Embracing My Suffering – Bhakti Yoga
For those unfamiliar – there are different branches of Yoga (which is a spiritual path), a branch of Hinduism. The one most people are familiar with and think of when they hear the word yoga is Asanas, the stretches practiced in yoga class. Another is Karma Yoga – selfless service or volunteer work. I’m not sure what “Yoga Off the Mat” is called but it refers to how we live our daily lives, mindfully and in the present moment. Bhakti Yoga is the yoga of devotional music; chanting in the ancient language of Sanskrit. From the time I first participated in Bhakti Yoga I felt I’d come home deep inside. It is consistently difficult for me to practice any type of discipline when living alone and left to my own devices. Sadly, that goes for Yoga, too. And I miss the practice of Asanas, and miss the practice of Bhakti. I do have 2 Kripalu Certified Yoga Teachers here in this area, each has a class that I’ve attended in the past. I found a community in York, ME that I visited that met for sacred Bhakti services weekly, and attended once and loved it but it was a 200 mile round trip and not feasible with my aging car, and though I considered relocating that didn’t feel right, either.
Weekends are always difficult for me, especially when I am single. Especially now, when I’ve just recently been in a relationship during which we spent our weekends together. My loneliness and suffering threaten to overwhelm me. I began writing this in early June, and now, 2 months later I am doing much better with accepting the loss and moving on in my life, though I have sad moments. One such moment passed earlier today – August 1 – and I decided to go into my archives and finish some half written blog posts, this being one.
Listening to Sanskrit Chanting, listening to spiritual talks and teachers, but especially chanting along with the call and response leader always soothes my suffering and opens my heart. Then my longing is to be part of such a community so that I can practice with others on a daily basis. I experienced community like this once for four months when I lived in a Yoga Ashram in the Berkshires in Western MA. – Kripalu Center for Yoga. At that time it was transitioning from being an ashram to a yoga center – the transition started in 1994, the first time I visited Kripalu; the guru was no longer in residence.
In September 98 I traveled out to western MA to participate in the Spiritual Lifestyle Program for 4 months. It was wonderful to be part of a like-minded community. I loved my own small family group of 6, and our leader, yoga teacher and spiritual counselor, Yoganand. It was an eventful time in my life. My maternal grandmother died in early December and I journeyed back home to Maine and spent a week with my family of origin. My beloved ’88 VW Golf broke down and was in the VW garage in Pittsfield, MA, when I needed to return to Maine so I called Enterprise and rented for a week. My married son and his wife were expecting their first baby who would be born the coming March; a girl and my first and only grandchild; I was very happy and excited about becoming a grandmother. I attended 1:1 weekly counseling sessions and worked on my love and relationship addiction to heal my co-dependency to become strong enough to make a decision whether or not to end a long term relationship that I was in though it would be 3 more years before I could end it. I became good friends with L, another SLP-er in a different family group; we discovered we shared a painful history of family dysfunction and co-dependency and we formed a healthy friendship that continues to this day. We thoroughly enjoyed our times together off-campus where we imbibed in substances we could not get in community – not alcohol or drugs, but steak – the community was vegetarian and we happily weren’t – sugar and caffeine in a wonderful Scandinavian bakery we found in town.
Wherever I go I take myself with me. By the end of my stay my overwhelming loneliness came back. I isolated from others except when I was in class, group, or at meals. My food addiction reared its ugly head and I began to gain weight and eat “healthy sweets” in an unhealthy way. I knew people liked me yet I felt distant from most others and that I was “different” and that I didn’t fit in, a malady I seem to suffer no matter where I am or who I am with.
So today once again I find myself in a space of wondering what to do with the rest of my life. My longing to live communally is strong. I now have a little dog, though and can’t take a dog to Kripalu. There other types of communities, though. I still love and long for Yoga in my life so I am reconsidering applying to do another Spiritual Lifestyle term, although I understand the program is changed considerably since I was there before.
One thing I know I must do, and want to do, is seek out JOY – seek out what makes me happy and brings me peace of mind and heart, and practice that a LOT.
I’ve wanted to learn to play the harmonium – the boxy accordion-like though on the floor – instrument that usually accompanies Bhakti devotional yoga services, called Kirtan. I want to chant. I want to do asanas. I already pray and meditate but I want more. I wish to make peace with My Suffering and turn it into Joy. It feels like it is time.
Please do comment at the end of this piece if you have thoughts to add; I’d love to hear what you have to say.