Giving is good for you...and your community
One thing has become clear in the first half of 2020 - we need each other.
America has long celebrated the individual, however, that focus on "me" versus "we" has led to some big problems for our society when pursuing individual rights and desires is at the expense of someone else. The coronavirus is a perfect example, because it will take all of us to slow the spread of the pandemic. People are getting sick and dying (with over 3.3 million confirmed cases and 135,600+ deaths in the U.S. as of today). As a society we all need to be responsible, and heed the advice of medical professionals, even if it's uncomfortable in the short-term.
Nature teaches us that everything is connected, and each individual has an impact and a reliance on another. We are all united, and with that connection comes a shared responsibility to each other and the planet.
The heart of the path of karma yoga, and an important part of any spiritual practice, is seva, a Sanskrit word that means selfless service: to serve others with no expectation of outcome. By engaging in seva, it becomes clear that it's in our nature to be kind, and to give to others. Think back to a time that you did something nice for another person, not out of expectation for something in return, but just because. I bet you felt really good. In this way, the act is a gift to everyone involved.
When we help others, we help ourself in the process. Giving feels good. "There is evidence that, during gift-giving behaviors, humans secrete “feel good” chemicals in our brains, such as serotonin (a mood-mediating chemical), dopamine (a feel-good chemical) and oxytocin (a compassion and bonding chemical)." Plus, people who give support to others live longer, have lower blood pressure, experience less stress, and have greater self-esteem.
Ram Dass explains this beautifully: “Helping out is not some special skill. It is not the domain of rare individuals. It is not confined to a single part of our lives. We simply heed the call of that natural impulse within and follow it where it leads us.”
Helping others can take many forms, from supporting charitable organizations by volunteering your time or providing monetary support, to picking up groceries for a neighbor in a high-risk category for COVID, or reaching out to someone to let them know you're thinking of them. If you don't know where to start, begin with small steps in your own community.
I'm grateful to those who participated in and contributed to Saturday's Virtual WholeHearted Bike Tour to celebrate the 11-year anniversary of my heart attack. We raised $400 for Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, an organization that does important work to protect the health of people and animals.
What's one thing you can do this week to be in selfless service to others? I'd love to hear from you.