The Thanksgiving Edition. “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there” – Will Rogers.
There are said to be six branches of yoga. Each focuses on a different goal or result. One such branch is “Karma Yoga”. Let’s talk about it. I read recently that Karma is translated as “to do”, or “to act”. Yoga has been translated as meaning “union”. Karma Yoga, then, is thought of as union through action. Karma Yoga is said to the act of selfless service to humanity. Ayn Rand (and others), of course, would argue this ain’t even possible, and that everything we do is selfishly motivated. Most things I’ve read on Karma Yoga discuss practicing out of devotion to God. That might hold appeal for some, but clearly not for lots of people. In our current social climate, God seems to have almost become a dirty word in certain circles. But, what is God anyways? Webster’s defines God (amongst other things) as the creator of the universe. If there’s one thing I think we can come together on, it’s that the universe was, at some point, indeed created. Maybe it was a dude that did it, maybe a chick, or maybe it was the result of the primeval atom. Isn’t the result the same either way? Each person that walks the globe is made up of a little piece of the universe. We really only have to look at the food chain to realize this, even if we don’t believe it on a soul level. The top of the food chain gets eaten or used by the bottom after that at the top meets its end (not taking into account, of course, burial practices that the top of the chain has devised to counter nature’s design). That said, an interpretation of the goal of Karma Yoga that I jived with, by Graham Ledgerwood, with regards to discussing devotion to God, said that a karma yogi wishes to live for God – or the higher self – or the soul, and not for the ego anymore. Of course, I’d argue (and I believe so would he) that God, the higher self and the soul are really all the same thing.
Webster’s defines altruism as: “the principle or practice of unselfish concern for or devotion to the welfare of others (opposed to egoism)”. However, when one begins to view the world through a lens of interconnectedness – that is, that we’re all just extensions of each other – they begin to realize that every time they help themselves, they’re helping others, and that every time they help others, they’re helping themselves. So, then, it stands to reason that there are two main ways to make a difference this holiday season (and at all times, of course). First, you can help others. Next, you can help yourself.
On the topic of helping others. What difference does it make? I can’t fix all of the world’s problems. What’s the point anyways? What difference can I make anyways? A lot! First off, you can take the opportunity, when available, for good old fashioned volunteering. One idea – you’re welcome to join me Thanksgiving morning at Cornerstone Baptist Church to help provide a Thanksgiving meal to those who wouldn’t otherwise get to eat one. http://www.cornerstonedallas.org/volunteer.html Another thought – simply smile and talk to people. May sound dumb, but you never know when you’ll be the only chat or smile that person will get all day. Sometimes we have the biggest impact on the people we know least. Also, you can show your gratitude for your friends and family. You can go visit them, drop a call/text/email/im, send a greeting card, or even use the Facebook group (Gratitudinal) that I’ve recently created for just that purpose: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=40188795&id=10616743&saved#/group.php?gid=215095026981&ref=mf
On the topic of helping yourself. “If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself, and then make a change” – Michael Jackson. I always think it’s interesting that as a society we tend to think of time spent on yourself as selfish. Our culture fosters an environment that anything not directly leading to revenue generation is somehow sub-par in value or less worthy of your time or attention. Sure, it’s ok to have hobbies or interests, but only as long as they don’t hinder you from putting in your 100 hours a week at the firm, office, etc. One of the most successful people I know in business is my great-uncle Peter, the entertainment lawyer and thai chi master. During the summer I spent clerking for him during law school he made the comment (paraphrasing, although I wish I’d written it down – we were walking down the road) that the best way to be there for your career, family, loved ones, etc., is to put in the time working on yourself. This left a big impression. The more you are, the more you have to offer. Growing up I was always told that we find time for the things we find important. How true is that? Have you ever found yourself saying you just don’t have time to exercise? You just don’t have time to volunteer? You just don’t have time to do any one of the dozens of things on the to-do list of your mind that would make you feel great about yourself if only you had the time to do them? Is it that you really don’t have the time, or do you maybe have the time, but not the energy?
Before I started working for myself last fall, I never thought I had the time. In retrospect, I had lots of time, just not lots of energy. Why was that? Well, for one, I was doing things on a daily basis that either made me feel less than great about myself, or that I just plain didn’t care about. Talk about a waste of time! By time I’d get home and walk my dog on most days, I couldn’t imagine mustering the energy to change clothes and hit the trail or gym, or go volunteer somewhere, or cook dinner, or often times even read. So. There I sat. On my couch. Watching my TV. Eating my take-out or delivery. Complaining about how I didn’t have any time. I’d submit, then, that one way to help yourself is to spend your precious time doing things that make you feel good about yourself, and quit spending time on things that don’t make you feel good about yourself. As mentioned in a previous blog, I’m not suggesting everyone up and quit their jobs, but perhaps there’s a way to make your current situation more pleasant and meaningful for you (see smiles and talking to people above for a place to start).
In summation: The better you feel about yourself, the better you’ll make other people feel. Like everything in life, cause and effect. My sincere hope is that these words cause you, dear reader, to make the decision to have a more positive effect on the planet (including yourself!).
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world” – Anne Frank.
Wishing you and yours a most gracious holiday season.
Peace and love,
What a great post. A couple of things really jumped out and spoke to me, one being what you said about the topic of helping others and why bother trying.Why bother? Volunteering and giving of yourself is NOT a waste of your time. I believe it truly builds you up in a good way, deep down in your soul. Plus of course, you've helped someone else. It doesn't have to be hard. Something as small as smiling at a person you pass in the grocery store is giving. Chances are, they'll smile back. And you know what? Perhaps that person needed a smile more than you know. And when they smile back at you, you'll get a little charge of happiness. Pay if forward.