During the course of three days last month, I spent about 16 hours volunteering (the word for this in Sanskrit is seva, meaning service) at the DNC Oasis in Charlotte. For anyone unfamiliar with the Oasis, it was a collaboration between The Huffington Post and Off The Mat, Into The World to provide an "oasis" for the delegates at both the RNC and the DNC, giving them a place to go for a little peace and quiet, and to recharge before heading back out to the hectic environment of these political events. Among the offerings at the OASIS were asana, meditation, massage, and healthy food.
With the rise of excitement over the DNC being here in Charlotte, and then the buzz dying down in the days after, I have spent many moments reflecting on my role at the DNC Oasis and what I learned from being in service during this event.
Reminder of why I do what I do
Showing up my first day, I had high hopes. Meditation is a difficult avenue and knowing that asana and meditation were being offered, I figured so many delegates would be coming to meditation instead of asana, opting for a little peace of mind without any sweat. Nope, this wasn't the case. Even in the midst of the DNC, meditation was still a hard sell. Day one, I managed to drum up one client for a private meditation. I found a private corner of the room and set us up as best I could for a nice meditation experience. Mind you we were in a room where several private yoga sessions were occurring at the same time so we were not alone. Even amidst the music, voices of several teachers and their students, I was able to guide her to an amazing experience. It was beautiful. That's what meditation is all about being able to find that peaceful calm within no matter where you are and what is going on around you. I love what I do.
The craziest part was that I got to experience this with client after client over these 3 days. And each time, I was so grateful to have been able to guide them to a peaceful place. Most of them were first time meditators and to see the look on each face as they opened their eyes, I could see that they were able to fully let go and fully go in.
Take care of yourself first
Because of my shift time, I didn't get to meditate before I went in on my last day. Luckily right after I got there, Sharon Salzberg was doing a meditation class. I figured no one is going to need a private meditation while a group meditation was happening so I took advantage and went to class. It was so amazing being able to participate in a group meditation class! Normally I'm the one teaching and rarely do I get to enjoy the beauty of group class. Not to mention, it was an honor to meet Sharon.
Then after doing one private meditation for a client, there was another lull. I was still feeling a little worn down when a Qigong class was starting. Knowing nothing about Qigong, I decided to attend. So glad I did! The teacher, with her very gentle nature guided us through the 8 stages of brocade. Not only did I leave feeling energized, but with new tools to use with my energy work.
Now with meditation and Qigong as my support, I was ready for anything! And that was good, because over the next several hours, I went back to back with private meditation sessions. When I thought I couldn't do anymore, an entire group was forming for meditation. I ended my three days, and my continuous sessions spree with a spontaneous 6 p.m. meditation class. Without all the care I had given myself during the afternoon, I wouldn't have been able to be there for all those people. And without the mini breaks I took, I wouldn't have been able to last.
What a good reminder that we can't take care of others if we don't take care of ourselves first. How often do we run around making sure everyone else's needs are met, but forgot about our own? I used to live my life like that on a daily basis - always drained and exhausted. Now I can help others from a calm, grounded place, instead of with frantic energy that will leave me feeling burnt out. I remember to fill myself first and then I can help fill others.
This was also a great reminder that we're all human and we are more alike than we are different. We can spend a lot of time feeling separate and different from everyone else. And while we are all unique, we also have a lot in common with those around us. As a regular service, I teach weekly at a Woman's Prison facility, one of the most remarkable things that I've learned from this experience is how these women are so similar to me. How they are just like my friends, family, and the people I run into as I am out and about. And the delegates that I met from all over the country at the Oasis, the same, just grateful for a little break from the stress of their worlds. It is when we can stop seeing ourselves as so different that we can connect to everyone around us.
Leave a comment: What have you learned about yourself from a time you've been in service? About others? The world?
See the photos and interviews for many of the volunteers ~ including me ~ on the Huffington Post!
Jenn White, Yoga Educator, Meditation Teacher, and Owner of Embodied Bliss, began her journey of yoga and meditation in 2004 while recovering from a back injury. Feeling lost, restless and seeking something more from life, she found her path through meditation.
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