Being of service is good for the soul. A client of mine lost her daughter in a car accident. She decided that no parent should have to go through such a sorrow. So, she volunteers her spare time teaching teens how to be careful drivers. “I don’t have to focus on my loss. When I’m helping others, I’m helping myself,” she said to me. Another client lost her sister to breast cancer. She donates money, time, and energy to breast cancer awareness.
And medical scientists are beginning to discover the same thing that my clients already know–in helping others they are also helping themselves. The field of PNI (psychoneuroimmunology) researches the power of the mind to influence health and healing. Did you know that just watching a movie about kindness and being of service can strengthen your immune response? Startling! The now-famous study from Harvard measured antibodies in students before and after watching movies of Mother Teresa at work helping the homeless in India. The antibody that was measured, IgA, helps the body to defend against infection.
My mother contributed to many charities, helped families in her neighborhood, and made over 200 quilts in the last decade of her life. It became her passion to send these beautiful quilts to poor families all over the world. She was never happier than when she was sewing quilts for others.
Try it! There are dozens of opportunities to be of service all over your area. What calls to you? Do you have a skill, a passion, knowledge that you would like to share with others? Find a use for it. Be of service and watch how your life changes for the better.
There’s a reason that the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous includes making amends and carrying the message to others (being of service) as an essential step in recovery. It keeps the alcoholic clean and sober. It also raises his self esteem. Instead of the self-serving behaviors of his past, he (or she) is now willing to give to others.
“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no ‘brief candle’ to me. It is sort of a splendid torch which I have a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it over to future generations.” – George Bernard Shaw
Do you want to be happier? Experience less stress? Abolish depression? Here’s a one-minute practice that will change your life. On your way to work (school, grocery store) think of three things that you’re grateful for. It can be anything–your child’s laughter, clean socks, dinner with a friend or anything that makes you feel happy or content. Think about it.
When you arrive at work, jot down these three things on a sticky note. Say them aloud to a friend, relative, co-worker, or spouse. This is important. If you have no one to talk to, say them aloud in your car before you leave your car.
Put the sticky note in a place where you’ll see it periodically throughout the day. When you leave, put the note on your dashboard so that you’ll see it all the way home. At that point you can either save it or toss it.
The next day pick three more things that you’re grateful for and repeat the exercise. Watch how your heart opens up and your negativity vanishes. Magic!
What do you think of when meditation is mentioned? Buddhist monks sitting in monasteries on mountaintops? That’s what I pictured. Did you know that more than 1,000 scientific articles have been published on the subject of meditation? Impressive research tells us that meditation induces a sense of well-being and emotional balance. It helps to reduce the body’s reaction to stress. And let’s face it. Stress is a killer.
Researchers at the Maharishi School of Management in Fairfield, Iowa, found that meditation has an enormous impact on stress reduction. When they examined a group who had meditated for four months they saw that they produced less of the stress hormone cortisol. They were therefore better able to adapt to stress in their lives, no matter what their circumstances were.
So, just what is meditation? I would say that it is focused attention on reality. It’s connecting with all that is and being in the present moment. It’s deep relaxation however you want to do it–whether you’re walking, running, cycling, sitting in a yoga class, lying on your bed or being mindful of the present moment as you do the dishes. I find breathwork the easiest process to enter this focused attention.
- Increased feelings of vitality and rejuvenation
- Increased happiness
- Increased emotional stability
- Decreased anxiety
- Decreased depression
- Greater creativity
- Decreased irritability and moodiness
- Improved learning ability and memory
- Increased insight and wisdom
- Deep rest (as measured by decreased metabolic rate, and lower heart rate)
- Lowered levels of cortisol and lactate (two chemicals associated with stress)
- Improved blood pressure
- Drop in cholesterol levels
- Improved flow of air to the lungs
- Significant slowing of the aging process
Give meditation a try. You’ll find that you will value yourself more and come back to it again and again.
To forgive is to let go. In Aramaic the word is ‘shbag.’ It means to cancel, to let go, to untie. This roughly translates to a tool for changing a reality in your mind. The meaning is much richer in Aramaic. If I take full responsibility for what is in my mind and heart, I then have the opportunity to clear my mind of resentments, hurts, grudges, and wrongs. It has been said that forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could be any different. If I forgive, I have the opportunity to let go of disruptive thoughts and feelings. No easy task for most of us. But we can practice.
All of us have the opportunity to practice forgiveness every day of our lives. Forgive the driver who cut you off. Forgive yourself for making a mistake. Forgive your parents for all their mistakes. Let go of your resentments. It has been said that resentments are like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Rather than resenting the slow cashier, just let it go. Do yourself a big favor. Just…let…go.
Underneath the anger and resentment you will find a belief that has caused you problems. That belief is usually, “Things should be (or should have been) different.” Question that belief. Is that belief bringing you the serenity that you desire? I love the wisdom of the Serenity Prayer used in Alcoholics Anonymous.
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.