It’s not the end!

A funny title you may think? The last two weeks of my YfS programme have been inspiring to say the least. Inspiring because I have realised that it is the not the end, rather the beginning of my journey ahead to be a Sevak for my society.

In the two weeks before, I was involved in the paperwork and training for one of my projects under Spread Some Joy: to be a Wellbeing friend.

As part of the services offered by the Slough Council Volunteering Scheme, this role involves having weekly conversations with individuals who are self-isolating over the

phone in their preferred language and spending time listening and talking them to ease the impact of the pandemic. Through this role I can help to identify any problems that individuals might be experiencing, notify the wellbeing team and council of these issues, and ensure clients understand the latest government advice.

This is a project I will certainly be continuing over the lockdown period, as it truly has helped to spread joy to those who need it more than ever now. I managed to have my first calls this week and can’t wait to carry on!

05/08 was truly an amazing day and I had been working on organising this event the weeks before. We went to deliver an appreciation parcel at the Applegarth Care Home and had invited the High Sheriff of Berkshire, Mary Riall, to attend as well.

It was a privilege to discuss with her all the fabulous work the local Sewa Day team had gotten up to over the COVID19 pandemic and for her to see us in action as we gave the appreciation parcels to the care workers.

I had even contacted the local newspaper to arrive so that there is further outreach for our work; and the family who had made the parcel so the children could also see how their work is spreading joy.

It was all worth it for the care workers to then say: “thank you for thinking of us.”

The Hindu festival of Raksha Bandhan celebrates the duty of care, the obligation to serve those in need, and celebrates the relationships we hold dear to one another. During these unprecedented times, the value of community spirit has proved to be necessary more than ever. We have seen the spirit of humanity come together with selfless service, breaking down barriers, and embodying in full the essence of the Hindu value of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakum, “the whole world is one family.” This is a central pillar of our work at Sewa Day and to express our gratitude for the tremendous support and care that our key workers have provided to keep us and our communities safe, we have extended the ethos of our festival and even tied Rakhis on our care workers!

At this visit, I tied the Rakhi (sacred thread of protection) on the care home manager and the High Sheriff.

The published article is: https://www.maidenhead-advertiser.co.uk/gallery/taplow/160682/sewa-day-volunteers-visit-applegarth-care-home.html

The appreciation parcel drive continued and so did our Raksha Bandhan campaign, with a total of twelve care homes having received parcels and booklets over the six weeks.

As the end of the programme draws near and I am seeing my efforts falling in place, I can confidently say that I have changed over the past six weeks. This truly is not the end! It is the beginning of a lifetime worth of contributing and serving the society.

My whole motivation for doing the six-week internship was to learn what it means to be a Karma Yogi.

One who recognises the Oneness in all of us and serves it. One who works, as his work is his devotion.

I have realised that Sewa is not some concept that is out-there and it definitely is not mere charity. It is to serve the wholeness in others and it is to develop yourself.

To remove your individuality and to realise that the one who you are serving is also serving you too. And that you two are on the journey together to break the barrier of ego between.

I am grateful to the mentors and the leaders of this scheme, who have shown me how to lead a lifetime of Sewa. Who have taught me how to change my mindset and for teaching me more about myself than I had ever thought.

My Grandfather’s Blessings

To call this book life changing would be an understatement. I do not remember the last time I folded this many pages of a book – for every second page leave a deep impression is telling that this is something I’ll keep all life.

An oncologist by profession, Dr Rachel Naomi Remen chronicles her interactions with her patients and gives poetic reflections on how she has then understood life. Inspired by her grandfather’s following of the esoteric Kabbalah school of mystical Judaism, she believes that every person is a spark of the Divine.

Every relationship, every meeting we have is then that spark speaking to us, blessing us.

“A blessing is not something that one person gives another. A blessing is a moment of meeting, a certain kind of relationship in which both people involved remember and acknowledge their true nature and worth, and strengthen what is whole in one other.”

This book has touched me through so many dimensions. It is not only intriguing for me to read the experiences of the strength of patients when battling their terminal illnesses, but also helps me to see my career path as service. It is not merely helping, fixing or rescuing the patient. It is Sewa. “When we serve, we see the unborn wholeness in others; we collaborate with it and strengthen it. When we serve, we discover that life is holy.”

This book resonated because it was fundamentally a Dharmic book. The values espoused by her and her grandfather are identical to mine: to see life as sacred and serve it.

If anything, I have learnt more about Sewa through this one book, and I don’t think my spirit has ever been this uplifted.

It was particularly during weeks where I felt lost and demotivated. Dr Remen really came as a blessing. To remind me that in the middle of these ups and downs, “what we serve is the wholeness in each other and the wholeness in life.”

I would like to share three passages:

(1) Sewa is healing. My practice should not come from the angle that I need to simply treat and mend the conditions of my patients. I must alleviate their state. So they are in a state of wellbeing again. And remind myself that doing so, I am reviving their wholeness and they are reviving mine. I am not to have a paternalistic attitude towards them, for which they should be ever grateful for. I am to serve. For Sewa is what connects one life to another.

(2) This passage teaches and reinforces the basis of Dharma. That everyone is truly perfect within, and that Priyam (love) is the nature of existence. All of us are expressions of that same all-loving divinity and Sewa is our step to helping each other abide by that goodness. To become aware of that perfection.

(3) Sewa is the ultimate Yoga. Yoga is that practice which helps to connect you to the Ultimate Reality, and its true purpose is to help uncover the veil of the Ahamkara (ego). To reduce the idea that you are the doer, when truly it is the same ever-expansive consciousness that is acting through us all. Sewa is realising that it is that spark of Divinity within us all, that is lighting the lamp of us helping each other to let go of any pride or approval. To do because we must. And to do because we want to

“Service is the work of the soul. We might view moments of genuine service as a movement toward the soul, a return to what is most genuine and real in each of us. In the trajectory of a lifetime this turning toward our goodness happens not once but many times.”

I can not recommend this book enough.

See the magic for yourselves. See your smiles as you bookmark every page. See how you are inspired to serve.

The Ups and Downs

It’s always in the middle of a journey that moments of demotivation can arise. Knowing that I was originally going to India, meant that my full attention would have been towards the project and nothing else. Being here in the UK means I have had to balance out my YouthForSewa project with my other organisational duties and social commitments.

And this week, I certainly felt a sense of burn out.

My last two weeks have been continuing on the “Spread Some Joy” campaign with the appreciation parcel drive, and taking an extra responsibility job within it, by helping to organise donations for the local food bank, in light of the second incoming wave of Corona. Being the liaison point between care homes and families has meant that I have been flooded with emails and calls.

Alongside my work for Sewa Day, I have also been involved in helping to collate resources for the Hindu Sahitya Kendra, in the attempt to revamp the project and bring renewed hype for the work done by the Hindu Book Shop – to promote reading amongst Hindu youth on a variety of topics.

As part of this, I have been contacting different allied Hindu organisations, so that the HSK can work as the centre point for Samaj activities across the country; I have also collated a list of different mandirs which are close to university campuses and helping to create the map software for it.

https://hindubookshop.com/

This is in addition to other projects that I have been putting into plan this week, for the weeks ahead, which I will expand on in the next blog.

So, to juggle this range of things within my YfS project as well as the other commitments did throw me into an overwhelming ocean, which I wasn’t prepared for.

At the end of my fourth week, we had the chance to receive a talk by Ashish Agrawal Ji on behalf of Paryavaran Mitra, a Gujarat-based non-profit organization working on socio-environmental issues and advocating for human rights in the face of growing environmental degradation and pollution.

Funnily enough, what I had been feeling these two weeks he delivered a discussion on that very topic!

Why do we feel demotivated? Could it be the lack of seeing something physical being achieved or could it be when no progress is sensed?

I’m sure everyone has had those moments when the project you are working isn’t giving the joy it once did. For me, it was not the Sewa Day activities themselves but the volume of activities to manage that led to me being truly burnt out.

But Ashish Ji said something which has stuck into my mind: “Sewa work is not a 20/20, it is a test match!”

We must not expect the fruits of our work to bear fruit so soon and we can’t expect that what we see is exactly as how we imagined. But that doesn’t mean we should ever stop trying.

In the midst of this low morale, my saving grace came to be one book. As part of the YouthForSewa project, our aim is to transform our very character, so that we are able to become better and selfless assets to our society. A huge portion of this development comes from reading, and in all honesty, I have never really been a reader growing up. I could probably count in two hands the number of paperback books I have fully read in my life – but now, it’s safe to say that my happy place is in reading.

I will be writing a separate post about this life-changing book and I am ever grateful for my mentors and the organisers of YfS to introducing this new side of me.

I am usually someone who everyone calls “lucky to catch even for a minute,” as I constantly keep busy beyond the demands of my education.

However, these two weeks have really been the test of my mettle and resilience, a huge statement from me that my friends can definitely attest to, and have shown me where my tipping point is. But more beautifully, the YfS programme has taught me how to deal with such moments and what the best coping mechanisms are.

Never be afraid to ask for guidance and help, just as I did.

“Suffering and Serving should not co-exist.”

The first steps (weeks 1-2)

If I were to sum up the first two weeks of my YouthForSewa experience, it has been eye-opening.

Even with the difficulties imposed by the current COVID-19 situation, us interns have still been able to do Sewa in any way we can around our local communities.

As part of my YfS internship, I have had the chance to work with the Sewa Day organisation and their West London branch on the ‘Spread Some Joy’ campaign.

Sewa Day is a registered UK-based charity who invite communities to come together and perform Sewa, experiencing the joy of giving in its truest sense. As they themselves state: “By participating in this collective endeavour, we hope that the seeds of Sewa are watered so that acts of kindness and public service are performed more often.”

During the pandemic, one of the most unique initiatives has been ‘Spread Some Joy.’ By keeping it ambiguous, it has inspired branches of the organisation all across the country to partake in activities for cheering the spirits of those who have been left isolated more than others.

With the help of the generous Karyakartas (co-ordinators) and Sewadaars (volunteers) working with me, I was able to lay down our branch’s plan for this campaign and organise one of the first “Appreciation Parcel” drives in the country.

These parcels are essentially cardboard boxes, painted and decorated by families in our local communities, and filled with packaged goods/ cakes/ biscuits etc. These parcels also contain drawings, poems and letters of thanks to our care workers, written by children.

With the worldwide focus on funding our key workers, somewhere down the line it seems that staff at care homes/ residential homes have felt left out and we, as Sewa Day Karyakartas, wanted to take the steps for ‘spreading joy.’

We believed it would be incredibly uplifting for care workers to receive these gestures of gratitude from our society for all the work they have been putting in over these stressfuls months. These parcels serve exactly as tokens of appreciations, a reminder that our care workers do indeed inspire us all with their good will.

Through involving children and the youth, the care workers genuinely felt motivated and this is one of the first moments of eye-opening for me.

My first week largely involved administrative duties of identifying different care homes around East Berkshire, finding out their individual needs and getting in touch with families who are volunteering to create these beautifully decorated boxes. As well as this, I was also involved in helping to collate and print off the Sewa Day booklets, designed by local children and full of puzzles/riddles/quizzes for the care home residents.

The second week of my YfS journey revolved around me collecting the Appreciation Parcels from the households and distributing them to the care homes, of which we have managed to so far reach eight!

Though I acted as a liaison point, my biggest reflection remains this: it only takes one person, to take one step, to make a massive difference.

These parcels were not necessities for the workers, but it was heart-warming to see the reactions on their faces knowing that children from around our towns have kept them and their hard work in mind. From the initial contact and the very first phone calls, I could almost hear their smiles – it sounds crazy but there is no better way to put it. Delivering these parcels with local children who decorated and packed the boxes not only acted as an inspiration for our youngsters to commit to Sewa, but also truly delighted the staff. They were overjoyed that their efforts were recognised and they were “just remembered!”

It really does not take much to spread some joy! And it it not just “some,” it is a lot of joy.

कृतज्ञता – Gratitude

Many words are found in the Indian languages for expressing one of the purest of human emotions. Yet there is something about this emotion which we shy away from. Which we struggle to show. And perhaps the answer to much strife in our lives is the very failure of feeling and demonstrating our appreciation for others in helping uplifting us. Our failure to show gratitude.

To accept that something has been done. To know something has been done for you. That is the etymological meaning of Kritagyata. Other words, such as Abhaar (आभार), are synonymous – howbeit I choose to use the former to title the blog, as the connotation of acceptance is strong.

Being grateful is not just a thank you to the one who has gifted you with kindness. It is the heartfelt recognition of an unexpected but deeply pleasing generosity that carries no debt. This unconditional giving evokes such a positively valenced response, that is crucial to our own development.

“gratitude has a dual meaning: a worldly one and a transcendent one. In its worldly sense, gratitude is a feeling that occurs in interpersonal exchanges when one person acknowledges receiving a valuable benefit from another. Gratitude is a cognitive-affective state that is typically associated with the perception that one has received a personal benefit that was not intentionally sought after, deserved, or earned but rather because of the good intentions of another person” (Emmons & Stern, 2013).

The most obvious implication of gratitude is the development of altruism. By being the recipient of an act of unconditional kindness, one is pushed to better themselves and further feelings of empathy and helpfulness to all those around them. Studies suggest that those individuals who act in a state of gratitude are often happier, less susceptible to depression, less stressed, and enjoy a general subjective well-being.

With gratitude being a key determinant in our self-satisfaction, what stops us from adopting an attitude of appreciation for all those around us? A sense of entitlement.

Such ego-driven perceptions of oneself and one’s social interactions taint the demeanour and approach to relationships is the obstacle for this parent of all emotions. Being attached to mere materialism engenders envy and a rather subtle narcissism, impeding our journey to adopt a lifestyle in which we are truly appreciative of the altruism of others: being in a state of Kritagyata.

7 Elements of Leadership Gratitude

sochwithsam

“soch” is the Hindi verb “to think.” Since the beginning of this year, I decided to also hop on the whole blogpost bandwagon and archive my journey; but, I didn’t want to focus solely on Medicine, neither did I want to only post about Vedanta. I wished to find where all these aspects of my life could converge, and I could find a space for others to take inspiration. A place to pen my thoughts.

Let life be the expression of your highest ideals.

Creative and descriptive writing | Tes