January since 2016 I have introduced a new, yearly Theme for this blog about how I or you might develop Better Endings in our lives. This new year, bridging over to it this month, I would like to focus this next year’s monthly topics around the theme of “Building Bridges.”

When I look at the society I live in today and our global experience as well, it appears that to achieve both our individual and collective Better Endings we could all benefit from exploring and putting into practice ways to address or build bridges between highly polarized viewpoints. Some say we are living in a “tribal” sort of culture in America today, and in many other countries as well. Whether this is a result of polarization in our access to social media and news perspectives or primarily through the increasing gulf between political party outlooks, allegiances and goals, we are exposed to conflicting viewpoints daily. I feel that this extrinsic polarity and factionalism can reflect and/or could threaten our internal psychological and spiritual sense of integration or harmony.  Our very selves, let alone our families and communities too, may be subject to a greater sense of inner conflict or fragmentation to the extent we allow this, because of the challenging times we inhabit.

So every month this year I will set forth to explore a topic relevant to the overall theme and goal of “building bridges,” aiming to develop some positive outlooks and practices that might help me or any of us to heal or to improve upon tensions that might arise because of a polarization of viewpoints.

Let’s get started. This month I would like to both close this last year’s quest for manifesting happiness and to open this new year’s probe of “building bridges,” via exploring the topic of “service.”

I find that service is one of the best ways for me to be immersed in being happy in the moment. The expression “In service is my reward” feels exactly true for me. Whether through teaching or writing or listening to a friend or even walking my dog, the aspect of giving love through any form of service lifts my spirits.

Isn’t it interesting how service builds bridges? In providing a service, all are served equally (or should be, of course).  Political divides nearly dissolve when I interact with students, even when we know each other to hold different positions outside of that connection.  Why?  I feel it’ s my responsibility to be respectful of all points of view with students, so I may be better able to listen to points of view I might otherwise react strongly to when it is a student voicing the viewpoint. Of course, if there is a radical or extreme viewpoint I am likely going to say something to make it clear I cannot agree, with a clear focus on facts from the topic I am teaching about, but even so I do aim to be respectful and to encourage the student to explain their position clearly.

In giving service it is perhaps more natural to assume an equality-based connection, what I like to call “Soul Equals Soul.” So the question becomes, how can I be of greater service to the whole even while I am a consumer by choice of biased news or charged information? This shall be my December focus in preparation for a year of Building Bridges as a Better Endings theme.

If Life is Love, What Have I to Give?

 I want to share a waking dream this week. I came upon a documentary called “God’s Super Collider,” and I found it so fascinating I watched it three of four times. It is mainly about the Higgs field and Higgs particle (known as the God Particle), which give mass to everything in the known universe. Also it explains ‘dark energy’ and ‘dark matter’ better than I have seen before. But what I liked most is that the narrator/ filmmaker takes a gnostic turn with this scientific discussion into a treatise on God as Everything (and, No-Thing).  God is not outside but within every cell, every atom and particle of Its creation, the very air we breathe both metaphorically and literally. Since the Universe is One = ‘God’ = Love and love only, as THE cohesive and integrative weft and warp of reality or life itself, then It Just Is and that is All.

I Am… That… I Am.

I came away from this program with a mantra phrase that I practiced for several days:

“In Love I live and breathe and have my Being.”

This leads me back around to my monthly question about ‘How May I Serve?’ Since all life is One and we are each and all part of this Whole, then service to one is service to all, including care for oneself and one’s dear loved ones.

So I offer two techniques we can use to “take stock” of our capacity to be of greater service to the Whole:

First, make a list of your five (to ten) greatest strengths. I once attended a creativity conference where a workshop presenter had us write our five greatest weaknesses, then strengths; then he asked us to crumple the list of weaknesses and throw it away. Focus on your strengths to improve those and over time former weaknesses will also strengthen.

Second, write or talk about or make a list about: “What I Have to Give.”

List as many traits or qualities or abilities and talents you have developed that come to mind as ways you have been or could be of service in your life.

Review both lists or journal notes. When I did this I found myself noting beside each ‘what I have to give’ item in what domain or kind of relationship or activity I can or could express that trait. For instance, “caring” I can and do give to my pets, friends and family; while teaching I (can) give in more structured activities.

Try circling 3-5 of the qualities and/or strengths you have noted that seem to stand out to you as potentially linked; so, you can connect the dots between your greatest strengths and what you have to give. Looking then solely at these circled and linked elements, ask yourself if they suggest some specific sort of activity or a fresh approach to your developing and offering a new form of service?

images are from pixabay.com

I welcome YOUR Story and Comments!

In Service Is My Reward

For 45 years I have participated in service activities with my spiritual group, and I have taught university courses first as a grad student then  as a professor and author for forty years altogether. Service is baked into my sense of identity and purpose. I would feel bereft without the opportunity to serve, wherever and however I can be of use. A credo I have adopted is:

In service is my reward.

I put this out there because this month’s question is about how to be of service in a new location after semi-retirement, which I feel is a fundamental necessity for continuing growth and development. Living your Dream, Now!, which is the through line of my book, Your Life Path (see right panel), does not mean “settling” into an inert, less than active life. Quite the contrary; Living Your Dream means to be following (in Joseph Campbell’s terms), yet I would say, manifesting your Bliss! For as you achieve one facet of your fulfillment, this opens doors to pathways leading forth to many more.

In Indian traditions (both continental Indian Hinduism and some Native American cultures) conceptually a lifetime can be understood to be comprised of four stages or cycles. Elder-hood can be a period of reflection that bears the fruits of Wisdom, not just head or fact knowledge. Wisdom is expressed as service to one’s community based on the wealth of experience an elder has attained. Giving back, offering insights from a life well lived, is a vital stage by which the generations turn in the gyre of transformation and continuation of growth and enlightenment.

images are from pixabay.com

So I am ready to step forward, to volunteer in my new community and to forge continuing pathways forward with writing and other creative activities. I find that having made this commitment, already avenues are opening. I dreamed of an advertisement for my life mapping services. I will add some info in the blog tabs shortly. Plus I have been welcomed to help in a political context, and ideas are flowing for writing.

Service and love are one and the same, as forms of reciprocity in community.

I welcome YOUR story, and comments.

How May I Serve Thee?

My July Quest theme is “How May I Serve Thee?” By Thee I address the Universal Oneness by which we are all interconnected: all beings; all states of consciousness including all humans, other animals, all of Nature and Spirit. I could say, how might I serve All that Is, but I prefer to include You, dear readers, family and friends.

Service is in so many ways what I identify with as my ‘mission’ and goal in this lifetime. As my overall Quest this year is to manifest true happiness in my new post/semi-retirement location, and since service is the means by which I might fulfill my purpose, then service is the basis of my happiness. Hence ‘How May I Serve Thee?’, day by day, moment by moment is my means as well as my measure of happiness.

images are from pixabay.com

A practice I have been using this week, based on a morning contemplation insight, is to ask myself several times every day:

What More Can I Do, Today?

This has been a fine motivator this week. It has helped me revitalize my writing goals and to refine my writing activities, for writing is one primary outlet for service to me. In addition, this prompt helps me daily to clarify and focus on priorities and opportunities, including tasks but also expanding to creative action.

What I CAN– not should or would or might — DO opens unlimited possibilities of the Moment. I CAN, for example:

walk with my dog, read, write, explore new horizons locally, meet new neighbors, exercise at the Y, write a blog post, outline chapters, edit, respond to and send emails, read poetry, contemplate, watch documentaries, like other peoples’ blogs, interact over social networks, grade papers online,  kayak with a new friend; you see? Endless vistas of possibility unfold to reveal the multidimensional potentials of Now! And all of these actions can be engaged with as modes of service to Life.

So, I give to Thee:

What More Can You Do, Today?

I welcome YOUR Story and Comments

Why Are You Here?

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June is my birth month, this year I’ll be 65. I find myself living my dream, now, as I have discovered, purchased, and moved into my dream retirement home in a beautiful natural setting, with a dynamic community, and with excellent regional resources and opportunities. I must admit, this scares me! Will it all come crashing down, too good to be  true? This trepidation reveals to me a self-limiting postulate that I need to confront and resolve in order to go forward with this fresh set of life conditions. My monthly question becomes:

Why Am I Here?

I have always recognized the double entendre of this age-old question, ‘Why are you here?’ Why here, at this physical place and time; or also why Here, in a spiritual sense. These two are connected from the perspective of Purpose. What am I here to do, be, and see? This also relates for me to a search for greater clarity regarding an even deeper concern:

How Can I Serve?

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Wednesday night last week I happened upon a sci-fi movie on TV that I had not heard of before, called “Passengers.” It was about two people on an interstellar spaceship traveling some 88 years to reach a habitable planet. Some 5000 passengers had been cryogenetically suspended for the duration of the voyage, but a malfunction caused one man, Jim, to resuscitate early, and after over a year alone, he revived a woman, Aurora, whom he had developed a fondness toward from watching her autobiographical video records. This was an atrocious act of selfishness as it meant Aurora, too, would die in transit before the ship could arrive at its destination.

(Spoiler alert): After an initial phase of believing Jim’s story that she had awakened accidentally, Aurora becomes enraged after a robotic bartender informs her of Jim’s actions to assuage his own loneliness. But my interest in this story piqued when the ship developed further malfunctions that required Aurora and Jim to work together to repair the vessel if the ship were to reach its destination at all, and for all its passengers to survive as well as themselves. It became a matter of Purpose then; I could surmise from a spiritual perspective that there had been no accidents at all in the revival of this man and this woman, with their particular skillsets and their survivalist personality dispositions. They were needed to save the ship and its passengers, a purpose of collective, not just personal, good. Their lives then took on a heightened significance; they had a purpose, a reason to be who/ what/ where and when they were in their own sojourns of discovery and service.

Already I have had a waking dream about this question, from a conversation with my sister who is a pastor in New England soon to be retiring after more than 40 years of serving as interim pastor in many churches. We arrived at the awareness:

Love Is All There Is.

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images are from pixabay.com

For all of our human questioning as members of an often overly self-conscious species (my dog Sophie and cat Emily do not have this problem!), I do feel that at the foundation of everything–of all sentient experience–is Love: unconditional, untaintable. I sense if I can connect these principles of service and love I can accept that I, like everyone, am indeed here for a greater purpose than personal satisfaction or material success. Therefore I have a right to be Here-Now and am willing to step forward to fulfill whatever service opportunities I can. Already here and now, I am writing!

I welcome YOUR Story and Comments!

The Hero Cycle as Rites of Passage

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The Return is a significant stage of achievement in a Hero Cycle adventure, marking the hero as ‘bringing home’ the strengths and wisdom s/he has attained through facing life’s arduous challenges and fulfilling their Quest. As the Hero returns, s/he benefits all Life and the family and community s/he serves more selflessly after having individuated as a mature, dynamic Self.

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But there is more to the story. Keep in mind that the Hero Cycle represents the mythic structure of a Rites of Passage ordeal which the individual (or group) undergoes to bring about a transformation of his/her/their Identity or to rebalance a situation tending toward decline. The three phases of a complete Rites of Passage cycle include rites of Separation, Transition, and Reintegration. These three universal phases of Rites of Passage cycles are mirrored in the three primary stages of a Hero Cycle adventure: Departure, Fulfillment, and Return.

The Return phase of a Hero’s Adventure involves a Reintegration back into the web of relations, roles, and aspirations of the hero’s Home Base; yet the hero returns to bring bounty to the Whole from having achieved individuation as a powerful, more loving and self-actualizing Self.

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images are from pixabay.com

Reintegration means rejoining a community you had departed from in order to gain maturity and to refine your talents. You rejoin this community with a higher order of Identity, from which you can better serve the growth potentials of the Whole.

Thus when Dorothy returns to Oz as a Self-integrated, mature Person, somehow we know that Toto is going to be okay. Dorothy brings back with her the integrated strengths of Courage, Heart, and Wisdom that she had lacked, and in this more aware, empowered Self she expresses the ultimate realization:

“There’s No Place Like Home!”

Fruition!

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Ideation–Goal-Setting—Planning—Development/Learning—Trials/Practice—Implementation—Fulfillment–Fruition!  Such is the process of Creative Manifestation, and I must admit, I love it. There is no feeling more satisfying to me (right up there with sharing timespace with my pets and family and friends) than arriving at Fruition for some worthwhile, service-oriented project.

I say service, and that is important to me.  It is not only a PRODUCT that is generated through a manifestation process that lights me up, but to be worthwhile there must also be a SERVICE brought to fruition. The product must serve the whole in a positive, growth-enhancing manner; that lights my fire!

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My father (bless his Soul, I dreamed of him this morning) used to tell me: “If you’re going to be a ditch digger, then be the best darned ditch digger you can be!” Dad worked his way through college at Ohio State University just after serving as a bomber pilot in the Pacific in WWII by digging ditches for a telephone cable service.

I recall myself similarly working for college tuition over two summers as the sole farmhand for a farmer’s peach orchard and grape vineyards in New York state. Coming home at the end of a grueling, hot day in the orchard or dragging the vineyards on a tractor brought the same feeling of Fruition that I later associate with planning and implementing a seminar or public outreach service for my spiritual organization, and seeing my book, Your Life Path –with deep thanks to my agent, editor and publicist team!!–, going to production this week!

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images are gratefully from pixabay.com

I will be graduating (er, retiring) from full-time academic service as a professor this summer after teaching for nearly forty years altogether, and that will of course bring a major project to fruition.  I have accomplished what I set out to do over the past 25 years at my present post in many respects, and I will go forth still teaching but focusing full-time on writing and related services for a wider field of sharing. I intend for my final blog when I leave this post in Academe this June to be titled:

Mischief Managed!

What brings YOU to a feeling of Fruition or of successful Completion? What service project are you working on Now that will light YOU up again for the good of the Whole?

To me, this image of LIGHTING YOUR FIRE through bringing a worthy project to Fruition is apt: for Fruition lets us tap into that Holy Fire which empowers us to light the world through our service.

I welcome YOUR Comments and Story!