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Season of Service

How do you serve? What does it mean to you to be of service?

  • Truth: We all want to be of service and contribute positively to our communities.
  • Fact: Sometimes it’s hard to determine WHAT our service or contribution “should” look like.
  • Challenge: Getting caught up in comparisons and expectations often incongruent with one’s life, skills or availability.

Can you relate?

Remembering my own dharma (life’s work) is key to serving well. In light of Veteran’s Day and the practice of SERVICE, it can be helpful to get clear about what service is and how we practice the actions of service. Seva, the Yoga discipline of selfless service, is built on the sister practice of Tapas (discipline).

Gift of Attention

TAPAS, or skillful application of wise action (and inaction), is the practice of intention in action. It is also defined as heat or the process of purification. To freely give is critical to the practice of Seva and generosity. This is NOT to say that we give only to get something in return or that we give only when there is no benefit for ourselves in exchange. We give when the act of giving or the gift is an extension of our best selves.

To adapt a perspective from Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, we give to improve upon the “silence” of not-giving.  If we apply the principles of Yoga to our giving and receiving, we have a guideline for when, how and what to give. In my opinion, the BEST GIFT is your attention, and thereby the best act of service is to give your attention freely to what matters most.

Service as a Practice

Service is my preferred Love Language (see Love is Love is Love) and my favorite qualifier for offering my service is ABUNDANCE. Understanding abundance is a key ingredient in Seva (service without compensation) and Tapas (disciplined effort).

Tapas based service is dependent on understanding:

  1. What we have to share/offer and
  2. What would be a benefit to those with whom we intend to share.

In other words, giving something that isn’t needed may be more of a burden for the receiver than it is a gift just as withholding something that would be beneficial might be defined as selfish or even harmful to the other.

What do we share?

  1. We share what we have in abundance. Abundance… there’s that word again. Every time I say or hear the word abundance, I expand with its energy. Abundance is a mindset even more than it is a measurement for our possessions or bank accounts.
  2. We share what we no longer need. This is not permission to dump our trash at the local Charity, but rather to consider that which doesn’t serve us could still be of benefit to someone else.
  3. We share what is ours alone to share/give. We don’t give away someone else’s stuff or promise someone else’s time, energy, talent or resources.

How do you know when to give, offer, contribute? How do you know WHAT to do or not do as an act of service and generosity?

Finding your style of service is a practice in it of itself. Keep on practicing. Through the experience and the reflection, you are sure to find something that is mutually rewarding for you and our community.

Thank you for your service.