Why do we practice Karma yoga?
So what’s in it for you?
Ok, so it is easy to see how you doing Karma yoga helps the others around you, and also the smooth running of the centre.
But, what on earth could you possibly gain from it?
Difference between a hotel atmosphere and a yoga centre
When a person goes to stay in a hotel, often they pay the hotel price, and expect to be shown to their room, be handed meals, and to be pampered to a certain extent.
The person often feels that they have paid their money, and now they expect service in return.
The person does not expect to help the hotel, or to put in their own good energies to help the running of the hotel or the atmosphere at the hotel or to help with the other guests.
Many people nowadays lead much of their lives like this. Paying for goods, paying for service, and paying for this and that. And it can lead to a very empty, uncaring and also a demanding way of living and expecting things to be as one wants.
On the other hand, when one practices yoga, over the years one discovers that one of the most important aspects of yoga is working with one’s energies.
One may start off working with the physical body, or with the breath, or with relaxation helping balance the body, mind and spirit.
As these aspects of our being become balanced, one realizes that how we interact with others, and with ourselves, and with our whole environment plays a huge part of how we feel and how we function, how happy we are in our lives and ultimately how we grow and evolve.
We discover that as we help out others, and put our own good energies into helping the environment and greater good, rather than focusing on ourselves and our own petty needs and wants, that our consciousness and awareness grows, and we begin to transcend beyond the more selfish self-centered view that we may have had during childhood or adolescence.
If we remain in a very self centered, demanding and needy way of living, we are very vulnerable to ups and especially downs that life appears to throw at us. When things do not go right, we get upset, often angry and usually do not feel good. We become like a leaf being washed along by the river, not having the ability to step back from life’s normal ups and downs.
Karma yoga is a classroom where we can learn
Karma yoga gives us a working environment to experience the effects of our attitude and self application.
So in most Yoga Ashrams and Yoga Centres, course participants and residents spend part of each day helping out with tasks and work to help the smooth running of the centre and also the quality of the atmosphere for the others at the centre.
These activities are known as Karma Yoga. It is a way of putting in good positive action or work to the best of one’s ability, without looking for reward or self recognition.
The whole trans formative process lies entirely between oneself, and the activity, and the energy exchange happening during the activity. It has nothing to do with getting thanks for the task, or whether anyone else sees you or pays you recognition for doing the task, or gives you praise for how well you applied yourself to the task.
The trans formative process takes place, between your higher self, which sees how much good energies you are putting in to help the higher good. For beginners, it can also be your higher self allowing you to see how you try to avoid the task, or try to minimize your input into what you know needs to be done, and try to get away with doing as little as possible. This can allow you gain some insight into why you are reacting to the situation in this way.
Both of the above ‘ways of carrying out the Karma yoga’ have a profound effect on ourselves.
We can ‘lift ourselves up’ to a higher more loving, caring and full filling way of being, or we can ‘do our heads in’ by bitching about the task, or trying to duck out of it, or do the minimum that we can get away with. Both ways, have their own karmic result of our well being and feeling.
Try it and see.
Karma yoga gives us hands on experience and environment to become involved in this very important aspect of getting to know ourselves through yoga, and also gives us the opportunity to develop more skilful ways of living and of doing everyday tasks in our lives.
Ultimately how we undertake our Karma yoga task, is often like a film run of how we deal with our wider lives and our commitments to others and to our own lives.
Advice for beginners to Karma yoga
As someone who is new to karma yoga, it is suggested that you watch your thoughts, feelings and reactions as you carry out your karma yoga task.
Watch how you think, and see what reactions develop.
If you feel negative thoughts coming up, for example “Why do i have to do this stupid task. Why did i not go to the party for the weekend”, try to ask yourself, what part of yourself is acting up. What part of yourself is complaining. What part of yourself, is feeling ‘self righteous’ and ‘above the task’.
And try to get in touch with this part of yourself.
It is the ego.
It is the ‘self cherishing’ aspect of ourselves, that has grown so big, that it places demands on us, expectations of what ‘you’ should receive from the Universe, expectations of how ‘you’ should be treated by others.
It can be viewed as an unskillful teenager’s approach to themselves and their interaction with others and the wider environment.
It can be demanding, selfish, have huge expectations and quite easily fly into a rage, or boiling emotions, moods, sulks, and destructive attacking behaviour.
And ultimately if this aspect of our beings is not worked on, and tamed to become more caring and loving for others, and less self obsessed, it can turn our lives into misery.
So please use the opportunity of Karma Yoga hopefully to experience the good energies of helping others without looking for praise and reward, and feel the positive benefits which can flow from this practice.
Use the karma yoga as an opportunity to watch yourself, and to help you get to see some sides of yourself which may not be so obvious during your normal everyday life. It is an opportunity for you to get to know yourself, and ultimately to grow.
It is an opportunity for you to get to know yourself, and ultimately to grow.