The following is a poetic abridgment composed by Tom Bassarear of an article originally written by Rachel Naomi Remen. Tom is a gentle and intelligent soul, and whether he knows it or not, he served as a major catalyst in my decision to resume my life’s conversation with the people and cultures of Nepal. I have been carrying a copy of his writing with me for several months and feel like sharing it with others.
During my time here, I have met several people to embody the type of service described in this poem. Devika Gurung is one of those magical people. In the coming weeks I intend to write more about her inspirational work. For now, follow the link provided at the bottom of this page which features a brief documentary made two years ago.
Blessings my friends. There is a delicate balance of both laughter and tears which keeps us whole. This poem highlights a lot of what so many of you have taught me just by being yourselves and allowing me to witness you. It sits in me like good medicine.
In The Service of Life
When we help, we use our own strength to help those of lesser strength. When we help, we may inadvertently take away from people more than we could ever give them. We may diminish their self-esteem, their sense of worth and wholeness.
When We help someone, that person generally feels a sense of debt, of owing us. But serving, like healing, is mutual. There is no debt. We are as served as the person we are serving. When we help, we have a feeling of satisfaction. When we serve, we have a feeling of gratitude. These are very different things.
Serving is also different from fixing. When we attempt to fix a person, it is easy to perceive part of them as broken, and their brokenness requires us to act. When we serve, we see and trust the wholeness that abides in every person. It is what we are responding to and collaborating with.
There is a distance between ourselves and whomever we are fixing. However, we cannot serve at a distance. We can only serve that to which we are profoundly connected, that which we are willing to touch and be touched by. This was Mother Teresa’s basic message: We serve life not because it is broken, but because it is holy.
If helping is an experience of strength, fixing is an experience of mastery and expertise. Service, on the other hand, is an experience of mystery, surrender, and awe. Over time, fixing and helping are draining and depleting. Over time we burn out. Service is rewarding. When we serve, our work sustains us.
Because we are humans and imperfect, there is some helping and fixing in all our service. It is not black and white. However, my experience has been that when my intention to fix and to help becomes less and my intention to serve becomes greater, I feel and know the difference.
The Nepali Yoga Women Trust is a grass-roots organization focused on empowering women in Nepal. The organization is run by the spirited Devika Gurung and is based in Pokhara. I reached out to Devika upon reading about the vocational trainings her center offers and volunteered to lead an informal Thai Yoga Massage class. Within one day I had five eager students ready to delve into this ancient art. Devika is a native to Nepal and has a deep understanding of Nepali culture and awareness of social issues. Emma lives in the UK. The two women are from vastly different horizons, but met at Devika’s yoga centre with a desire to help the women of Nepal. They decided to start a project that would allow women to reassert themselves in society by developing their unsuspected, inner-skills. Their desire is to create a positive environment where Nepali women can learn how to heal and support themselves. Guess what… it’s happening.
Spreading awareness about this project helps to bring empowerment to the efforts put fourth by Devika and all of the organizations supporters and volunteers. I will be writing more soon about my experience teaching in Pokhara as it unfolds. In the meantime, read more on the websites below and let me know how it makes you feel. Really, this blog is meant to be interactive. Let’s make it live!
Nepali Yoga Women Trust – Brief Documentary Video