Following your heart, finding your calling, discovering your passion… whatever you call it, ultimately we are talking about dedicating one’s life to something that fills you up, that lifts you up.
Now a quick side note, I recognise that it is a huge privilege to be able to even consider this concept. The fact that I am in a position where I can choose how I want to make my living is a blessing and is not accessible to many in the world. I want to acknowledge this privilege. For a long time, it filled me with guilt, but I have come to realise that I simply need to use this privilege in service to others.
“The best way to find yourself,
is to love yourself in the service of others”
- Mahatma Gandhi
A decade ago, I saw Julian Burnside QC speak about the abhorrent refugee policies and practices in Australia at the time - the impacts of the Tampa Affair on Australia’s humanitarian policies, The Pacific Solution, Temporary Protection Visas, children in detention (Remember these? Not much has changed really, has it?) - and something struck a cord with me. At the time I was studying Journalism and I knew that this was not my path. How could I not be part of the solution to end the inhumane policies and treatment of other human beings?
This was the moment for me. The moment when I knew the direction I needed my career to take. And it stays with me today.
Recently I have been wondering why this particular issue has consistently pulled at my heart strings. Why have I been so drawn to the plight of refugees? For many social workers and those in the caring professions, there is a pull towards a field that resonates with them - a drug and alcohol worker may have battled with their own addictions, a therapist may have lived through abuse or neglect. This is not the case for me. I have wondered if it is out of guilt, that I have the privilege and freedom of movement, and refugees do not? Is it my White Privilege? White Saviour Complex? Perhaps a simple belief in universal human rights? Or maybe being brought up in a home with a photo of Gough Whitlam giving back the land to the Gurindji people as a symbol of the importance of self-determination, empowerment, compassion and humanity?
I am not entirely sure what it is or where is stems from. And the reality is, I don’t know that I need to know. But this is my passion, that is very clear to me. Working in this field, in service to others = following my heart.
So what is service?
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is:
What are you doing for others?”
- Martin Luther King
It is as simple as that. This is service.
When I start to feel off track or start questioning what I am doing with my life, I can always pinpoint the fact that I am not serving others (however that might look). For me, this is often related to my work. Work that is meaningful and is contributing to the wellbeing of those around me. But it could also be cooking a meal for friends and family. Sharing, helping, connecting. That’s what service is all about for me. It doesn’t need to be grand actions or gestures, it can be small and simple. As long as it is done from the heart, with kindness and compassion.
When I think about service, I also think about intention. Sometimes we do “good” in order to be recognised or praised for it. We want people to see the good we are doing, to know that we are kind, loving people. This is not service in its most pure sense. The intention must be for the benefit of others, to help and support without the need for thanks or praise. But we are only human, right? And sometimes this is harder than it appears. I think it is really important to remember that no act of kindness is wasted. We need to practice service. In a world where individualism is held in high regard, where we are congratulated on our personal successes (particularly financial and professional) over our connections to community, we need to practice giving without expecting anything in return. It goes against what we are conditioned to believe - that our success is about working hard, about pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. I don’t believe this anymore. I believe that when I genuinely give my time and energy to others - genuinely, honestly, humbly - then I am taken care of. I am successful through the impact my actions can have on others. And in return, the world provides for me - with love, friendship, companionship, support. And ultimately, I like to believe that this is all I need. Perhaps this sounds idealistic, unrealistic, dreamy, but I have seen this work in my life and the lives of many around me. I can feel it working. And the more I believe in this way of living, the more I can follow my heart and the richer my life will be because of it.
Where is your heart leading you?
This might not be an easy question to answer. Perhaps these ponderings could plant a seed to consider your heart’s desire…
When do you feel most full?
What topics light you up?
When was the last time you had the most refreshing and rejuvenating night’s sleep? What were you doing that day?
What do people ask you about? What is your area of expertise? How does it feel when people ask you about this topic?
In November, I am spending the month volunteering on Lesvos in Greece. If you haven’t heard the latest news, Moria Refugee Camp on Lesvos has been deemed “the worst refugee camp in the world” and it is breaking my heart. So I decided that this is where I needed to be. I am going for a month with the intention of learning as much as I can, connecting, supporting and helping and then returning in 2019 to deliver some trauma sensitive yoga (TCTSY) programs and trainings.
Can you help me follow my heart?
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