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‘Tis the Season to Give What You Don’t Need – Seva

Posted by on Dec 2, 2009

A great part of my own personal practice is Karma yoga.  It is the philosophy of yoga as selfless service. You may have also heard it referred to as Buddhi Yoga, and in Sanskrit: कर्म योग). Many famous yogis such as Shiva Rea, Julia Butterfly Hill and Sri Sadasiva Brahma speak of this important pillar of yoga. In the yogic tradition one aims to focus on the duty (dharma) with no expectation for reward.

Julia Butterfly Hill, for example, was compelled to complete her selfless service by living in a 180-foot tall Redwood tree for 738 days in order to save it from being chopped down by the Pacific Lumbar Company. She had no thought but to save “Luna,” the name she affectionately gave her tree at the time she lived in her branches, but later wrote a book and toured to teach others about environmentalism and selfless service. Shiva Rea started her Global Mala Project in Los Angeles to help join yogis all over the world in Seva (selfless service).  This project has been completed but Shiva is always looking to promote worthy causes and build partnerships and manpower to support them. For me personally, Karma yoga is one of the most humbling experiences and definitely reduces egoic thinking. By practicing Seva, we can begin to stop repeating actions which will only benefit ourselves, and look to commit acts which will draw us closer to the Universe as a whole. By serving another human being, we transcend selfishness and small-mindedness.  We ‘do’ to become. We can burn through many samskaras and past karmic actions through the yoga of selfless service. I try to volunteer sweat equity at least one or twice a month and monetarily as my budget allows. 

It is erroneous to think that you have to have a lot of money to give back to the world.  I know most people could go through their closets right now and find at least ten items that they never use, but that a charitable organization or a friend with less could really benefit from. We often ask ourselves the wrong question when it comes to karma yoga.  Instead of thinking, “I have nothing to give,” ask yourself, “in what ways, with what I have right now, can I give back to the world?” I am sure once you start asking better questions, answers will come in full force. To get you started here are some of the easiest ways you can give back: 

Refugee Empowerment Services is just one of the refugee resettlement services in Dallas, TX.  I am currently collecting the following items which are greatly needed to help new families coming into our country from Bhutan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and other places to transition more smoothly:

  • Diapers
  • Pillows
  • Twin sheet sets
  • Towles in all sizes
  • Blankets
  • Bowls, Plates and Glasses

If you would like to volunteer to teach English as a Second Language or help set up apartments for Refugee Empowerment Services, you can contact Robin Al-haddad at 214.553.9909, ext #11.

There is a great game you can play online called FreeRice.  Increase your vocabulary by guessing at word meanings and in the process donate rice through the World hunger Organization to underpriveleged areas in the world.

 A wonderful website called VolunteerMatch can direct you to hundreds of volunteer opportunities in your area from going grocery shopping for an elderly or homebound person, to finding home for shelter animals. 

For those of you who might want to find a way to volunteer virtually through the cold winter months, you can help write grants or create websites for charitable organizations by clicking here.

There is really no wrong way to start Seva. Karma yoga is meant to be practiced with no thought of the self, but the rewards you reap are immeasurable.  That is the irony of the practice. Einstein, in his brilliance told us, “Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison of selfishness through widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation.” I wholeheartedly concur.

(c) 2009 Christina Sarich

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