HEALING THROUGH UNITY
A monthly newsletter dedicated to serving the principles of
physical and spiritual health envisioned in the Baha'i Teachings.
Volume 1, Issue #7
IN THE SERVICE OF LIFE
By Rachel Naomi Remen
In recent years the question "How can I help?" has become meaningful to many
people. But perhaps there is a deeper question we might consider. Perhaps the real
question is not "How can I help?" But "How can I serve?"
Serving is different from helping. Helping is based on inequality; it is not a
relationship between equals. When you help you use your own strength to help those of
lesser strength. If I'm attentive to what is going on inside of me when I'm helping, I
find that I'm always helping someone who is not as strong as I am, who is needier than I
am. People feel this inequality. When we help we may inadvertently take away from people
more than we could ever give them; we may diminish their self-esteem, their sense of
worth, integrity and wholeness. When I help I am very aware of my own
strength. But we don't serve with our strength, we serve with ourselves. We draw from all
of our experiences. Our limitations serve, our wounds serve, even our darkness can serve.
The wholeness in us serves the wholeness in others and the wholeness in life. The
wholeness in you is the same as the wholeness in me. Service is a relationship between
Helping incurs debt. When you help someone they owe you one. But serving, like healing is
mutual. There is no debt. I am as served as the person that I am serving. When I help I
have a feeling of satisfaction. When I serve I have a feeling of gratitude. These
are very different things.
Serving is also different from fixing. When I fix a person I perceive them as broken, and
their brokeness requires me to act. When I serve I see and trust that wholeness. It is
what I am responding to and collaborating with.
There is distance between ourselves and whatever or whomever we are fixing. Fixing is a
form of judgment. All judgment creates distance, a disconnection, an experience of
difference. In fixing there is an inequality of expertise that can easily become a moral
distance. We cannot serve at a distance. We can only serve that to which we are profoundly
connected, that which we are willing to touch. This is Mother Teresa's basic message. We
serve life not because it is broken but because it is holy.
If helping is an experience of strength, fixing is an experience of mastery and expertise.
Service, on the other hand, is an experience of mystery, surrender, and awe. A fixer has
the illusion of being casual. A server knows that he or she is being used and has a
willingness to be used in the service of something greater, something essentially unknown.
Fixing and helping are very personal; they are very particular, concrete and specific. We
fix and help many different things in our lifetimes, but when we serve we are always
serving the same thing. Everyone who has ever served through the history of time serves
the same thing. We are servers of the wholeness and mystery in life.
The bottom line, of course, is that we can fix without serving. And we can help without
serving. And we can serve without fixing or helping. I think I would go so far as to say
that fixing and helping may often be the work of
the ego and service is the work of the soul. They may look similar if you're watching from
the outside, but the inner experience is different. The outcome is often different too.
Our service serves us as well as others. That which uses us strengthens us. Over time,
fixing and helping are draining, depleting. Over time we burn out. Service is renewing.
When we serve, our work itself will sustain us.
Service rests on the basic premise that the nature of life is sacred, that life is a holy
mystery, which has an unknown purpose. When we serve, we know that we belong to life and
to that purpose. Fundamentally, helping, fixing, and service are ways of seeing life. When
you help you see life as weak, when you fix, you see life as broken. When you serve, you
see life as whole. From the perspective of service, we are all connected. All suffering is
like my suffering and all joy is like my joy. The impulse to serve emerges naturally and
inevitably from this way of seeing.
Lastly, fixing and helping is the basis of curing, but not of healing. In 40 years of
chronic illness I have been helped by many people and fixed by a great many others who did
not recognize my wholeness. All that fixing and helping left me wounded in some important
and fundamental ways. Only service heals.
This article was submitted by Susan Gammage who came across it in her local Community
News, issue #16, October 97. It serves Muskoka, Haliburton and Parry Sound regions,
These are inspiring and practical responses to the Janaury 1998 question: "What
are some divine ways of serving individuals who are ill or in need of our
Divine ways... Well, since humans are created in the Divine Image, I'll touch on human
ways. I have a friend who has post-polio. She was scheduled, earlier this winter, to have
surgery on one of her feet, which was collapsing due to lack of muscle tone resulting from
the nerve damage from the polio. She had spent a long time in the hospital as a child, and
the prospect of being in the hospital, and the relative loss of independence after
release, scared her half to death.
In the last several years, we have become very close friends. I know her as
well as I know my own family. And I knew she needed company. I was able to visit her
twice while she was in the hospital, (it was in another city) and frequently after her
release, since I was staying in her town for a couple months. There were times when she
would be frightened or angry or just plain in a bad mood. And there were times when she'd
push away and act as if she didn't want anyone around. All those times, I hung in there
with her. If she had to cry, I let her cry, because I know that the release of sadness is
much better than keeping it in. If she had to yell, I let her yell, knowing that she
needed her anger for healing. I also knew that nothing she expressed would hurt me.
She was often apologetic for "being bad company." I told her that I only
expected her to be real. I reminded her of all the trials she had succeeded in weathering.
How strong this woman is! And how grateful I am to be her friend! I know that my presence
in her life helped her get through the ordeal of her surgery and recovery. She tells me so
every time we're together. It was not hard or heroic for me to spend time with her. I love
her. She's a dear friend. And the times we have spent together, even when one or both of
us have been "at our worst" have been catalysts for both of our spiritual
growth. That says it all.
If I were to sum up the one quality that stands out in this situation, it would be
Rachel Cammack, Washington, USA
Remember the saying: 'Of all the pilgrimages, the greatest is to relieve the sorrow-laden
heart.'" ('Abdu'l-Baha, Translated by Shoghi Effendi, Star of the West, Vol. XlV #1)
We are told: "Indeed the believers have not yet fully learned to draw on each other's
love for strength and consolation in time of need. The Cause of God is endowed with
tremendous powers, and the reason the believers do
not gain more from it is because they have not learned to fully draw on these mighty
forces of love and strength and harmony generated by the Faith" (Shoghi Effendi,
Directives of the Guardian, p. 27)
How can we learn to accomplish this? "We should all visit the sick. When they are in
sorrow and suffering, it is a real help and benefit to have a friend come. Happiness is a
great healer to those who are ill. In the East it is the custom to call upon the patient
often and meet him individually . . . This has greater effect than the remedy itself. You
must always have this thought of love and affection when you visit the ailing and
afflicted." ('Abdu'l-Baha, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 204)
"When at the bedside of a patient, cheer and gladden his heart and enrapture his
spirit through celestial power. Indeed, such a heavenly breath quickeneth every mouldering
bone and reviveth the spirit of every sick and ailing one." ('Abdu'l-Baha, Selections
from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Baha, p. 151)
"...if a doctor consoles a sick man by saying, "Thank God you are better, and
there is hope of your recovery," though these words are contrary to the truth, yet
they may become the consolation of the patient and the turning point of the illness. This
is not blameworthy." ('Abdu'l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 215-6) Susan Gammage,
It has become a habit within our family at the sound or sight of an ambulance, fire-engine
or other emergency service vehicle to stop whatever we are doing and to say some prayers
hopefully to ease the suffering or panic of those in peril, and to bring them some measure
of comfort. It is the least we can do, and is something we would encourage us all to do.
Charles Boyle, Townsville, Australia
The question of the month for January brought to mind the experience of our family during
the terminal illness of my father over the last year and a half. My father was Ron
Parsons, known to many of you. As his terminal illness progressed, he became unable to
leave his bed, or read the Baha'i Writings that had always been so dear to him.
It was because of his great love for the Word, that his family and Baha'i community set up
a cassette player in his room. When nobody could physically be present to say prayers or
be with him, tapes of Baha'i music, but also of prayers and of the World Congress in New
York were played, even while he was asleep. His soul was, then, surrounded by the breaths
of the spirit constantly: "...in this new age the Manifest Light hath, in His holy
Tablets, specifically proclaimed that music, sung or played, is spiritual food for soul
and heart." (Selections from the Writings of Abdul Baha, p.112)
Besides the physical care we could give my father at home, this was one way in which we
could feel assured that healing for his soul could also be provided. Ann Murdoch, British
A Man's Heart was Touched by a Caring Comment
There is an instance of a husband who for many years was caring for his wife suffering
from a terminal illness. He also had many other responsibilities looking after their two
children, the household and a job. He tried to keep on an even keel, be supportive
to everybody and to avoid self-pity. One day, on a visit to the ill wife with her family,
a teenage girl looked in his eyes: "I know how hard this must be for you."
He was deeply touched. While everyone else gave support to the wife, this young
woman remembered him. Ever since, he often recalls this validation of his own value, and
has shared the story with many others.
As shared by another reader. "How much love and healing can be felt in a single look,
a gentle touch, a kind word and a reassuring presence! These precious spiritual feelings
leave a mark on our hearts and souls."
(Editor's note: This story of 'Abdu'l-Baha was shared by Mr Aziz Yazdi, retired Counsellor
and former member of the International Teaching Centre, at a Baha'i Pre-Youth Winter
School held December 6 - 8, 1991 in Puslinch,
Ontario, Canada. It is taken from "Parenting in the New World Order", Vol. 1,
"Now I am going to tell you an interesting story about the Nineteen Day Feast. The
Feast would be in the same room (next to the Shrine of the Bab) and after the prayers,
'Abdu'l-Baha spoke to us. There would be a big table near the door full of good things,
fruits and sweets. 'Abdu'l-Baha Himself would stand next to this table. Then we would
come, one by one, He would put some fruit and other good things with His own hands into
our hands. We would go out, we would kiss the fruit and eat them and enjoy them. It was
very good fruit.
Now one of these Nineteen Day Feasts, I had a young brother. He was only six years old. He
was sick and he could not come. But he is a child - and all these people - who would
remember him? I thought nobody would remember
him. When my turn came, I got my share and kissed it. I was going out to eat it and enjoy
'Abdu'l-Baha stopped me. He gave me another share and said, Please give this to your
brother who is sick and at home." Oh! You have no idea how happy this made me. That
'Abdu'l-Baha remembered my little brother, without
anyone telling Him that he was sick. We didn't! But He knew it. This is 'Abdu'l-Baha!
I was so excited! I wanted to run and tell my father who was outside that 'Abdu'l-Baha
remembered my little brother. Before I could move He stopped me again and gave me another
one. Guess for whom this one is? He said, 'This is for your mamma who stayed home to look
after your brother."
You see how thoughtful and kind He is? For everyone. He remembered everyone. And I can
tell you - be rest assured that even now if you turn your heart to Him and pray to Him, He
will not forget you. Ask for His help and assistance. Please ask for His assistance -
especially! He will almost take your hand and show the way to you. It's so beautiful, so
This is an interesting perspective to the September 1997 question: "What are
some of the treatments to re-establish a balance in our bodies to prevent sickness?"
I am always amazed by the statement of Baha'u'llah in the Kitab-i-Aqdas (Baha'u'llah, The
Most Holy Book, K145, 158) "Take heed that ye enter no house in the absence of
its owner, except with his permission." If I look at the concept of "another
man's house" beyond the simple property, to include his feelings, business, emotions,
opinions, then I see a further wisdom and meaning. Indeed if I extend this to include my
body in the sense of not permitting anything to enter it (by way of food or drink) except
those things which it needs or would allow (give permission), placing a
responsibility on me to determine what things are appropriate to allow to enter.
There is of course throughout the revelation of Baha'u'llah the recurrent theme of duty
and responsibility - in this case a duty to maintain good health, and a personal
responsibility to determine in what way our health may be best maintained. This
responsibility can by extension be taken further to include the provision of health and
educational facilities and/or programmes to facilitate the decisions we may wish to make.
Indeed the entire Kitab-i-Aqdas can be viewed as a blueprint for social and economic
development, placing upon us the various duties required of Baha'is, and the
responsibilities required to see those duties are carried out. It may also be seen as a
charter for self-empowerment and development. Charles Boyle, Townsville, Australia
I have a very old but reliable printer that is painstakingly slow and while I realize that
I could read your newsletter on my computer, I want the pages in my hands, and so I stand
at the printer reading each page trying not to hurry through the words but my spirit is
hungry and races over the pages as they come out. I want the printer to fly and the words
to never stop and I am sad when the newsletter finally ends. Thank you for your time and
the gift of this wonderful communication. I have been sharing your newsletter with many of
the friends and they are as thrilled with it as I am. Lilwen Hodson, British Columbia,
Just received via e-mail this beautiful, beautiful newsletter. The contents of it are so
precious. I forwarded it to some of my friends that are in the "nickname file".
This is the first time I've heard of it....and would like some details on how I can
receive this regularly..." Evelyn Watts, Coburg, Ontario, Canada
I am writing to ask that I be placed on the mailing list for the "Healing Through
Unity" newsletter. I am a Baha'i Pioneer in Rankin Inlet, NWT, Canada. I am a nurse
and Health Consultant. I am the Community Wellness Coordinator here, and am applying
Baha'i teachings and principles to assist in healing in the community. Your newsletter
sounds wonderful and I am eagerly waiting to read it. Gerry Pflueger, Northwest
I want to thank you for all your inspirational material that you send us. Faye Rouhani,
QUESTION FOR THE MONTH
The question for this month is: "The cycles of growth involves both crises and
victories. What are some examples of this spiritual process and how does it affect our
lives? What does this pattern of growth look like?"
You are encouraged to ask questions for future issues of the newsletter. Please share all
your responses or if you have other comments for the newsletter, please write to: Frances
Mezei by e-mail, -- .
Other than the quoted Writings, the material in this newsletter represents the thoughts
and opinions of the writers and has no authority. You are free to copy articles, provided
you indicate the source of the article.
May God grant you boundless health, security and comfort,