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Make Seva Practical and Use Efficient Methods

Nothing that we do is unimportant in God's eyes. Cultivate the spirit to do seva and any task with devotion by doing the best you can.

Nayaswami Devi shares this beautiful inspiration from the upcoming book The Heart of Seva about important principles of seva/service, using the example of serving in a Mexican orphanage and finding joy in small offerings. Recorded during Ananda's Inner Renewal Retreat in February 2023.


Doing Your Best in Seva

Nayaswami Devi:

Okay, so what I'm going to talk about is how to make seva practical and use efficient methods. Another way of saying this is to do whatever task at hand as well as you can.

The Inner Game of "Good Enough"

I often have this inner little game that I play. If I'm doing anything - writing, editing, cooking, or cleaning - if ever the thought comes into my mind "it's good enough," I pause and I say, "No, it's not."

You know when you say, "Okay, that soup tastes just right. Okay, that room looks clean." But when you say, "Oh, it's good enough," then your energy drops. So you want to do things with the spirit, not with tension, but with the spirit of doing the best that you can.

I remember in the, I think it was the second summer I was here... At that time, where most of you know Masters Market, it was a little office then, and I was asked to write letters to people who were inquiring about the community. And we just had typewriters in those days. I wasn't very good at typing, and I made a lot of mistakes. And in those days, they had something called white-out, and you can erase over your mistakes, and type, and, you know, I still made a mistake.

It was a mess, and one day, Swami walked in and he looked at this letter I was working on, and he said, "You can't send that out." And it was a mess, and I realized what he was saying was just like building this Temple. Everything we do shall be done with the highest Consciousness with which we are capable, whatever it is!

Tulip Gardens - Beauty Through Creativity

The beautiful tulip gardens, which will be blossoming in April...every single year our head gardeners, Jivada and Netri, plan out those gardens in a new way every year. They could just put it on automatic and order the same bulbs and plant them. They're always creating new combinations to make it beautiful and interesting, and that's why people come back year after year, because it's different and beautiful! So whatever you're doing, whatever it may be, just try to say, "How can I bring this to the highest possible expression?" And sometimes it's challenging.

Serving in a Mexican Orphanage

Some years ago, at that time, the children in the Ananda junior high and high school would go to Mexico to spend two weeks in serving in an orphanage. And different adults would go to accompany them, and one year I went with Hridaya and Hashi and Irene, and we had a wonderful time, wonderful time!

But I remember once, they all went— Irene and Hridaya and Hashi—there was such a, it was the orphanage, there were like, I think, 200 children. There was one priest and two nuns, and that was it. And it ran beautifully. They all took care of each other. It was really quite a remarkable experience. But my three friends wanted to go to the church for mass that day, and I said, "Okay." And we were helping cook in the kitchen. I said, "I'll stay."

There was one cook too, this little old Mexican lady who didn't speak English. And so she kind of pointed me into this room. It was this little dark room with one little light bulb hanging, and there was this one burner on the floor like that and this huge pot of beans. And she kind of motioned me, "Okay, you stir the beans." Because if you don't stir them, they'll burn, and they won't be food for the kids. So I was doing that and trying to do it as well as I could.

And then at a certain point I straightened up and I put my hand back on the counter behind me and I felt something right on my arm and I turned around...cockroaches, cockroaches everywhere. But I just kept stirring.

Finding Joy in Small Offerings

And, honestly, at a certain point tears just started pouring down my cheek because I just thought...God, I am trying to do...everything we've been talking about—willing, enthusiastic, joyful, the best job I could, and in that dark little room with this vat of pinto beans boiling, cockroaches crawling everywhere, I felt so much joy and I felt so blessed to be able to give to life the best that I had.

So whatever you're doing, just nothing's unimportant, nothing, not in God's eyes. In the Gita, it says, "Even a leaf, if offered with devotion, I will receive." So offer that leaf, whatever your role in life is, offer that leaf with devotion and God himself will come and receive it.

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