This is the first article in a series on Conscious Service. Read the second article here.
I imagine your call to serve has led to your career in the nonprofit sector. I would also bet that you have been conditioned to believe that you must preserve yourself by making clear distinctions between your personal and professional life.
You are encouraged to be committed to the tasks associated with your role as a Service Provider. Theories, research, best practices, and the latest groundbreaking methods are drilled into you as the tools of your trade.
Statistics, outcomes, and reports flood your desk with the sole purpose of validating the worth of what you offer in the world. Sometimes, this is a harsh reality ~ the nonprofit world relies on government monies and fundraising, and that often involves demonstrating success and quality. We are always making our case for more money.
Feeling like you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place makes sense. And it doesn’t surprise me at all when I hear social workers, for example, exclaiming their sense of disillusionment early in their careers. Most thought they were going into a people-focused profession as opposed to a paper-laden process.
Well, they were right the first time. If you are in any Vocation of Service, you are in the business of serving humanity in whatever form that takes for you.
Vocation as an expression of your soul
You are here to express the essence of your soul ~ the essence of who you are at your core. You might be tempted to reserve this for your personal relationships or those activities you engage in during leisure time. The truth is, opportunities to express your soul are available to you in every single moment and this includes your role as a Service Provider.
“Vocation is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
(Frederick Buechner as quoted in The Courage to Teach by Parker Palmer)
People connect with people. We read books, watch films, gaze at art, and lose ourselves in music, which often provides a deeper sense of inner connection. Yet at the very core of our humanity is the desire to feel connected to each other. When someone comes to you with a need, the most powerful tool you can use in your response is yourself.
You may offer a multitude of resources and ideas but without that human connection, it will not have as much power.
So, who you are as a human being informs how you show up as a Service Provider. How can you assist someone else to explore the depths of their own soul and embrace the desires of their heart if you are not committed to that same engagement with yourself? Your experience of joy and fulfillment are integral to your capacity to enhance your experience as a Service Provider and in turn have the kind of impact ~ make the contribution ~ that only you can make.
Service as an energetic function of spirit
When we consider service as an energetic exchange, as a spiritual function, that essence becomes a guiding force for the actions we take with others and how we deepen our capacity for presence and engagement. And it reminds us that we are an essential piece of this exchange.
Here are a few characteristics of service as a function of spirit:
Being creative within service can certainly be bolstered by a rich knowledge of resources, tools and strategies. However, this means nothing if it is not of benefit to the person who is accessing service – if it doesn’t meet their specific needs. Creativity in this sense is about intuition. It is about the ability to see people as capable and whole. Creativity makes it possible to hold the vision and to hold space for another’s process as they define it. And it is fuel for accessing higher wisdom and out-of-the-box possibilities.
Building on the role of creativity, compassion allows us to be in communion with another according to their expressed needs and to read between the lines. Compassion indicates a willingness to be with another and to be with their experience long enough to learn from it. Compassion does not jump to fix, advise, or take away the other person’s process, but instead holds them in the highest regard with a view to their developed resiliency and sense of hope.
In order to cultivate the energy of compassion and creativity, we must be in a place of connection. Self-connection first, then connection with others. Connection implies presence and engagement. Connection occurs in the moment – not in the future. What is happening now? How can I be of service right now? Yes, the resource or the referral may be a future consideration, but what is the need in this moment? Start there and build the foundation for service.
Attention to the spirit and essence of service is as important as the tangible tasks and outcomes.
It is a gift to be of service in this world. It requires that you bring who you are to how you serve. It means connecting to the joy that serving others can bring ~ and it has nothing to do with self-sacrifice. This is the heart of Conscious Service.
Conscious service is an ever-evolving, energetic practice and process that is grounded in four basic components creating an approach to life and service.
The diagram below shows the four elements of The Conscious Service Approach including Self-Connection, Enlightened Communication, Transformative Relationships, and Co-Creating Community. The active ingredient that weaves throughout the approach and brings life to the concepts is Self-Reflective Practice.
Conscious Service is less about knowing and more about feeling and integration. It’s not that we are unconscious in our contributions and service to others. Rather, it’s about how much depth of presence and engagement we are bringing to our role. It’s less about what we do and more about how we do it.
To be of service in the world is an investment of your very being. It involves your emotional labour, your intuition, your curiosity, and your spiritual wisdom. Conscious Service brings us into a space of deep inner connection so that we might fully engage with those who cross our paths whether personally or professionally.
Conscious Service is about shifting paradigms and busting through myths that have kept us stuck in old worn-out ways of thinking and being. Serving humanity is not just about more funding and reports. Serving humanity and doing it well requires the essence and contribution of our very hearts and souls. And in return, we will know fulfillment and come home to ourselves.
In future articles, we will explore the intricacies of Conscious Service with a focus on Self-Connection, Enlightened Communication, Transformative Relationships, and Co-Creating Community. Revolution is an inside job and we, as Service Providers are poised for breakthrough and transformation. The world is waiting.
I hope you will join me on this journey.
Elizabeth Bishop is the creator of The Conscious Service Approach. She regularly facilitates workshops based on the principles of the approach both online and in person. Elizabeth can be reached at www.elizabethbishopconsulting.com, on twitter at @askelizabethb, and Facebook and Linkedin at Elizabeth Bishop Consulting.