By Deg Ajeet Kaur
“If you do not do seva—selfless service, you have just let your soul go hungry. Selfless service to others is the food of the soul.”
My day job is about environmental protection. While it’s important work, I often feel disconnected from the Earth. I sit at a desk and stare at a rectangle; talk through plastic and wires and tap my fingers on square keys that make letters appear. I talk on the phone and write. I sit in a chair for hours. We even call it working virtually. Like it’s not real.
Seva is the antidote.
Seva is grounding. It brings back the physical. The literal. Disrupting the well-worn path of life, the steps we know by heart, seva breaks it up with different energy, a new tempo, unknown people and an exit from one’s head. With seva, it’s easier to leave ones’ “self” at the door, because—yay—it’s not about us. It gets us back to the basics of life on planet Earth. Feed someone. Talk to someone. Clean a dish. Kick a soccer ball. Read a book. Walk a dog. Pick up trash. Play a game. Make a poster. Give.
This morning, volunteering at the Amherst Survival Center, my challenge as the vegan volunteer cook, was a tray of leftover “Fakin Bacon.” What vegan dish could I prepare using the leftovers, while reducing food waste and offering a vegan option for the day’s lunch? Fakin Bacon. I perused the surrounding donations, the delivered product from local shops, farms and groceries. A corrugated cardboard box of beautiful orange butternut squash caught my eye.
The Kriya started taking shape in my mind: Kriya for Nourishment:
Standing with legs hip width apart, peel an entire box of butternut squash, rhythmically observing the orange energetic peels landing in the compost bucket, with the accompaniment of other cooks gathering their ingredients for their delightful dish. Inhale, exhale.
With a spoon, slowly scoop out seeds and add to the orange strips in the bucket. With eyes focused, breathing smoothly, coarsely chop the leftover Fakin Bacon. With a straight spine, sauté it with garlic, onions, celery and olive oil and add to the two big pots of simmering vegetable stock, with orange, bobbing, squash pieces.
Focus on the energetic orange movement and breathe in the healing aroma of Earth’s present to us. Gently sprinkle cayenne for a bit of bite, some sage leaves and a pinch of coarse salt. Stand with feet firmly grounded and mentally say “Sat” on the inhale and “Yum” on the exhale until squash is soft.
Once softened, allow pots to cool to room temperature and blend until smooth, while breathing long, slow, deep breaths. With a breath of fire, transfer compost bin to back door, preparing its respectful return to Mother Earth.
We receive and we give back. Return to the kitchen, reflect on the finished product and add seasonings, as needed. Inhale, hold and release. Bring hands to heart center. Give thanks and breathe.
As I head back to work, I feel refreshed, relaxed and ready for productivity. I’m happier and lighter. I can go back to moving my fingers around on plastic keys after peeling, chopping, laughing and feeding others squash soup from ingredients that were donated from local farmers and grown in Mother Earth’s soil; after cooking side by side with other people stepping off their well-worn path for a few hours for people in need of a warm meal. It’s joyful, as evidenced by the carrot person that my friend Han prepared for her artful salad today.
Seva is nourishment. Seva is fun.
Kundalini Yoga transformed Deg Ajeet’s life (Janet Howard), helping her through big life changes with an increased sense of calm, emotional healing, self-acceptance and trust in the flow of life. She started to recognize a part of herself that was deep within. Quiet. Loving. Forgiven. Forgiving. Her daily sadhana is her gift to her self and the calm consistency in a chaotic, ever-changing world. Wherever she is, her kundalini sadhana is with her. Yes, she gets thrown off balance regularly, but each morning, she gets back to her center – strong, relaxed and at peace.
With an over 25 year career in health care environmental stewardship (www.practicegreenhealth.org), Deg Ajeet’s passion lies in healing the planet – feeling love, respect and appreciation for all living things and connecting with the energy in nature. On the side, Deg Ajeet established Rosehip26 for Air BNB and Reiki Integrative Touch offering. Deg Ajeet received her Level One Instructor Certification in May 2018 and teaches a weekly class at Ananda Yoga in western Massachusetts.