By Diana Autumn
|Since I was a child I have
way to give to others. A
experience when I was in
to find the gift within me
for the world. I was
and I encountered a
not imagined possible:
on the street, street
ever extended, begging
kind of human deformity
|always wanted to find a
my twenties helped me
that might be meaningful
traveling through India,
degree of poverty I had
families living their lives
urchins with their hands
for sustenance, and every
imaginable with faces of
utter desperation. I reached into my pockets and gave rupees to those extended hands, but they just grew more numerous and more desperate. I wanted to help, but this method seemed inadequate to me. I had been awakened, but still did not have a response that I felt was the fullest giving I was capable of.
I became aware of the great material need of so many. I realized how much I had received from my family, society, culture and life in general. I also realized that all of what I had received gave me the responsibility to give something in return. I thought of a trip I had taken to Walden Pond and the site of the cabin of Henry David Thoreau, where he wrote Walden. After following a path along the shores of the pond, I had come to the clearing where the cabin had stood. In the center of the clearing were stones piled several feet high commemorating the spot. They had been gathered by others who had made this pilgrimage to honor Thoreau and all he had given to humanity through his life of introspection and thought. I was moved to find a stone to place on the pile as a sign of respect. I searched the vicinity but found it picked clean of rocks. I searched farther and farther from the clearing and still there was no rock to be found. Then it dawned on me—some had gathered stones to place in honor of Thoreau’s work, while others had taken stones home as a keepsake of a special place. There are givers and takers, I realized. Which side of the equation did I want to be on?
I wanted to give. I needed to find a way that would make a difference. There are many generous and dedicated people giving to others. However, it wasn’t until I found Cafh that I was able to find a way for me to give. Cafh offered me a method to do just that. It wasn’t to give money to the needy. Cafh was asking me to give my time and energy to unfold spiritually so that I might help nourish humanity’s spiritual needs. My offering was one that I alone could make because of my individual strengths, weaknesses, characteristics and circumstances. My contribution might be as small as the smallest stone on the pile in the Walden clearing, but it was a contribution that only I could offer. All of us have this gift to give—to live our lives consciously and to offer what we have learned. And as we all give what we are and what we have learned, together we help humanity take another step forward in spiritual evolution.
Looking at world events and the condition of people on the planet, then as I do now, I see tremendous need. Behind the wars and poverty, the terror and desperation, I feel there is a barely disguised human selfishness and aggression. I remember Gandhi’s saying, “Be the change you want in the world.”
This moved me very deeply. Be the change. Instead of looking at the selfishness and violence out there, I turned inward to discover it within myself. My inner world was my workplace; it is where I could make a change. As long as I pointed my finger at someone else’s anger, someone else’s greed, someone else’s ignorance, closed mindedness, or self–centeredness as a cause of the world’s problems, I would not be able to make a change. But I could work on my own self to make the changes within.
Going within, when I identify an aggressive movement, I can replace it with a thought of understanding for the person or situation I am in. When I find myself taking more than I need, I can think of what someone else needs. When I move brusquely and disturb others, I can slow down and move carefully. Thought by thought, feeling by feeling, action by action I can transform the world by transforming myself. This was an approach that resonated profoundly within me. I wanted to learn more about it, and devote my life to making it a reality.
I believe if I, and others, follow this path, it can transform humanity. I know, for myself, that this change is not a difference that can be measured, weighed, or made into statistics, or one for which I can receive recognition. What it does is to join the invisible force of love that all human beings can contribute to. This force becomes available to those who seek it in moments of hopelessness, soul–searching, doubt, or pain. Has it ever happened to you that you looked back on a difficult moment in your life and found that you had inner strength, loving support, or a light of understanding that helped you get through it? If so, then perhaps you were tapping into this force of love. My motto is “Words guide, examples move but only the giving of oneself transforms,” words spoken by the founder of Cafh, Don Santiago Bovisio, many years ago. By transforming myself I can transform what I see as destructive in the world.
Difficult moments are also an opportunity to contribute to the force of love through humility and acceptance and a connection to others. For example, when I get lost driving somewhere, seized by panic or crippled by frustration, I think of others and offer them any light or understanding I may glean from this experience. The aches of getting old help me to remember those who are sick in hospitals and those who are caring for them, as well as researchers who are giving their creative energy and time looking for a cure. The annoyance of looking for my car keys gives me a moment to think of the mother who has lost her child to prostitution and my inconvenience takes on a new perspective.
Of course, I would prefer a life without the problems and the difficulties that living presents. But I have found that a life without challenges does not exist, and pain is inherent to life. I naturally try to avoid pain, and when my avoidance does not work, I deny it. Sometimes when I am feeling well, I forget that I was ever sick. When things are running smoothly I forget that I ever encountered a snag. And as I live my life, so often I ignore the fact that there is a deadline called death.
When I deny this pain, I realize I am missing an opportunity to learn about myself. I am missing an opportunity to connect with others and their suffering and pain. For instance, experiencing my mother’s decline and eventual death from Alzheimer’s disease opened up to me a new understanding of myself and my relationship with sickness, family, and the unknown; this helped me to understand others. Upon hearing that someone else is accompanying an aging parent, my own experience opens me up to her pain as someone she loves is slipping away. Facing the ambivalent feelings within myself, I can appreciate the different reactions of the caregivers who spend their time with someone losing mental faculties. I realize that I will not know exactly how another feels, but I have lived that pain consciously. I have faced that pain and let it teach me about sorrow. This is a gift I can give to humanity.
Putting my problems into a larger perspective is a practice we use in Cafh. By helping me to connect with the force of love that unites humanity, I am taken out of my limited personal perspective. I remember that there are others who are suffering and need support. There are others who are in pain and can’t see a way out. My own pain is just a small part of the whole, and it is not something heavier than I can carry.
Every day I discover so many small ways that I can contribute to healing the world. The moments of joy in life are also something I can share with humanity. This joy can lead me to feel gratitude for all that life offers me. I have learned that life is a unity. There are good and bad times, difficulties and successes, connections and misunderstandings. But it is all life, one life, my life, our life.
As I work on unfolding my consciousness, I don’t do it for myself alone. It is for all of us. Maybe my understanding will be the helping hand someone needs to see the light in his own life. Maybe it is the force that will bring two enemies to the peace table or reunite an estranged couple. I will not know, and I don’t need to know. When we give, we all are the winners.
When I think about my experience with the poor in India and that moment of awakening that opened my eyes to the suffering of others, I am grateful that I have found a way that I can give. My efforts of offering my spiritual unfolding are but a small stone tossed into the sea of humanity’s consciousness, but they are a contribution that is unique and necessary.
Each day is made up of a succession of small acts which I try to live consciously. Being conscious has helped me to become grateful for even the most mundane acts such as getting out of bed each morning with a day ahead where I can work, relate to others and learn. A time for meditation, food for breakfast and a work to do are all something for me to be thankful for. A mother whose young son was battling leukemia told me that his illness has taught her to appreciate even the simplest acts, such as taking her child to school. It is a privilege that she had never realized before. When I am conscious, the attitude with which I carry out my daily activities makes them transcendent. They are my simple gift to others.
I know that each of you also has something to give; it is something that only you can give that humanity needs to carry itself forward. I send you my love and offer my effort to help you find your own way to give unto others.
Other articles in the series "The Peace of a Meaningful Life" by Diana Autumn are: