I am a yoga asana and mantra meditation teacher on a small scale. In other words currently I teach from my home and to friends and associates from my job working in the public service under the local government. I have taught in yoga centres in the past and even been involved in teacher training in other countries. I have also had the good fortune to be able to provide my services without charge. Perhaps the time will come when that is not always the case, but I feel less pressured when donating my time and expertise (such as it is), rather than charging for it. And the interesting thing is that I have gained from the process of giving. I have not been the loser.
I have gained friends, and those friends have, in turn, given me their time and assistance. One student donated a sound system when she noticed that the CD player I used to provide meditative music behind the asana sessions kept playing up. I got given worms for the worm farm container I had had sitting in my back yard unopened and empty for a number years, and now have a thriving source of worm juice for the flowers I have planted to make my front entrance more welcoming and the greens I grow in the back yard. I don’t have a car, and other students do things like regularly go to the bulk food shop to bring me the ingredients I need to make the healthy snacks I give out after classes. Other friends who come to my classes give me lifts to and from shared events we go to, or pick me up after work if I’m on a late shift, so that I can get back home in time to take them through a yoga asana practice. My wheels, (a push bike) have recently been stolen and I have immediately been lent a bike to get around on until I find a replacement. I could continue writing in this vein for some time.
In addition to these obvious benefits, (music system, worms, shopping delivery, transport, etc), I have gained on more subtle levels. These two things I have gained are intertwined: I have developed relationships, friendships with others, and I have found a place to use my need to be of service. These are intertwined, because serving requires relationship, you can’t serve unless you are serving someone!
So, I have developed relationships, gained friends. We all need relationship. That is integral to the living being. This need for relationship is there in every living entity, although in the lower forms of life it is barely able to be expressed. In the higher animal forms we clearly see this need playing out. One infamous experiment, the “Harlow baby monkey” experiment involved basically torturing a baby monkey by removing all opportunities for relating to another living entity, keeping the baby caged, providing adequate nutrition, but only with two forms in the cage, a hard wire “mother” who provided the food via a bottle of baby food, and a cloth mother who provided no food. The baby clung to the softer more realistic mother, despite not getting any food from this form. This was the closest the monkey could get to a relationship. We need relationship.
And we need relationship, not just with other atmas or living beings, but also with the Paramatma, the Supreme Atma. And I have also gained in that area by teaching asanas and meditation. Asanas and pranayama (breathing exercises) are great health aids and they also help clear the mind, facilitating mediation. The yogic method of sound meditation or mantra meditation is designed to help one redevelop our internal relationship with the Paramatma. The Paramatma is also known as the Lord in the Heart. This Supreme Soul is present everywhere, but in order to perceive this fact, and to redevelop this forgotten relationship, we need to clean out our materially contaminated mind and heart, which is covered by so many unnecessary desires and fears, thoughts and emotions. And my attempts to help others be able to have access to this process is driven by my desire to do something to please that Supreme Soul within my heart, and that increases that relationship. When you give someone a gift, or do something for them, (give them worms for their worm farm, for instance) you are developing a relationship. So by giving of my time and effort, I have been able to increase my relationship with this Supreme Soul, and I have developed my friendship with these people in connection with that relationship.
I have also directly gained the satisfaction of being able to help others. Just as we all need relationships, the desire to serve others, which may not be fashionable, is a simmering need of the soul. It may be pushed into the background by the “me first” mores or norms of our current consumer driven society, but it is always there. It is buried by the drive for me to have the latest technology, the best car possible, the biggest house I can afford, the best looking partner and so on. But no matter how deeply buried in our hearts this longing to be of service may be, if this integral need to give to others, motivated by love is not satisfied we are left feeling something is missing from our lives. We often see those who have everything material go in two different directions: they turn to service, to philanthropy, driven by this eternal desire of the soul; or they become overwhelmed by the lack of purpose in their life and attempt to cover their distress with alcohol and drugs, legal or illegal. Sometimes they commit suicide.
So I need to be of service, for my own sake! I gain from the process. And I find that those who learn and practice yoga asanas, pranayama and mantra yoga tend to find their minds quietening, their desires for “things” lessening and their natural desire to serve starting to manifest more and more.