“Life’s most urgent and persistent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'” Martin Luther King, Jr.
Sometimes a question hits you square in the chest. The question irritates and inspires. My codependent says, “Maybe you’re doing too much for others.” My perfectionist says, “You’ll never do enough.” My heart knows I can do more – maybe by *doing* less.
King’s question reminds me of seva, or selfless service performed with a sense of gratitude. It is service infused with kindness and respect for the ones served, and it arises from a place of peace and love – not resentment and fear. I believe the way in which I show up for myself becomes the foundation for the way in which I show up for others.
In India, they knew seva to mean “both of serving and of being an offering, an homage,” says Douglas Brooks. “It’s giving or doing something out of devotion.”
Still, Dr. Rajiv Parti explains, “Seva is not about taking a few hours out of our busy week to help others. It’s not something to be turned on and off, as if kindness, compassion, and gratitude are qualities to be doled out in limited amounts. Seva is about designing our lives in such a way that we consistently serve others selflessly. Every action, every interaction should be seva.” Essentially, seva is a way of being.
I see some of my friends throughout the country organizing incredibly powerful nonprofits and creating lasting change in their communities. I hope to do something similar soon, but until I have the resources, I can – as Mother Teresa said, “Do small things with great love.”
I’ve started looking at the ways I’m showing up in the world. Sometimes it’s as simple as smiling. Good genes and orthodontia blessed me with a great smile. Or laughing. Making people laugh is one of my favorite pastimes. Or cooking. Creating a meal is a meditation for me as is sharing it with my loved ones and people on the street. Or writing and inviting the world to see. Or listening in the Thich Nhat Hanh way where I say with my energy and my being, “Dear one, I’m here with you.”
If we all were to do our work and carry out our other relationships in accordance with seva, the world would change profoundly. So, for now, I’ll start where I am. The way we bring healing to our world is to begin within.