Karma Yoga

Neem Karoli Baba, an Indian guru, said, “Love everyone, serve everyone, remember God.” Karma Yoga is the yoga of action. It is work. It is a yogic path where enlightenment is achieved through selfless service. It teaches us that we should give no thought to the outcome or results of our service, but dedicate our work to the Supreme Consciousness.

Sometimes I find great beauty, comfort, and purpose in striving to be a Karma Yogi, but oftentimes I feel frustrated. I wonder if I’m doing enough. I take my eyes off of the Divine and look at the seemingly non-existent results of my efforts.

This spring, I visited India for two weeks. When I returned home, I found the apartment I share with two roommates in complete disarray. Rotten food filled the kitchen counter tops and fridge. The sink was full of dishes. The garbage can and recycling bin were overflowing. Every cupboard was open. The smell made me gag.

It occurred to me in that moment that I do a lot more housework than I realize. I’m certainly not obsessed with cleanliness. In fact, I often feel like I don’t do enough around the house. But when I saw the cumulative results of my absence, I realized that I do, in fact, a lot of small and simple things. I wash a dish after I use it along with an extra fork or two that might be in the sink. I take five seconds to wipe off the stove after I use it. I empty the garbage can when it fills up. I close a cupboard after it’s been opened.

I am trying to remember this experience as I strive to walk the Karma Yoga path. My efforts to serve and love others are small and simple. The results are all but invisible. But perhaps the cumulative results, could I see them, are something more.

If they are not, if the kitchen had been perfectly clean, if the results of my service truly are non-existent, then this is still a worthwhile path. I am changing in ways that are both simple and profound. I will keep drawing my eyes back, again and again, to the Divine, where I’m reminded to let go of the outcomes. To surrender.

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