If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one.- Mother Teresa
Our subject of the month is Karma Yoga. Karma means action in Sanskrit, and when we link the word “action” with “yoga” we should expect we are going to be encouraged to observe and perfect our actions. And since yoga practices inherently guide us towards unification rather than upholding the individual “I”, it makes sense that Karma Yoga translates to mean self-less action.
Mother Teresa is good example of a Karma Yogi. She worked tirelessly to improve conditions for underserved populations, and she was an inspiration for many to do the same. I love the quote above. It gives us permission to do something, anything at all, when we feel overwhelmed by the enormity of need.
Like all of yoga, selfless service is a practice. So we watch ourselves as we strive to give time, money, objects and serve humanity. I believe most of us want to serve others but we don't know how to go about doing it. Leaving our families and possessions behind to join a missionary are not in the cards for most. Even devoting a day to deliver for meals on wheels may seem daunting if you have a busy schedule.
I came up with an idea for practicing Karma yoga that I would like to share with you. I can do this in the comfort of my own bathroom! First you need to know a fun fact about me - I LOVE hot showers, I could be in there all day. When I think of the hurricane devastation in Puerto Rico and how so many still have no running water, I recognized my privilege and how I am serving myself in these long, hot immersions . Of course the water I save by shortening my showers wont go directly to the people in Puerto Rico (remember your mother making you eat all the food on your plate because “children are starving in China?”) But long showers do tax an important natural resource, and that is also important to me. I decided that for the time I spent over and above what was necessary for the essentials in a shower, I would make a donation to the Red Cross. The same if I buy too much food that ends up going bad before it is eaten (another bad habit of mine).
Even though I may not be able to be on the front lines of service in Puerto Rico at this time, I think this donation system can fit the ideals of Karma Yoga. This process requires that I observe actions that benefit me, shift them to have a more global, constructive impact, and adds some tapasia (heat, difficulty) to an otherwise mundane action. We will see how it goes… I will keep you posted. Let me know if you want to join in this at-home Karma yoga practice. Not for praise of course, but for inspiration for others!