COMPONENTS OF HOLISTIC LEARNING
By Dave Till and Christine Lines
This is the eleventh article in our series on Holistic Learning, to read the introduction and view the other components to follow please click here.
11. The Value of Service
Service is an integral part of an holistic life and even within communities that focus on the spiritual, the value of service needs to be reinforced and encouraged.
The path of selfless service is an ancient and well-respected tradition that needs to have its place restored in the modern world. The word seva comes from the Sanskrit root, sev, meaning to “attend” or “to go towards.” Seva is generally understood to be “service” and one way to look at seva is simply as volunteer service, and in the case of a community, this could mean cleaning the kitchen after a shared meal, caring for the garden, or the offering of professional services such as bookkeeping or architectural skills.
In the community of the Findhorn Foundation, the concept of service is called ‘love in action’ and this is one of the three founding pillars, the other two being inner listening and co-creation with nature. ‘Work’ departments are called service departments instead and a mixture of education and service is common for most guests at Findhorn.
Work, in the form of service, becomes part of the spiritual practice for the individual and creates an holistic education practice within the community, for example during the Findhorn Community Semester programme. Students engage in daily seminars, experience living education through engagement with practical aspects of life in the community, and explore themes relevant to our times such as spiritual practice, sustainability and group process.
Everyone in the community, co-workers, students and guests, are involved in a regular Kitchen Party – otherwise known as KP – once a week where a small team of community members clean the kitchen and dining areas after each meal, in the spirit of service. There is also a homecare rota every few weeks where a rotating team prepare the guest rooms for the new arrivals, reducing the workload of the regular homecare crew at the weekend when new guests arrive for the start of their programme.
As in many communities, there are a myriad of opportunities in the Findhorn community to volunteer time and effort as part of a general service ethic that exists here; leading community meditations, driving the Findhorn bus between our two sites, ushering for community events in the Hall to name just a few. This is a working community and service is where work becomes spiritual practice and has the potential to create a sense of joy, wellbeing and fun in the service-givers.
I personally prefer to spend an hour or so washing dishes for 100 plus people once a week, than clean a few dishes of my own every day! This Easter weekend we have 200 guests in the community participating in the Into Christ Consciousness conference and the community centre is full of food and conversation at mealtimes. There is a joy in working together as a team, sharing the responsibility of doing what needs to be done, and introducing guests to our way of life.
The idea of service creates a different mindset, rather than working for an annual salary or hourly pay, the rewards of service create a spiritual abundance beyond the material. A concept that has perhaps become lost in the mainstream way of life that can be rediscovered when we simply work with love and care even in the most mundane of tasks, combined with an awareness of something greater than ourselves.
Many years ago I was drawn to the community life of a kibbutz in Israel, which was a delightful revelation after growing up in a traditional nuclear family. I loved being involved in a wide range of jobs that were all important in the daily functioning of the community, from cleaning bathrooms, to preparing meals, to picking fruit in the orchards, or working in the diaper factory. I worked with my peers and then met their extended family in a different work shift, reducing the idea of rank or hierarchy, we were all there to serve the whole.
Similarly within the Findhorn Community, one day I might be in a monthly meeting with my mentor and the next day we’re doing the dishes together. Somehow the spirit of service makes us all equal, contributing our own unique qualities and learning from and supporting one other in a way that is deeply nourishing for the soul.
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
Each week we will introduce a new topic. Please feel free to add your views and comments to expand on it more fully.
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