Starting and ending with grace

Being of Service

September is the month of Virgo and one of the aspects of this astrological sign is “Service” so I decided to write about serving others. I feel that one of the reasons we are here on the planet is to serve others whether it be by raising children, caring for loved ones, supporting loved ones going through a difficult transition, volunteering in the community, or by showing acts of kindness throughout your day. Something I realized many years ago is that the person giving receives far more than the person who is receiving. That’s the secret of service.

I wanted to share an experience that I had a few years back while travelling in India. I have had a yoga practice for many years and one of my dreams was to travel to India and see this amazing country that I have always been drawn to. In 2014 this became a reality for me when I went with a group of people on a Bhakti Yantra Retreat to Northern India.

Bhakti is a practice where you chant, it’s called Kirtan (which I love). Bhakti is another form of meditation because you are chanting to feel connection with source, and you are able to reach a blissful state rather than sitting quietly in silence. Although I do still meditate silently I prefer movement meditations as they are more suited to me. So chanting, mudras, singing, walking in nature, and dancing are my favourite ways to connect with the divine.

During the trip we went to many cities, spending time in many sacred sites such as ancient temples, shrines, caves and sacred rivers. On our journey we met Guru’s, Swamis and many amazing people. Everyone greets you by saying Namaste holding their hands in prayer position and bowing their head to you. It was so beautiful to be acknowledged as divine because in India everyone knows they are a divine spirit having a human experience. This is part of their culture and it is a beautiful way to be greeted.

I wish to share an experience that we had one day. Part of our tour was to practice Seva which is to serve others in some capacity. We were in the city of Vrindavan which is where Krishna lived. Vrindavan is a very poor city with more temples than I have ever seen in one city and although poverty is everywhere there was a beauty to this city. Many people make pilgrimage to Vrindavan to honour Krishna so it is a lively city with many people from all over the world visiting.

On this day we were going to the school called Sandipani Muni School to serve the kindergarten kids breakfast and have a tour. This is a school for girls, and they all live in poverty. Living in poverty and being a girl is horrible in India because when the child reaches puberty she is often married off or forced into child labour. There are other forms of abuse such as prostitution which is common. I found this difficult to even comprehend but this is the reality in India with such a huge number of the population living in poverty.

The mission of the school is preventing child marriage by keeping the girls in school until they reach 18 years of age to have a proper education. Then they have options because education changes everything especially the cycle of poverty. In addition to education the girls are given uniforms, served lunch (which is the only meal many of them will have that day) skills development, and medical care.

When we arrived, we were taken to an open area where the girls gathered to say their morning prayers. Watching the devotion of these girls brought tears to my eyes because although they have no material wealth, they have their faith. As they were finishing their chanting and prayers the kindergarten kids came up to us and we formed circles and danced with them. We were all laughing and dancing, it was something that I had never experienced in my life. I felt so much joy from these kids and the sillier I became the more they laughed and the crazier we got. It’s so much fun being a kid!

After, the girls lead us to a classroom where we were given warm milk and nutritious biscuits to give to them. The girls sat down against the walls of the room and waited patiently until we served them. No one yelled or tried to budge even though you could tell they were hungry. Although we didn’t speak the language and they didn’t speak ours there was a beautiful connection through our hearts. Their beautiful wee smiling faces said it all and I felt humbled to be there with them.

As we were cleaning up and getting ready to go, they started to sing to us and gave us hugs. We were there to serve breakfast, however, I was the one who was served. These children live in poverty many in slums and yet they expressed so much joy to us that day. The gratitude I experienced from these little girls made me think about how blessed my life has been. I knew nothing of their life until I went to India and saw firsthand how many children live in poverty. This is a reality that we do not see in the Western world. Yes, we have problems in Canada I’m not suggesting that we don’t, however, we do have social programs where as in India only a few get the opportunity to go to school and many have to beg for everything.

If you would like to know more about this school and the organization that supports them then I invite you to follow the link http://www.fflv.org

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