You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘being of service’ tag.

So there I was, walking through the book store  making a bee line to the children’s section when I saw this cute little puppy dog on the cover of a  book and it was on sale for $4.98.  Add that to my to my favorite word ever, “Bliss”, it was a MUST HAVE!!!!!

I was once told that the quickest way to feel happiness is to play with a pet.  I wasn’t sure if that was true or not.  I have never been a big animal person.  I have always had pets, but I have never really been attached to them so I really didn’t understand this.  Until I was really sad and my cat came up to me to love me and make me feel better.  Then my dog would ask me to play and I would laugh so hard at him.  And I fell in love with my animals.  They have taught me some big lessons.  So it was fun picking up this book and learning some lessons on happiness from Trixie the dog.

I also have to say that it was fun reading a book by Dean Koontz that was on the “light and fluffy” side :).

This book was written from Trixie’s point of view, and was a little odd to read at first.  But as soon as I fell into the rhythm of the writing, it all began to make sense, and I really enjoyed the book.

According to Trixie, “the road to bliss is paved with dog wisdom.” And there are 8 steps.  I will not tell you what those steps are; that is for you to read and find out!  But here are some lessons I learned while reading Trixie’s thoughts:

1) Sit still and be quiet.  Meditation is good.

2)  The rising moon at the bottom of a finger nail is beautiful.  I  never really noticed this before!

3) Life without a cookie is unthinkable!

4) “Pleasure without beauty is just empty thrill”…kinda like Sex without love…..hmmm….same thing, yes?

5) “The world is a gift to  make you happy.”

6) “Here is what real meaning is like.  Maybe you’re meant to give kindness to one special child.  Child grows up, is healer or wise leader.  then your purpose was as big as any king’s, maybe bigger.”  Being a stay at home mom….priceless and so very important!

7) “It is what it is.”  “No Kidding.  if it isn’t what it is, then what would it be?  And if it is what it isn’t, what the hell is going on here?”

8)  “Where there is patience and humility, there is neither anger nor vexation.” ~ St. Francis

9)  If I want to remain young, I must play and laugh more!

10) Grief is cleansing.

Bonus reminder:  Be grateful!!!!!!!!

This book is filled with such heart warming and profound wisdom..straight from the dog’s mouth!  You will laugh and maybe even cry while reading this book.  One thing is for certain, you will smile!!!!!


“What would happen if you discovered the primary love language of your spouse and chose to speak it consistently?”  This is the question Dr. Chapman raises in his book The 5 Love Languages.

I will be honest.  I heard about The 5 Love Languages (the book and the concept) several years ago.  At the time, I did not read the book.  I thought it was a bunch of….ummm….nonsense.  However, I did take the quiz.  My husband took the quiz.  My  kids took the quiz.  But we did nothing with it.

Maybe if we had done something with it, my husband and I would not go through the same cycle of disappointments that we go through every  year.  This year, that cycle hit us hard…harder than it ever has before.  We sought out a marriage counselor..thinking we (I) needed sex therapy.  (Maybe this is too personal to talk about on  my blog….but it’s the truth..and very vital in possibly helping someone who is struggling.)  Every year, my husband and I would “get into it” because he felt like he wasn’t getting enough sex.  I would take it personally and feel like I was being pressured into having sex.  With my history of sexual abuse, this did not go over so well.  But something has to give!  Something has to be changed if our marriage is to survive!  The fact is, we have been together for 27  years, and we love each other.  We do not want to separate and we want to make this work.  So we went to therapy..a sex therapist.  The only one in town, it seems.  But he was old…..VERY OLD.  So old, in fact, he couldn’t hear, couldn’t see, barely walk, and couldn’t remember what we said 2 minutes before.  I’m sure he had great things to say…back when.  But now, well, it just wasn’t working for us.  AND…he made it sound like it was *me* that was the problem.  I just had to suck it up and give it up.  That wasn’t the answer.  So we never went back.

I continued searching for something to help.  We watched the movie Fireproof that was based on the book The Love Dare.  The movie was “okay”.  It had some valid points, but it was highly Christian which was a turn off to my husband and myself.  It seemed to be more about “becoming a Christian” than saving a marriage.  So I thought that maybe the book would be a bit different…… I am currently reading through it on a day by day basis as it is a 40 day Love Dare.  I’m over half way through and will blog about that book when I am done.  At the same time, I decided to read The 5 Love Languages, and I loved it!

I’m sure you have heard about the book “Men are from Mars Women are from Venus”.  I have never read that book, but as I remember what I have  heard about it, I believe it is about the different ways men and women communicate.  5 Love Languages is about the different ways we all communicate our love.  So what are the 5 Love Language?  Words of Affirmation.  Quality Time.  Receiving Gifts.  Acts of Service.  Physical Touch.   In the back of the book, there is a “quiz” for both the husband and the wife to take (individually) to see what their Love Language is.  However, Dr. Chapman says you can also figure out what your spouse’s Love Language is by listening to their complaints.  Are they complaining you never talk to them?  Then Quality Time may be their primary Love Language.  Are they constantly asking you to do things or complaining you never help around the house?  Then consider Acts of Service.  If we listen to the complaints of our spouses, we will likely hear their Love Language. Also, I was told once as a teenager (by my mother in  law) that people do for their loved ones what they would have done for them.  Dr. Chapman says the same thing…..  Does your spouse constantly praise you verbally?  Maybe Words of Affirmation is THEIR love language.

All the way through the book, Dr. Chapman allows you to sit in on his counseling sessions and learn the ways in which he helps his clients.  You get to see how their lives and marriages change!  It’s a fascinating and eye-opening read.  I learned more about myself the way I wish my “love tank” would be filled…and more importantly, how I can help my own husband feel more loved.

Dr. Chapman explains that the “in-love” feeling we all get at the beginning of our relationships can last up to 2 years, but then what?  It might not even last a complete 2 years, and by then, you may already be married!  Then what do you do with the rest of your lives?  “That is what this book is all about.  How do we meet each other’s deep, emotional need to feel loved?  if we can  learn that and choose to do it, then the love we share will be exciting beyond anything we ever felt when we were infatuated.”

Lest you think this book is all about theory and not practice, let me set you straight.  At the end of every chapter, there is a little part called “your turn” where he asks you questions and challenges you to be better.  Do them!  Be an active participant in your life and in healing your relationship (or maybe just making it better).  It certainly won’t get better if you do nothing!  I have to say that my favorite chapter was Chapter 12 “Loving the Unlovely”.  It follows the story of a woman who felt like her marriage was done for but struggled between her faith and morals saying divorce was wrong and the feeling that she just wasn’t loved and there was nothing she could do.  Dr. Chapman gave her a 6 month challenge, and at the end……she had the marriage she had always dreamed of.

Seriously?  Can it be that easy?  Not sure “easy” is the right word.  It can be difficult to feel like you are the only one working on your relationship..and sometimes its not just a feeling; it’s the God’s honest truth!   But I found that trusting the process helps.   As I have been working through The Love Dare, even though I found myself resentful that *I* was doing it and  not Tracy (long story), I have been telling myself to trust the process.  I did my dares, and as I did them, I saw Tracy respond.  (I don’t think Tracy knows I am doing them… least I have made a point of not telling him.)  So, now, having finished The 5 Love Languages, I have decided to take the 6 Month Challenge.

My marriage is sacred to me.  I love my husband with all of my heart.  I always have and expect to always feel this way.  I knew the minute I saw him that I was supposed to marry him.  It was that “knowing” that has kept me strong over the last 27 years.  THAT is what I remember when I am hurting most.  I believe that when we are struggling in our marriage, it just means that its time to learn to communicate and grow again… here we go… more growing!!!!  Isn’t that what this blog…”The God Project” …is all about??????

So how about you?  Want to take the challenge with me?


BTW…..Dr. Chapman has also written a book on The 5 Love Languages for children!  Check out his website

Last weekend, I had the distinct pleasure of directing/leading the Idaho Women’s Retreat for women living with HIV/AIDS for the 2nd year. I may be the director of the retreat, but these women give me so much!  I learn so much from them each year…about strength, forgiveness, and so much more!

I had such a great time with them last weekend, and we even ended it in time for me to head to church.  Last week’s message was on Joy being the a quality of God.  I love “Joy”.  I feel it  every day, and after hearing about it at the end of the Women’s Retreat, I just cried…big ol’ crocodile tears from joy over flowing!

Rev. Jackie showed us the difference between Happiness and Joy.  Happiness is a reactionary emotion (something you feel because something good is happening) and Joy is a causative emotion (we act FROM joy not because of joy).  This is what I feel in my every day life. I feel joy in everything, even when some things just don’t look “joyous”.  Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11)  Joy is INSIDE us already; we carry it with us at all times.  It just needs to be revealed to surrendering our worries and cares.

I have been told lately that I glow.  I believe I glow because it is the joy radiating from inside of me.  I live a life that is truly blessed, and I believe it is blessed in every area!  That doesn’t mean I don’t have my hiccups in life, it just means that I recognize the perfection in every part of  my life.  It also means that I listen to the GUIDance of God…my divine discernment.

Have you ever looked at the word “guidance”? Rev. Jackie, reminded me about the word’s significance in the message yesterday.  The word DANCE is the majority of the word.  Who doesn’t feel joy when they just dance?  Whether they just let go on a dance floor or find themselves dancing through life.  I tend to do both.  But the first part of the word is GUI (God U (you) and I).  God, U (you) and I DANCE.  When we ask for guidance from god and we let go and trust, then we will find oursevles dancing with God.  When we fight it..that is when we struggle and we lose our joy.

So how does this all work with the Women’s Retreat?  Well…here it is.

This year, no matter how hard I tried, I could not find presenters to present at the Women’s Retreat.  I asked everyone I knew.  Even the ones from last year who said they wanted to participate this year wouldn’t return  my emails or phone calls.  It was crazy.  So I asked God for discernment and GUIDance.  What I was told was that it was all perfect and that it was time for me to present my own workshop…one that I had prepared years ago.  The Hero’s Journey.  I was to present this to the women to help them find their own Hero inside their HIV journey.  Once I realized this, I was completely at ease.

And of course, it WAS perfect.  During the workshop, one of the women said that her boyfriend had been studying alot of Joseph Campbell’s work and now she has a better understanding of what he has been looking at.  It has really helped her understand.  Not to mention, the original intention was to help the women find their own Hero within, and that is exactly what we did.  There were some “a-ha moments” over the weekend.  We had a great time!  The weekend was relaxing and done perfectly…time to learn..time to reflect…time to laugh..time to share stories with each other.  It was beautiful and easy.  We “danced” through the weekend.

These women are beautiful and powerful.  I have learned so much from them, and it is my pleasure to be of service to them.  One of them kept saying how good I am for giving so much for no monetary value.  I don’t know how “good” I am, but I do know how “blessed” I am.  This is my calling, and when you follow your calling, all things fall into place.

As I prepared for the weekend, and I surrendered to the will of God and what was supposed to be, I watched everything unfold.  And I remembered the very moment in which I was called to be a retreat director.  The vision I had for the women’s retreats was completely different than what I do now, and there is no question in my mind that what I do now is EXACTLY what I am suppose to be doing!

Psalms 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”  I have listened to the divine discernment and GUIDance given to me and I experience the fullness of joy at every turn!  I am so very grateful!

When was the last time, you just let go and Danced with God and felt the Joy that is within you already? Just try it, you won’t regret it!

Last week, I received an email from the VP of The Community Center (a place for the LGBT people of Boise to gather for their groups, clubs, or entertainment) saying that I had been nominated for the Willow(Community Volunteer) Award–to the LGBT individual in a non-leadership role for community service.  The actual nomination read:

Martha Spiva–Martha has been working with a.l.p.h.a. as a volunteer for several years, planning the Idaho Women’s Retreat for 2 years now, helping out with Forever Red, and bringing in new partners.  She also works with the Girl Scouts and a number of other groups as a volunteer.  she is a great representative of the queer community.

I was floored, shocked, surprised, but most of all honored!  As it turns out, Duane Quintana the Executive Director of a.l.p.h.a. (Allies Linked for the Prevention of HIV and AIDS) nominated me.  He later told me that he believed I was a great example of the “queer community” (as a bisexual woman) who volunteers not just in the “gay community” but in the Boise community at large.

While it is true, I do volunteer for several different organizations, I never really thought about how much I volunteer (except for on those exhausting weeks where it feels like I don’t have time for everything).  It is just what I do.  My life is dedicated to being of service.

When I was told that I was nominated, I cried.  I know that for those of you who know me, the fact that I cried is NOT a shocker.  I cry at everything.  But this was different because of where this award is coming from.  I realized that I had come full circle.

Just before we moved away from Phoenix, Arizona, I was just starting to “come out” as bisexual.  Some people accepted me like “Whats the big deal?”.  Yet other’s who accepted me at first threatened to throw it in my face later.  See, I was a volunteer for the Cub Scouts (totally homophobic organization and does NOT allow anything other than straight people to be leaders.)  I was also on the board of my child’s school Family Teacher Organization.  I was a pillar in my community and well-known.  When I finally pulled my children out of Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, my “friend” took this personally and threatened to “out” me to all of the parents at our children’s school.  Shortly after that, my husband’s company moved us to Boise, Idaho.

I decided that when we moved to Boise, I was going to live my life “out of the closet”.  Yes, I’m married; yes, I’m bisexual.  The first thing I did was look for a LGBT community center, and I found it.  They were amazingly welcoming.  I started attending a group called Your Family Friends and Neighbors.  Looking to get my kids involved in something, I attended the youth group there. I also attended the women’s Halloween dance.  Everything was going great until a lesbian woman at the dance found out that I was married & bisexual, and she shunned me.  I then gave up on being part of the LGBT community.  I did find other people who loved and accepted me just the way I am, and continued on with my life.  We love it here in Boise!

Eventually, I got involved with a.l.p.h.a.  I had heard about the organization from my massage clients and from my son’s friends who volunteered there while she was in high school.  But it wasn’t until one of my husband’s friends contacted me to ask me to do massages for the Idaho Women’s Retreat (for women living with HIV/AIDS) that I really got involved.  I ended up running the retreat and getting involved with a.l.p.h.a. in other ways….like condom raids, teaching compassion classes, planning Forever Red (the Award Banquet), and KYS’s (Know You Status FREE HIV testing events).  As you might imagine, while volunteering with a.l.p.h.a. and HIV/AIDS centered organization, I started getting to know alot of the LGBT community.  Here I found acceptance as a married bisexual woman!  I was just one of the gang!  I love working with these people!

And now, here I was being nominated for this award by the community that at first shunned me…and now is awarding me as one of them volunteering FOR them as well as our community at large!  I finally felt like I was “home”!

I looked at the other nominees; they either volunteered for The  Community Center (the people hosting the award ceremony) or they were very well-known people within the LGBT community.  I didn’t think I had a chance at winning.  But it was put to a public vote.  We were encouraged to send out the email and post it on facebook….and that is exactly what I did.  Sure enough, I had enough votes, I was awarded the Willow Award for being a bisexual woman who performs community service in and outside the LGBT community!  This felt amazing!

They called my name, and I could hardly believe it.  I walked up to the stage and was given the chance to make an acceptance speech where I shared my story of contacting The Community Center first..and now I am receiving an award from them.  Everything goes full circle!

I am humbled and honored just from the nomination, and even more so with the fact that people voted for me and I won.  Volunteering is something that I do.  It is my “job”.  I am very fortunate to be able to be a stay at home  mom and volunteer my time.  I am grateful to my husband for supporting me in this and for my family being generous with their “mom time” and sharing me with our community.  I could never do what I do without my family!  I am very blessed!

And I was just told this morning that I am being nominated for another award; this time it’s a national award with the opportunity (if I win) to be awarded a significant amount of money to be donated to my volunteer organization.  For the nomination process, I was asked to gather and write a kind of resume of my community service.  I only started keeping track in 1998.  But it dawned on me that I have been volunteering since I was  12 years old.  That is 29 years of community service!!!  I am so very grateful for the opportunity to be of service to my community (where ever that is at the time).  I have touched so many lives, but in turn so many lives have touched mine in ways that I will never be able to communicate.

My life is truly blessed and not a moment goes by that I do not recognize this.

Thank you for everyone who voted for me to receive The Willow Award.  Thank you to my family for all of your support.  Thank you to a.l.p.h.a. for using my talents and pushing me to be better with them.  Thank you to the Girl Scouts of America for being inclusive and being such great examples for our girls.  Thank you to the Junior League of Boise for providing me with the leadership opportunities so that I can grow and be stronger!

If you ever have the opportunity to be of service, even if its just for one hour, please take it.  Every minute of service counts.  Remember that what you give, you will receive.  You get from life what you put into it.  What are you putting into your life?  Are you giving back?  Are you paying it forward?  I hope so; you won’t regret it!  I  never do!

Wow!  What a journey this book has been!  Three weeks to finish 243 pages!  Crazy!  What I have learned about myself and about being of service has been amazing.

Chapter 6: The Way of Social Action

I have never been a big social activist.  I have participated in a few peace rallies and a few same-sex marriage rallies, but that is about it.  What I have observed from others and from my own point of view on Social Action or Political Stands is that there always seems to be alot of passion for both sides, and sometimes those passions manifest in angry demonstrations, when in reality each side just wants to be heard and wants the world to be a better place.

This is a great quote: “There’s one thing I’ve learned in twenty-five years or so of political organizing:  People don’t like to be “should” upon.  They’d rather discover than be told.”

I think when we get really passionate about something, we yell and scream louder and louder at the people on the other side of the fence.  “If you would just think the way *I* think, we could make this world a better place!”  I can tell you, as an adult that was raised by very conservative Christian parents, being TOLD what I SHOULD believe and that what I DO believe is wrong, never helps my parents’ cause :).  So I’m certain, this kind of “yelling” over the fence doesn’t help the cause (whatever it is) either.  People tend to run the other way.

This passion that we feel that manifests in anger or a “negative” feeling may “prevent us from calling upon deeper human virtues that often move us all to act.  In anger we may lose sight of love.  In fear, we may sacrifice trust and courage.  In guilt, we may deny self-worth and obstruct inspiration.”  Is that what we really want?  Is that how true change happens?

Social action really isn’t about WHAT we do but in the spirit in which we act.  “Even the slightest bit of self-righteousness can get in the way.”  Our aim should be “to awaken together and see what follows, not to manipulate one another into this action or that.”

So how do we do this?  Long before I read this book…actually 10 years ago, while I was in storytelling school, I had a realization (all on my own).  If we all sat down and shared our stories, we would find out that we are not so different than the person sitting next to us.  We would find out that we all want the same general things…love, peace, acceptance, forgiveness….  I believed that storytelling would/could end prejudice and war.  In this same thought, sitting down and sharing our stories with one another can help us enter into Social Action with a clearer sense of what needs to be done and HOW to do it in a peaceful for effective way.

During this entire book, we have discussed the idea of separateness and unity. If we act from Unity, we will be able to provide better service.  “We’re here to awaken from the illusion of separateness……Unity has to be what’s most real in consciousness if it’s going to have full power in action.  Ultimately, it’s got to be what we ‘are’.”

This quote fills my cup to overflowing:  “The soul force is indestructible and it goes on gaining power until it transforms everyone it touches.” ~ Gandhi

Chapter 7: Burnout

I have certainly felt the burnout form all of my volunteer work.  By the time the Girl Scout year comes to an end, I am exhausted.  When this current Junior League year began, I was already feeling exhausted and was looking forward to the end of the year when I can take a year off of leadership.  Don’t even get me started on the way I felt after hosting a women’s retreat for women living with HIV/AIDS.  BURNOUT!

Okay, you don’t even have to be a community service person or have a full-time job to feel this burnout.  As a mom, you know all too well what Burnout feels like.  Moms are on call 24×7….unless by some grace of god we get to “get away” for a day or a weekend without our kids (and even then we are worried and thinking about them).  BURNOUT!

So what’s the first thing we need to learn as service providers?  BE GENTLE WITH OURSELVES!  We can’t take care of other people, if we aren’t taking care of ourselves first.  We are compassionate for others, but what about us?  So how do we do this?

Be quiet and listen.  Simply observe (never judge) how we are feeling.  Once we can be quiet and observe what we are feeling, we might actually realize that sometimes our burnout is caused because of the expectations we carry into a certain service project….our movites that we bring with us.  If those expectations are not met or our motives are self-driven, we will have a tendency to feel “slighted” or maybe like we “wasted our time”, and this leads to a feeling of burnout.  Our own Ego gets us in trouble every single time.  Until we are quiet and listen, we may not even realize how often, in the guise of service, we try to impose our values on others.  Being the person that “should upons” takes alot of our energy..really it does.

“But if we can stay grounded in the essential unjudging character of the Witness….if we can just hold on and listen…we can draw some useful conclusions and move further towards a great sense of perspective.” (and service)

Here is a great quote for all of us “sacrificial moms”….Looking further into what we bring to the  helping act, we come upon perhaps an even more fundamental cause of burnout:  the feeling of personal responsibility; the sense that we are the authors of our actions; our identification of ourselves as the final source of service. We are the “doer” and we have to keep “doing” or nothing will get “done.”      Boy have I felt like this before!  Heck, I have even stated it in a very exasperated tone of voice, “Unless I clean the house, no one else will do it!”  And I angrily go about throwing things around and cleaning the house.  Have you been there?  Well I have news for you (and for me), it’s okay.  If the house gets messy, it’s okay.  Simply take a deep breath and ASK FOR HELP!  We don’t have to be the “be all and end all” for our family.  As a matter of fact, they don’t want us to be; we just have to give them the opportunity to help :).  How freeing is that?

“It’s not always our efforts that burn us out; it’s where the mind is standing in relation to them.  the problem is not the work itself but the degree of our indentification with it.  It’s doers who burn out.”

Another reason we feel burnout?  Attachment to the outcome.  I know I have felt this way and have asked this question of myself.  “How do I know I am really making a difference?”  ‘How do I know that what I say is really helping these girls?”  Or better yet, as a mom, I have said, “What the heck did I do wrong, for my child to have made such a bad choice?”  All this worry, when all we really need to do is act from a space of love.  Provide the service, and let it go.  We can not control the actions of others and the choices that they make.  We can kids the right information.  We can give the homeless person on the street some money.  We can volunteer for an organization.  But in the end, what happens beyond that, is not up to us.  The minute we can let go of that attachment, we will feel light and free and be able to give more of ourselves.  It’s unconditional love at its finest :).  “We love eachother.  That’s enough.”

“To some degree or other, we have surrendered into service and are willing to pay the price of compassion.  But with it comes the joy of a single, caring act.  With it comes the honor of participating in a generous process in which one rises each day and does what one can.  With it comes the simple, singular grace of being an instrument of Love, in whatever form, to whatever end.”

Chapter 8:  Reprise:  Walking Each Other Home

Service is….beauty…remembering…gratitude..truth & honesty..chitchat..death (you die in service and you die into service)

“We are questions for one another.  And service is exploring them and awakening through them.”

“So service is ‘an endless series of questions,’ puzzling and insistent.  It not only raises questions, it helps to answer them.  Service is a curriculum.”

“Separateness and unity.  How interesting that these root causes, revealed in the experience of helping, turn out to be what most spiritual traditions define as the fundamental issue of life itself.  Awakening from our sense of separateness is what we are called to do in all things, not merely in service.  Whether these traditions speak of us as being cut off from God, Nature, Original Mind, True Being, the Tao, the Dharma–they call on us, in one voice, to undertake the journey back to unity.”

“Service, from this perspective, is part of that journey…..It is a vehicle through which we reach deeper understanding of life.”

I can honestly say that I have learned more about myself, my connection to God and humanity, and what is truly important to me through being of service.  It has truly been an awakening, and that feeling of unity while being of service is like none other.  I love this journey, and it is one I strive to instill into my own children.  It has been said in this book that first we work on ourselves in order to help others and then when we help others, it is a vehicle for working on ourselves.  It’s a beautiful thought..and oh so true.

I will end this blog with this thought:

This book is titled “How Can I Help?” and it starts of by saying we might feel like we don’t have anything to offer the world.  Yet it ends with this….

“Any act that can be performed in the spirit of unity can turn out to be helpful.”  “There’s no place special we have to be in order to help out.  right where we are, in whatever we’re already doing, the opportunity to be of service is almost always present.  We need only stay conscious and aware, and then gie whatever we can to whoever is right there.”

It’s that simple.

Chapter 4 “The Listening Mind”

I don’t know about you, but I always have a conversation going on in my head.  I have lists being made, being checked off, reviewed.  I am usually doing one thing and thinking about what I need to do next.  And when someone is talking to me, I quite often and wondering how to respond to them and/or trying to figure out how to help them (instead of really listening).  Active listening???  Not so much.  I am constantly reminding myself to practice ACTIVE listening…instead of being active while listening. *laugh*  So this chapter made complete sense to me!

When someone comes to talk to us and share their troubles, our minds tend to jump right into action.  They start talking, and we hear a little bit then immediately start to label/judge what they are saying.  We categorize what they are saying and then we pull up our experience with this category and staring listing ideas of how we can help them.  All the while, our friend is still sharing with us and we haven’t really be listening, have we?  They stop talking, or maybe they even ask us, “So what do you think?”.  Like a good friend, we have already made up our minds which direction to go and what to say, so we start spouting off our great ideas!  But are they really great?  Are they really what our friends need?  How can we even know what they really need if we were so busy thinking about what *WE* though they needed instead of listening for what their hearts are really telling us.  Whew!  Now there is something to think about.

So how do we stop this insanity?  How do we stop our minds from chattering about and making these lists and really detaching from our friends and/or people in need?  MEDITATE.  Stop the attachment to our thoughts.  Realize that yes, thoughts come and go, but they are not us and they certainly are not our friends.  They are just thoughts.  One will float on by and another will follow right behind it.  It’s okay.  Let them go.  Meditate, and quiet your mind.  Then in the still of that moment, your intuition will find a way to communicate with you, and you will KNOW what needs to be done to help your friend.  You will stop doing what YOU think is right, and really KNOW what IS right.  And maybe what is right is not doing anything at all, but just being there so that your friend feels heard.

In this chapter, it suggests practicing meditation and the art of letting go for 20 minutes a day.  Here is a great quote as it pertains to service:

“First, we have to appreciate the value of such qualities of mind and desire to develop them. Next we have to have faith in the possibility that we can indeed make progress.  Finally, we have to explore and practice appropriate techniques.  Twenty minutes a day of such practice can lead to results and the incentive to go deeper still.  Continuous practice brings about great transformation of mind and leads to a new quality of service.”

“When we function from this place of spacious awareness rather than from our analytic mind, we are often surprised to find solutions to problems without our having ‘figured them out.'”

Have you ever had the right answer just hit you like a ton of bricks..out of nowhere.  That Ah-Ha moment?  That is what this is like.  When we stop trying to “figure things out” and find that space of awareness where all things are possible, the right answer will just come to us.  When we stop being attached to the outcome of our own thoughts and about the way we think things should play out, and just give our own intuition the space to flow, we will truly be able to be of service to our friends, family, and people we serve around our community.  We won’t have to FIGHT it will flow freely.

When we listen to our friends, with this kind of spacious awareness  in our minds, our friends will FEEL truly heard, and sometimes, that is all that they need.  I know for myself, I am constantly telling my husband, “I don’t need you to fix anything, I just want to be heard.”  Stop going into “White Knight Syndrome” and just listen; that is the greatest gift you can give anyone :).

Meditate and Let Go………and you will be more effective in your service :).

Chapter 5 “Helping Prison”

When we as service providers start labeling ourselves and label the ones that we help, we have a tendency to get stuck, or trapped, within those labels or forms.  “Entrapment in these alienates us from one another:  a social worker and a juvenile offender just miss; a nurse and a patient seem worlds apart; a priest and a parishioner, so distant, so formal.  What otherwise could be a profound and intimate relationship becomes ships passing in the night.  In the effort to express compassion, we end up feeling estranged.  It’s distressing and puzzling.”

These rolls we play continue in separating us from our true desire which is to be of service and be helpFUL instead of being Helpers.  As long as we continue to separate ourselves from those we want to help, we will be unable to truly give them what they need.

So why do we do this?

As someone who is active in 3 different volunteer organizations, I found this chapter really enlightening.  Each of us has our own reasons for being of service, but one thing we can all say is that when we have truly made a difference in someone’s life, it feels good.  There is a reciprocity in service relationships, but there is a fine balance.  Do you provide service to feel a void in your life (so then the result for you is that you fill that void) or do you see a need for service and your provide it (and as a result feel good because you were able to help someone)?  That is the line.  Are you a Helper or are your being Helpful.  Are you a noun or a verb?

In one of the organizations I volunteer for, there is always an orientation meeting and a training process.  During orientation, the new ladies are always asked, “Why do you want to join us?”  The replies very, but many of the answers are: I want to make new friends, I want to network, I want to have adult interaction and get away from my kids for a bit, I would like the training you provide…then these are always followed by, “And oh ya, I want to give back to community.”  Not this is not true for all of the women in this organization.  Now this is an amazing organization with a heart of gold.  The women are talented, amazing and caring, and they have done some amazing work in my community.  I do not say any of this to disparage them or the organization, but when I read this quote from the book, i was reminded of this organization:  “Or maybe we’re just plain lonely.  Intimacy is what we’re looking for, and it’s often there to be found in a helping relationship.”  “Rare indeed is the individual for whom the helping act does not arise in part out of some personal motive.  To the extent that it does, however, what we are looking for is a role that meets a need….our need.  We’re looking to be helpers, not simply to be helpful.  A personal agenda leads us to invest in the position, not simply the function.  And we invest in other’s reactions to it as well.”

As this “God Project” is about ME and my own personal journey, I will admit that the previous quotes gave me pause.  Why do *I* belong to this particular organization.  What was *my* answer to the question “Why do you want to join us?”  What was my motive?   I will say that I joined this organization because it allowed me to follow my passion which was to inspire young women to be strong and independent.  It allowed me to work with young women; it allowed me to be of service to them..which is what I had been looking for.  I also joined the organization to make friends and for the training and for what it would look like on a resume’.  I’m not going to lie.  However, my first reason for joining was to be of service.  That was *my* answer.

As I continued reading, I found this quote about organizations: “The service organizations so many of us work for have an investment in collective self-image.  Reputations, budgets, relationships in the community, need to be protected and promoted.  By building and investing in formal helping institutions we often end up creating distances between who we think we are and those we’d like to serve.”  It’s this self-image that imprisons us as Helpers…rather than being helpful.

For me, I have found that in the organization I belong to, the “image” of the organization is so important that I believe we are afraid to get dirty.  We want to help as long as it feels and is politically correct.  After all, if we offend someone, we might lose funding or support.  However, I believe that the people we strive to help are rarely put together in nice neat packages that are politically correct.  In behaving this way, and in making these choices, we continue to separate ourselves from those we strive to help.

Another great quote from this book is from the philosopher Gurdjieff, “If we wish to escape from prison, the first thing we must acknowledge is that we ARE in prison.”  We can’t be helpful if we are in prison; if we are bound up by shackles of what others might think of us, we can not be helpful.  And it is for this reason, I have chosen to walk away from this organization.  I have learned alot from them, and I am totally grateful.  But I don’t do well in prisons, and I have found that there are many other places where I can inspire young women to be strong and independent.  This may mean joining another organization which may have some of the same issues; I don’t know.  I won’t know till I get there.  But one thing I have learned, is that if I don’t try, I’ll never grow : ).

This chapter also discusses the feeling of helplessness.  Until we know the feeling and sit in the acceptance of helplessness we will not be willing to accept help.  Until we can accept help ourselves, we will be unable to GIVE help and be helpful.  That is a pretty profound lesson.  As a “super mom”, I have been guilty of not allowing others to help me.  As a culture, we teach independence.  Our national holiday in the USA is INDEPENDENCE DAY!  But we need the community…..It’s okay to accept help graciously.  In doing so, we open ourselves up for such great learnings.  “Help has become a collaboration.  In this collaboration we see just how much we ourselves have to offer: our own perseverance, honesty, openness, gratitude humor.  And we may be amazed to find out how hungry people are for these qualities.”

I will end this blog entry with this quote:

“The challenge, then, the opportunity really, is to accept the roles in order to cut through them, and to cut through them in order to be able to participate in them without entrapment.”…..”it’s a chance to take on form in order to liberate one another from it.  This is the true work of a conscious human birth.  This is what we’re all here to do.”

Here’s to breaking out of prison!!!!

This chapter on Suffering was another HUGE chapter where I feel like every single page had something underlined and was dog-eared.   And again, it was very appropriate for what is going on in my life, and maybe even in your life.

In Western Civilization, we tend to push suffering aside.  We put it in nice neat little boxes that we can go visit when we have to, but other than that, “out of sight is out of mind.”  We put our elders in retirement homes or nursing homes.  We put our homeless in the downtown areas or “bad parts of town” away from our pretty little suburbs.

The thing is, our natural compassion jumps into action when we see suffering.  Like with Haiti.  Millions of people were affected by this earth quake.  The pictures we see are horrific.  And instantly, the world jumps into action.  Some people jump into action with the “gotta do” mentality.  It’s an instinct, a gut response.  But is this a reaction because we honestly want to help those hurting, or is it because we, ourselves, are hurting from watching this pain on TV and to  make ourselves feel better, we “gotta do” something to make it better (which helps US feel better).  I think sometimes this “gotta do” response is not really well thought and/or planned out well (like with Laura Silsby and her group who went to Haiti to rescue orphans).  I believe their heart was in the right place.  They wanted to help.  But is it possible they saw the pain and felt the pain themselves and went into “gotta do” mode and in turn made things worse or caused more harm?

My old teacher/mentor (James Arthur Ray) is in jail on 3 counts of manslaughter.  To many of us, who love/d this man, it was quite painful to see him do the “perp walk” and see his mug shot.  It’s our natural compassion at work.  No one wants to see someone they care for in pain (even if they might have done something to deserve it)….like a child who did something wrong, and you know they have to suffer the consequences.  It hurts to watch them learn their lessons, but you know they have to do it.  Well, with James and his students, it’s the same way.  I am not defending him in the slightest, yet for his students/fans/followers (even the ones who are completely against him now) there was a twinge of pain seeing him like this.  But SOME of his still avid fans and followers are talking about raising money for his bail.  Why?  James is in jail because the authorities believe they have enough evidence of wrong doing.  This is James’ process to go through.  He needs to be there to learn his lessons, at least for now.  Wanting to raise bail isn’t about freeing him, my guess is that it is about helping his followers feel better about the situation…so they wouldn’t be faced with the pain.

Then I think about being a mom.  My daughter is 10 years old, in 4th grade, and being bullied.  She has been bullied for most of her years in elementary school.  It is so painful to watch.  This year, however, it has just gotten to be entirely too much.  She doesn’t have any friends she believes she can count on (in school).  She comes home from school crying most days.  She begs me to change schools.  As a mom, seeing her suffering, it would be easy to whisk her away to another school.  Would that be the most beneficial for her?  No, but it would stop the suffering at least short term.  It would stop the pain *I* feel.  It HURTS seeing her hurting.  Yet, I know from my childhood bullying experience, that she needs to learn to stand up for herself.  And that is what I have encouraged her to do.  Today, she is working with the counselor to face her bullies in a positive, safe way.  I am scared for my daughter.  She is scared.  Yet, I know this is a lesson she needs to learn, and as a mom (as a helper), it is my job to support that (regardless of how much I want to put a band-aid on it and move her away from this.)

The thing I believe about suffering is that we are all here on this planet to learn and grow.  I believe that we agreed to certain lessons before we ever took our first breaths for this life time.  I believe that if we don’t learn these lessons, we will keep going through this suffering until we do.  And it is our job as helpers/parents/friend/community service members/health care workers to gently support those we are  helping get through these lessons of life.

It can be hard for us to sit with another human being in their time of need.  Our natural compassion kicks in, and right behind it…fear.  Our fear kicks in and wants us to walk away, or choose a certain amount of time to work AT making something better, or we start labeling the suffering as a means of separating us from the person who is doing the suffering.  Yet, if we could just allow the compassion to flow and sit with that person who is suffering and listen to them and be open to them, we will learn what they truly need and how we can make the most difference in their life during that moment in time.

For a homeless person, it may not be just handing them money.  For them, it may be looking them in the eye and asking what their name is and listening to their story..helping them to feel visible and real.  To the people in Haiti, it may not be taking their children away, but rather getting dirty and helping them clean up a disaster and build them a new home to live in (is this easy?  Is this a short time table? takes alot more of YOU than you may be willing to give, but it may be exactly what they NEED.)  For James Arthur Ray, it may be letting him sit it out in Jail until his court date (I don’t know this, but its possible.)  For my daughter, it’s about getting in touch with my pain from childhood bullying or when I was abused or raped; it’s about remembering that and what helped ME through that and what I learned.  By doing this, it opens me up and allows me to feel her pain and understand where she is coming from, and only then can I be the loving support that she needs.

By connecting with our own pain and fears, we are able to to truly be of service to the people we want to help.  That is where we need to be.  If we can’t feel our own pain and just start moving to help those who we see hurting, we are not really coming from a place of service, rather we are operating from a place that is truly about US not them.

I will leave you with a couple of quotes from this chapter:

“So I sought to be able to enter into the world of the sick, and to live with the mystery of suffering.  I saw that I had to enter into my experience of pain, and to face up to it, and to allow myself to be changed by it.”

“We discovered that the more we opened to the pain of others, the more we found ourselves in their service.”

The next time we feel that natural compassion to help someone, let’s remember to let go of our fear, sit back and feel our own pain allowing us to open up and feel theirs…this is the space from which we can make the most difference.