Thinking Small, In Words
I wrote this article a few months ago, and thought I’d share it because I don’t think it’s publishable like some of the other yoga articles I’ve written. But the ideas are still here, alive and inspiring.
The importance of intentional contribution.
It is a privilege to enter into the lives of others through service. Yogis are often internally guided to play contributory roles in community. In our hurried society, the tendency to spread ourselves thin as contributors can limit our ability to spark true change through small, well-concerted efforts. When we are involved in too many contributions, the end goals can be obscured by action rather than thoughtful contribution.
Like many of us, I can be “over-involved”. I’ve spent time watching my demeanor in these times. My manner has ranged from calm, clear and dedicated to emotional, frenzied and tired. Although perhaps necessary, some of the work I’ve done in the name of service has felt bureaucratic, paper-based and separate from the cause. For years of being very busy, what outcome has been served? Overextension into contributory roles has occasionally lead to turbulent, misdirected action that diminished positive end impact for individuals and communities. My heart and mind have wavered in and out of the work; my understanding of the purpose has come and gone.
But I notice a few projects – the ones that captivated me, where I felt purposeful, fully engaged and unwaveringly dedicated – left small, positive marks on the world around me.
Despite the simplicity behind the ideal of helping others, this predicament of creating meaningful contribution is not one I face alone. Many of my friends and acquaintances face over-involvement and lack of meaning in karmic work. Is this something faced by many community contributors? Is there a need to think smaller, more deliberately about the type of service we wish to provide? And in terms of motives, why do we wish to provide these services?
Rarely are we taught to think small in our approach to service. I’ve regularly considered the definition of ‘small’. When it comes to contributing, I used to equate small with unimportant or insignificant. Through yoga I am re-understanding ‘small’. The word small can come to mind with internal work, or at a level of moment-to-moment individual interactions. It can be reflection on action. Thinking small could be watching for windows of opportunity through which to contribute more meaningfully. Working at a smaller level could bring about increased care for self and care for others, or could fill gaps left by our quickening human pace. Small considers the linkages from global to local, and then back out from local to global. Small appreciates what is already present in my community of work.
Thinking smaller in terms of service is an expression of interconnectedness, and involves deep and regular consideration of intentions behind actions. It involves deeper dedication, and asks for more love to be put into our work. It does not equal small impact or small change; it is rather a methodology for change that allows for more mindful and focused action in a busier, sometimes disconnected world.
Thinking small can be a mediation that increases the depth at which you can enter the cause. Through this single-mindedness, it is possible to exit the realm of the self and enter into clearer external perception and a flow of energy. Thinking small can deepen the passion, make visible the impact, and touch lives more directly.
There is a certainly a role for thinking and dreaming big when it comes to the human condition. But I wonder if our communities may benefit most from our service if we were all to add more elements of small into our actions.