The concept of doing something for someone else has been front and center for me all my life. A calling to give, both in substantive and soulful ways, was pretty much written in the script. So let me set the stage…
Nana Tiver whips up dishes, to be enjoyed by our immediate and extended families, almost daily in our somewhat-dated-but-undeniably-cozy kitchen on Beech Avenue in Woodbury Heights. The yellow, green and orange flowered wallpaper and faux-brick stove backsplash are the tangible images imprinted on my mind. However, it’s the more abstract transference of love through the process of crafting casseroles, delivering to doorsteps with the kindest smile, and recipients’ appreciation that gives depth to the memory of making a difference day-to-day.
Meanwhile, in Italy, my paternal side of the family is busy feeding the people of Sulmona – think central east coast, in the Abruzzo region, from where the blue-eyed paisans hail. The Ventrescas owned a neighborhood grocery store and deli, nestled beneath the family’s home on a cobblestone street, where everyone was welcome. Amidst the old-world aromas of freshly-sliced cheeses and meats, deliciously doughy tomato pies, strong coffee and hand-made pizzelles, a palpable camaraderie grew from embodied generosity.
If you break it down, remove props from the sets, the scenes remain similar in essence … Awareness. Compassion. Intention. Selflessness. Connection … conditions inherently involved in duties that revolve around serving the world.
The hereditary benevolence trait continued through the deeds of my beautiful momma, Christina, whose displays of strength and sacrifice have been countless over the years … the environmental influences of altruism and joyful participation in life were continually exemplified by my pilot pops, Richard … yet somehow my own power in positive impact felt lacking, less than, unripe.
My theory was the right kind of work would allow me to make a difference. I came up with ideas – over the years, lots of them – plowed them like soil in the fields of my mind, talked to people, reformulated, reshaped, talked to more people, planned how it would all work out, etc. This was an endless round-trip journey between Excited and Exhausted … and I was always arriving and departing with more junk, feeling discombobulated from incessant motion and increasingly disconnected from my desire to help the world.
Thankfully, I practice yoga. Thankfully, my boyfriend and best friend Ray, who is unconditional love and lives his yoga, re-introduced me to my practice. Thankfully, my path led me to Off The Mat, Into the World (OTM) – a non-profit organization dedicated to bridging yoga and activism – particularly OTM Philly & South Jersey and its recent Yoga In Action program. Spending seven weeks with 18 yoga-minded, service-focused females imbued my investigation of personal truth around service … each of these tender-hearted yet super-hero-strong women bolstered my dedication to delve deeper as I witnessed their respective bravery.
As I shined the light of awareness where I felt my service was lacking, it became apparent that a kind mind, sensitive soul, and capacity to feel (and at times overshare) emotion were merely the seeds of service … that I was full of intentions but lacked properly-placed energy and thoughtful implementation. I realized service is not grand gestures and big projects, but the small ways we show up in life everyday … loving, no matter the circumstances, and focused, no matter how undesirable the task at hand may be. It was obvious that if I wanted to walk the talk, I had to take some steps … to take both risks and responsibility … and to really relinquish the idea of control and fully surrender.
This would be scary if I didn’t feel grounded in sense of self, connected to community and rooted in a belief that we are pieces of something bigger … but yoga offers that access to perspective. On our mats, we can explore letting go and see what we discover … we can breathe, move and listen on new levels … we can catch a glimpse of who we are and how we are … we can find a direct line to our hearts … we can commit to intentions, draw on confidence and bring our yoga with us off our mats.
The transition from thought to action, however, is tricky for most of us. The shift from knowing to being trips us up … it just does. I can decipher the trepidation in faces and hear the drama in conversations because I know what it looks and sounds like … from experiencing it myself. Moving from ideas to results is no simple feat – not for any of us. Creating something from nothing is challenging, confronting even – none of us are alone in this experience.
But if we have the courage to open our eyes and the clarity to identify what matters to us, and if we can be humble and smiling as we put in the efforts required to manifest our respective truths, we will all be engaged in sacred service.
I am grateful for your reading. If you enjoy, please share! If you’re so compelled, share your own intentions … and if I know of anyone who can support you in them, I am happy to make the connections 🙂 Thank you…