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Note: For the complete lessons, with additions, see the AYP Easy Lessons for Ecstatic Living Books.

Lesson 341 - Bhakti and Self-Pacing

From: Yogani
Date: June 23, 2009

New Members: It is recommended you read from the beginning of the web archive, as previous lessons are prerequisite to this one. The first lesson is, "Why This Discussion?"



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 being utilized.

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.

The guru is in you.

Note: For detailed discussion on self-pacing and bhakti, see the Bhakti and Karma Yoga book.

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