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What does it mean to make the world a better place?

What does it mean to be of service? To whom? For whom?  And, to what desired end?  In this new moon’s edition of Soul Notes, we explore this topic.

Authentic service:  spiritual growth

service - sevaMany spiritual seekers, including many of you I gather, have felt the desire to be “of service,” and to leave the world a bit better than we may have found it.  So, what does this mean exactly, and how do we do it?

Service (or seva which in Sanskrit means “selfless service”) is to be offered from your heart and soul, and not for any egoic purposes. To be of selfless service means to do so from a place of well-meaning intention, without expectation of reward or acknowledgment.

“Service is not what serves you; it is when you enrich another person.” – Yogi Bhajan

Seva is infinite, not finite, giving.  It’s a way to make a difference, in your personal sphere, in your community, and the world.

Ultimately, it’s all in service to the Divine.

The idea and the practice of service is a spiritual one.  As you uplift others, from a place of service, Spirit steps in and uplifts you as well.  As you serve, Spirit in turns serves you.  You are held in love by the Divine.  It’s part of your own spiritual growth.

 Who benefits?

Accordingly, acts of service benefit those you serve, and yourself.  All “good works” have positive, impactful ripple effects. All gestures great and small – they all count!

Ways to get started:

Don’t be afraid to start “too small.”  Leave a room, a person, a situation better than you found it.  Raise the vibration to a level higher than when you first arrived.  Approach it from a place of free will, and with a spacious heart.  May your service come from an intention that’s pure, and not from any sense of “obligation.”

In this edition of Soul Notes, I thought it may be helpful to share some examples of ways I’ve chosen to be of service.  I share these examples for illustrative purposes (lest I give the impression that I am listing them here for my own edification, or to be acknowledged for them in some way.  That, of course, would pretty much fly in the face of the very essence of seva).  I sought out these opportunities, and volunteered my time and devotion to them, from what I hope was and always will be, a pure heart.   My intention here is to provide some ideas.  And, I look forward to hearing from you and for you to share yours as well!  Please provide your own examples in the Comments section, below. Doing so, in itself, may be a seva of sorts – in that someone may read your list, and get some inspired ideas for their own acts of seva.  The ripple effects continue!


  • Prepare and serve meals to the homeless

I have done this on more than one occasion, for the Thanksgiving holiday here in the United States.

  • Clean up the environment

With an organization called Heal the Bay in Southern California, I have been trained and have served as a “Beach Captain,” to help clean up trash at local beaches, and educate members of the community on the dangers of clogging up the city storm drains.

With another group, I planted a garden at a nearby elementary school.

  • Build and provide shelter for families in need

With Habitat for Humanity, I joined a work crew to put up drywall for a family’s new home in a town near Los Angeles.

With another organization, I helped build a home from the ground up in a rural area outside of Tijuana, Mexico.

  • Enhance and help beautify physical structures

I have helped paint murals on the outside of school buildings, as well as painting a child-friendly mural inside a children’s waiting room at a local courthouse.

  • Tutor or teach or facilitate workshops

Through a program sponsored by a local public library, I tutored a young single mom to learn English as a second language.

I have volunteered with a nonprofit dedicated to helping abuse survivors heal through art programs.

  • Coach an individual or a team

With the Special Olympics, I have coached a local sports team.

Over the years, I have had several friends and colleagues too who have engaged in any number of acts of service.  They have placed their full hearts and souls into these activities.  They have generously contributed their time, energy, talents and good will to these endeavors, all to help uplift those they’ve served.

For you, it may be something completely different that draws you in to being of service? It may not be any of these listed above.  These are some examples, though, to get your “seva juices flowing.”

Again, acts of service need not be part of any organized activity at all, either, of course.  Sometimes, the every-day acts of kindness and service provide the most immediate impact. Perhaps you offer to help someone to cross the street.  Or, offer to help carry someone’s packages.  Or, maybe it’s alerting someone in a grocery store that they are unknowingly about to walk into a slippery section on the floor.  Someone did this for me just last week.  I was grateful and touched that a stranger would offer that to me, with such genuine thoughtfulness and care for my wellbeing. I felt an instant albeit quick, loving connection – human to human.  This is seva.

When it helps to “pitch in”

Whenever the need arises, perhaps you can offer to “pitch in” at a get-together with friends or at an event that needs helpers or volunteers.  Offer to set-up beforehand or to clean-up afterwards.  Offer to do the dishes!

Offer to prepare or share a meal:

In India, within the Sikh tradition, preparing and sharing food for and with others is referred to as langar (or “free kitchen”). Everyone is welcomed to share the Langar.  No one is turned away, no matter their age, gender, ethnicity, or political or religious affiliation.  Additionally, it’s egalitarian — in theory and in practice.  No one is considered higher than or “above” (in stature) anyone else.

In closing, I’ll leave you with this:

“[M]ay your blessings be for all, may your happiness be shared, and may your smiles give hope to others.” – Yogi Bhajan

Each of us is a divine channel, through which we serve, and by which everyone in turn is served.


For your consideration:

Are you feeling the call to serve?  If so, go ahead.  Today. One small gesture renders great impact.  It all counts.  As do you.

It does require taking action – no matter how seemingly small (at first). Acts of service compound, like interest!

Open your heart.

Extend a hand.

Step up to serve.


And, serve


Okay, your turn:

In what ways have you been of service?  Can you recall a time when you were the recipient of someone else’s act of service?  In those instances, what did you notice?  Today, what will you do to “make a difference” in someone’s life?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2016 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.