I hope that you all enjoyed a relaxing and delicious Thanksgiving holiday.
Last week, several days before our Thanksgiving feast, I happened to be in a local store, and was surprised to see a lot of Christmas decorations and displays. Well, I wasn’t completely surprised, having watched this trend toward seasonal overlap growing over the last few years. What was surprising, though was that the Christmas displays helped illuminate some teachings I heard from Rod Stryker, Cyndi Lee, and Sean Johnson (of the Wild Lotus Band) at a Yoga Journal conference earlier in November. Seeing the way that we start planning for the next holiday before we get through this one brought these varied teachings together. It helped me understand how we could live more from our hearts if we are able to stay with our current experience instead of always having one foot in the next event.
The focus of Rod’s workshop was learning how to maintain the healing energy that we create during a yoga class. He asked us what the half-life of a yoga class was, meaning how long the sweet energetic effects of a class last once we leave class. An hour, half a day, maybe a whole day? Rod shared that one of the main ways our energy leaks out is by having unfinished projects and activities. Our energy is then hanging out there with each piece of unfinished business, and we lose the energy that could support us with our life in the present moment. This rang true for me. I am an expert multi-tasker, and my energy is often split between the studio, homework from massage school, various to-do items, planning an upcoming class, my family, etc. And with all of these waves of energy lost in the past or the future, I have less presence for this moment.
In Sean’s class, we practiced a beautiful Bhakti Yoga, the yoga of belonging, or yoga of devotion. This practice includes chanting the names of the divine, sending loving-kindness to ourselves and others, and really dwelling in and living from our heart space. Bhakti Yoga practices are ancient, and uniquely human, recognizing that we are not in control of this amazing universe, and expressing gratitude for all the gifts we have been given. It is an uplifting practice which brings all of who we are forward to connect with our image of the divine. It too was about creating positive energy, with a very specific focus for the energy that we generate.
In Cyndi’s class, she defined yoga as relationship, rather than union. And this reminded me that Bhakti Yoga is also relationship. Bhakti Yoga is simply the awareness and celebration of our relationship with the divine, the universe, our own Buddha nature, or whatever we want to call it. It takes two to be in relationship, and so we can see that all of yoga is really about relationship with something. The same way that mindfulness is always mindfulness of something. It’s all about focusing our energy on something. And while mindfulness by itself is a neutral awareness, when we are present with our hearts and not just our heads, it becomes bhakti. When we focus our loving energy on the divine, our Buddha nature, or simply a friend, we are practicing the kind of yoga that is transformative.
Returning to Rod’s teaching that our energy or mindfulness leaks out when we have unfinished business hanging around, we can see how important it is to experience the beginning, middle, and end of each moment, each breath, each contact with another being. It’s only in this way that we can have the kind of loving bhakti energy that can transform a situation. Our modern way of living creates a huge challenge for us in this area. To bring all our loving energy to a conversation with someone means letting go of our phone ringing, our computer beeping, our email arriving, and everything else that wants to pull us away. When we bring the fullness of our energy to each moment, it is bhakti. We’re belonging to or devoted to whatever or whomever is in front of us. And yet it’s quite challenging to bring that quality of bhakti, or devotion, to each and every moment. It means we need to finish one holiday before starting another. It means finishing one email before starting another. And it means we devote our full attention and love to what we are doing when we cook, eat, walk, make love, dance, sing, converse, listen, or practice yoga. It means we bring all of us into every moment, at least as best we can.
If we bring the light of our full and loving presence to even one person or one moment today, we will experience the love ourselves, and also create a wave of love that ripples out in all directions. And we will be able to enjoy the richness of this moment or this day without leaking our energy into the future moments or days. As Thich Nhat Hanh says, “”Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the earth revolves.” Or as the poet, Hafiz says, “How do I listen to others? As if everyone were my Master speaking to me his cherished last words.”
with a full and present heart,