Service and Mindfulness in a Busy World
A little over 10 years ago, I was at a crossroads in my life. I was juggling motherhood, work, and marriage as were many of my friends and family at that time. As stressful as it was keeping these balls in the air, it seemed to be expected, so none of us really questioned it. Well, almost no one. As a kid, I would question why things were the way they were, such as customs, traditions and norms. Yet, I was expected to be obedient and conform without questioning. So my youth made my questions seem disrespectful and I was quickly shut down. However, that didn't stop me from questioning, I just didn't do it out loud around certain people nor as often as I should have, thinking back.
When job stress started to impact my health, I took a closer look at my lifestyle and thought about the choices I had made. As a way to relieve stress I had started journaling at least once a day. Many of the entries were about the things I had been conditioned to accept. Through these writings I found the source of my pain. I realized that many of my choices were the result of wanting to please others and fulfill others' version of happiness, rather than my own. The pain showed me where the imbalances in my life were and I began working on the task of getting right with myself. Doing so made me think about other people I knew who also were unhappy with circumstances they believed they could not change, as I once believed. Now that I was seeing things more clearly, I wished I'd found this wisdom sooner, and how I might have steered my life differently as a result. Having this awareness as a younger person would have helped me make better choices, I believed. I wanted to share my realizations as I was noting a difference in the quality of my life now that my awareness was changing. I just didn't know where to begin. Then, serendipity came to the rescue.
Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”.
Service, to me, meant giving one's time and effort with compassion and without expectation of a reward. I knew I wanted to serve others through the lessons from my own life experience. I felt very strongly that teaching others from a young age to think for themselves and make good choices would empower them for the rest of their lives. Within a couple of days after declaring my mission, the weekly city paper was delivered with an ad for volunteers interested in mentoring local young people in leadership training. The program was called “Reaching Higher”. Having been recently unemployed, I had time to devote to the program and was excited when I was accepted.
I was one of 10 adults tasked with mentoring a group of 22 high school students who were in danger of failing school due to conditions at home which were having an adverse impact on their studies. For eight weeks, we had weekly meetings with the group exchanging stories about challenges and hardships. Mentors shared how we overcame our personal experiences and provided them with tools for self - empowerment. We also checked in with mentees with a brief phone call and mailed home notes of encouragement. The students' circle of awareness grew surrounded by peers and teachers who supported their success. By the end of the program, grades had improved as had their self-esteem and their relationships with family, friends and themselves. Watching these young people blossom was a reward in itself. In finding themselves, they had become an inspiration to many, including me.
Through this experience, I came to regard Service as an aspect of Mindfulness. Service puts us into relationship with others and regardless of how large or small our actions, we are transformed into a conduit for upliftment. Asking “How may I serve today?” is a message to the universe that you are open to receive the opportunities and inspirations that will allow you to do so in as many areas of your life as you like. Random or not, service is an act of kindness. Always look for opportunities to kind and do so. The rewards far outweigh the effort. As you open from within, your outer world will open in reflection of you. That's all it takes.
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Sonia Guadalupe is an Associate Polarity Practitioner, reflexologist and artist. Through her work she teaches people of all ages how to use their energy to improve their quality of life. “Illuminated Universe: A View from The Source” (published by Balboa Books) is her first book.