“Seva”(pronounced Say-va) is a Sanskrit word meaning “selfless service, work done without any thoughts of getting anything in return. Seva, in many spiritual traditions is believed to help someone’s spiritual growth and to also support your community or your tribe.
We all have the capacity for selfless service, to give without expecting to get, to help without thanks, to serve without reward. Ram Dass famously stated that “Helping out is not some special skill. It is not the domain of rare individuals. It is not confined to a single part of our lives. We simply heed the call of that natural impulse within and follow it where it leads us.”
You don’t have to be a great sage, monk, priest or nun to practice seva, we can all practice seva in many ways throughout our daily lives. We can all spare a few minutes to pick up trash we see as we are walking through our neighborhoods or in the woods. If you have more time you can volunteer at a soup kitchen or help start a group that reads to children in hospitals. You can walk dogs at your local shelter or you can buy coffee for the guy standing behind you at Starbucks.
It’s important to note that true service doesn’t try to convert or save a soul; it simply serves for no reason other than lifting someone up.
That’s intention and I think seva is more about intention then it is about the act itself. If seva is to be a righteous action then the intention behind that action must come from the heart.
The intention of seva isn’t about getting something in return,
It’s about you taking action that benefits someone else.
Think for a minute what the world would be like if we all thought that way.
It’s important to know that since yoga is about balance, there needs to be balance in our actions, in our seva. We don’t want to donate so much money that we can’t feed our family and we don’t want to give so much of our time that we become exhausted. One of my teachers Ma Jaya taught that we need to fill our cup up first, and let it over flow. The overflow is what we have to give, to share. It’s not a new concept, they didn’t make it up, the idea that you need to care for yourself first has been taught for countless generations. But somehow we’ve managed to get it in our heads, women especially, that we need to take care of everyone else first and we come last. But when you live that way you are depleting yourself and then you won’t have anything to give others. How does that serve anyone?
But if we can learn to live our lives with purpose……. on purpose…… if we move through our days deliberately and we are caring for ourselves, then we have the resources to serve wherever we want and to serve those that need us.
So with no strings attached, try to do random acts of kindness that come from your heart.