Current events have enabled us to view the depths to which people are willing to go for the good of others. On the surface, you might think the firefighters in Arizona who perished doing their job and Nelson Mandela from South Africa wouldn’t have very much in common. In reality, their connection in an attitude of giving to others is huge. 


          The spiritual practice this month at the Center for Spiritual Living, which is my metaphysical home, has been Seva, the ancient Sanskrit word for “selfless service.” Seva can be thought of as those acts of kindness we do for other people with no personal gain in mind. While on the surface, Seva includes our acts of volunteerism or doing things for the benefit of others, it actually goes deeper than just the acts themselves. Seva encompasses an attitude of selflessness, whether we’re in the act of providing for others or just going about our daily routine.

           In my opinion, both the firefighters in Arizona and Nelson Mandela in South Africa symbolize that attitude of selflessness which extends beyond their heroic acts of giving. Who better to embrace this selfless attitude than the 19 firemen who gave their lives so that the lives and property of others would be saved or who better than an impassioned anti-apartheid activist who sacrificed 27 years of his life in jail so the lives of others could be freer? Somehow I don’t think their selfless acts were isolated but rather included years of putting others ahead of themselves in all things – big and small. They exemplified the attitude of selflessness.

          Seva is an art form; it’s something to practice, not only for the benefit of others but also for the benefit of ourselves. What do we get out of being selfless? For myself, I like to think it’s an opportunity for me to get over myself. It’s a time for me to practice getting out of my own way in order to serve others. It’s my chance to really let go of being needy or pushy or impatient. I can place myself in the shoes of others without consideration of what my desires or expectations are.

Are You Being Served by Your Seva?

          I’ve heard from people who have mastered the art of Seva, from its deepest form, that these individuals have received a lot in return:  connections are strengthened, hearts are supported and expanded, love is shared, unexpected benefits abound, and a sense of belonging is magnified.
          So, in the thick of the dog days of summer, which remind us to relax and unwind, I challenge you to ask yourself a couple of questions:

          – Do I believe in anything so deeply that I’d put myself in harms’ way for it?
          – What are my reasons for giving to others and what do I hope to get out of it?

          It’s not a test, you don’t pass or fail based on your answers. But, by answering these questions honestly, I guarantee a greater depth of seva or selflessness than you have ever experienced before.  If you decide to pursue an action plan for selfless service, may I recommend Invisible Acts of Power: Personal Choices that Create Miracles by Caroline Myss.

Toby, the pet assistance dog


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