Volunteer Spotlight - February 2021 - Yogananda Seva

Volunteer Spotlight – February 2021

Highlighting who we are and how we serve

Yogananda Seva enters 2021 with devotees linked in a vast and vibrant global network. The light within each SRF/YSS devotee serving in this worldwide volunteer community forms a constellation that spans the planet and illuminates our world. This month, we highlight the journeys of three devotees in Guruji’s worldwide family who have become spiritual friends through their service with Yogananda Seva. They describe how their service activities support each other and our larger SRF/YSS community.

Meet Judy Davie

“Judy would get everything done and she would always seem totally in tune with Master.” – Steve 

Judy is a longtime devotee who lives in Sarasota, Florida with her husband, their cat, and two dogs. She has called several places in the eastern United States home including Ohio, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Judy joined SRF after reading Master’s Autobiography of a Yogi on her honeymoon in 1978. A friend suggested it and, forgetting the title, Judy went into a tiny bookstore and found it over and over again in multiple areas of the store: best-sellers, non-fiction, biography, and philosophy sections!

Judy first attended meditations at the SRF Princeton group in New Jersey. She signed up to serve with the SRF Online Meditation Center when President Brother Chidananda announced the YSO initiative at Convocation 2019. When COVID-19 restrictions increased and she could no longer serve in the SRF Tampa group or her local SRF Saratoga circle, Judy was eager to find a new way to serve. In early 2020, she received a Yogananda Seva newsletter, which called for volunteers for the Support Center (formerly the Help Desk) and she felt that it would be a great fit for her.

Judy loves to volunteer and describes it as the main theme of her life, even before she joined SRF. She has a passion for sharing information with others and has personified the “teach a man to fish” proverb in her colorful professional career which spanned the fields of banking, academia, criminal justice, public service, social services, hospice care, and nursing. She expanded her life of service by joining the Support Center, initially assisting devotees to register on the Volunteer Portal. Enthusiastically, she also joined the Elder Forum and was starting to serve on their planning team when the demands of the Support Center notably increased this summer. Judy was part of the incredibly devoted team that ushered devotees through the registration process for the SRF Convocation 2020 events.  

Judy feels that she immediately clicked with fellow devotee Steve Guadarrama when they met in July 2020 through the first Yogananda Seva Elder Forum Focus Group. Steve facilitated the meetup and quickly realized that Judy is affable, dedicated to serving Master, insightful about interacting with others, and capable of seeing the big picture while being great with details. He noted that “just being in her presence along with the way that Judy conducts herself, is a service to everyone around her.” Judy is also viewed by her team members as being instrumental as a trainer for the Support Center. In this role, she assists volunteers in learning the new platform and reviews and answers daily requests. Her service through the Support Center impacts her friend Steve by helping devotees get registered for the Elder Forum programs that he works with.

“Steve was one of my early contacts who made me think, ‘Oh! There are like-minded people out there. YSO – this is going to work! This is my home.’” – Judy

Meet Steve Guadarrama

“The biggest contribution for me from Steve was just feeling welcome. Feeling like, yes, YSO is my community.” – Judy 

Steve is a spiritual “friend to all” who lives in southern California with his wife and fellow devotee, Claudia. Raised in Orange County, California, he remembers seeing the golden lotus towers of the Encinitas Temple since he was a preschooler when his family travelled down California’s Coast Highway to see his grandmother on her San Diego ranch in the 1950s.

Steve’s spiritual friend Judy, added some details about Steve’s life. He worked as a teacher and administrator before retiring and he enjoys spending time with his wife on their Washington state farm. Judy explained that the details of Steve’s life were less important to her than the fact that he is a devotee who loves to serve; that is what drew them together in divine friendship. Steve’s enthusiasm, welcoming spirit, and joy in service has nurtured their friendship. Steve’s service with YSO has impacted Judy’s sadhana through the spiritually-themed socials that the Elder Forum has organized.  Judy attended the “Gratitude” Thanksgiving satsanga and was invited to the Christmas  and the January Guru-attunement forums, and looks forward to being involved in upcoming activities that are designed to support devotees as they move through the elder life stages. Steve also does research for and structuring of various programs, finding ways to better serve older devotees.

After hearing the word “meditation” the first time at 12 years old, Steve decided that it was something he wanted to learn. He began hatha yoga classes at 19 years old and “wasn’t unhappy enough yet” to realize that he wanted more. Around 26, he began to seek God to fill an emptiness and picked up his roommate’s copy of Autobiography of a Yogi.  Around that time, his yoga instructor suggested that Steve try meditating for a month and if after a month, he felt better, to continue meditating. Steve did so, and kept on for the next 40 plus years. Steve is also a phenomenal photographer whose images have been featured in SRF’s Inner Reflections engagement calendar and in the online meditations. He says now that he is retired, his profession is staying busy serving Master.

Steve is described as being an “unassuming and a relaxed person” by his other spiritual friend, Rahul. He says that, “Steve is very young. He is joy. He is energy. And he is very loving. It has been absolutely wonderful to work with him.”

“My whole life revolves around my sadhana, Claudia, exercise, and serving Master.” – Steve 

Meet Rahul Rastogi

“I am glad to serve our guru with Rahul. He is a wonderful soul on whom  you can always count.”  – Steve 

Rahul is a newly retired YSS member who lives with his wife and fellow devotee, Neena, his parents, and his children in Gurgaon, India, which is adjacent to New Delhi. He is originally from the state of Punjab near the foothills of the Himalayas, where he plans to return to live in later years. His volunteering journey began three years ago when a fellow YSS devotee spoke with him about the benefits of serving. With Master’s blessing, Rahul learned to play the harmonium and miraculously developed a melodious voice in order to serve as a service reader at his local center. In January 2020, he began serving as a meditation leader for the SRF Online Meditation Center. Rahul is also a member of the Yogananda Seva Welcome & Onboarding team, the “greeters” of new YSO volunteers, and a member of the Lay-Led Retreats team which is developing online theme-based one-day retreats.  

Rahul met his spiritual friend, Steve, in the summer of 2020 when he joined the Elder Forum and became the lead coordinator for the three focus groups that were conducted in India. Their team collected data on the type of projects that might best support SRF/YSS devotees who are 50 years and older. Rahul remarked to Steve that he was so grateful for the assignment and the impact that it has had on his sadhana. Rahul was surprised at how warm and happy the devotees were when he interviewed them. He felt that their joy flowed through to him and changed him. Some have become good friends.  Steve finds Rahul to be a warm-hearted sincere devotee who is incredible with details and the perfect person to organize projects. 

Rahul has worked as an Electronics and Telecommunications Engineer since he was  21 years old, working on technology sales solutions. He joined YSS 13 years ago when he felt the happiness he was looking for was not coming from his work. Eight months after he learned about the Lessons, Rahul enrolled. After practicing the techniques for six months, he read the Autobiography of a Yogi over a three- to four-month period, contemplating deeply in order to fully absorb Master’s words. Seven to eight years after establishing a spiritual home in the Lessons, Rahul began attending the YSS Shimla Retreat Center and has attended 20 retreats in the past five years.  

Rahul is multilingual, fluent in Hindi, English, and Punjabi. This piece has been translated at the links below, so more members of our network of souls in service can also read and remember how large this family of Master’s is.

“This has been the most beautiful thing on the path…volunteering.” – Rahul