Part 4 of a 5-Part Series on Yoga
I’ve recently been writing about using our body to be in the God Force. I’ve wanted to inspire you with ways to go deep inside so you can connect with your Divine Within. Now I want to inspire you with ways to go outward to connect with that same Divine. Karma yoga is one way. It’s a bit of a spiritual stretch (but not too much).
We could have an extremely in-depth discussion on the meaning of the word “karma.” There’s the western concept of karma (“what goes around comes around”) and there’s the Hindu concept of karma which involves several layers of meaning. For the sake of our talk this time, we’ll keep it really simple.
What’s Karma Yoga?
In Sanskrit, the word karma means “do” or “action.” Karma yoga is:
- labor that focuses on helping others through selfless service
- while not allowing our ego to be dominant
- and focusing our heart and mind on our love of the Divine
Shukavak N. Dasa of the Sanskrit Religions Institute, describes it this way:
“Karma yoga is to see oneself as a mere tool of the divine and to offer the fruit of our actions to the divine. Karma Yoga is an expression of divine love, of the unity of everything that is yoga. Karma Yoga means to help, heal, and share.”
Karma Yoga and Your Spiritual Path
While karma yoga comes from the Hindu belief system, the practice is taught in all belief systems. It really doesn’t matter what your path is because, when you reflect on it, you’ll see karma yoga there.
You’ve likely volunteered for a charity at some time in your life. Maybe you were triggered by hearing the stories of your friend’s experiences or inspired by media stories of others. Did your spiritual organization encourage you to do it? All of these are opportunities for karma yoga.
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
How Should I Begin?
Karma yoga can be a doorway to connecting with the Divine anywhere, with anyone, and doing anything. All you need to do is find an organization or person whose purpose and mission is in harmony with your values and goals.
First, get to know the organization or person well enough to know they’re trustworthy and that you’re safe. Once you find one, ask for a task assignment that isn’t too challenging for you. Whatever work they give you to do, apply the three principles noted above: labor for others, no ego, love of the Divine. Hold the mindset that you’re serving the Divine. Fill your heart and mind with a love for the Divine.
As you become comfortable with the karma yoga process, step up the challenge a bit. Offer to do a task that really makes your nose wrinkle up. Toilet cleaning or scrubbing floors, anyone?
What’s the Benefit? Satisfaction!
You may be one of those persons who’s been through spiritual training that included karma yoga. Monks, nuns, and acolytes of all belief systems do karma yoga . . . it just has a different name. One Spiritual Satisfaction program colleague shared how she, in the past, had practiced karma yoga as a mystery school initiate. Today, having gotten out of the habit of regular karma yoga, she was inspired to see how she could apply it to her day-to-day life.
Her profession as a hairstylist made it easy to arrange giving shampoo and a haircut to a homeless person at a shelter. Her ego did resist her at first. Even though she’d done karma yoga before, she still felt nervous for herself. She was also judgmental about the lack of cleanliness of the person experiencing homelessness. However, when she reminded herself of how the shelter environment was safe (others were present), and she viewed the man as “the Divine in disguise,” her resistance faded.
Washing his hair was when she felt the most connected to the Divine within him. While still holding loving kindness in her heart, she finished up with the cut. In the end, she was elated by not only the gratitude and joy the man expressed to her, but also by her deep satisfaction with herself in managing her ego resistance—not to mention the potent alignment with the Divine that she felt intensely for days.
You’re Not Alone
What karma yoga could you do this week? Is the idea of karma yoga a stretch out of your comfort zone? What form of karma yoga could you do that would be a small stretch? You know, not all the way to the point where you’re terrified but just enough to make you curious? I’d love to hear about your experience, and of course, I’m here to support you in your exploration of it.
Next: Connecting with nature as part of your spiritual nourishment.
Ready, Set, Action!
As always, I invite you to explore these topics in your own unique way, by yourself or with others. Share with me about how it’s going and what blocks you’re running into. You can use the comment section below, or for more privacy, email me at Info@TreeofLifeSanctuary.org.
Written by Laura Abernathy