“It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life, that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
I spent the weekend at the Valley State Prison for men. The focus of this service learning opportunity with the Freedom to Choose Project was to help the men see how they can experience greater inner freedom independent of their circumstances. One of the many things I love about the workshop is the even playing field. There were over eighty volunteers who took part in the workshop with the two hundred and fifty men, and we were participants just like the men in blue. We did all of the exercises and processes with them. It was profoundly healing and moving to come together human to human and experience the oneness. The men were so grateful that we were able to see beyond their uniforms to who they are.
It is an important reminder for me to see how easy it is for me to be in acceptance and see the essence of another human being during these weekends. It is effortless to drop judgmental thoughts when my intention to be of service is so clear. Yet, at other times, it is easy for me to get sucked into the mire of my disparaging inner commentary about myself and others over trivial matters. It is encouraging for me to see the impact of my intention to be of service on dissolving my judgments, and to recognize that I do not need to limit my dismissal of my judgmental thoughts to when I am within prison walls. I see that a service consciousness is actually a natural way to approach life. It does not require effort to be free of judgment. It actually involves effort to be in judgment whether it is directed towards myself or someone else.
How fitting that it is through me spending time with men who are finding their inner freedom while incarcerated that I wake up more fully to the effort I put into locking myself up. The invisible layers of judgmental thought become more visible to me when I am in service. The men often ask why I come. They struggle to understand that I get so much out of the experience, but as Gandhi once responded regarding his work in an Indian village, “I am here to serve no one else but myself, to find my own self-realization through the service to these village folks.” I am grateful for the kindness, generosity and understanding of the men in blue and for their helping me to see how I can experience more freedom.
What is so powerful about a service consciousness is I stop thinking about me. When I see the profound impact this has on my ability to experience wellbeing, I wonder what is there to lose by not thinking about myself? What if enjoyment and success in life do not require self-focus or even self-awareness? What if my self-observation and evaluation just get in the way of me experiencing my true nature?
This is not about right or wrong. I am simply recognizing that freedom feels good and is the result of me forgetting about myself. Whereas limitation feels bad, is self-imposed, requires efforts, and results from me being focused on myself.
This awareness does not mean I will never be selfish or self-absorbed again, but I am definitely on the learning curve of recognizing “I” don’t matter. “I” don’t even exist unless I make the idea of myself up in the moment, and I have the capacity to experience the freedom of being in the flow without having myself on my mind. It is less effort for me to forget about myself than to be in some level of self-awareness and self-concern.
Who knew the difference between limitation and freedom is having me on my mind, and I am the only one bringing my self-conscious thoughts alive. Seeing this is enough for me to learn and grow. When understanding changes, so does behavior. The part of me that sees this is always there for me. It is my true nature, and it will never let me down.
All of life can be used in service to our awakening. It does not have to be limited to one weekend or a specific environment. What do you see as your opportunity for greater freedom? Is there a way you would like to be of service and get the bonus of forgetting about you so you can experience more of your Self?
Rohini Ross is passionate about helping people wake up to their true nature. She is a psychotherapist, a transformative coach, and author of Marriage (The Soul-Centered Series Book 1). She has an international coaching practice helping individuals, couples, and professionals embrace all of who they are so they can experience greater levels of wellbeing, resiliency, and success. She also co-facilitates The Space Mastermind for Solopreneurs and The Engaged Space with Barb Patterson. You can follow Rohini on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, watch her Vlogs with her husband, Angus Ross, and subscribe to her weekly blog on her website, rohiniross.com.