Our Featured Topic: The Value of Serving Others

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” – Mahatma Gandhi

In April 2011 I flew to Monrovia, Liberia. From there I was driven 3-1/2 hours to Robertsport – a fully functioning city struggling to rebuild after over 20 years of civil war (1980-2006) – and The Strongheart House. The Strongheart Fellowship Program [strongheartfellowship.org] is a groundbreaking healing and learning guidance program designed to help bright, resilient young people from extremely challenging circumstances around the globe develop into compassionate, innovative problem-solvers and leaders that can affect significant social change.

I stayed there for two weeks. At the House were eight Liberian youths ages 14-25, one 10-month old baby, about six Liberian house staff, one high school technology teacher from Spain and one American Program Guide. There was no running water, and electricity was pumped in via generator three hours a day.

When I was asked what my goals were for this trip, I said I wanted to strengthen my teaching skills. I thought teaching to a non-Western group would do just that. It would force me to find the words, find a way to communicate the knowledge I hold in my head and heart. I also wanted to make the connection that is talked about often in the communities that I’m involved in – that we meditate on peace and happiness not only for ourselves, but also for the world and everyone in it. For my stay I was asked to lead the morning meditation, lead one class during the day on the subject of my choice, and then do one-on-one energy sessions with each of the Strongheart Fellows.

I decided to focus the first week’s morning meditations on sensational meditating, with a focus on smell, sound and/or a physical area of the body. The second week I would devote to the Meta Meditation. This was a big one and I was slightly nervous about how I would be able to connect with the Fellows. How would I talk with them about having compassion for all beings, including those who have caused extraordinary pain for their country, and possibly even directly on the Fellows themselves?

I didn’t have a full grasp on where the Fellows were emotionally, intellectually or spiritually. I knew the kids were studying a book called Mindsight by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. What I gathered was that this book was basically the scientific perspective of mindfulness. For years Buddhists have been expounding the benefits of mindfulness, and now Western science was looking at the neuroplasticity of the brain and what actually happens in the brain when you meditate and practice mindfulness. I hadn’t read the book yet but I had read many on similar topics like The Joy of Living, Change Your Brain, Change Your Life, and I’ve seen What the Bleep do we Know?! multiple times.

I strongly believe that we can change our lives through our thoughts and taking responsibility for our own energetic forces. The Fellows studying this book fit well into my teachings and beliefs about mindfulness, intention and energy.

As I did the one-on-one sessions, I was acutely aware that each of the Fellows was complicated, deeply traumatized, uniquely intelligent, amazingly resilient and somewhat typical of people their age. I wanted to encourage the intelligent, resilient and typical aspects and I wanted to help them to reconnect to their cores so they could heal from the trauma. I wanted them to feel and to know that I “saw” them, the perfect souls that they were — and that I held and will continue to hold the faith that they are powerful beings and that they can create the life they want for themselves.

As we watched What the Bleep Do We Know?! and I stumbled through the explanation of quantum physics and the concept of God, I was continually amazed and excited over the questions asked and the statements made by the Fellows. Not all of them, but a few understood at some level that there was a possibility beyond what we “know.” I wanted them to walk away with ideas like “don’t be rigid in your thoughts,” “dream big” and “know there is the possibility of even more than you can dream of” and understand the science behind the brain to understand how it is possible to change your thoughts and behaviors. Take the leap of faith and believe. Patience and perseverance are vital.

Here were children who had lost their parents, friends and family, were uprooted not only from their homes but from their countries, had experienced hunger at a level I couldn’t imagine, and now were living with the faith that this small American organization was going to support them for the rest of their lives. And I was asking them to be open to the possibility of giving up their fear, giving up their hopelessness, to believe that they themselves were powerful enough people to evoke change, first in themselves and through them the rest of their country. And I did it. I asked them to do this. I gave them scientific reasons how it was possible. I gave them spiritual reasons as to how faith would carry them through. I gave them emotional reasons as to how there were people all over the world praying for them, meditating for their healing and well-being.

And then I came home to New York City. To a man I love, back in contact with family and friends around the country, a fully equipped apartment, cabinets full of food. And I came back to my personal issues: finding peace with my body, financial struggle of building a private practice doing healing work, old childhood issues of distrust and abandonment that continue to color my relationships. But nothing felt the same anymore.

Two weeks is not a long time, but the information that I gathered from the trip bubbles just outside of my entire body. How do I integrate all that I learned? How can I come back without forcing myself to look at what I ask of myself – do I truly believe I am a powerful person? Do I truly believe I can change my brain to evoke positive change in my life? How can I ask the Fellows to do something that I feel like I sometimes fail to do myself?

I can’t. I won’t. So I look at myself in the mirror every morning and I remember a morning of standing at the tide’s edge of the ocean in Robertsport and looking down at my feet. The wave would come crashing in and in one swoop would not only take the sand out from under my feet but would also bury my feet deeper. The metaphor was obvious. My foundation was being taken out from underneath me and yet the result was a more stable place to stand.

I will continue to work with Strongheart. One of their Fellows will be in NYC this summer and we plan to do healing work together. This will be a constant reminder to me to practice what I preach. And that by my doing so I contribute to the cause I so believe in: putting belief, faith, patience, intention and attention into the morphic field for the benefit of all.

On August 13 & 14, Jana Johnson will lead a workshop on manifestation and intention at Crossings in Zumbrota, MN. She will also be seeing people for private healing sessions in MN the week of August 15. Please see her website under “Events” for more details: http://janajohnsonhealingworks.com/events/.

Jana Johnson
Jana Johnson is a Minnesota native who has been living in Asia (Bali & India) since 2012. She has offered healing work, talks and workshops internationally since 2005, and is currently writing a book, "Following No One’s Rules: A Woman’s Spiritual Memoir Encouraging You to Find Your Own Way." Please visit JanaJohnsonHealingWorks.com to learn about her upcoming travel to the U.S., online programs and general offerings. Contact Jana at jana@janajohnsonhealingworks.com.


  1. Great observation with the metaphor below…

    The wave would come crashing in and in one swoop would not only take the sand out from under my feet but would also bury my feet deeper. The metaphor was obvious. My foundation was being taken out from underneath me and yet the result was a more stable place to stand.


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