Look Upward

Give of Yourself.

When you feel connected to whatever you consider to be your Higher Power, you expand beyond what you see and experience. In turn, your definition of yourself expands.

One way to look outside yourself is to focus not on the diminishing capacity and loss in your own life, but to focus outside yourself as well. I had listened to my clients talk about the ways in which their diagnosis was taking things away from their lives, through lifestyle modifications, medication regimens, and at times just their own new physical limitations. It occurred to me that they were succumbing to a victim mentality, a bad sign if ever there is one, and that something needed to be done. There had to be a flip side to all of this focus on themselves and what they were losing, which inevitably caused them to focus on their own neediness and how to get their needs met.

I started encouraging my clients to get out of themselves, to reach out to the world around them with the goal of contributing. They could begin by calling friends not to ask for support but to give support. Being more attuned to offering encouragement and assistance to the people around them and finding ways to volunteer in their communities. They report back that they have gained much more by helping others than they could possibly have been given.

There are many ways to define and experience spirituality. You can begin to pray, practice meditation and mindfulness, read the works of religious teachers and apply their philosophies to your life, or become a member of a religious community, a church, or synagogue. But most agree that spirituality begins with having compassion for others — taking that step outside of yourself to reach out to someone else with love and concern. And without first asking what they owe us, or what we might get back in return.

Compassion for others will put you in touch with something beyond the challenges that you are facing in your life. And in the process, compassion helps you to find your way back to your true self. Compassion is a boomerang.

And here are some guidelines to help you answer these questions: