Moving from Self to Service
When we aren’t meditating or working, what are we doing? Too often we are focused on ego preferences – the food we like, the people we like, the movies we like or dislike. But moving one’s focus from self, to service, is fundamental to the deepening of enlightenment.
In this post we share how the greatest benefit to your awakening occurs when you strive to benefit other beings.
On the Spiritual Path, Yes First Work on You
When you initially come into the Dharma teachings, who you are is central to the practice. Therapeutic concerns—your emotional hang-ups, psychological defilements, clingings, and hatreds need to get sorted out.
But there’s a place quite soon into the teaching, two or three years later, when consciousness becomes more or less rooted in the wholesome -it’s more or less focused on growth, unfoldment, wisdom, compassion and so on.
Then, How do You Spend Your Energy?
Really it comes down to what do you do with your time. This is where karma yoga comes very much to the foreground.
You have your profession: you might be a tree planter, a businesswoman or a computer analyst. That’s where you’re focusing your practice when you’re at work. But then how are you spending your free time, how are you engaging with the world? What is your consciousness involved in when you’re not actually sitting / meditating?
Karma Yoga is a Vital Spiritual Practice
We think this is where karma yoga becomes very principal to the modern person’s development. Are you hanging out with friends in coffee shops talking about spirituality? Or are you cleaning the temple floor, sweeping the street or in some way using your realization of the nature of human struggle (dukkha) and the illusory nature of reality to actually benefit beings in your society?
This is where we begin to see the gap between more fully realized beings and beings who could be, but aren’t. It’s just how they spend that in-between time. I guess you could say its about what they’re dedicated to.
What’s Outside of the Meditation ‘Capsule’?
Meditation is excellent, but most of us don’t spend all our lives on retreat. When you leave retreat, then what? Formal practice is good, and important – but it’s in a kind of capsule. You get in this capsule, this contained environment, and meditate. And then when it’s over you go back out into the world.
You might still have a daily practice, but somehow the insights are gone because your action, your involvement, your actual engagement with life isn’t geared toward greater understanding and service.
Your Involvement with Life is to Bring Awakening into Your World
Your involvement with life is about bringing the Dharma, the awakening, in whatever guise you personally cloak it, into your world. Your action, your behaviour and your involvement with others will show the fruit of your meditation practice.
Active participation itself will bring you greater realization, much faster, than meditation practice alone.
Karma Yoga is for the Welfare of Beings
Karma yoga is the determination to foster the welfare of beings rather than just getting through social situations. This is what pulls the consciousness deeper and deeper, benefiting you, while bringing much more benefit to beings.
Look at people who have been on the path of awakening or in the Dharma for twenty, thirty, forty years. Their realization and understanding might be very similar, but the real difference between them is how they’ve chosen to serve.
Some practitioners focus on “my life, my world, what’s in it for me? do I feel like it? do I not feel like it?”. And then there are others who have gone beyond themselves in order to serve humanity in some way.
We encourage you to explore the practice of service, and to build the muscle of shifting the focus from one’s self to others. Not only it is incredibly rewarding, fruitful and liberating, but you get to benefit the planet and other beings. Yay!
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Doug Duncan & Catherine Pawasarat are modern day teachers of transcendence. Their work with students draws upon Buddhist, Western Mysteries, modern psychology and other traditions
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