The distinction between self sacrifice and true service

The distinction between self sacrifice and true service

Do you have a history of ‘helper syndrome’? I am using this term to replace more graphic but less palatable terms, like sacrificial lamb, martyr, saint or rescuer.

As I see it, the roots of this syndrome are a mixture of nature and nurture.

Some of us learned to get praise, attention and feelings of significance through being helpful and useful in environments where saying no carried negative consequences that we feared.

Fast forward to adult life and we discover that we are no longer rewarded with gold stars.

Instead, ‘Helper Syndrome’ leads to:

  • Being used by others, causing the sufferer to feel valued for the wrong things, misunderstood and underappreciated.
  • Experiences of invalidation from others, if they wanted attention or approval but, not advice or solutions.
  • Frustration, overload, overwhelm and even burnout
  • Lack of clarity about who and what we are designed to serve

 

At some point in my journey as a chronic sufferer, I began to appreciate the fine difference between self-sacrifice and service. Apparently, due my Pisces sun (the self sacrificing part) and my Virgo ascendant (the service part), I’m wired to learn the difference, including the shadow and the light of such qualities.

While there is a time and a place for self sacrifice in the transformative crucible of spiritual practice, success in the so-called real world requires us to be clear with our boundaries and personal limitations. This puts us in the realm of service.

Self-sacrifice is a problem in the real world, other than in special circumstances, such as emergencies or after giving birth to a baby. However, in those special circumstances we are given the resources we need through raised hormone levels, irrespective of nature and nurture considerations.

The transformation of self-sacrifice to service requires self-awareness, including conscious direction of energies through committing only to whom and to what we feel genuinely called, and designed, to serve.

Over the last couple of years, I have gained enormous clarity around who and what I am best suited to serve, as a result of my journey with a process called Tribal Marketing.

But, just a few years ago, I was beyond confused about what I should be offering – and to whom. I trained as an Independent Funeral and Wedding Celebrant, planning to leave the coaching and training worlds altogether.

I liked the work but knew that it needed to be a ‘side’ rather than the ‘main’ of my offering. I returned to coaching and transformed my business.

Are you as stuck as I was a few years ago?  Click here to learn more about True Significance and Tribal Marketing.

Can men be feminists?

Can men be feminists?

A few days ago, a male friend asked my opinion on this topic. Apparently, he’d had a conversation with a woman who claimed that to be feminist, you must be female.

I was curious. I Googled ‘can men be feminists’ to see what was being said, if anything.

It turns out that quite a lot has been said in recent years. Heated stuff in fact.

A number of journalists and other professional experts have had their say. And a number argue that men can’t be feminist. (References are at the end of the article.)

Hmmm…..

That got me thinking.

I decided that such arguments are based on a limited definition of the word feminist. I consulted the dictionary.

Both the Oxford and Merriam-Webster dictionaries define feminism and feminist in terms of equal rights for women and men.

To me, that definition is very limited.

The battle for equal rights has been about equality within a patriarchal system, which by definition elevates men and masculine values above women and feminine values.

There have been centuries of suppression of Feminine teachings. I am using a capital ‘F’ to differentiate between feminine, pertaining to females, and the gender free Feminine.

The Feminine Wound is a cocktail of violation and invalidation that affects both women and men, albeit in differing ways.

Until the last couple of generations, women’s roles and entitlements have been restricted. Women were admired for their more ‘yin’ qualities. Meanwhile, such qualities expressed by men were often considered to be weak.

A natural law of energy, according to the Tao, is that any extreme will transform to its opposite. Therefore, it is not surprising that there has been a compensating shift as Western women, in the interests of equality, have been educated and trained to emphasise masculine or ‘yang’ qualities. Meanwhile, men have been encouraged to get in touch with their more feminine sides.

To be fair, a re-balance has been needed. But a swing from one extreme to the other is not the answer.

Patriarchy has promoted shadow or wounded forms of both masculine and feminine.

The ‘glass ceiling’ of patriarchy is that it does not allow for the collective appearance of healed Masculine and Feminine energies to emerge.

In myth and story, not tainted by a patriarchal re-write, the Divine Feminine is the force that transforms wounded forms of masculine and feminine.

The Divine Masculine is accessed through the grace of initiation to the Feminine.

Therefore, shouldn’t true Feminism, of the type that both men and women can and should support, advocate the breaking of this patriarchal ‘glass ceiling’?

A capital ‘F’ Feminist might be a person who works for a new paradigm, where equal rights would be unquestioned, where Feminine values are honoured and where there is recognition, understanding and valuing of difference.

This must involve the healing of the wounded feminine in both women and men. The Feminine does not emasculate men and make them feminine. Quite the opposite.

The motivation for men to be Feminist is 1) to support the women who are moving out of victimization and into empowerment, through personal healing and transformation,  2) to make a bid for their own healing at the same time, and 3) to make a stand against the insane levels of destruction/violation/abuse of all forms of life on this planet.

One hundred years ago, Emmeline Pankhurst stated (apparently) ‘We have to free half of the human race, the women, so that they can help to free the other half.’

What do you think?

Becoming a stabilising force in the midst of chaos

Becoming a stabilising force in the midst of chaos

Autumn is such a potent season for those who are interested in personal and collective awakening and transformation.

This year, the gentle lessons we receive from observing the changing autumn leaves, are juxtaposed by evidence of the devastating power of nature in many parts of the world. The world has been shaking – literally – as hurricanes cause devastation in the Caribbean and the United States, an earthquake causes further deaths and damage in Mexico City and Asia experiences its worst monsoon flooding in years. In the southern hemisphere, there are spring bush fires in Australia and a volcano threatening eruption in Bali.

No wonder some are speaking of an apocalypse. (In fact, some say that will happen next week. Google it!)

The apocalypse theory is based on biblical information. Meanwhile, ancient Vedic teachings speak of a long period of destruction, hardship and decay of morality known as the Kali Yuga. The bad news is that the Earth is just 5000 years into this long cycle, said to last a few hundred thousand years!

But, there is a silver lining to this cloud…..

The Kali Yuga is considered to be the easiest age in which to awaken. Why? The transformational energies that hold the power of dissolution also hold the power to upgrade consciousness. It is said that a personal transformation that would take many lifetimes in more settled ages can be achieved in just a few decades in the Kali Yuga.

Here is the motivation to maintain commitment to whatever type of transformational work you do. And, here is the inspiration to step onto ‘the path’ if you have not yet developed a transformational practice.

The metaphor of the calm ‘eye’ at the centre of the hurricane prompts consideration of how we might become a stabilising force in the midst of chaos.

Applying this metaphor to ‘human play’ on the world stage, we have plenty of examples of ‘hurricane forces’. Terrorist attacks. Surprise election results that change the political landscape. Volatile leaders. Technically bankrupt countries. Greedy businesses that destroy the environment and avoid taxes.

The world is our mirror. In the face of devastating tragedy and suffering it is easy to feel impotent. Yes, we can send money to the causes that stir our hearts. We can turn our work towards the changes we would most like to see. But, for the broadest transformational impact, individually and collectively, inner work must accompany outer work.

I would define a transformational practitioner as someone who has learned to value life challenges because of the opportunity they bring to further personal growth and possible collective evolution.

Practitioners are needed. Scientific research confirms what many practitioners have experienced. Intentional prayer and meditation creates an energetic impact. Groups of practitioners magnify that impact.

Sustaining the calm ‘eye’ beyond a yoga mat or meditation cushion is achieved as a result of transforming inner emotional reactivity, including parts of the personality that take on the role of terrorist, dictator, destroyer or protector in the psyche. These are just some of the parts that might show up strongly when you feel challenged by life.

What better time to start, resume or create a new intent for practice and personal development than during autumn, as the leaves turn and we begin the season of ‘new year’ celebrations in the dark half of the year.

Reviewing an ‘old chestnut’. Are spiritual services supposed to be free?

Reviewing an ‘old chestnut’. Are spiritual services supposed to be free?

True story.

‘But neither Jesus nor the Buddha charged’ he said. ‘Spiritual services are supposed to be free and available to all.’

Probably I should have deleted the email. But, I couldn’t resist informing him that comparing me to Jesus or the Buddha, while flattering, was entirely inappropriate!

This exchange dates back some 10 years. But the ‘thorn’ of money, related to services perceived to be ‘spiritual’, persists. Unexamined beliefs are a fruitful area for spiritual growth. It could be argued that contemplating what constitutes a healthy, non reactive relationship with money is a spiritual path in its own right. 

This month, as I was contemplating my newsletter topic, I had an experience that made me feel a little defensive about my charging practices. Defensiveness indicates resistance indicates a hidden belief. So, I took a look at whether a part of me was triggered by the ‘old chestnut’ of spirituality and money.

I took leaflets for my spring qigong classes into my local library to ask if I could post on a notice board displaying local services.

The answer I received was, ‘Only if the classes are free.’

I was taken aback. The fact is that I’d be very happy to run a free of charge qigong class as a contribution to the community, provided local services and businesses could help with free room hire and free printing of leaflets.

But, the Museum, which is next door to the Library, is charging me £25 per hour to hire the room where I hold my class. And the printing shop, opposite, is charging me full price for my leaflets.

I accepted the library’s refusal and I also decided that my charges were perfectly reasonable given my costs.

But, I wonder: Do we have illogical expectations in society with regard to what can be available free of charge, at least when practitioners must cover their own costs? Do we really not expect teachers that have invested money in their training to value their own skill and time?

Personally, I would love to see all highly trained professionals be valued for their services, ‘spiritual’ or not. Surely, this ‘old chestnut’ belongs to a former age and time. Or, maybe it has relevance in ashrams and monasteries where the advisers are supported by an institution.

These days I have a much clearer stance than I used to. Today I would suggest to the man that made the Jesus and the Buddha comment that he may be confusing ‘spiritual’ services with spiritual wisdom. 

It is true is that spiritual wisdom is free and available to all. Of course, a person must be able to access it. 

When a person wishes to consult a mentor, coach, healer or therapist for services that may enhance their spiritual development, while resolving their worldly problems, money simplifies what can be complex sequences of exchange.

The gentleman concerned learned of my existence through finding my website. I pay money for the hosting and development of my site. We can be certain that neither Jesus nor the Buddha did!

I’m all for the healing of the spiritual/material split. What is considered to be material, including money, is simply energy in form.

As scientist Nassim Haramein says – spiritual is the label we give to those things that science has not yet proven.

Nurturing the heart in the month of love

Many will have found their post holiday, winter ‘hibernation’ (in the northern hemisphere) cut short by the emotion and drama surrounding the inauguration of President Trump.

In these polarised times of outer chaos and change, it becomes important to have a practice that develops the capacity to act from a place of feeling centred, grounded and still. From stillness, we can discriminate between appropriate response and inappropriate reaction.

Experienced meditators will know that stillness is a portal to wisdom and love. In my years of practice I have learned that when the mind quiets, the heart can open. Genuine compassionate action comes from an open heart.

In this Month of Love, I’d like to offer you the tantric definition of compassion, which is this: Compassion is whatever heals the split between subject and object.

Here we have insight with regard to polarised situations. This definition suggests that compassion involves: 1) seeking the cause of the polarisation and 2) considerate action that serves the healing of it.

Beyond dramas, human hearts are beating and emitting powerful electromagnetic fields.

Problems arise because most actions are protective reactions.

Nurturing the heart is not about adding to our defences and protecting our wounds. Our hearts are healed and find wings when we attend to the dismantling of a defensive system that is well past its ‘use by’ date.

I’ve found it interesting that the metaphor for the heart centre in the cryptic tantric texts is the graveyard, indicating the transformative possibility of the heart. As the identities and illusions spawned by our defensive patterns dissolve, they become the corpses. Stillness becomes more accessible.