If you’ve been reading my blog for the past two months, or if you’re one of my “real life” friends, you know that overall, I haven’t been overly impressed or inspired by my YTT. It’s been a good experience, but certainly not life changing. In fact, I’m not even sure I even want to TEACH yoga after all of this is said and done.
What I’ve been finding is that the concept of teaching yoga takes away from my time and commitment to my own personal practice. And I deeply value and cherish my own personal practice. And even now, 9 weeks in to YTT, I don’t get overly excited by the idea of teaching my community classes, finding the perfect playlist and asana sequence. I just want to return to the days when I can just pick up and go to a yoga class without even thinking about it.
But I’ve been talking about doing my YTT for 11 years, so now I can at least say I’ve done it and never have to think “what if?” And if all my YTT experience does is deepen my own personal practice and I never do anything else with that experience, I’m ok with that.
However, something happened today that I least expected as part of my YTT.
When I first signed up for YTT, I noticed that we were required to do 4 hours of Seva, or volunteering/community service. “Community service? Isn’t that what I do for a living?” my social-worker brain thought. But boy, was I wrong.
This morning I showed up at Shiva Mandir, (www.shivamandir.org) a Colorado nonprofit dedicated to sharing and educating ancient spiritual lessons to the modern day community.
The first hour of our Seva was spent making bagged lunches for the homeless. There was an assembly of volunteers crowded around a tiny table with loaves of bread, peanut butter and paper sacks. We sang in Sanskrit. We laughed. We gabbed. And we spread lots and lots of condiments.
On the drive downtown, our lovely teacher Sara turned around and gave us instructions for handing out the meals. And then she added,
“Let your heart feel gratitude. We do Seva for ourselves just as much as for others. When you see the look of gratitude in someone’s eyes, soak it in and receive it.”
And before I knew it, we were unloading the lunches, walking into the shelters and asking everyone and anyone waiting there if they would like a lunch. Young women, elderly men, children, people in wheelchairs- the diversity was extraordinary- and the one unifying factor was that they were all in need of the same thing.
When we returned to the car and drove off, tears suddenly filled my eyes and I was overhead by emotion.
And at first, I couldn’t figure out why. And then it hit me- as an eating disorders therapist, I spent over 40 hours a week with people who are rejecting food and sustenance. And I just had had the exact opposite experience- I spent 15 minutes with people who eagerly accepted it.
It was surreal. I still don’t know how to make sense of it. In my particular profession, it’s a small and often times bizarre world. And what happened today was, in a way, a reality check. I’m only four days into my sabbatical from work and in a way, I was shaken by the stark shift in experience. I frankly didn’t, and still don’t, know how to make sense of suffering from a different perspective than I am used to.
So I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to serve in a different way today- to actually give and have the experience of someone receiving. It was a beautiful thing that I’ll be feeling the effects of for a long time.
And I plan to make this a habit. In fact, I’ll be there next week. If you’re a Denver resident and want to check it out, they do the sandwich seva every Thursday from 10:30-12:30.
And so while I can say I have had my complaints and reservations about my YTT experience, today’s seva was enough reward for me. If I walk away with nothing other than this reminder that the world needs our help, I’m good to go.