“Your heart must become a sea of love. Your mind must become a river of detachment.”
It may seem somewhat counter intuitive that many spiritual practices believe that the only way to find deep love and connection is to practice detachment. Detachment or ‘non-attachment’ basically teaches us to free ourselves of any addict-like behavior. This behavior can come in the form of the consumption of material objects or the treatment of others as if they are objects to be consumed by our desires or to fulfill our needs. This type of self absorption can actually keep us from seeing things around us and appreciating them for their inherit value. By freeing ourselves from attachment to material objects or desires (practicing healthy detachment) we can actually open the way for deep attachment and interconnection to the rest of the world- the earth, other human beings, and animals.
Many spiritual practitioners call this recognition of the interconnectedness of all living things, seeing the “divine”. The practice of Bhakti helps us to see the ‘divine’ or the ‘beloved’ in every living thing and to honor it through devotion.
What is Bhakti?
The Sanksrit word ‘Bhakti’ encompasses a multi-layered meaning of Love. Bhakti is not just about ‘love,’ but Capital-L ‘Love’: faithfulness, devotion, zeal, sharing, caring, belonging, worship, homage, and faith. Bhakti means to give unconditional Love and servitude to the universe, to serve others compassionately, to give of oneself whole-heartedly, without expecting anything in return. Bhakti is an active practice because some kind of action is required for others to feel a sense of belonging and feel cared for. Action is needed to devote oneself to the betterment of human-kind.
How to Practice Bhakti
There are many ways to practice Bhakti: choosing veganism, caring for a small child, protesting for the rights of asylum seekers or smiling at a stranger because they look sad are just a few examples. And because it is an active practice, Bhakti has the potential to be revolutionary. It can affect the practitioner’s way of seeing other people and themselves, thereby shifting how they interact with everything in the world around them. Acts of kindness, caring, empathy, respect and service are the ways of showing devotion and deep Love towards the divine, or towards the interconnectedness between all living creatures. The practice of Bhakti requires intense focus on and concentration towards (giving space and listening to) other living creatures outside of the self. It requires examining how to serve them with honor and respect.
By utilizing aspects of Bhakti, it is possible to develop kindness and Love towards other living creatures.Heart-opening yoga postures (back bends, twists, reversed hand locks) and meditation on the heart chakra along with Anahata meditation, (chanting YAM while visualizing a 12-petaled green lotus), can assist in connecting with Bhakti, as well as asking oneself the simple question:
“What can I do to help others?”