By Marisol Rascon
The intention of practicing yoga is to unite mind, body, and spirit, and though there are many ways to achieve this connection the most popular is the practice of physical based practices like hatha.
The body is a very accessible point of entry into yoga since we all have a body and it offers a great beginning to develop a present moment focus when moving through physical demands or holding postures. The popularity of yoga continues to grow and with more people taking to the mat for stress relief it is important to understand that there are many aspects to the discipline.
Bhakti yoga is another facet on the path that involves devotion or worshipping something outside us to merge with God (or Goddess, Creator, Spirit, Ultimate reality, etc).
For me this seemed like a contradiction to what I was trying to cultivate through my meditation, a sense of non-attachment. How do I move beyond duality if am creating a separate sense of the divine through ritual, offerings, and worship? I had to dig deep to answer that for myself and realized that although I was a spiritual person, a part of me bought into the collective belief that smart people don’t have blind faith (ie worship the invisible).
Despite my initial resistance my heart pulled me in this new direction and I found myself committing to a devotional seat for a year. Excited, reluctant and a little frightened, as with any new love, I opened my heart.
Day after day I sat, repeated mantra, felt the excitement of the fresh journey in my offerings, but also I got angry, cried, felt uncomfortable and distracted. I questioned the whole thing and several times felt like quitting but realizing that there was something deeper bubbling I continued. I bowed to the vibrations of the mantras and to the frustrations the same.
The waves kept moving, bliss one day and feeling like a hypocrite questioning my intentions the next. Expectations of how things should be were never too far away but throughout my initial year I started to acknowledge them instead of fight them. My love affair was maturing and the flame began to grow. I acknowledged the gift of gratitude that listening to my body had given me, I called on the equanimity cultivated through meditation, and that mind/body circuit provided just enough space to love the invisible without attachment or expectation.
The fear that was restricting a deeper sense of trust in my life was now held sweetly with an expanded sense of faith.
If I could give you one example of what bhakti yoga looks like I would direct you to Amma (Mata Amritanandamayi), a beautiful embodiment of what can be birthed from unconditional love. She is known to some as the hugging saint and travels the world giving hugs. Her devotion to humanity is so palpable that people wait for hours just to receive a quick embrace from her.
Through her tours she raises money to fund Embrace the World, an organization that serves people in need in 40 countries around the world.
Some would argue that her work falls into karma yoga or selfless action. However, as I reflected on what bhakti meant to me I couldn’t deny that her commitment to Love is nothing short of worship. I couldn’t find a better example of the heart of this devotional branch of yoga than the energy that motivates people to wait hours to be embraced. Bhakti yoga lives in the words “I am here, I love you”. It is the dipping vulnerably into desire for a moments embrace that is the road of bhakti.
For more information on Amma visit her website: https://amma.org/