Once when I was in grade two a friend of mine was sick one day. When she came back she was slightly behind in whatever it is we were doing that day. For some reason I think we were learning the multiplication table. Is grade two too early to be learning the multiplication table? I remember where my desk was in the class room: along the western wall, both beside and facing a chalkboard. We were still in R.I. Baker having not yet moved to the newly constructed Jennie Emery Elementary school. For some reason this memory sticks with me extremely vividly, it’s as if it was just waiting for me to pluck it out of my grey matter the moment I needed it or the moment I could learn something from it. Isn’t that the same thing?
I had this feeling that day in grade two that this friend and I thought differently. Not that we had different opinions about things (which surely we did) but that some part of my mental processing was somehow different than hers. She just didn’t get the multiplication table. I noted this difference and came to the illusory conclusion that we were different. At the time it only consciously went that far but I see now that I created this hierarchy in my head; a hierarchy of which I came out on top. There I was, 7 years old and thinking I was better than someone else.
Where do these conclusions come from? Why did different equal better in that little girl’s head? The answer to those questions rests in paragraphs of reflections on just why it is that the approval of others will somehow validate me rather than my own internal knowing that I am enough. The most important part of this memory is how I am seeing its false origins. I’ve somehow gone through much of my life thinking that some people are better than others. Obviously this has to do with much more than six groups of six totaling thirty-six. This has to do with difference, however it can be perceived. Once perceived I would create this incredible story that I suddenly couldn’t connect with a person because their capacity in function X was diminished. How preposterous to assume I know the inner workings of another complex and unique being. I have subsequently set myself straight. What an amazing gift awareness is. I am grateful to learn about these parts of me.
My position at the ashram puts me in the perfect place to serve others in their immediate needs. Yes, in the summer when there are gaggles of people here I have to really keep awareness of the Light to ensure energy is not taken from me, but at this time of year there are less than 30 of us here. We all know the basic lay of the land so to speak so the needs of people are for things they really can’t do themselves.
I particularly simply love being able to help out Swami Radhakrishnananda. Whether she’s mailing out a package or needs something printed off I take it as such an honour to offer in whatever way I can to make her task be completed with ease. She has been involved in the teachings of the ashram for a very long time over the decades. Her main residence is currently at the Radha centre in Spokane though she’s been here for good chunks of time over the autumn.
I really feel I connect with her and have a lot of respect and admiration for her dedication and commitment. She has a lot of health problems and so anywhere I can help her out I am happy to. But what about when other people are in need of help? What if I’m in the middle of cashing out, wanting to be on time for supper and someone comes in whom I’ve known for months and could have a great long chat with about something they require? In those instances my willingness to serve is diminished. It’s completely natural for me to want to complete my tasks in the allotted time in order to have supper with everyone else. That doesn’t mean I should shirk my responsibility to be of service to those that come to me needing assistance. Do I get to choose who I respond to? I’m here doing Karma Yoga aka Selfless service. It doesn’t seem very selfless of me to be willing to drop my tasks at certain times or for certain people and then at other times adamantly refuse.
I’m learning how to expand my reaction to what is happening around me. Not to function solely out of habit or instincts stemming from selfish desire but to truly act with awareness and compassion. If I know my ideal is to serve the Divine then I can work to see the Divine in everything and everyone. That means the Karma Yogi who’s been here for three days in need of a pen, and the Swami who has devoted their life to maintaining and presenting the teachings and tools offered here.