On my recent album, The Beloveds, I included a song called “Love Light Spirit Essence.” The song describes how my daughter, Tulsi, loves and gives in this way. The lyrics are: “I have a child who wakes happy. She never wonders what she’ll take from the world. Her heart is open and her mind is free. She brings such joy to her family.” And I should add, that she not only brings joy to her family, but to all she meets; because she radiates this love. Why? Because she is this LOVE, and she hasn’t forgotten that!The path that I found years ago, “bhakti yoga”, focuses on reclaiming this love. Remember, we don’t attain it, because it’s never been lost. We simply remember.
Bhakti yoga, the path of universal, unconditional love, uses practices to re-awaken this love, practices that access the source of that love, the heart!
One way of understanding how bhakti works is that the practice finds a way to go straight to the heart by bypassing the conditioned mind. The conditioned mind is made up of all the reasons why we shouldn’t love, what I call strategies of ego… the reasons why it’s not safe to love. Simply put, the conditioned mind is composed of past experiences of how we’ve been hurt. It keeps track of those memories to remind us to protect ourselves, so that we don’t get hurt again. Contrary to this, the path of love guides us to keep our hearts open even though we’ve been hurt in the past. It reminds us that it is safe to love, that the greatest pain of all, is to close our hearts! But, how can we do this? Why is it safe? Why might we want to experience the same pain again? Why should we let our guard down and open ourselves up to being hurt again? The answer is quite simple… it is our heart’s desire to love! Easily stated? Yes. Easy to manifest? Not exactly… at least in the beginning.
None of us really know exactly when and how these ancient yoga practices came into existence. However, I can speculate this; those who developed the bhakti yoga path knew this… you cannot escape the mind through the mind! They must have known that we need tools and practices to get out of our heads and into our hearts! And in bhakti, one of the primary ways of accomplishing this is, SINGING together!
Bhakti practice engages a practice of group singing to facilitate a dissolution of the barriers we place around our hearts; between us and our feelings, between us and others, and between us and our true self, as love! In bhakti practice, we use powerful mantras that embody a technology for becoming less “self” conscious and breaking down the resistance to trusting our inclination to love. In this practice, something curious often takes place. When we begin to chant, we experience ourselves, and our voices as separate from each other. As we continue to sing, we begin to harmonize with each other, and our separation begins to fade, and we feel that we are singing together, with others. Eventually, something magical happens… we are all singing, but there is ONE voice. It feels as if we are being collectively moved by the same force, the same spirit. In this space, it is easy to love! Why? Because there is no other!