Simple Acts of Service

Nepaly Bells

We are on this planet to love each other, to serve each other, and to uplift each other. We have come to this Earth to give, not to take. Give, and there will be virtue in what you will be given. And that will give you God.” ~ Yogi Bhajan


When natural disasters strike, I’ve noticed that people tend to respond in one of two ways. For many, the first reaction to the tragedy is to feel a sense of hopelessness or helplessness. Such people make a statement, along the lines of: “There is nothing I can do.” For others, the first reaction is to ask a question: “How can I help?” There is no right or wrong here, by the way.Sometimes making an absolutist statement versus asking a question is simply an indication of where we are on our path at that particular moment in time. “Live the questions,” the poet Rilke once wrote. But the truly enlightened ones—and the advanced practitioners—will live the answers as well: “I can help by [fill in the blank].”  This is why we practice. So that, when tragedy strikes, we become the answer.

Today, the Sat Nam Foundation is asking you to donate funds to support our human and all sentient friends in Nepal. But what if you simply do not have spare funds at this particular moment? Does that mean you cannot be part of the answer? Certainly not.

First of all, let’s explore our definition of “funds” or “resources.” Those of us who were raised in capitalist societies may have been conditioned to define “resources” as “money” and “time,” completely forgetting that our greatest resources are actually things like love, kindness, prayer and God. But this is a large topic, best saved for another blog another day.

When I first got news of the earthquake in Nepal, my first reaction was to want to hop on a plane, throw myself into the center of things, and help the Buddhist nuns who are helping the animals. Those of you who are familiar with my blog know that have a strong Buddhist practice alongside my Kundalini Yoga practice. (We haven’t come up with a word for this dual path yet, but someone suggested Ku-Bu.) I did some quick research on volunteer efforts and airfare, only to discover that the airfares alone were beyond my budget. Plus, I have some teaching and editorial commitments I need to honor. So no volunteering in Nepal for me. I made a few small donations to various causes close to my heart (street dogs in Nepal, the rebuilding of Buddhist monasteries) but I still feel, at times, that this is not “enough.”

This brings to mind a piece I wrote for Spirit Voyage several months ago on seva. I wrote about a friend of mine, who was newly divorced with two young children, and who was bemoaning the fact that, as a single parent with two full-time jobs, she could no longer walk dogs with me at our local animal shelter. “I wish I had the time to volunteer,” she said, “but someone has to feed the family and that someone is me.”

 We can all relate, right? We live in a fast-paced world, one in which volunteering is seen as kind of a luxury. But again, large topic. What I want to address here is the guilt my friend feels that she can no longer offer seva to the shelter. “But you’re raising two children,” I reminded her, “and you are raising them consciously. That’s certainly seva.” “It just doesn’t feel like enough,” she said.

Ah. The “Not Enough” syndrome. Mega-huge topic. The human mind, left unchecked, can steer us down some bumpy roads. Many of us, like my service-minded friend, are currently feeling guilty that we don’t have time to, say, volunteer at the local soup kitchen and/or that we don’t have the funds to fly off to Nepal for a few months to help with the post-earthquake efforts there and/or volunteer with Street Dog Care (which is my dream seva, thank you very much). And then we start to feel resentful that we don’t have the time or the funds, because we’re too busy working all the time, and then we start to feel guilty for having felt any resentment in the first place, because it’s not like we’re being tortured and held prisoner in Tehran at that particular moment, nor have we been born into the bodies of abused circus elephants this time around; nor have our homes and all our possessions simply disintegrated as a result of the shifting plates of Mother Earth; and then, before we know it, we’ve worked ourselves into a tizzy of spiraling emotions and are completely misaligned. Funny what the mind can do, right?

Anyway, that conversation with my friend—and the current tragedies in Nepal—got me thinking again about simple forms of seva—those acts of love, kindness, and service you can offer if you don’t have a lot of spare time or money.

please visit tomorrow as we will explore these simple forms of seva.

“Love is seva. It’s offering yourself and helping to increase the vitality, the surroundings of somebody, giving somebody grace.”

– Yogi Bhajan

 To learn more about the Sat Nam Foundation’s fundraising campaign for Nepal, click here.


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