Name: Gwenyth Smith
From: Oakland, California
Grade: Gap Year
School: Oakland School for the Arts
At 17 years old I stepped out of the airport in South India, the sun was just beginning to ascend into a burst of warm reds above the dirt road, this was a corner of the world I had never seen before. Amritapuri was my destination, the ashram of the world-renowned guru, Amma, the universal mother of love, and it is from my experience in the profoundly spiritual country of India that I have learned the true meaning of selflessness.
Living at the ashram meant I needed to do at least one hour of “seva” or selfless service a day, but I soon realized that there was nothing more satisfying than the ability to find joy in helping others that I began to take on 6-8 hours of service a day. I thought to myself; “If I can be so satisfied with doing these services for others, I will never have to live in a state of discontentment again”, and I still believe this is true. I began my day waking up at five am to helping the ladies in the kitchen with baking. The stillness of the morning and the elegance of the feminine energy mixed with the sweet smells of delicacies we were crafting together created a satisfaction in me that I can still access now if I just close my eyes. After breakfast, I continued my work by planting vegetables and working on a sustainable farm, creating mini ecosystems so that plants could
survive in the dry, sandy ashram ground. The day continued with some cleaning duties, and after an evening break I would have the delight of serving everyone in the ashram dinner. To see each individual from the ashram every night and serve them their dinner, which is actually an incredibly sweet exchange, made me realize how much I could impact individuals lives with simple actions.
After practicing this lifestyle for four months, I had come to a conclusion that was against what I was taught in the United States. Though it was great that I was helping around the ashram, planting trees, setting up services, cooking for the residents every night, what was more important was the habit I was honing. I had planted a seed inside me that experienced pure joy from the good fortune in others. From then on, it was always a thought in the back of my mind; “How can I help other people win”.
The bliss that is derived from good deeds and service is a joy that can’t be taken away from you, it’s not like a new shirt that will soon grow old. It is everlasting, and it will shine in everything you do. If you nurture this habit within yourself, it will leak into your work, your home, you will be glowing, and the people around you will feel it. It will start a spark, soon others will bring their new found habits into their offices and back home to their children. This is truly how we make a difference, by going back to the roots of our selfish tendencies and transforming them into a delicious, self-sustaining river of selflessness in which we can all dance and bathe in.