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Compiled by Amanda Woodhams
“We are on this planet to love each other, to serve each other, and to uplift each other. We have come to this Earth to give, not to take. Don’t take pride in taking. Give. Give, and there will be virtue in what you will be given. And that will give you God.”
At Summer Solstice 2013 I was struck by how all participants were contributing meaningfully to the experience of other attendees through seva. I could observe the impact of their service in real time and it was heartening. It got me thinking—how were these people using their extraordinary hearts and minds to impact the world outside Solstice? What stories might they have to tell if only I would walk up and ask? I set about roaming the grounds of Ram Das Puri and what I soon discovered was that many people were utilizing their unique experiences and perspectives in serving their communities at home. Their compassionate choices in ways to serve are highlighted below.
Carol Kandell, San Diego, California
Over the past eight years I’ve sponsored women going through the 12 step program. The women I’ve supported have come from all walks of life, from Yale to jail. Working with them gives me a barometer for how much I’ve changed and how much I have to contribute.
Dev Suroop Singh, California
I believe everyone has the capacity to lend their unique skills to helping others and in doing so bring forward the best in themselves. After living in the heat of Pheonix for seven years on land with no doors, windows or power, I learned how we interact, accommodate and adjust to our environments. In doing so, I discovered how to align my gratitude and draw upon my inner strength. I now share my experiences through my yoga practice and my seva at an Ashram.
Gurvinderpal Singh, Espanola, New Mexico
After the shootings in Wisconsin I felt compelled to develop and maintain a process for responsive security that could be incorporated into my local sangat using my education and experience in homeland security, religious studies and non-profit organizations. The temple (Gurdwara) has implemented it and, considering the close proximity of a school and movie theatre, I’m pleased with the safety and ease it has fostered. My hope is that this model can be shared with sangats all over the US.
Guru Sahai Kaur, Knoxville, Tennessee
Through the Human Animal Bond in Tennessee (HABIT), I participate in the Ruff Readers program, bringing my dog to a library for preschool and elementary kids to read to. These are kids who are too shy or scared to speak in class and read to others. I help to provide them with a safe place to find their voices.
Kulwant Singh, Houston, Texas
Seva is my top priority. I donate to three charities: Pingalwara Charity, helping poor sick people for more than 100 years; Golden Temple’s Food Program; and assisting long term those affected by the 1984 Sikh Massacre.
Joseph Mulhollen and Avtar Khalsa, Northern Virginia
Once a month we facilitate the viewing of a video rebirthing series by Yogi Bhajan. There are over thirty classes in the series. It’s a powerful place where people can come to release the trauma of the first seven years of life. Anyone interested is welcome and at the end we cook a big meal of soup, dessert and Yogi Tea for the attendees.
Onkarjeet, San Leonardo, California
I used to work at an ophthalmology practice. Since leaving I’ve befriended and kept in touch with the elderly patients. Once every few weeks I go and spend time with them and listen to their stories. In between visits I call to hear how they are doing.
Josha, Grand Junction, Colorado
I give people access to the different healing systems I’ve studied all around the world in places like China, Russia, Germany, Latin America, and the Himalayas, as well as at the Esalen Institute. I help them to release, heal and then ground this new awareness.
Joshua Param Sevak, Austin, Texas
I organize events based around yogic lifestyle and permaculture practices and then channel the funds made from these events into projects that promote safety and opportunity in India and Africa. Our last project contributed to both the Bhatti Mine School in Delhi and the LHA organization that assists Tibetan refugees. Funding is also going towards the supplies for creating resource efficient Rocket Stoves in Africa. I also initiated a flash mob meditation movement in Austin that has since spread all over the world.
Hari Singh, Costa Rica
After falling in love with the surf and ocean of Isthmus, Central America, I came to base myself there and started to teach Kundalini Yoga to foreigners and tourists. As interest from the locals grows I am working towards opening up a permanent practice for outreach that will combine classes, training and live in work-exchange to share the light of dharma.
Mata Mandir Kaur, Virgnia
I facilitate people’s personal spiritual journey through a seven month telephone course I created 13 years ago called “Journey into the Heart of Sikh Dharma.” Participants come from all corners of the US and gain access to the most amazing teachers and a space for spiritual connection. The support of the people in the course means growth need not take place in isolation.
Caleb Jay Epstein, Oregon
I bring my massage table to transformational festivals. Bodywork is holding space for the body going into alignment and I’ve stepped in to using energy modalities. It’s invigorating to give people a glimpse of how they can heal their own bodies during a time that’s all about diving in and exploring what’s possible.
Stephanie Smith, USA
I’m working on a film about a woman with Spastic Cerebral Palsy and tracing her journey with yoga. Once someone with SCP hits 20 years of age, physical therapists feel there is not much more help that can be given. This documentary will explore how yoga can transform and enable greater freedom and ease. Hopefully we can get a good result. She’s a bright star and my hopes are high.
Lakshmi Narayan Kaur, Seattle, Washington
I’ve volunteered my time on a crisis line for the past nine years. I take phone calls, never knowing who is on the other end of the line or what their situation is, and I help them to take a step into the next moment. There is a big need for people to have a safe place to be heard.
Amanda Woodhams works as a collaborator in theatre and film, writing, sewing, cooking, and performing to help tell stories she is passionate about both here in the US and in her home of Australia. Her community work includes helping to cook food and serve those in need at Skid Row with the Khalsa Peace Corp, writing to political prisoners through Ken Sitz' Practical Solidarity and volunteering at the Micheltorena Community Garden. One project she is currently working on is willingtogrow.com, a space linking several community gardens together in Los Angeles, Portland, London and Melbourne to foster co-operative sharing of ideas and successes.