December 6, 2013

To Be Happy, Serve Others: 5 Simple Karma Yoga Ideas.

Karma yoga is selfless service. How did you serve others in 2013? How will you serve in 2014?

This is today’s prompt for #reverb13, a means to reflect on the year that has passed and set intentions for the coming year. You are invited to participate, as privately or publicly as you wish. To share what you’ve written, add a comment. 

Karma yoga isn’t just for the holiday season, but this season is as great a time as any to practice karma yoga—selflessly serving others.

Getting outside of ourselves by offering help to others is a guaranteed way to feel happy. Making others happy makes us happy, too. It’s a most beautiful win-win situation.

1. Offer something to someone for free.

If you’re a yoga teacher, offer a free class or workshop for beginners. If you’re a baker, bake some cookies and go give them to the homeless or poor. If you’re a writer, write a manifesto or essay and offer it to your audience for free.

Get the idea? The possibilities are endless.

2. Donate time and attention.

This can be done through traditional volunteering through a non-profit organization—or by sitting with someone (anyone) and giving them your precious time and presence.

3. Donate money.

It doesn’t have to be a lot. Not all philanthropists are millionaires. A little money goes along way in developing countries.

You can donate a lump sum, or set up your business to donate a certain percentage of your profits to a worthwhile service organization. For example, 10 percent of my e-book proceeds go to Watsi, a global crowdfunding site that provides medical care for people in need.

4. Give stuff away.

Whether it’s to a church charity, Goodwill or directly to someone in need, giving away our used (but still in good condition) clothes, toys and other household items benefits both the giver and the receiver.

5. Plant a tree.

And reduce, reuse and recycle. In other words, be more green. That serves our environment, which serves all beings and Earth itself.


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Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: Rosie O’Beirne

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Kristy Dec 8, 2013 2:18pm

“How have I served others?” This question also brings up a lot for me since 2013 has been mainly about ME. This is because I haven’t had the health or energy for much else… that said, in growing, learning, and looking after myself, I have been setting up an investment for serving others. We serve others best when we ourselves are taken care of and at our full power. So as much guilt and grief that may come from a year (or two) of self-focus, I always come back to pride and recognition for my commitment to ME.

The second half of 2013 started me on the journey of teaching yoga, of which I have taught several classes volunteer: to high school kids, youth at risk, and to others looking to yoga as a part of their own healing journeys. As I start to experience the ability to truly serve others through my own suffering and healing, I can feel that we are all doing the best we can/know how to in this world, that we are all in it together, and that we really do need each other… but always remember that it’s crucial to put your own oxygen mask on first, or you’re no use to anyone 😉

sunyataru Dec 8, 2013 12:31am

Hmmm…this call to recount how I have been of service to others sure raises some “issues” for me. Firstly, that I feel like it is boasting, as opposed to acknowledging something positive in myself (I am working toward embracing the latter). Secondly, that I have spent the latter part of the year focusing on self-care and that I still must remind myself that self-care is not selfish. That said, I committed to participating in this process (albeit two days behind ;)) for this very reason: to face some potentially uncomfortable edges with courage and honesty.
How have I been of service? Yes, being a mom is certainly a form of karma yoga. It is often cited as a model of karma yoga. I posted earlier about having given myself the gift of time this year. Much of that gift went toward benefiting my son, for whom I have been much more present and available as he so bravely navigates the profound changes and challenges of beginning middle school.
In essence, I try to bring service into my intention for nearly everything I do, every decision I make. I can hardly spend a penny without considering who and what it supports, or disrespects. I cannot pass one of the resident homeless in my community without acknowledging them with a smile, some conversation or something warm to eat or drink. “I see you.”
I have been immensely grateful for recent reminders from friends of how they have appreciated my presence and support in the past, as they saw me struggling with being in a position of needing theirs in recent months. I so “identify” with being a support that I must grow in order to ask and receive it. Still, I am grateful to nevertheless have the strength and time to support those in my community wherever I have seen I can be of benefit, through supporting individuals and meaningful events.
I have spent months forging and clarifying a new career path that will see me gathering and employing my skill set to help local, ethical and community-minded businesses and entrepreneurs who want to grow their impact by crafting authenticity and heart-based approaches to their communications. So many small businesses are stifled by the old paradigm marketing culture that seems (and mostly is) so bereft of soul. As a result, these people and their ideas, towards which our micro economies needs to shift, struggle to compete with those that benefit by engaging in the old manipulative strategies.
I have steered surplus production from my brother’s bakery, where I hold a modest share and help scoop cookies, to our local homeless shelter and services provider. (I had to include this in response to mention of this very act in the blog above!)
I hesitate to list my philanthropic contributions and volunteerism (mostly in my son’s school these days), because I am stuck on the fact that these all manifest as a result of being explicitly asked of me. Perhaps not solely of being asked of me (others say no), but I have recently read a passage about “true” generosity that I am chewing on. And though these deeds and modest sums of money are given with heart, they do not, in a sense, originate there. Food for thought…
Which brings me to my last bullet from my brainstorm: engaging others in conversation about things that matter with a mind to educate and inspire others into action in service of themselves, our communities and our planet.

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Michelle Margaret Fajkus

Michelle Margaret is a heart-centered writer, teacher and creator of Yoga Freedom.

She has been a columnist on Elephant Journal since 2010 and has self-published inspiring books. She incorporates dharma, hatha, yin, mindfulness, chakras, chanting and pranayama into her teachings and practice. A former advertising copywriter and elementary school teacher, she is now a freelance writer and translator. Michelle learned yoga from a book at age 12 and started teaching at 22. She met the Buddha in California at 23 and has been a student of the dharma ever since. Michelle is now approaching her forties with grace and gratitude.

Join Michelle for a writing and yoga retreat this summer at magical Lake Atitlan in the western highlands of Guatemala!