In a traditional sense the practice of devotion seems to lie inextricably with the concepts of religious spirituality. Bhakti yoga also has its roots embedded in religion and worshipping of “the guru” or God. But don’t worry, there’s nothing hocus pocus about it. Quite the opposite in fact, Bhakti is devotion, but more than that it is connection with the Divine within. However you personally interpret this Divine is completely and totally up to you. Divine can be anything: Nature, Source, Universe, One Love, Self, you get the picture. The important thing is that we have something to reach into, be devoted to, to love.
If you are interested in more structured yogic ways of including Bhakti yoga into your experience and spiritual evolution there are practices to help you do this.
One way is through chanting, Kirtan (translates to “praise”) is the call and response pattern of chanting and is thought to be a way to literally sing yourself into enlightenment. Another option is good old prayer, but not the bedtime ritual of prayer from childhood, nor the “I’m in a crisis, please fix this God” kind of prayer but rather the classical Hindu style of japa – which is the repetition of a Mantra. If singing, banging a tambourine or repeating the same word over and over again isn’t your thing, that’s ok. Some of this stuff can bring up all sorts of resistance, it’s not about judging yourself or others it’s about finding your own personal way to feel the power and joy of devotion.
In fact one of the best ways to begin your practice of Bhakti is to devote time to self-care, self-acceptance and self-love. When we give ourselves over to this practice our hearts can soften. We can eliminate jealousy, mistrust, judgement and unkindness. We can actually connect with the Divine just through speaking kind words to ourselves, by being grateful for the opportunities we have, for living in a country where we are free to express ourselves. For this to be Bhakti it must become a dedicated daily practice, devoting time everyday to filling our own spiritual cup with love, gratitude and praise.
As with any practice discipline is required. For Bhakti to really feed your soul and for the effects of love and devotion to shine through you, it’s important to create a sacred time aside from the hustle of everyday life. If you are a yogi with regular home practice set up then it’s ideal to tag a bit of extra time onto the beginning or the end to practice Bhakti. If you are yet to establish home practice but still want to include Bhakti then first thing in the morning as you wake up or last thing at night just before you fall asleep is just fine too.
Creating a ritual of devotion needn’t be a huge event. Simply stating an affirmation such as this one everyday could bring about enormous positive change.
I am grateful that I receive the wisdom of the Universe, knowing that I am guided to my highest good in every moment. – Excerpt from the Enneagram prayer of Gratitude
So, over to you now, how do you practice devotion? What rituals do you already have in place to set you up for the day, or settle you down at night?