How To Bring More Bhakti Into Our Everyday Lives
By Deidre Norman
Love. Devotion. And a powerful sense of community. That sums up the amazing workshop, Everyday Bhakti: Walking in Devotion, led by Jai Uttal at Yoga Tree just a few weeks ago. The workshop, which began at the sacred time of 1:08 p.m., explored the ways in which we can incorporate more bhakti into our lives outside of the yoga room or kirtan events. How do we extend this Bhakti, this devotion to rest of what we do this world?
The workshop opened with Jai Uttal and surprise guest Prajna Vieira playing music and signing to us. It was a magical start to the afternoon—you could feel everyone in the room drop into a space of grounding, centering and devotion. The sense of community and connection pervaded the space.
Bhakti Versus Bhakti Yoga
Jai Uttal dove right into the workshop topic and pointed out an important distinction between Bhakti and Bhakti Yoga:
Bhakti is the essential nature of the human heart and soul, and it is the idea that we are born completely connected to God.
Bhakti Yoga contains the practices that the ancient gurus, teachers and rishis gave us to turn the intellectual knowledge and understanding of Bhakti into our souls. There are mantras, asanas, poetry, art, dance and so much more to really bring us back to this connection with the divine.
So How Do We Bring More Bhakti Into Our Lives?
1. Spend More time In Your Heart Space
The more time we spend in this heart space of our practices, the more we start to live in this space off the mat, the easier it is to access in our normal life.The practice begins to seep into all areas of our life, Jai said.
To bring us deeper into our heart space and to allow us to experience this devotion at a deeper level, Jai led us in our first kirtan after this first talk on Bhakti.
The mantra we sang was: Sri Ram Jaya Ram Jaya Jaya Ram
He, first, gave us the definition of the mantra: Sri is one of the names of the Divine Goddess, and Jay means victory. So the mantra means Victory to the glorious Lord Rama and the radiant Goddess, Lakshmi. It’s amazing that I have heard the meaning so many times before, but every time I hear Jai talk about the mantras, I feel like I am learning it all again for the first time. One of my favorite things about Jai, is his storytelling ability and the way he talks about the ancient texts and mantras. I always find myself completely mesmerized.
One of the things that really struck me was a story Jai shared with us about his teacher Ali Akbar Khan Khansahib. He let everyone know that the tone of our voices was just perfect. Their voices were what they were born with, and therefore exactly how they should be. You could almost feel the sense of relief in the room. Everyone feeling a deeper sense of confidence in their voices. I believe that to be so true, we can learn to sing in tune, but our voices are each so individual and so beautiful.
2. Practice More Seva - Selfless Service
One of the things that really stood out to me, was when Jai said, “Bhakti without service has no meaning.” He talked about his teacher Mahajji Neem Karoli Baba, and he said, "Love people, feed them and remember God.” And it is so true, the more we move into the heart space, the more we seek to help others. This act, Jai said, is “touching into Bhakti. The act of being selfless only comes through Grace. Bhakti truly is all about the heart.” Singing kirtan and doing our own personal Bhakti Yoga practice, is a great start, but it is really just the beginning. It is when we start to give back and help others that we really begin to live the Bhakti.
3. Pray Every Morning
The other takeaway that I added into my life immediately was praying every single morning. Jai talked about how before he gets out of bed every day, he bows and prays to his guru. It is the very first thing he does in the morning! I woke up the morning after the workshop and did that exact same thing. What a powerful, beautiful way to start the day.
The day continued with more kirtan, and we received so many powerful nuggets on how to bring Bhakti more into your everyday life. By the end of the day, the room felt full of love, devotion and a sense of community. We sang our hearts out and learned so much, but most importantly we all truly embodied the Bhakti and saw the love flowing from both Jai and Prajna. I left feeling all the love and completely uplifted.
If you have been thinking about Jai Uttal’s Kirtan Camp, we cannot recommend it enough, here is our blog post from 2018’s kirtan camp.