This weekend I attended Denver Chant Fest, a 3-day immersion into Bhakti Yoga and chanting filled with workshops, yoga classes and kirtans. And smiles — smiles all around from strangers who are happy to be alive.
If you’re not familiar with Bhakti Yoga, here’s a simple definition, said by yoga teacher and mantra music artist Sean Johnson of The Wild Lotus Band: “Bhakti is participation — being a part of life rather than watching it go by.”
So Bhakti is striving to actively evolve and devote and surrender and give voice to your truth and the truth that connects us all: There is spirit in every being. Yes, even the person who stole your parking spot.
When you practice yoga with full participation of spirit, you’re no longer striving to master poses. You’re like the lotus flower that grows out of muck and mud, arriving beautifully on the surface of the water. That slop was necessary for your arrival today.
Being at Denver Chant Fest helped me realize that it’s not the slop of suffering that we should focus on. That’s the common denominator and the topic of small talk everywhere. Instead, we should engage in the brilliance that now shines in us because of what we’ve left behind.
It’s what is left behind that’s the most important.
What will you leave behind?
We try to leave a lot of things behind in our daily lives, hoping to clear the murk and become a better, enlightened version of ourselves. The reality is most of us don’t know what that perfect/better version looks like. We only know our starting point — our mud.
We make statements like, “If only I lost 5 more pounds, then I’d be happy with how I look,” and “If only I could get over my fear of falling on my face (arm balances anyone?), I’d take more risks.”
In a Hindu/Buddhist Deities talk at Denver Chant Fest, about archetypes and how they show up today in our lives, Vedanta scholar and musician Jyothi Chalam said, “At the time of deep sleep everyone is dissolved in the same wholeness. The moment you wake up, doesn’t this world come into manifest? Yes. And then you Are, right there. That is how powerful each of us is.”
This is when we choose to participate or watch the world go by. We can be awake, but not really Awake.
We are what we let our minds give in to. Unlovable, afraid, not good enough, worthless — if this is your internal script, you have forgotten your power. Bliss, Divine, creative, unmistakable is what we should bow to, instead.
You’ve got space — fill it wisely
On my nightstand, I have a small statue of Ganesha, the elephant deity who’s the remover of obstacles and patron of writers. His left tusk is broken. One legend says he broke it off to write the Mahabharata, one of the two Sanskrit epics of India.
What this sacrifice leaves behind is space.
When you practice yoga with intention, love and bhakti, you create space and a new internal script. On your mat and meditation cushion you wade through the mud; you take stock of what you’ve left behind, knowing it has served its purpose.
In a way, you’re sacrificing the old parts of you to make room for your most epic love story.
At Denver Chant Fest, a new friend told me that for the first time in a long time she was “out of her mind.” For the weekend, we were vacant of the thinking manas, the action of our mind that engages and entangles in thoughts and judgments. Instead, we occupied our souls.
It’s easy to forget how essential and good it feels to experience connection and happiness beyond thought. So here is my wish for you this week to feel the same: Choose to fill up with love.
To the reckless driver, the can’t-stand coworker, the drives-you-crazy family member, as well as the love-you-so-much partner, dependable friend, smiling stranger.
To strong, vulnerable, unwavering you most of all.
Try it: Bow Pose, Dhanurasana
Open your heart 360 degrees with Bow Pose. If love had a favorite posture, I have a feeling this might be one of them.
A special note about this backbend: Before you lift off, ensure you’ve warmed up with a variety of yoga poses. I also like to keep my gaze and chin tilted down, to elongate the back of my neck and prevent strain.
- Lie on your belly with your arms by your sides. Bend your knees and reach around to grasp your outer ankles. Tops of the feet are also an option, but I find it’s more freeing for my upper body if I take the ankles.
- Inhale and gently press your feet away from you to lift the chest. Exhale, turn your pink toes down toward the mat and reach into the heels. Allow your upper body to gently rock up and back without strain, breathing evenly.
- Keep your inner thighs pressing in and lift them up to elevate your knees. Your upper body will follow. Root the tops of the shoulders away from the ears. Allow the breath to rock your body gently back and forth.
- Stay in the pose for three deep breaths, breathing into the back and side bodies as your belly will feel constrained. On an exhale, gently release your ankles and allow the floor to support your full body. Turn to one cheek, close the eyes and observe your heartbeat.