Tag Archive: seva

Memorial Day (and service)

Hanuman, the monkey god, is one who reminds us to serve.  When Hanuman was a kid, he was rather full of himself.  That was not surprising, really, as he had wonderful and magical powers of strength and agility.  When he got too audacious playing with his powers against the bigger gods, he was cursed to be able to remember his powers only when he was serving with true love and devotion.  When he was serving Ram and Sita, then, the full force of his powers were available to him to help in their dilemma. (Yes, this is a rather creative summation).

Some of my strongest memories from childhood were observing my father when he was providing draft counseling for those conscripted to fight in the Vietnam War.  My father did not talk on the phone because it was tapped, but we heard a lot of conversations about whether to be a soldier, be a conscientious objector, find a basis for deferral, or otherwise protest or avoid the draft.  Although I was raised to think that war did not serve humanity (though my parents engaged in debates about whether all wars were bad, discussing the difference between fighting against Hitler and fighting in Vietnam), I was also raised to believe strongly that we all have a duty to serve.  I meet many in the military here in Washington, DC.  What I find is that those who have chosen military life have a strong sense of service.  Even if I do not believe in most of the basis of the service (just as I don’t hold much truck with whom Sita was expected to be and the basis of the battles in the Ramayana — more on that some other time perhaps), I respect that those who were conscripted and felt they had no alternative or those who chose to be in the military put their lives on the line to serve.

I try to think of Memorial Day as honoring those who have served and not, as I did when I was younger, dismiss it because it was more societal indoctrination to perpetuate the war machine.  When Natalie and Joe Miller invited those at Willow Street to join them in service by helping to clean up part of Long Branch Creek, I signed up.  I appreciated their way of making it easy both to honor peace (by helping the environment) and those who have served (by ourselves serving).  We will be taking our yoga of the mat and into the world with a morning of seva— selfless service.

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Organic Energy (the difference between “navel gazing” and making a difference)

There is a specific sequence to the major Anusara alignment principles even though ultimately we are doing all of the alignment principles simultaneously.  “Organic energy,” the action of reaching out and making offering is the fifth of the physical principles.  We do not reach out until we have softened and listened (opened to grace), intentionally drawn in with nurturing, focused embrace (muscular energy), expanded with discrimination (inner or expanding spiral), and drawn in again with discrimination and awareness to concentrate the energy (contracting or outer spiral).  We do, in fact, need to be aware and open, to be nurtured, and to study and expand with refinement, to enhance our ability to make offering and to serve in the most optimal way.  So we take care of ourselves and draw inward as much as we reach out to keep ourselves in balance.

Once we have taken care of ourselves, though, it has been my experience that without reaching out, there is no true strength or meaning in either a yoga pose or in life.  Organic energy as a physical principle is expanding from bone to muscle to skin, expanding outward from the midline, and reaching from the core to the periphery.  How I experience organic energy at its most supporting is a true reaching out, an offering of the energy created and refined by the other practices.

What is the point of a self-embrace or personal enlightenment if it is not used to serve, to offer the love and wisdom cultivated by the practice?  Organic energy is what changes yoga (on and off the mat) from being enjoyable “navel gazing” and being a source of power that helps us brighten and shift not only ourselves, but our relationships and all around us.

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