This issue originally published as A Course for Teachers
One day last month, I was involved with my usual routine. Like millions of people worldwide, I awoke before sunrise and showered. My wife and I woke our two children. As usual, we prodded them numerous times to get up. Neither are morning people. We were on the road by 6:30 a.m. Even though we were all in one car, we had differing destinations. We dropped off our son, Dylan, at child care prior to his catching the school bus. We dropped off our daughter, Guinnevere, at her school twenty miles away. Ten miles later, I dropped JeanneE off at the dental office. I continued to the high school where I teach three miles up the road.
It was a typical beginning to my work day. I stopped by the cafeteria for the obligatory cup of coffee, banana and blueberry muffin. I conversed with the cafeteria staff and the early bird students. One of them asked me if I had heard about a former student, age 19, who committed suicide the previous evening
The funeral took place three days later. Many students were absent that day. The school provided a bus for anyone wishing to attend. I could not help ruminating over my past experiences with Arthur (not his real name). I remembered conversations with him. I recalled his facial expressions and reactions. I remembered his interests. I thought, "If only I had gotten him interested in amateur radio as a hobby, he might be alive today." Caring people, especially teachers (and we all are teachers) often wish they had done something different or extra that could have prevented the tragedy.Service
Life is uncertain. The unexpected may alter our course. John Lennon sang, "Life is what happens to you while youre busy making other plans." However, we also impact others in unexpected ways. Imagine the state of the world if each of us considered it our place to be of service to others.
Each meeting of individuals, whether by chance or by arrangement, is a student - teacher encounter. We are all teachers and students to each other. We may interpret this to mean, "I am here to serve you." A Course in Miracles states, that a teacher "is generous" out of "Self Interest." Self-Interest differs from selfish interest in that giving and receiving are the same. When we give love, it expands and returns to us. The teacher "does not want anything that he cannot give away. "
We never know what effect our student - teacher encounters may have. We can see each encounter as an opportunity to be of service. Miracles may happen as a result. Since miracles are corrections that do not necessarily create or change circumstances; they change perceptions instead. They may have lifesaving consequences.
Throughout my twenty-three year teaching career, I received a dozen or so phone calls from former students. Some have called to say, "Hello." Others called to say, "Thank You." Some came to visit and spend the day. We can never fully determine the effects of our service to others. Our giving (which A Course in Miracle says is the same as getting) may save lives. I cannot help wonder about Arthur. Would a little more giving have led to a correction of his perceptions? Would a miracle of service have saved his life?Service Professions
Teaching is an obvious helping profession. It is taylor-made for offering service. Any profession which deals with people, and all do, is a service profession.
The approach we take when we deal with others can always be, "How can I help?" Whether we are corporate managers, teachers, bank tellers, administrators, clerks, bus drivers, mechanics, parents or students, etc., we can approach life with a smile that suggests our chosen interest in the other.
There is one profession that we share in common. Living itself, is a profession. By virtue of being alive, we profess our goodness.
There is a mind-body connection which reveals that hostility and other negative emotions lead to ill health. Choosing service in the profession of life enhances our health through the reduction of stress. Volunteers typically report increased trust, joyfulness, elation and improved self-esteem. Through service the world seems good. We are happy.
Since life is our profession, we can incorporate helping others every day. Service becomes a mind set. We spontaneously and joyfully encourage others.
Beyond our helping, we may volunteer at a school, nursing home, service organization, Meals on Wheels, etc. Local church groups can guide us to where the need is. Through choice for service, the world instantly becomes a better place. We can, as Captain Picard of the Starship Enterprise says, "Make it So."Charity Towards Others
In Allan Luks and Peggy Paynes book, The Healing Power of Doing Good, the authors state that service (in their words, charity) to others is a universal teaching. This universal attribute is one of a highly spiritual person. Consider that the worlds religions suggest if not dictate giving to others:
A Course in Miracles repeatedly states that to give and to receive are the same. The great wisdom literature of the world shows that offering compassion on behalf of those who need it fosters the reception of comfort when we need it. What goes around comes around.
In each encounter with others, we have the opportunity for service. We can help with their state of mind. We can console those with losses. We can be gentle. We can offer suggestions for right mindedness. As we aspire to honesty and integrity, we model purity of intent. We can show how to let go the misperceptions of the ego, how to call upon the Inner Voice to reach a state of calm.The Beatitudes
It might be worthwhile to revisit some of the Beatitutes that identify character traits of servant-hood:
Through service to others we offer blessings. Without judgment, through forgiveness we extend ourselves and create miracles. Possibly, we may save a life. If we interpret ourselves to be Sons and Daughters of God, then we manifest A Course in Miracles statement on service: "The Son of God asks only this of you; that you return to him what is his due, that you may share in it with him. Alone does neither have it. So it must remain useless to both. Together, it will give to each an equal strength to save the other, and save himself along with him."The Importance of Meaning
From time immemorial, people searched for meaning in life. Service offers a direct path to finding that meaning. Blessed be those who serve.
In Viktor E. Frankls book, Mans Search for Meaning, he refers to public opinion polls regarding prime motivation for living. In a French poll, eighty-nine percent of people conceded that they needed "something" to live for. Social scientists at Johns Hopkins University surveyed 7,948 students attending forty-eight different colleges. They found that seventy-eight percent considered their first goal to be "finding a purpose and meaning to life."
Frankl suggests that there are three ways that we can discover meaning in life. They are (1) by experiencing something or encountering someone as in falling in love; (2) by attitudes we take toward unavoidable suffering; and (3) by creating work or doing a good deed.
In some schools, community service is a graduation requirement. Community service requirements necessitate a sharing, between teachers and students, of the spiritual value of unselfish service to others. We spend so much time on academics that there is very little left for discussing altruism.
If students find meaning in the "other," then what happens when the other is no more? The meaning of life may disappear in the face of despair. The life itself may become threatened. If the surveys are correct, then we make a drastic mistake in waiting for crisis in individuals to develop before we offer help. A dramatic loss of self-esteem through the breakup of a relationship, along with a sudden disappearance of lifes meaning, may invite notions of suicide.
Along with algebra, history, the sciences, we should teach the meaning of life? I believe educational institutions fail to help many in need because they lack the vision to teach the basic life skills necessary to obtain and maintain a feeling self-worth through service.
Inextricably intertwined, self-worth and service correct the distortions we have of ourselves. "All your difficulties stem from the fact that you do not recognize yourself, your brother, or God." Instead, we listen to the ego. We hear the ego say how difficult or bad life is. How no one cares. How there is nothing for us. Then, we project.Knowledge
When we project, we lay on everyone and everything outside ourselves the shortcomings our ego is incapable of recognizing in ourselves. Our projection once again, is our perception.
Our perceptions are temporary because our projections change from moment to moment. Consider how often our state of mind is changes by a mere alteration in our point of view. Based upon time, the perceptions of our world differ depending upon whether we follow the Inner Voice of love or the egos calling from fear.
What we perceive really means what we interpret. We need to recognize and teach others to see that in light of perceptions instability, we can always choose right perception.
The miracle is a way of guiding right perception onto the path of knowledge. Right perception establishes a stable viewpoint in "an attempt to counteract an underlying fear that the future will be worse than the past."
Knowledge, in contrast to right perception, is internal. It does not come from the world outside. Knowledge existed before our bodily form came into being. It is pure stability that ultimately replaces right perception. With knowledge, we experience the perfection that we are and always will be. We are perfect as perfections creation. We reach Gnosis: self-knowledge as knowledge of God.The Gnostics
In December 1945, a remarkable archaeological discovery was made near the town of Naj Hammadi, Egypt. A peasant named Muhammed Ali al-Samman, found thirteen papyrus, leather bound books. Known as The Gnostic Gospels, the fifty-two texts contain previously unknown gospels, writings relating to Jesus and descriptions of people and events found in the New Testament.
According to The Gnostic Gospels, Jesus said, "If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you." We either reach a state of gnosis or knowledge or we fall prey to the wrong mindedness driven by the ego.
Some Gnostics believed that enlightenment occurs when we recognize the God in each of us. This is a universal principle. Today, in Northern India and Nepal, the common greeting is, Namasté . Namasté means, "The divine within me greets and honors the divine within you."
We are a manifest form of divine life and divine revelation. The Gnostic Gospels present evidence that we, in fact, invent the divine. Humans create God from their own inner potential.
As manifest divinity, we can share what we are. We can export this divinity to others. We can acknowledge it in others as well. In their time of need and loss of right mindedness, we can be there to guide them back on the path. Through service to others, we offer them an opportunity to "recognize" or to once again, reknow the divinity within themselves.Non-Judgment
Finally, we do no let the ego become involved with service. We simply ignore the ego. We accomplish service without self-judgment or appraisal. We merely, offer it. We do not become attached to results. We do not judge how others receive our service. We do not judge ourselves. Nether, do we judge the recipients state of mind. We simply acknowledge and offer heart-centered, compassionate service.Summary
© 1994 Jozef Hand-Boniakowski