Here’s my family after my Dad, Dr Gian Gopal, received an MBE at Buckingham Palace on Wednesday. 

His award is for ‘Services to the Community in Oxfordshire’ where, since retiring from work as a research physicist, he (and my Mum) have spent a decade working to raise funds to build a Hindu temple. He has also been a prison chaplain, a multi-faith leader and much more. They have been super busy, supporting the community, building links & helping out. My brother, sister & I are so very proud of what they do.

Whilst we often think of those with Honours as ‘grandees’, I was struck by the other investees that I chatted to at the Palace – normal people doing extraordinary things in service of others.

(I won’t get too political here, but suffice to say that there was much incongruity in seeing people who have

dedicated years to helping those in need, feeding, caring, educating others – in a place of such incredible wealth and extravagance. Just selling one of the Reuben or Vermeer paintings would have built a temple 10x over, or supported many foodbanks, but there you go. Oh, and if you’re asking, you don’t even get a cup of tea, or even a glass of water, at the investiture). Ho Hum.

Nevertheless, there was a bigger message here, and it was one of Service

Some of you may be aware that there are many types of Yoga, including Devotional (Bhakti), Knowledge (Jnana), Physical (Hatha) and more. One of the ‘big 3’ is the path of Karma Yoga – or Selfless Service. 

This doesn’t need a mat, or a prayer book, or a renunciation of the world, but a dedication to helping others in ones’ heart, hands and mind. Not for a gong, or a pat on the back – just because it’s a good thing to do and a good way to be.

The Hindu scriptures (and all religious faiths) are clear: Doing good for others is good for your soul. 

Guess what? Research evidence backs this up – those who participate in altruistic activities have better mental well-being. And this extends BEYOND just giving money. Those who volunteer have even MORE positive psychological health.

Need a boost? Volunteer. 

It doesn’t have to be a big deal. Offer to do a clean up in the park, offer some hours at a charity shop, speak to a care home about what you could do, read in a school. Or think closer to home – do you have a neighbour who might need a chat and a cuppa every week? It can change someone’s life to be seen and heard.

A life spent in the pursuit of Pleasure (‘Kama’) alone is fun – but in the end, there is only so much you can eat, drink, buy. Our shelves are groaning, our tummies are thankfully full, and our experiences often legion.

We all feel good when we do good. And most of us have some time that we could give each month. Notice what is holding you back from doing this. And don’t overthink – just do. (I know many of you already do!).

Karma yoga – Selfless service. Let me know if you have any ideas.