When I explain my beliefs about healing yourself as the primary vehicle of healing the world, I regularly encounter naysayers who believe absolutely in offering service and see self-healing as selfish. I’ve never quite understood why one has to exclude the other.
There’s an ancient schism in Buddhism between those who believe all must be enlightened before “you” become enlightened — in other words that you must help to bring everyone before you get there yourself– and those who believe in an individual path of enlightenment. I say, maybe we need both. Even more, maybe we need to find a way to wed the two.
I kind of like the series of paths to enlightenment in yogic thinking, in which there are various ways to reach enlightenment. It’s open to each person to feel which one draws them and to follow the path that best suits. The paths include practices for both self-healing and service. I believe every spiritual path can lead to healing and/or enlightenment.
I used to do a lot of volunteer work and as I feel better I consider doing it again. I also held various jobs in the “public interest” sector and I like doing work that feels good. But in those positions, both volunteer and paid, I was often disturbed by the motivations, the negative feelings and the arrogant presumptions of “rightness” that permeated.
As I moved along a spiritual path, I began to feel that sometimes it doesn’t help to jump in based on my UNenlightened assumption about what’s best for someone else. Or that I may do more harm than good if I show up from a place of anger.
I evaluate any agency or program from a viewpoint of whether they seem to be operating from love, listening to the wishes of those they’re helping and creating their plans from the heart instead of the head.
I don’t believe you have to be enlightened to help, but I do think it’s worth stopping and considering. Taking a moment to look inward and listen to your heart.
I also think it’s perfectly possible to volunteer for a great place and at the same time keep on healing yourself. I absolutely believe the more you heal yourself the more you heal the world. I also believe you can absolutely both serve others in some way AND heal yourself. Why does one have to be first or better or “the right way”?
See previous posts for more on healing self and world:
- Activism and Nonviolence
- Not Beating the Drums
- Ho’oponopono to heal your world
- Understanding We Are All One