Selfless service or Seva (a Sanskrit word) is a service which is performed without any expectation of result or award for the person performing it.

In the past few years I have moved closer to an understanding of what it means to be in service to others and I attribute this awakening to my daily practice of meditation.  You see, I haven’t always been one to care much for others, let alone demonstrate random acts of kindness or give of my time and energy to serve a perfect stranger.  Here and there I showed signs of archetypal caregiver energy but never full-on service.  I always expected something in return, which was usually some form of love via attention, affection, appreciation and acceptance.

Blog_SevaOver the last six years I have observed other people offering their seva to others through myriad of expressions.  The one thing that always stood out to me was how joyful it made them to be in the space of helping, guiding and supporting perfect strangers.  Their contributions and their presence were creating a transformational experience for those who they were helping but what’s even more incredible is that the folks who were giving their time, energy and presence seemed to be receiving it ten-fold in return.  I will venture to say that in most cases they received more than they gave.  It truly cracked my heart wide open to witness these incredible exchanges.

Within a relatively short period of time, and completely without my realizing it as it was happening, I too began to move in the direction of opportunities that would allow me to serve others.  The first real demonstration of my seva was the sponsorship of a 4-year old boy in Uganda named Purpose.  For a monthly donation, I was able to provide the child with clothing, education and medical attention.  This was a big deal for me because I knew that this was a decision that I would commit to until the child no longer required my assistance, which could be upward of 15 years.  I knew deep within me that this child was in need and that I was in a position to help without any need for reciprocation or reward.  I really didn’t think twice about it.  I’ve been sponsoring Purpose for six years and I know that I am making a huge difference in his life.  On some level, this makes my purpose more evident to me.

A year after my first act of seva, I began hosting and co-facilitating an emotional healing program developed by Dr. David Simon, M.D., co-founder of the Chopra Center in Carlsbad, California.  David’s life was dedicated to teaching others the tools to heal themselves from dis-ease and to find emotional freedom.  David was often quoted as saying that “the purpose of life is to love more and to be happy”.  It was through working with David so closely for a number of years that I realized I needed emotional healing and also that I wanted to help others as they journeyed through their own dark nights of the soul.  David’s life as he knew it soon came to an end when he was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor known as Gleoblastoma Multiforme.  Knowing that his time would be cut short, David asked me to step into his shoes and continue his work in helping humanity to move through their emotional turbulence and return, once again, to wholeness. I have been in service to others in this way ever since and nothing gives me greater joy than to know I can make a difference in the lives of others.

“Even after all this time the Sun never says to the Earth, “You owe me.”
Look what happens with a love like that, it lights the whole sky.”–  Hafiz

This past weekend, I had an opportunity to serve at an emergency women and children’s shelter in my community.  When I first learned of the opportunity I felt a combination of empathy for what they have been through and are currently experiencing and also a deep sense of gratitude for the chance to help in any way that I could.  On Sunday morning I arrived at the shelter through a secured entrance and was guided to the room where I would spend time with them.  I spent nearly 3 hours at the shelter teaching the women meditation and tools for conscious choice-making.  Through sharing some of my own personal experiences with them in an open forum, they soon let their guards down and began to engage in dialogue.  They began to light up with hope and express themselves openly.  Their deep appreciation and gratitude was palpable without them needing to say anything and that was the richest reward I could have hoped for.

What I know unequivocally is that the act of seva, of being in service to others, diffuses the notion of separation and creates a sense of connection that we all inherently crave at the foundational core of our being.  I believe that through simple acts of kindness, compassion and connection we can create a more peaceful, just, sustainable and healthy world.

Self-reflection + Inspired Action

  • In what ways have you – or are you currently – receiving / rejecting service from others?
  • In what ways do you offer your seva to others?
  • How can you move in the direction of providing seva in your own community?