March '08 Seva

A Conduit for Love
by Tracy McDonald

Just as we do asana (yoga postures) and sit for pranayama (breathing exercises) on the purifying path of Ashtanga yoga (we know that these practices physically cleanse the nadis – or channels – in the body), so we are practicing selfless service to cleanse the mind.

In the experience of my own life, giving to others has gone hand and hand with my asana practice. At times when I am more internal, self protective, and not extending myself to others, my asana practice is locked up and difficult, and I struggle as much physically as I do mentally. At times when I feel myself giving for others’ benefit, my consciousness opens, and my asana practice soon follows. The two certainly go hand in hand.

If you open your mind, your heart, and your hand, and allow love to flow through you, you will experience a lightness of mind, heart and spirit. The challenge is to not let the ego be attached to others’ reactions to the love you facilitate – you are merely a conduit for what was already there, because we are all comprised of love, anyway. You have done nothing special; you just did what needed to be done. No pat on the back is necessary: you saw a need and fulfilled it. This is selfless service or Karma Yoga.

If you never plant the seed in the first place, you can never hope to have a rose. If selfless service work is a part of your path, then protect it: it is as important as, or perhaps more than, asana practice. Slowly try to dissolve the ego from this work (it is challenging but it is a practice as well). Give charity to others and expect nothing in return. Do what you do for the good of others, and when you see the ego creeping in, make steps to banish it. Do not be attached to ideas about yourself; you are a conduit for love.

Tracy McDonald was introduced to Ashtanga yoga in London 2004 at Surya Yoga by Sabel and Jennifer (students of Dena Kingsberg). A workshop with Dena in 2005 inspired Tracy to start a daily self practice which she took with her to Madagascar for service work. From June-October 2007, she was lucky enough to be able to study in the AYRI shala with Sharath, Saraswati, and Guruji. Tracy currently volunteers with the Friends of Wissahickon NGO to maintain Philadelphia's largest park, and in March 2008 will volunteer for 27 months in Senegal for Environmental Education in the Peace Corps. Seva is an important part of her practice.

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