Submission and Serving

16 Oct

i used this quote on my facebook page the other day.  


 “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”
~~Rabindranath Tagore

It makes me smile when i find one that has a double meaning for me, and i hope Sir enjoys it too.   Ironically, i don’t have much time to blog this morning; i have a volunteer thing i do on Saturday mornings, and a bunch of busyness after that.  So i’m really just going to open this topic.

i wanted to do it incisively, cleanly.  But the ideas swirl in my mind; like paint, they bleed into each other.  Serving and pleasing, submitting and giving, weakness and strength.   

i start off:  “Serving is a joy, whether it’s bringing Him something to drink or kneeling at His feet to pleasure Him. ”    And then i’m stuck – so many ways i can go from there.  Do i talk about how pleasing Him pleases me?  How the feeling of serving flows into feeling submissive, and feeling submissive back to serving?  How the simplest assignment thrills me?   

You know, as a therapist, i have the privilege every day of getting to see inside people’s minds and hearts.  i’m honored that they let me into their lives and share who they are with me.    i don’t think i was ever the kind of therapist who thought i had other people’s answers, but if i ever did, they’ve taught me to let go of that.

For example.  There are a multitude of women of who come to therapy exhausted and in pain from trying to take care of everyone else.  There are a zillion self help books written just for them, designed to help them learn to be more assertive, to stand up for themselves, and so on. 

In my earlier days of therapy, i used to take that approach too.  i’d try to help her see that the nephew who stole her medication last week and is in jail now for forging prescriptions is probably not really going to pay her back for the collect phone calls he’s making from jail.  And that maybe – just maybe – she should quit accepting the calls.  

She’d listen, nod, and agree – and keep taking the calls.  “He’s so depressed, locked up in there,” she might say.  “I’ve gotta be there for him.  I can’t refuse to take his calls!”  i’d feel frustrated because i couldn’t figure out how to “help” her.

Several years and dozens of women later, i finally realized i needed to let go of it.  If the women i was working with really quit doing all the things they did, the society around them might crumble.  So i let go of my fantasy about how they should live, and begin to focus on helping them recognize that they were making a choice.  That they didn’t HAVE TO do the wonderful, loving things they did (even to their own detriment,) that they chose to.  And if that’s what they wanted – who was i to suggest they do it differently?  

The women i worked with weren’t helpless victims, they were making the choices they wanted to make.  i began to support them in their choices, instead of telling them they were wrong.  i began to recognize and honor their strength and power.   NOT in a “well, you’re choosing to do that, so it’s your own fault if you’re not happy” way.  But to recognize that they were loving and caring in a selfless way that deserved my respect.

And – the coolest thing – sometimes they began to recognize their own power and strength.   To value what they were giving.  To figure out ways to take care of themselves, to choose more carefully, and to feel less helpless, at least some of the time.

So where am i going with this?  Let me see if i can tie it back in…

Serving and giving and submitting are sooo complex.  My clients, who came in looking weak and helpless, were neither.   There were circumstances they couldn’t change, suffering they couldn’t alleviate, but they were neither weak nor helpless.  So –

– no, i can’t do it.  i can’t find the “wrap it up with a bow” words to finish this.  i read posts from my blogging sisters struggling with questions of weakness and strength, and there’s so much i want to say.  i can’t possibly say it all in this post. 

So – if this theme resonates with you – we’ll just sit with it.  Don’t need to resolve it today.  Instead, i’ll end with – remember the sand mandala the Tibetan monks started last Sunday?  I went over to see it a couple of hours before they finished it.   Here are a couple of pictures. 

This is a close-up of the area where they’d just started working when i took the first pictures

This is the whole thing.

As beautiful and complex as the sand mandala is, ideas about power exchanges are even more complex and amazingly beautiful.

5 Responses to “Submission and Serving”

  1. strivingforpeace October 16, 2010 at 6:42 am #


  2. Mick October 16, 2010 at 7:23 am #

    I do enjoy looking at your FB postings through that other lens. Our little inside joke. Sort of like the lyrics to “Not Fade Away”. I figured you would like those.

    Have a good weekend, Sin. Let’s talk again soon….We promise not to disapear abruptly.

  3. sin October 16, 2010 at 8:26 am #

    I guess it does resonate a bit. It makes me think about serving. Is it giving someone something they want when they want or need it? I think so. And that service is between the two people, not between any onlookers, not really answerable to any onlookers. Oh my thoughts aren’t elegant this morning, but you have stirred something up Aisha. Thanks

  4. nilla October 16, 2010 at 9:35 am #

    so many layers, just like that mandala of sand…some to be blown to the 4 winds, to swirl and create new patterns in the air…

    …so transient. We are all so transient. Here, then gone, only to arrive again…and when we are caught in the maelstrom of the wind…are we somewhere? or nowhere?


  5. aisha October 17, 2010 at 7:39 am #

    Sorry to be so long responding!

    @sfp {smiles}

    @mick – Yes! I like that too, it amuses me a lot.

    @sin – Thanks! I hope you’ll share your thoughts as you sort through them!

    @nilla – Yeah, I don’t have those answers either. But it’s interesting to think about, isn’t it?



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