“S’ok, noooo problem!”


Sri Narayani Peedam. South India. Nearly 2.5 years now since my first visit, and connection with this path of Bhakti & Karma Yoga. In that time I’ve reflected much upon the idea of seva­, or selfless service. What is it? How can I do more? What does it mean to be truly selfless?

It’s always been a prerequisite for me that my vocation do more than just increase my bank balance. If possible it should be of benefit to this crazy world, and my prosperity should not be at the expense of any human, animal, or the environment. Sharing Yoga fits the bill, but was often overlooked by a clichéd idea of what I thought ‘service’ should look like, i.e. feeding the starving children in Africa.

For years whenever I returned to Australia, for a rest after 9 or 10 months on the road teaching Yoga, I’d google for volunteer opportunities doing the above. Nothing ever eventuated. No organization ever responded. And I had none of the skills that they were looking for anyway.

What I’ve come to discover is that opportunities for seva are right here, right now, wherever I happen to be. It’s all much more obvious than I had thought, and it’s absolutely in the little things. The skills required are generally those that come naturally, doing the things that I already happen to love.

While my ego loves the idea of doing something ‘big’, my heart is finding the sweetest satisfaction in just doing what comes before me. Sharing food, watering a plant, picking up rubbish, smiling at a stranger, or being there for a friend. All it takes is a bit of sensitivity, and the willingness to share. Slowing down helps too. When we move too fast we forget to feel – ourselves as well as others, and we lose the capacity to intuit what’s needed.

My teacher, Sri Shakti Amma, in a personal meeting once said, “Some people… [It’s Amma’s way to speak indirectly like that, so as never to accuse, only suggest] think that they are never doing enough, when actually they are doing a lot.”

It’s taken months to really ‘get’ that statement, and let go of the guilt that I think I’ve always harbored about the relative ease of my existence thus far. ‘Selfless’ to me does not mean that I do not gain from doing service. On the contrary, Amma teaches that doing good for others is a win-win situation. Both parties get to feel joy, and it’s that joy that makes the whole thing sustainable. It makes us want to keep giving because we see clearly that in the giving we receive a whole lot more.

I’m coming to understand ‘selfless’ as freedom from the need for validation or acknowledgement, and freedom from the limiting belief that I have nothing to offer.

There is a quirky Tamil priest here who I’m pretty sure knows just one phrase in English, that he repeats to me EVERY time I see him: “S’ok, noooo problem!” Translation: “Chill out, relax, it’s all good. We’re all good just as we are”. With relaxation comes openness, and from there all things flow, just as they should at just the right time, and what needs to be done gets done. When I cultivate love, awareness, and devotion, the rest takes care of itself.

Please don’t misunderstand… I’m not for a moment condoning apathy or laziness here, just freedom from the stressful striving to prove or redeem ourselves, or looking too far afield while ignoring what needs our attention right here under our noses.

As Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 9.26 – 9.28:

“Whatever I am offered in devotion with a pure heart – a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water – I partake of that love offering. Whatever you do, make it an offering to me – the food you eat, the sacrifices you make, the help you give, even your suffering. In this way, you will be freed from the bondage of karma, and from its results both pleasant and painful. Then, firm in renunciation and yoga, with your heart free, you will come to me.”

And this, from Ramana Maharshi:

“Your own Self-realization is the greatest service you can render the world”.

Om Namo Narayani!