There is one such word, however, that is not as well known but needs to be.
The word is seva, which in Sanskrit means service.
Seva is not just any kind of service but rather selfless service performed with a sense of gratitude; it is service infused with kindness and respect for the ones served and it arises from a place of peace and love.
If we all were to do our work and carry out our other relationships in accordance with seva, the world would change profoundly. Seva is not about taking a few hours out of our busy week to help others, it’s not something to be turned on and off, as if kindness, compassion and gratitude are qualities to be doled out in limited amounts. Seva is a way of living…a way of thinking…of designing our lives so that we consistently serve others selflessly. Every action, every interaction should be made with seva.
This includes our work lives; professionals of every stripe—lawyers, doctors, dentists and others—often assume a distant or even superior attitude toward their clients or patients…they fail to connect with the other person’s humanity. For caregivers to take such an attitude is especially sad because for such professions, the rewards of seva are great. For example, if a doctor greets a patient with an attitude of compassionate service, with actions and words that essentially say, “I am thankful to you for finding me worthy of service to you and for providing the means of my livelihood,” then the doctor will likely find that the patient already feels better before anything else is done or said.
Seva is not selective or judgmental. It does not evaluate our fellow beings and select some for care and respect while ignoring others—it treats all beings with compassion and tenderness. As the fifth verse of The Wisdom of the Tao says,“I work at eliminating all of my judgment of others.”
Taking up an attitude of service with gratitude provides us with many rewards in all four dimensions of our lives: physiological, mental, social, and spiritual.
In regard to our physical health, seva is a form of positivity, which Professor Barbara Frederickson of the University of North Carolina reports is linked to a number of physiological benefits. These include a decrease in stress hormones, lowered blood pressure and improved immune system functioning. Practicing selfless service infused with thanks also increases our levels of the feel-good hormones prolactin and DHEA.
Socially, when we let seva guide our interactions with others, we create open spaces where people feel acknowledged, respected and cared for, as their barriers come down. To practice seva is to recognize the natural bond between ourselves and others; using kindness and compassion takes us out of our selfish egos and expands us, bringing us closer together. We strengthen our relationships and friendships, while creating new ones.
Mentally and spiritually, seva promotes powerful happiness-creating emotions—grace, caring and thankfulness. This not only brings profound karmic benefits, it infuses our lives with meaning and value, lifting us up spiritually along with those we serve.
By profoundly affecting all four of our dimensions, seva builds health, peace, harmony and joy in our lives.
We can even take seva into the bedroom with us!
Sex without seva is just sex but when this natural act is approached as seva, it becomes lovemaking. You do not simply aim for your own personal satisfaction—instead you focus on pleasing your partner, giving all you can to making her or him happy. Your partner’s response to this selfless attitude then creates delight for both of you. What results is a wonderful mix of physicality, psychology and spirituality that leads to ecstasy and deepens intimacy.
My friends, I urge you to undertake all of your activities, personal and professional, in the spirit of seva. To do so is to live by your heart.
Without striving, without effort, you will receive many priceless rewards. Remember the seventh verse from The Wisdom of the Tao, “It is through selfless action that I experience my own fulfillment.”
Rajiv Parti, MD (aka Dr. Raj) is a world-leading specialist in pain management with over 30 years practicing clinical experience. He was the Chief of Anesthesiology at Bakersfield Heart Hospital where he specialized in cardiac anesthesia for 15 years. Dr. Raj founded the Pain Management Institute of California, and under his direction it has served thousands of patients for acute and chronic pain relief. He now specializes in promoting spiritual wellness and personal growth with various non-traditional healing modalities. His new book “The Soul of Wellness “ is being released by Select Books in October 2012. Visit his website: www.drraj.com.
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Editor: Bryonie Wise