The Hindi word, Seva, means being of service, work offered up to God. Practically all denominations have some type of service woven into their belief systems. While I've never really been a full practitioner of one organized religion, it has been fulfilling to my spirit to practice being of service.
Since my early twenties I've always been involved in volunteering. A cause would ignite me and I would follow. My first volunteer stint was a court advocate for victims of domestic violence. I would support women with everything from filing their reports to sitting with them during the court hearing for their abuser.
I was then moved towards helping animals. I landed a spot on the Audubon Society birds of prey rehabilitation team where I helped with everything from cleaning cages, feeding baby owls, playing soccer with bald eagles (yeah, ask me about it sometime!) to transporting them to their release. I did similar work with the Marine Mammal Center where I also got to work the stranding shifts to patrol the stretch of coast from Montara to Pescadero, assess the animals, call in a crew and bring sea lions, harbor seals and elephant seals to the rescue center. I've been a foster parent for feral kittens, socializing them so they could be adopted to new homes. After embarking on my path with Reiki I volunteered the offering of Reiki to the residents at the Maitri AIDS hospice which is run by the San Francisco Zen Center. I volunteered in the Reiki Clinic at the Immune Enhancement Project. I then circled back to leading meditations and offering Reiki to the residents at Brennan House, a shelter for women of domestic violence. As I write this I have a longing to return to service again. Though my work is purposeful, I feel the need to be in more service, but then I think, 'good grief, where will I find the time??'
Many of us feel the need in our hearts and spirit to be of service. I hear from many of you who work 50, 60, 80-hour work weeks, but don't necessarily find your work purposeful. I'd like to remind you that your work doesn't need to be purposeful, but your life does. Our purpose is to live with our full potential, to lead with our hearts and spirit. It's in this potential where we have the power to lift each other up and keep us going through the slog. So I'll tip you off on one of the best ways we can be of service...practice kindness!
Practicing kindness in everything we do. Asking ourselves, 'am I being kind to myself in this moment? am I being kind to others in this moment?' Let it be a meditation which flows throughout your day. When you get angry, ask, 'am I being kind to myself, to the other?' When you push yourself to exhaustion, ask 'am I being kind to myself, to others around me?' When we're unkind to ourselves it surely creates a ripple effect to the people around us and beyond. So in everything we do, weave kindness into it. And best of all, many acts of kindness are free and take seconds to complete!
Here are ten simple ways to practice kindness each day:
1. For every person you encounter acknowledge them, see them, give them the warmth of your smile. Go further by saying 'hello' or 'good morning'. I can't tell you how many times I've been lifted up by a complete stranger saying 'good morning' with a warm smile.
2. Hold the door open. (Guys, you should be doing this any way ;-) Holding the door open for someone acknowledges their presence and is a simple gesture of support. (and for the ladies who act indignant because a door is held open for you, ask if you're being kind to yourself?)
3. How many times have you finally reached that awesome parking spot and then to find there are still 15min on the meter...GOLDEN!!! Put extra coins in your meter. If I know I'm only going to be 15min at a meter, I'll often put in enough coins for 30min.
4. Say I love you to someone you love. I love hearing this from my beau, daughter, girlfriends and family any old time.
5. Give a compliment. If you like someone's blouse, or like a certain color on someone, or love their hairstyle, or see they have beautiful eyes..tell them! We love being seen and acknowledged by others, so compliment the next person you see.
6. Offer your seat on the bus. Hopefully we're all doing this for the elderly, pregnant women and disabled, but try doing it just for someone who looks like they had a worse day than you.
7. Park farther away than closer. If you're in a parking lot, you'll notice many open spaces farther away than the closer ones. If you're able-bodied, leave the closer spaces to people who may really need them.
8. Nourish the birds. Call me dorky (my beau does), but I get such great joy from watching the birds fly into the birdbath outside our kitchen window after I've scrubbed and filled it with fresh water. They do full dunks and call the others into the party. Fill a birdbath, bird feeder or simply plant a small garden which will attract hummingbirds.
9. Listen with full presence, particularly if someone is telling you something important to them. Put down your cell phone, close your laptop, turn your shoulders in their direction, look them in the eye and listen.
10. Write a note of praise to someone's boss. Remember that great waiter who really made your business dinner? It takes five minutes to send an email to their employer praising that individual for the service they provided...and don't forget to leave them a great tip!
One of my favorite all-time quotes is the one by Ralph Waldo Emerson. I return to it every time I feel I'm not doing enough...
"To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded."
Have you been moved by an act of kindness? Tell me about in the comments below!
Here's this week's Tweet Quote: