How Being A Karma Yogi Turned My Life Around

Katherine Smith
How Being A Karma Yogi Turned My Life Around

Sometimes I feel lost and alone. And then I sit, focus on my breath, and let the body still. I look up to the sky and feel the beating of my heart, the aliveness in my body and witness the mind, watching me be. I remember this isn’t about me. Because me, the ‘I’ that I perceive myself to be, is just a fabricated picture, woven together from the few snapshots I’m able to see.

A few years ago, I quit my job and spent a year as a Karma Yogi.

In a world where everything is available if the price is right, where most of us work in exchange for the four figures deposited into our bank account come the closing of each month, I wanted to give something; myself, my time, for free. I wanted to learn how to give and how to serve in a world consumed with consumption.

To be honest, I was curious to see what I was capable of, when money wasn’t an incentive.

Happiness had alluded me in a life that came fully fitted with all the latest must have mod-coms and Moet. So I decided to ditch it and dive into the great abyss, where time and my worth would not be measured by my monthly income. At first it was utterly terrifying. I never realised how much my job title and my earnings were connected to self-confidence and my ability to justify my existence in the world.

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” – Gandhi

But then it began to feel liberating, as I began to think twice about purchasing things I soon discovered I didn’t need. Transactions became about human interaction and skill exchange, rather than the changing hands of pocket change.

How Am I A Yogi Outside The Studio?

As a yoga practitioner, a student, and a teacher, I have had encounters with everything from Pranayama to pratyahara – Bhakti yoga and Bikram, but how connected was I to the teachings? And could I apply them outside of the yoga studio? How strong was my surrender? How deep did my devotion flow?

When I wasn’t ‘doing’ for money, I made the profound discovery that putting other people’s needs before my own nourished me in ways a salary never could. It was humbling. And, I felt free. Every act and every thought became part of practice – mostly because it tested my patience (never my strong point) and I saw myself for who I truly was; the darkness and the light and all the parts that were blindingly bright.

They say that there are only two true emotions for us humans; love and fear. And I chose love. What else is there?

“Only a life lived in service, is a life worth living.” – Albert Einstein

We can get so pre-occupied by our own misery, distracted by our desperation to fix ourselves and find solutions to our woes we often overlook that fact that giving is receiving.

On Karma Yoga

Karma yoga is known for its potency for purifying the heart. And, as a Karma yogi I realised that in an effort to help others I somehow helped myself. I healed in ways I didn’t know were possible, because the truth is we’re all interconnected and when you feel and experience that first hand, when you feel and experience yourself as pure love, life will be changed – forever.

This is what I learnt after a year of being a Karma Yogi…

  • We are on this planet to love and look after one another.
  • That when we look after one another we feel happier.
  • That happiness doesn’t always come from helping ourselves.
  • That we are all connected.
  • That all those things that frustrate you about everyone else are simply reflections of the things you don’t want to see in yourself.
  • That patience really is a virtue.
  • That people can be your practice too.
  • That the things with the highest value are not for sale.
  • That you can’t put a price on friendship.
  • That the human spirit is humbling.

I could go on, and on. But I just want to add that we should know that there is always beauty to be found if we just look around. And lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I wish we could all realize that our capacity and desire to love is abundant and boundless.