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From the Heart: To Serve and Surrender

If there is anything that the last four years — and being diagnosed with cancer three times — has taught me, it is that I do not have all the answers. Sometimes I’m not even sure about the questions.

I have no idea where our country is headed. Based on the number of people still supporting conspiracy theories and an autocratic regime, I am cautious at best. However, miracles happen.

I am not sure if one of my cancers will resurface. I am hopeful about that, as well.

People I love and care about deeply are facing very serious challenges and illnesses. I am uncertain how I will fit into the plans of an organization that is going through a major change. My beloved dog Mikey is living on borrowed time. Life is never dull.

They say we are never given more than we can handle. I believe that is true.

As I consider all that I am handed, I am certain that the way I can be of most use to myself and others right now is to serve and surrender. Both require great strength.

We do not have to be saints to serve. I am no Mother Teresa. But I am committed to doing what I can to make this world a more loving, just and peaceful place.

I do not have to show it in ways that are grandiose or splashy. It can be as simple as helping an elderly neighbor take out her garbage or smiling at someone I can tell has had a bad day.

It can be putting away chairs after a meeting when we get back to gathering in person or offering to take notes during a Zoom call. It can be planned or random, anonymous or revealed.

Merriam-Webster defines “serve” as “to be of use.” This meaning is simple yet relevant for me.

Before I do something these days, I ask myself: Is this useful in somehow changing the narrative in a world stuck on repeating its own warped recording. Is it useful in changing my own narrative?

One of the ways I serve is to say “yes” whenever possible when I am asked to help. This isn’t always easy — especially when it takes me out of my comfort zone, like having to speak in front of a large group, or when I already have so much on my plate. It almost always makes me feel better, though, when I do it. I call it making energetic deposits in my spiritual bank.

Ironically, the more deposits I make into my spiritual bank the less I care about the balance in my financial bank. After years of worrying incessantly and often irrationally about how much money I actually needed to survive and to be happy, I now have faith that I will somehow always have enough … that the universe has my back and heart.

I do much of what I do in the world for free or next to free. It is a conscious decision. I charge just what I need to, whether it is for monthly rental income, officiating at a wedding, or providing spiritual counseling to someone facing a cancer diagnosis.

When I see how greed has destroyed nearly all of our systems — political, commercial, social and religious — I am more committed than ever to not confuse service with financial gain and my own unrealistic wants and desires. I also spend on just what I need, which it turns out is very little.

I know I still have a long way to go to being my best and highest self — but I feel certain I am moving in the right direction. Getting here has not been easy. It has taken a great deal of contemplation, prayer, self-reflection and, yes, definitely being courageous enough to leave my comfort zone. Most of all I have had to learn to surrender.

It has taken me quite a few years to realize how much strength and faith is needed to surrender and to trust in the bigger picture. I haven’t always been strong enough. I definitely didn’t always have that kind of faith.

Krishna Das says: “The ultimate act of power is surrender.”

As my partner awaits critical medical news this morning, I surrender. As I wonder why some people remain so rigid and stuck in their ideology, I surrender. As Covid continues to keep me away from my home in Merida, Mexico, and my loved ones, I surrender. As I think about all the things that can possibly go wrong, I surrender. When I am not successful in surrendering, I say a prayer for whatever is needed to let go and trust. When even that doesn't help, I serve.

The words of Eckhart Tolle often echo in my mind and heart: “Sometimes surrender means giving up trying to understand, and to become comfortable with not knowing.”

Sometime surrender is necessary to serve. Sometimes surrendering is the most helpful and useful way to serve. I pray today that I have the strength for both.



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