Serving is our path to wholeness


I‘ve posted here before about holistic Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen. Herself a patient with Crohn’s disease since the age of 15, most of her work in medicine has been with patients at their ends of their lives with cancer. 

She has created a program, called Commonweal, for cancer patients to gather and experience healing, if not a cure. She has created The Healer’s Art, a curriculum for doctors to gather and heal from their work: not being allowed to grieve for their patients, medicine’s emphasis on science and dismissal of spirit and mystery, and from the medical system itself that stresses being an expert over being a person. It is taught in many medical schools now.

She has written books telling the stories of life, of healing, of what’s important that she learned as a very young child from her Rabbi grandfather and as a doctor tending to her dying patients. 

This passage I just read this morning from her book, My Grandfather’s Blessings and it seems particularly fitting this weekend over the Easter and Passover holiday:

“Serving anything worthwhile is a commitment to a direction over time and may require us to relinquish many moment-to-moment attachments, to let go of pride, approval, recognition, or even success. This is true whether we be parents, researchers, educators, artists, or heads of state. Serving life may require a faithfulness to purpose that lasts over a lifetime. It is less a work of the ego than a choice of the soul.”

I know so many people through this work who serve and I believe it is our path to wholeness. 

I try, as a practice, to be kind, to be conscious and to leave people feeling a little better than before I wandered into their space. But it’s a practice and I need to be reminded to be conscious on a regular basis.

Be brave with your life so that others can be brave with theirs

Screen Shot 2015-02-07 at 2.00.06 PM

I make no New Year’s resolutions because I know it’s just wishing on fairy dust: what I intend to do I will and what’s not that important to me I likely won’t. So, why set myself up for failure and disappointment?

But what I do want to do in 2013 is be a little more conscious of two practices I employ. The first is to be kind to everyone, in every interaction. For sure it’s not always easy, but I know even when someone is caught up in negative emotions – anger, frustration, jealousy, whatever – if I’m kind, their mood shifts from dark to light and they are more likely to greet the next person they interact with with kindness.

Second is the quote above I read some time ago, “Be brave with your life so that others can be brave with theirs.” I’ve forgotten where I read it, although I do know it was written by a woman named Katherine Center. 

I think in some ways this is a life lesson for me. For me it means go after your dreams, dare to be successful, be true to yourself, reach to be your best, brightest self. Even if that means you stand out. For someone who grew up shy, that’s a tall order.

But I’ve realized not a selfish one, as you might first think, but an unselfish one. The more we shine, provided we do it not from arrogance, but authenticity, striving to be our best self, the more we inspire others to shine, be brave, dare to go after their dreams. 

The photo above signifies this for me. I took it last week on my morning walk. The single tree in bloom, reaching ever upward, reminds me of this quote. Stand tall, let your gifts shine and those around you will be moved to do the same. 

These are the two things I’ll be practicing this year.