Maybe it’s just me, but when my lover told me that he wanted to devote his life to serving others, I just wanted him all the more! Giving is irresistibly attractive!
Should that be your motivating factor? Who cares!
Let me explain.
Awhile back, I watched “The Children’s March,” a film by Tell the Truth Pictures, which recounts the story of how 25 years ago the young people of Birmingham, Alabama braved fire hoses, police dogs and jail time to spearhead the end of segregation.
I recommend this exceptional film for so many reasons, but one thing about the story struck me. Yes, it was an inspiring account of how unity truly is power, but that wasn’t it. The film showed evidence that one is never too young to inspire social change, but that wasn’t really the clincher either.
The “big hit” I got that day came from something a little more obscure: while a few of these kids were clued into the fact that their actions could create such monumental change, many of them were making a stand, risking so much because it was the thing to do that day. It was what all their friends were doing. That day, in 1963, it was cool to buck the system and get hosed down with water and chased down by dogs and thrown into jail. And so they marched. And in the end, they made an impact.
So here goes: what if our motivation for service doesn’t even matter? Does a person who is truly in need care if your helpful attitude comes out of a desire to be recognized, a need for a tax right-off, or to make you, yourself, feel great? Probably not.
Seva means selfless (as in ego-less) service, but is there really any such thing? I mean, who on Earth is ego-less? …And what does that even mean? As I grapple for an answer, the word itself (ego-lessness) steps into file with other lofty and poetic words which have been rendered nearly impotent in our modern day society—words like “Peace,” “joy,” and even, (dare I say) “love.” Sounds great—where do I buy some?
It has become a personal quest to take such lofty abstract ideals and turn them into a real life practice; and it is one of my goals as a yoga teacher to turn catch yoga phrases into a profound experience of positive action. Peace takes serious practice, and Joy is an active choice. Love has potency when manifest; we must be it and do it. I think egolessness requires the same amount of gut level street “cred” in order to truly relate to the average modern day spiritual gangster.
And nothing has given me a deeper experience of (something even remotely resembling) egolessness as has “selfless” service. It has been, for me, the most potent form of worship and the most abundant expression of Divine Co-creation. It also generally leaves Me, Myself, feeling completely renewed.
Truly, getting the self-serving ego-self out of the way is the means to open to a bigger experience of “no self,” but please don’t get me wrong. I am not an advocate of the ruthless ego-bashing so popularized by Western-Eastern thought. In fact, I quite believe that I am manifest as this ego, ergo this unique and individualized identity for the sacred purpose of becoming a radiantly unique and individualized expression of Universal Grace.
For example: while on some level I am aware of the self-serving benefits of even writing this piece, I know that on a deeper level my cosmic being (and potentially yours) reaps so much more.
So maybe it’s not necessary for one to approach service without an ounce of ego.
My underlying and most important point is this: Selflessness is born of Service.
It is in the act itself—the practice of giving Love to the abused and Hope to the weary—that the ego is dissolved away, if only for a fleeting moment.
So what’s your motivation?