In the northern hemisphere, autumn is a season known for harvesting all that one has grown and for giving thanks for the abundance of the earth. Celebrating the fruits of our labors with gratitude is a beautiful practice. But as spiritual aspirants, we want to take a further step and explore how we can make good use of all the blessings we receive to make a difference in the world.

The most fundamental use of the abundance we have received is to focus our energies on our own spiritual growth. Some of us have our basic needs fulfilled, and both the time for spiritual practice and access to a tremendous wealth of spiritual teachings. It is our responsibility to apply these gifts to free our hearts and minds from selfishness and learn to see the spiritual oneness behind all names and forms.

This requires committing ourselves to some regular, sustained spiritual practice. That practice may take many forms, all of which enable us to shift from a “me-centered” to a “we-centered” way of living. As we make peace in our own hearts, they will naturally open with compassion for others, and we can become a presence of peace and compassion wherever we go.

We need not wait until we have achieved some level of spiritual growth before we more outwardly share the benefits we have received by serving in the world. Service is itself a form of Yoga practice called Karma Yoga, in which we act with the welfare of others in our hearts and without attachment to the outcome of our efforts. There are endless opportunities to do things with such mindfulness and care.

We can share the abundance we have received in numerous ways, such as serving in a soup kitchen, donating to an environmental organization, praying for those who suffer, or tutoring disadvantaged children. We have many opportunities every day to be loving, to listen and understand others, and to give without expecting something.

Sharing the abundance we dwell in can also take the form of caretaking our planet and all the beings that inhabit it. I believe it is our duty to stand up for our spiritual values by supporting the healing of our natural world, and by defending the rights of the oppressed, marginalized and underserved.

Sharing the gifts and blessings we have received with others is a natural impulse when we acknowledge our abundance and free ourselves from the self-centered messages of our culture. Actions performed with genuine care for others are healing for our hearts, and we find joy in giving rather than looking for a reward or outcome. This is how we really bring our Yoga practice to life.

About the Author:

Swami Ramananda is the president of the Integral Yoga Institute of San Francisco and a greatly respected master teacher in the Integral Yoga tradition, who has been practicing Yoga for more than 35 years. He offers practical methods for integrating the timeless teachings and practices of Yoga into daily life. He leads beginner, intermediate, and advanced-level Yoga Teacher Training programs in San Francisco and a variety of programs in many locations in the United States, Europe, and South America. Swami Ramananda trains Yoga teachers to carry Yoga into corporate, hospital, and medical settings and has taught mind/body wellness programs in many places. He is a founding board member of the Yoga Alliance, a national registry that supports and promotes Yoga teachers as professionals.