Karma yoga is one of the four paths of yoga and it is described as the path of action. The word karma means action and it is practiced by being of service. Sometimes it can be misunderstood that karma yoga is only practiced as a volunteer, renouncing to getting anything back in return. But this is not necessarily true, although the highest stage of this path is indeed through selfless action. There are many ways we can integrate this in our daily life and we can do so with ease so long as our intention is pure. As we continue to be of service and doing it from a place of being in action for the good of other rather than just for ourselves, both the understanding and application of selfless action can follow. In this instance, the philosophy teaches us that when we do anything from a place of being of use for the greater good and not for the “I” we can become free of suffering and worry.
Here are 4 ways to practice Karma Yoga in daily life:
THROUGH YOUR WORK
We all have a duty in our lifetime to be of service and most of us already are. Through our work/jobs we are contributing to the world. This is a responsibility all of us take on when coming into the physical world. This is the first stage or step on the karma yoga path. When we work, we also bring something useful to the world and whatever this is, it’s needed. The most important aspect to take in consideration however is your intention behind what you do. Although we need to earn money so we can have at least our basic needs met, if the intention is greater than just for the “I” or “me” then this can later on become a higher form of karma yoga practice. If we do our work with the mindset of “What’s in it for me” then we can fall in the trap of desire and ego, which is a continuous cycle of desire and possibly greed. Do your work with enthusiasm and being of use for whatever it is that you are doing. Focus on the idea of “What good does what I do bring for others, the environment etc” Then even your attitude to your work may become more joyful.
BEING THERE FOR SOMEBODY IN NEED
Being there for somebody in need is a beautiful way to practice karma yoga. Giving your time, energy and space to somebody, is also an act of good deed. It may not bring much to you, but to the other person it can be exactly what they needed. In this sense, when we provide action for the basis of another’s needs, then we do not consider a need for our reward. We do it because it brings good and because we have the ability to do so.
We know the saying “sharing is caring” and this is (in my opinion) one of the most important ways we can connect with others in this physical life. Giving without the need to receive something back is a beautiful way to integrate the meaning of karma yoga. But always consider the intention behind it. Give not to feel an ego boost about how kind you are, but do so because it is exactly what the other needs and you can facilitate that. And this is a great act of service. You can share a meal you made with your neighbour, give a book you have to somebody you know would love to read it, give clothing you no longer wear to somebody you know would make use of it, it can be anything. When we give we come from a place of abundance, and not lack. And this can bring us to the realisation of how much we can be grateful for.
THROUGH LOOKING AFTER NATURE AND ALL ITS CREATURES
Caring for our environment, the nature & all the creatures helps to tame our ego and make us realise that this is our home and everything part of it has the same right to be in it. All the animals, the little bugs, the birds, plants, trees etc have a right to be on this planet just as we do. We must not give ourselves higher importance just because we are human beings. After all, according to the yoga philosophy, we all share the same essence but in different form and level. So feeding a stray animal for example might not bring you anything, but to that little living creature you have added good in their life or even saved its life. The same goes for the nature. We are just a small form of it dressed in skin and bones, with a mind, an intellect and ego. Be conscious of how you treat nature. Clean up a piece of land, let the flowers be in their blooms and admire them without needing to pick them. Learn to see all there is with a sense of connection and without differentiation.