I've been a yoga practitioner for 12 years. The most recent 4 saw a hobby turn into a passion, perhaps even a life line. My relationship with yoga transformed from one focused on asana to one of spiritual curiosity and an interest in philosophy.
The trouble is, the more you learn, the more you realise you have to learn. It’s humbling. There are so many teachings, so many schools, masters and mothers, not to mention multiple lineages, tribes and texts, it can be confusing. It doesn’t take long to discover that along with similarities, there is conflict.
Learning To Surrender
Recent years have schooled me in surrender and serendipity. I learned to trust life’s grander plan and to have faith in a bigger picture that I cannot see and therefore cannot control. Yet I am beginning to question, to what extent do you keep faith and accept that all that comes and all that is, is how it should be, versus trusting your own intuition.
Tuning into the words my heart silently speaks has served me through some treacherous times and tough decisions, but how do I differentiate between a deeply intelligent, innate knowing and a passing musing? What is true faith anyway and can you have it, without it blinding and binding you?
I turned to a trusted friend Ranchor Prime; a devoted student of Bhakti for over 40 years, and an author and spiritual teacher, for some insight that would help me clarify my understanding of this type of faith and devotion as a practice, and how it fits into a finely woven web of the wild self-awakening that yoga brings.
An Attitude of Gratitude
Bhakti means love and devotion. It is the practice of selfless service and the act of giving, fuelled by gratitude. Through devotion you can see life as it is and the things you have to be grateful for.
Ranchor explained to me his understanding of bhakti has shifted and evolved over time. That life changes and teaches you. He says “Wisdom is something you grow into. I used to think I was here to change the world, now I realise I am here to accept the world and change myself.”
I asked him what his thoughts were on having faith vs. striving for dreams. He told me that there is a natural tension between trusting the present and having a plan. He says,
“Having a plan is important, since it gives us purpose. Part of our human experience is to develop our vision. It can also be part of practice. When I am planning or dreaming, I am in a state of giving. I am setting my intention, but I am also open to receiving what the universe gives in response. Perhaps that won’t always be what you expect. The key is to remain open and to trust what comes. Sometimes that means the plan has to change. And you have to trust that too. Trust is everything.”
I begin to realise that if you’re living in the heart, trust and intuition are one and the same because when you trust how you feel, there isn’t room for the voice of self-doubt -- that will only take you back to a place of fear which clouds judgment.
Perhaps we could all benefit from taking on board a few principles from Bhakti in the pursuit of our bliss. Modern life is so busy -- it is easy to slip into survival mode which can breed selfishness. It is important to remember we are all made of star dust, the same stuff that has been here since the very beginning of time itself.
Our time and who we perceive ourselves to be is shaped by the experiences we have as humans whilst we’re here. So, why not embrace all of it? Accept we don’t know it all and throw ourselves in headfirst anyway?
We Are All Connected
What would happen if we recognised that causality connects us all? What would happen if we trust that there is something outside of us which will silently guide us and deliver us to the place we need to be, if we let it? Maybe, just maybe, we’ll experience those things which will shape and shift us most profoundly and learn the lessons that are intended for us.
After my enlightening conversation with Ranchor, I feel more confident putting my faith in my own intuition, with the new understanding that trusting how I feel is all I have. I have taken teachers and Gurus, but ultimately I know that there is always a teacher within if I simply surrender to what unfolds and respond accordingly.
There really is very little separation between me and my instinct, my intuition, and the things that I’m most deeply drawn to. If I can’t trust that innate knowing and that magical, unexplainable pull towards what is often a destination unknown, I’m ignoring the call of creation and failing to fulfill my destiny.
If I don’t put my faith in how I feel, I may never be able to answer the question: why am I here?