Note: For the Original
Internet Lessons with additions,
For the Expanded and Interactive Internet Lessons, AYP Online Books,
Audiobooks and more, see AYP Plus.
Bhakti and Self-Pacing
June 23, 2009
New Visitors: It is recommended you read from the beginning of the archive, as previous
lessons are prerequisite to this one. The first lesson is, "Why
It was mentioned in the last lesson that the power of the cosmos becomes
focused in one who is engaged in the systematic cultivation of bhakti.
Whether this is true in the absolute sense may be subject to debate.
However, there can be no doubt that tremendous forces are released in us as
we travel the path of spiritual purification and opening. This will be seen
occurring within our nervous system and neurobiology, and around us in our
physical environment. It is the process of human spiritual transformation.
The press for progress will become especially strong when our bhakti leads
us to undertake powerful spiritual practices such as deep meditation, spinal
breathing pranayama and additional methods that are covered in detail in the
AYP writings. But even with bhakti alone, we may find ourselves overwhelmed
with the openings that present themselves. Sometimes we may get more than we
have bargained for, and it is important to understand that we always have a
choice in what we undertake, and in what we can let go by. Bhakti and other
yoga practices bring change in powerful inward ways, and we will be wise to
navigate the causes and effects in our practice to maintain good progress
with comfort and safety. This is called self-pacing in practice.
How do we self-pace our bhakti? It is simple really. All we must do is put
our attention on other things. Doing this can also be regarded as grounding,
in that we bring our energies back to earth by focusing on more mundane
things rather then the elevating influence of our chosen ideal. So instead
of stirring our divine longing into a fever pitch to the point where it
becomes destabilizing for us, we can go for a long walk or do some grounding
activity like working in the garden.
Another way to self-pace our bhakti is to serve others in ordinary ways like
helping a friend in need with simple things like running errands, cleaning
up if they are not able, or whatever. Nothing fancy or blazing with
devotion. Just the ordinary things.
We can always go back to our blazing bhakti at any time we choose. We just
want to avoid getting too carried away, to the point of losing touch with
everyday activities, and possibly compromising our health. This can slow our
progress by exhausting our neurobiology, and hamper our ability to engage in
daily spiritual practices. When the experiences become too intense, it is
wise to regard it all as scenery, and just carry on with the ordinary
things. The energy released within us due to bhakti can become extremely
powerful, and even more so with a full battery of daily spiritual practices
Think of bhakti combined with powerful spiritual practices as being like a
fast sports car on a long and sometimes winding road. On the straight-aways
we will be inclined to push down on the accelerator to speed up. But what
will we do when the road begins to wind around sharp curves on a mountain?
If we keep our foot pressed down on the accelerator then, we could end up
flying off a cliff. Bhakti and yoga practices are a lot like this. When
purification and opening are going smoothly, we can move along at a good
pace with comfort and safety. But when purification and opening are reaching
a level that challenges our neurobiology, then this is the time to ease up
on the accelerator, self-pace our practices, beginning with our desire to be
doing more and more in yoga. It will usually be best to gently favor our
tendency toward bhakti at a nice safe pace, rather than be going whole-hog
for an overdose of inner purification and opening, which can set us back for
weeks or months as we recover from the excess.
Times have changed. No longer are we spiritual paupers, scraping for every
little bit of knowledge, method of practice, and inner purification and
opening we can find. A little bhakti goes a long way in these times of rapid
openings. A great wealth of knowledge and practices will be coming to us
with just a little longing. More than we can handle if we try and say "yes"
to all of it. We have been hungry for so long, and maybe we will eat too
much at first. Then we will be learning how to self-pace for best results.
One of the key lessons we will learn is how to balance our bhakti with our
common sense. The vast force of the cosmic evolution will not always have
our physical comfort and health in mind as it seeks our transformation. It
will want it all right now, and that is not possible. It takes time for the
nervous system to undergo the necessary inner purification and opening, so
we must pace ourselves, or face difficulties and delays in our progress. If
a long-distance runner goes too fast and strains a muscle, she will have to
stop long enough to heal before she can resume the race. If she paces
herself, she will finish the race much sooner. It is like that on the
spiritual path also.
There is also the matter of meeting our responsibilities in life. Our
ever-increasing bhakti will open many possibilities to us. Some of these
will be practical within the lifestyle we have been living, including being
compatible with responsibilities we may have to family, career and
community. Other possibilities may not be compatible with our present
lifestyle, calling for a radical change at great cost to those who depend on
us. If we are the family breadwinner and are suddenly inclined to leave
everyone and permanently go off to the mountaintop, we will be wise to let
that impulse go. Maybe do a few spiritual retreats on holidays instead, and
not desert the family for our own salvation. There was a time when this sort
of conduct was considered noble. This is no longer true. There are more than
enough resources available now for everyone to travel the spiritual path in
rapid fashion without leaving responsibilities behind.
In fact, having responsibilities in ordinary life provides a great advantage
to those with increasing bhakti, because there are many opportunities to
expand our chosen ideal into a much broader field of action. Sitting
practices can be added into the daily routine, and this will accelerate our
bhakti dramatically. Then all of our activities and relationships will rise
to become modes of service, which is the natural evolution of karma yoga,
leading to freedom and fulfillment in everyday life. Responsibilities are
not in opposition to our spiritual development. If we travel our spiritual
path while living an ordinary life, fulfilling our responsibilities will
become the fruition of our spiritual unfoldment, and our subsequent
influence for positive change in the world will become much greater.
So, it will be wise to balance our bhakti with good common sense. With the
powerful spiritual practices we have available for everyone nowadays, we no
longer have to be desperate for running away with every opening that may
present itself. It will happen a few times, and we will learn. We will have
more openings than we can pursue with good progress and safety. We can
choose the blend of bhakti and practices that is most compatible with our
inclinations and the life we are living. This is self-directed spiritual
practice. There will be more than enough positive change occurring within
the life we are already living. Enlightenment is happening here and now, and
we can do it. It is not more likely to be occurring somewhere else in some
other way. It is here!
Ponder that, and transform your feelings about it to enliven your chosen
ideal in ways that are compatible with the life you are living.
is in you.
Note: For detailed
discussion on self-pacing and bhakti, see the
Bhakti and Karma Yoga book,
and AYP Plus.