Last week I witnessed the purest, most innocent act of devotion I had ever seen. Delphine and I were walking when she remarked on the beauty of a little creek bathed in light and let go of my hand to go stand next to it for many minutes, her little palms together spontaneously. When she came back, her face radiating love and joy, she said “You know the people that make the light, I’m one of those people.” Devotion is one of those subjects that can be challenging for many to wrap their heads around, but to put it simply, devotion is about seeing the Divine in everything. Practicing yoga poses, even meditation, most people get, but handing over fruit to a picture of old guys who died a long time ago, this leaves many raising an eyebrow. I honestly have to say it’s been a long road for me personally to understand, but the dawning of that understanding has been the sweetest of experiences.
Most of us are introduced to the concept through the religion of our parents, which could have been a positive or negative experience, but either way we are left with preconceived notions that can be difficult to untangle. However, devotion is not just the domain of religions. It can take many forms and is one of the main branches of yoga known as Bhakti Yoga. The exercises we do at a yoga studio are just one form of yoga, yoga means “union” as in the union of the individual self with the absolute Self and each kind is a different path to that realization. Practicing Bhakti yoga develops a sense of connection with the Divine that permeates all aspects of your life.
How to practice Bhakti Yoga
In the Vedic tradition, devotional practices include reciting mantras, yagyas, arati ceremonies, and performing puja to name a few. If you’d like to start your own Bhakti Yoga practice, the first thing you might try is waking to watch the sunrise (this on its own is transformational), and doing a Surya Namaskar or sun salutation. You might also recite the Gayatri Mantra before the asanas. I did this before the baby was born, now I do it at whatever time the baby and I wake up, even if Surya is a bit higher in the sky. These are not practices with something “other,” they are ways of showing reverence to the highest aspect of yourself. So going through the motions with them is not as important as the internal mindful process.
Connect with Nature
For those who wish to experience devotion in addition to or outside the practices of Yoga or religion, then walk out your door. Nature is one big Guru and will reach out to you to the extent you reach out to her. I always look for the light, sense its separateness from the object, feel for the consciousness within it, acknowledge with respect and then am open for reciprocation. Next time you are struck by the beauty of nature, let it fill you and show reverence. Since everything is one consciousness moving within itself, there is a layer of that greater divine consciousness in everything, even in the inanimate. The more you practice this, the more you will experience that presence everywhere and in everything.
Look for the love
Seeing the divine in everything goes beyond objects. When applying this to situations, it’s about looking for the love. Everything is an opportunity for love. This is a big concept and deserving of its own post. Love is seeing oneness in another, it’s a unity experience, and there can be unity even in situations of great division. When a tragedy happens, there are always those who come to help. Experiencing trauma lets you connect with others who've experienced trauma. Every argument has the potential for a reconciliation followed by an even deeper connection than was there before.
Believing in God or not believing in God is not the question. To what extent do you experience God, is a far more important one. God is the sum of all consciousnesses, it is the one giant Being made up of all beings be they forms of phenomena. The more your awareness is out of the wave of your individual self and dares to venture to the ocean of the Big Self, the more God is experienced. It is a self-referral phenomenon. Sometimes there are those who “see God.” This happens when our awareness is embracing that giant, intangible vibration and models it within the mind. That form changes depending on different factors including one’s cultural context. So a Catholic might see the Virgin Mary whereas someone who practices Hinduism might see Durga. But visions are not necessary to experience God. It can be experienced as a feeling, a feeling of the connection between all things and the love that pervades all things.
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Delphine having a moment of reverence.