I started the YFS programme 6 months into lockdown and like most others people I was experiencing that now common feeling of zoom fatigue so when I was introduced to my task for October of reading a book I was relieved to do something away from my screen! It had been a while since I’d read a book that wasn’t on my university essential reading list so I was excited to read ‘My Grandfather’s Blessings’.
The author of this book is Dr Rachel Remen, a professor and a physician who uses a spiritual approach to healing her patients. The book contained several short stories from her patients about what she and they had learnt through their medical issues. Over the next few weeks I felt extremely moved by what I read. I would think about the stories I read for days afterwards and couldn’t wait to read the next chapter. Overall, the book was the most moving piece of work I have ever read.
A lot of the spiritual teachings overlapped with Dharmic teachings which I thought I’d share with you.
Whilst reading the book I came across the term frontier culture. It describes the traits of self-reliance, self-sufficiency and independence that were important for survival when Americans began inhabiting areas of land far away from their communities. These traits that would ensure their survival in a hostile and unknown environment. However, even after the end of the frontier we still inhabit these characteristics in western culture. The author points out that individualism and independence won’t allow us to live in the most fulfilling way and it can lead to feelings of sadness and isolation.
So how can we lead lives that move away from the frontier culture?
One of the ways mentioned is by connecting with others through Sewa.
The meaning of sewa is discussed in the book and the author explores the difference between helping and serving (or sewa). This part stood out to me because I’d been asked a similar question during my YFS interview. I thought the author answered the question beautifully when she says that “A helping relationship may incur a sense of debt, but service, like healing, is mutual”. Service or sewa is an experience that both parties are fortunate to experience and over time whilst helping can become draining, sewa will sustain you. When we carry out sewa we connect with others. Through experiencing connectedness serving others becomes a natural and joyful thing to do.
Reading this chapter made me think about the YFS programme and how in a few months I’d be carrying out sewa with an organisation. I was feeling excited for what the next few months held and to read more of this fantastic book!