Seva is a Sanskrit word that directly translates as “string”, indicating that all things are connected in the thread of existence. Seva as a concept for the yogini means performing acts of service that are selfless: helping a friend move, collecting and donating to the local food bank or volunteering at a shelter. For me, Seva is never totally “selfless”. I always seem to experience an immediate reward or joy at offering relief or comfort to someone in need, and the sharing of my self, time and compassion only helps me to know myself all the better. However, the rewards of Seva have been proving to be even more obvious to me as I struggle through a challenging period of my life.
This past April, I decided to leave a high-paying job in the software industry after 5 years. The nature of the work was stressful, the hours and commute were long, the rewards rapidly dwindling and the frustration mounting. It wasn’t simply a matter of stress, as stress is a natural part of life and will be a part of any job. What I did know is that I was unhappy walking in the door every day. I knew there had to be a better quality of life and that it was up to me to have the courage to explore it. I spent the next couple months immersing in yoga teaching training, cooking, meditating, writing music and catching up on years of lost sleep. There is a joy and peace in just existing–even doing life’s daily mundane tasks like grocery shopping. I have been able to make time with friends and family and savor less hectic, yet full and satisfying days. I have been able to be a loving, benign and care-taking presence to my husband, who is certainly dealing with his own life challenges right now.
Then things started to get a bit shaky…
With my savings starting to recede, and my instinct speaking very strongly against a couple of job “opportunities”, I find myself still jobless. I keep crunching all the numbers to optimize how long I can continue to viably last without income. I’ve sold off a lot of things, cut out a lot of frivolities, but what I am looking at is a few more months. I found my mind swinging like a pendulum to the past (I was making 100K and got a month of vacation per year! Was it really that bad? Yes it kinda stunk!) and to the future (what in the world am I going to be doing for income? All the job descriptions are so overwhelming! Everyone is getting thousands of resumes for one job). I’ve had to truly become the living embodiment of “living in the present” as we have all been taught time and time again. I need to set my daily goals and keep chipping away at the larger project here, which is to somehow preserve the spiritual and peaceful evolution I’ve undergone the last couple months and also move into a new job that can be challenging and fulfilling. I am very eager to get back to work and accomplish exciting things, but I just don’t know where that is going to be yet.
So, as far as Seva is concerned, I am applying it in the context of the free yoga classes I am doing on site at several businesses, as well as the free personal consulting I am doing with several friends. Every time I donate my time, and can see them having fun, soothing stress, interested in the purpose of an asana or meditation or pranayama technique… it takes me out of my own anxious mind, and, let’s face it, it’s a wonderful teaching experience to work with such a variety of students: seniors, busy moms, cancer patients, stressed out ad agency executives.
I’m not ashamed at all to say I have selfish motivations for performing Seva–it just feels good and it is helping me to get through a very anxious time. We all need to remember that we are completely in control of being compassionate and caring to each other, even if we can’t seem to control the stock market or price of homes or all of the other chaotic things going on around us.