How to Integrate Bhakti Yoga into Your Life & Embody the True Love That You Are
The enlightened saints and sages who have explored the depths of human consciousness have converged on their discoveries on the innermost essence of who
we truly are.
They proclaim that our True Self is Infinite Pure Consciousness, Un-conditional Love, Inner Peace and Happiness; an Infinite Field of Potential living within human form.
The True Self is one with God; changeless, eternal, and unstained by the flux and flow of internal and external events. This Self cannot be known by our physical senses, and can only be experienced from
Our True Self is known by many names: Atman, Buddha Nature, The Kingdom of God within you, Divine Mother and more. If we allow ourselves to go beyond the labels and words used, we see that regardless of what the Self is known by they all point us home to Oneness, to Unconditional Love, to Supreme Consciousness, to God -This is the goal of classical yoga. To arrive here, we must be ready to let go of all our mental conditioning of who and what we think we are so that we can come into remembrance of our True Nature and deeply experience the Oneness of Life in every moment and in all Beings.
The enlightened ones describe this un-conditioned experience as Self-Realization. One of the pathways we can use to return home and realize the Self is through the practice of Surrender.
What comes to mind when you think of the word surrender?
Instead of associating it with weakness and defeat, the practice of Surrender when viewed from a spiritual lens represents strength, true courage, and inner victory.
“…Knowing how to yield is strength. Use your own light and return to the source of light. This is called practicing eternity.”
– Tao Te Ching
Within the context of Self-Realization, the practice of Surrender can be likened to a sword that helps us cut through all the layers of our mental conditioning and ego structure with a fierce compassion that brings us back into union with God – the Un-manifest Infinite Supreme Consciousness.
When the individual consciousness returns to it’s Source and is untethered from the ego, beautiful poetic expressions have been articulated to encapsulate this indescribable feeling of Union: “You are not a drop in the ocean, you are the entire ocean in a drop.”
Similarly, just as the individual rays of sunshine are not separate from the sun, our True Self is one with the Supreme Consciousness, Grace and Love of God. When the individual consciousness merges with the Supreme Consciousness, all facades of separation becomes extinguished and an inexhaustible supply of inner peace, compassion, love and equanimity becomes embodied and lived from.
The tricky thing is, coming into Divine Union with Source and to sustain our Being-ness within it is not an easy task. It requires the courage of an impeccable warrior with an unshakable faith and determination to return home again and again and again.
Sri Ramana Maharshi, a highly enlightened saint wrote:
“Peace is your natural state. It is the mind that obstructs the natural state.”
– Ramana Maharshi
Ah the mind… the paradoxical ‘thing’ that we have to work with on a daily basis that can either help bring us closer to our True Nature or destroy us.
Choosing to overcome the obstruction of the mind has been likened to walking on the “sharp edge of a razor … hard to tread and difficult to cross.”
Anyone who has spent time with his or her thoughts through journaling, meditating or some form of reflective exercise will surely understand what Ramana Maharshi is referring to. Here are some observations I have made on the habitual tendencies of the untrained mind and how it can obstruct us from remembering our True Nature. Perhaps you might relate:
(1) The untrained mind is never still. Thought forms swing like a pendulum that barely finds equilibrium in the present moment, constantly oscillating between the past and the future.
(2) The mind is highly uncomfortable with uncertainty and is conditioned to grasp onto pleasurable experiences and push away painful ones.
(3) The mind has a mind of it’s own and has a superb talent in creating extraordinary mental dramas that never come true.
(4) The mind has an immense loyalty toward negative experiences and expired inner narratives that no longer serve us.
How many times has your mind convinced you of something, and how many times has it been completely wrong? Yet so many of us continue to fall for and identify with the false mental trappings of the mind to be who we are. The enlightened saint and sages knew that our inability to let go and dis-identify with the mental activity of the mind to be responsible for most of our dis-contentment and suffering, and creates an ocean that separates us from one another and God.
Thankfully there is a boat we can take to cross this ocean. This is the mighty boat of Surrender and it comes with two formidable paddles – one made of devotion and the other made of faith – to propel us home to our True Self against the winds of inner resistance.
What are we really letting go of?
In Spiritual Surrender, we are essentially letting go of our attachments to the sense of ‘I’-ness or the limited identity derived from our identification with the constant ramblings of the mind and body. While this may sound confusing or extreme to some, I invite you to open your heart and allow these words from Eckhart Tolle -a spiritual teacher – to inspire your Being:
“Give up defining yourself – to yourself or to others. You won’t die. You will come to life.”
– Ekhart Tolle
Unbeknownst to most, we define ourselves -the sense of ‘I’, ‘me’, and ‘mine’ -to the extent that we identify with the thoughts that arise in our minds. From this perspective, our sorrow and dis-contentment stem from our identification with thoughts like “I’m not good enough”, “I can’t believe he/she said that!” or “I’m bad/ugly” etc.
Similarly, our experience of joy also stem from our identification with thought forms like “I’m so happy this beach is amazing!”, “Wow this meal is delicious I wish I could eat this every day!” What if you as so much dared to ask yourself the question:
“To whom do these thought forms arise to?”
And what would happen if you stopped clinging onto your personal preferences on how the past and future should be, and stopped identifying with thought forms that arise regardless of their nature: positive or negative?
The Foundations of Surrender: Patience, Faith, Mindfulness & Radical Acceptance
When we are not clinging onto positive thoughts and pushing away negative thoughts, we come into a state of awareness called: witness consciousness or mindfulness.
Just as a witness remains unattached and observant of the moment as it unfolds before him/her when we are truly mindful, we are able to allow ourselves to be as we are in the present moment without needing to identify, judge, fix, analyze or become reactive to whatever arises from within.
This helps us to see things as they really are without becoming ‘hypnotized’ by the contents of the mind with equanimity and discernment.
When one spends enough time cultivating this vantage point in relation to his/her thoughts, it will soon become apparent that all thought forms are impermanent; no thought is final.
When this realization becomes fully assimilated from intellect to soulful understanding, a deep confidence and knowing becomes established in one’s consciousness: however turbulent the inner storm –this too shall pass.
With this inner knowing, we become courageous and can begin to hold the flux and flow of inner experiences with increased patience, faith, composure and radical acceptance. (Perhaps a curious question to ask then is this: If all thoughts, emotions and sensations are impermanent by nature, is there something inside that remains change-less and constant? The enlightened masters found from direct experience that there is indeed something that remains change-less: What remains constant amidst the ever-changing landscape of mind is our True Self, the Atman: Pure Consciousness that has always been present -indestructible, unconditioned, un-stainable.)
Mindfulness, patience, radical acceptance, and faith are therefore the essential ‘materials’ our mighty boat of Surrender must be made of to help us journey across the unpredictable waves of the mind and winds of inner resistances.
Who and What are we Surrendering to?
Think for a second, what in this world could be more powerful than the mind? God is. Krishna is, Kali is, Buddha is, Jesus is, Kwan Yin, the Loving Eternal Presence is… Whichever Divine name resonates best with your inner inclination toward God let it be. There are many paths that we can take to realize the Self and come into Divine Union with God. As Ram Dass had once said:
“We’re all just walking each other home.”
– Ram Dass
In the practice of Bhakti (devotional) yoga, there is a Sanskrit word called sharanagati which means surrendering oneself completely to God.
Yogananda describes sharanagati as “flinging oneself to Divine Compassion” How beautiful.
Similarly the Yoga Sutras of Pantajali also speak of the power of Surrender in the practice Ishvara Pranidhana: “Victory over the mind can be gained through complete surrender to God.”
So the enlightened ones have spoken once again. When it comes to realizing our True Self, we’re not just talking about surrendering a little bit of this here and a little bit of that there. No, we’re talking about completely surrendering our attachments to the mental conditioning we have (E.g. self-concepts, worrying about the past/future, self-loathing, wishing/wanting etc.) to an Absolute Higher Power and Consciousness, to a Supreme Intelligence and Divine Sufficiency that is beyond words and the scope of the logical, rational mind.
What does True Surrender Look Like?
The age old saying: Let go and let God is perfectly exemplified in Mother Nature’s way of Being; She is the greatest embodiment of Absolute Surrender.
Every year trees willingly let go of their flowers and fruit with no resistance, experiencing the cycles of death and rebirth with complete patience and faith that a Supreme Intelligence is taking care of all things. The ocean always regains it’s composure in the face of thunderstorms and mavericks, the seasons regulate themselves and every seed blossoms into it’s own fullness with no hurry to become. Everything just is. We can learn so much from Nature’s ability to be in complete Surrender to God. She has no fear -She simply exists in abundance and harmony with the Absolute Being-ness of God.
Here are two humble offerings on how we can begin to cultivate Complete Surrender to God as a means to returning home and abiding in our True Self, or simply as an addition to our existing meditation practice. May your journey across the ocean of the mind be infinitely supported by the Grace of God and the mighty boat of Surrender.
1) Surrendering to God or a Higher Power/Being
Recall a time when you have felt completely connected, at one and united with a higher power or presence that is bigger and greater than yourself. This may be a spiritual figure/deity or simply a cosmic principle/presence that you feel deeply connected to (E.g. The Universe, Unconditional Love, Lakshmi, Jesus, or the higher intelligence that allows a seed to blossom into a tree).
This could also be a time when you felt the oneness in the healing and awe-inspiring presence of Mother Nature (E.g. Watching the sun-set over the infinite ocean) or anywhere else. Or perhaps this could be a time when you have felt lost and depressed and have mysteriously felt the divine presence of unexplainable grace and love guiding you and lifting your spirit.
Begin to invoke the presence of your chosen higher Power that embodies Absolute Love, Supreme Consciousness, Total Wisdom and Total Power. Allow this presence to be vivid and totally felt in your mind, body and spirit.
Bring this felt sense of love, compassion, grace, divinity and faith into your entire Being. Feel it vibrate within your heart and all around you (You may even place a hand over your heart if this feels right for you). Use your breath as an anchor to lead you back to the present moment, and allow each exhalation to soften your entire Being. See if you can become one with your breath, and let your breath breathe you.
When your connection with this Presence has been established, begin to cultivate mindful awareness to your thoughts, emotions and sensations as they arise without identifying with them.
Instead of judging yourself when a difficult thought/emotion arises, see if you can develop radical acceptance and compassion toward them and use the power of your will to surrender all thought-emotion-and sensation to the Absolute Power and Loving Presence of God with complete faith that all is being taken care of for the highest good.
You can even allow yourself to feel as though you are melting or into the arms of this Divine Eternal Loving Presence each time you let go, using each exhale to release the energetic bondage of conditioning through the crown of your head into the infinite heavens above. Feel the limitless reassurance and Eternal Loving Presence encapsulate your entire Being with a peace and comfort that is beyond words. Just keep on letting go into what is as you remain lovingly mindful and present throughout the practice.
2) Utilizing the power of Mantra to aid the Practice of Surrender
It may also be helpful to utilize the power of mantra to support your practice of Surrender, especially when the mind becomes very scattered or distracted. The key here is to allow yourself to place all your energy behind each syllable of the chosen mantra, and chant each syllable with absolute sincerity and devotion. Focusing intensely at the point between your eyebrows as you do so. Let yourself melt into the mantra and be soothed by it. All the while remaining as a witness to what arises from within with radical acceptance, non-judgment and present moment awareness.
A mantra that I find to be particularly helpful in the practice of surrender is the sacred Mantram found in the sacred yogic text the Bhagavad Gita: Om Tat Sat.
This mantra approximately translates to: Only Truth and Goodness of the Supreme Reality that is beyond words is Real. Or Only the Supreme Absolute Truth is Real and Good.
If one has had a direct experience or glimpse into the nature of one’s True Self, repeating this mantra internally with complete devotion and the effort of internally surrendering everything to the Supreme Truth will instantly strengthen one’s connection to the unchanging Peace that is within and remove any veils of duality -leading one back home to the Unifying Supreme Consciousness that pervades all of existence.
When the mind is still, you may even receive a personally meaningful mantra from your inner guide. Here are some personal mantras that came from the depths of my inner stillness that may serve you:
- “I let go into your Love and your Divine Sufficiency with Absolute Acceptance of what is in this present moment.”
- “I let go of me and allow Spirit to be my Chauffer. Thy will be done, and so it is.”
- “I let go into the Supreme Truth that pervades all existence, into Absolute Oneness with complete trust that all is being taken care of for the highest good.”
(Gentle Reminder: These offerings are merely humble suggestions from my own personal experience. As always, one should always tune in to their inner teacher and abide in what is of the Highest Good and resonates best for themselves.)
Re-quoting Ramana Maharshi’s words of wisdom: “Peace is your natural state. It is the mind that obstructs the natural state.” If we are to step anywhere close to our natural state of being and overcome the obstructions of the mind, it would seem that Surrendering instead of resisting and fighting the mind would be the more sensible and beautiful act to devote oneself to.
Perhaps we can look to the way Christ meditated as a closing point of inspiration that seals the practice of Complete Surrender, sharanagati in perfect devotion: