As a six year old, I was allowed to roam our very safe neighborhood. I would spend my time picking up trash from the bushes on the outskirts of our street. My hobby turned into a club at age seven when I invited my two best girlfriends to join in the fun. During recess, we headed into the woods behind our school and picked up trash, then sorted out recycling and left our bags for next time. I will never forget the look of sheer surprise on our teacher’s face the day we came out of the woods, held up the large bags and explained to her which were trash and which were recycling!
That same year, the three of us innocently decided to carve our names onto the brick wall of our school with pebbles. Our art was not appreciated, and we were sent the principle’s office who punished us and informed our parents of our acts of civil disobedience. Sadly, this story illustrates skewed values in our educational system.
My beneficial actions, picking up trash and sorting recycling, were given no further attention. And yet, my innocent action of drawing on brick was reprimanded, and I was left believing that I, along with my actions and friends, were bad. That left a painful imprint in my psyche.
20 years later, I volunteered at Embracing the World in India and engaged in one of many of Amma’s ashram “karma yoga” activities. These activities are aimed at helping to alleviate the tight grasp of ego (the source of suffering) by serving others through selfless action. Guess what?! I was right back in my element, sorting through trash and recycling, assisting India’s first and largest recycling program. I was as happy and innocent as a young child all over again.
To this day, selfless service remains a pillar of my lifestyle and spiritual practice. It is my nature to help others without regard for my own needs, to the best of my ability in any given circumstance. Actually, it is all of our nature and a universal principle to serve others in this way, like a mother feeding her hungry child even when her own stomach growls. As she feeds her child, her heart is fed, and the pang of her own hunger momentarily disappears.