Can Anything Be Service?

I’m one of those people who was trying to help people. I wondered things like: is this really helping? Am I doing this just because it makes me look good? Do these people want my help? What are we trying to help these people do? Am I just trying to make them more like me? The list goes on. It seemed like in order to help people I was arrogantly declaring that I knew the right way to live. Who was I to tell someone else how to live their lives?

Then I was introduced to Vipassana and I thought I had the answer. This technique meets individuals where they’re at and helps them grow into healthy saintly lives. I didn’t need to tell anyone what was right and wrong. The technique would teach people for me. Then I realized that most people aren’t interested in sitting in silence for 10 day straight or sitting in silence 2 hours a day. So I was stuck. I thought I knew the right path but no one wanted to walk it with me.

After grappling with this for a little while I’m wondering if everything I do that is guided by dhamma could be considered service. Early on I accepted a lot of the rules like the five precepts on faith, but I’m starting to truly feel the difference between right and wrong. In my daily activities I can feel what is in line with dhamma and what is not. So are all the acts I perform while feeling dhamma helpful to me and to those around me? Have I grown past the point where I need to separate work from service? Do I need to raise my personal expectation to alway feel the guidance of dhamma rather than taking breaks when it’s hard?

I’m not sure I have a choice. As I continue to meditate, my mind becomes sharper and more equanimous. Slowly I become more aware of my sensations throughout the day which guide me to act in wholesome ways more frequently. As I live more wholesomely, I’m benefiting myself and those around me. This all just seems like part of the process. The main lesson for me is to be a little less rigid in how I define things and enjoy the ride. Time to meditate.


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About Ryan Shelton

While I'm currently married to a beautiful woman while teaching physics at Padua Academy, these descriptors fail to capture the totality of my adventurous life. I have hiked over 1700 miles, traveled to 5 continents, managed a bakery, started a meditation center, counseled troubled teens, attended Duke, UNC, and Harvard, protected forests as a wildland firefighter, volunteered thousands of hours with Americorps, rafted the Grand Canyon, SCUBA dived on the Great Barrier Reef, and continues to find new adventures. I hope my writing encourages you to pursue your dreams and be the best version of yourself while supporting your communities to work together to solve the current challenges in our world.

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