Bhakti Meditation is one of the forms of devotion or worship practice in Bhakti Yoga. In this practice we come into conscious union with our preferred deity of choice, inviting them into our heart and glorifying them both inwardly and outwardly. Many people think of Bhakti as an outward manifestation of Ishvara Pranidhana, or devotion to God. Bhakti certainly lends itself to expressive forms of glorification and worship, and it can be an excellent tool for feeling connected in the community. Bhakti Yoga is one of the schools of Tantra Yoga that helps to support an integrative practice leading to Self Realization.
Many people think of Kirtan when they think of Bhakti Yoga, but there are so many ways that one can practice Bhakti. Bhakti Yoga can be practiced introspectively through Japa and meditation, or it can be practiced externally through mantra, dancing, and connection in community. For practitioners wanting to practice Bhakti at home, you can begin by setting up an altar or a space in your home that helps you to maintain focus on your deity of preference. Remember, each representation of God is not a God in and of itself but rather it is a representation of the aspect of the divine that is expressed by that personality of God. Just like we are all embodiments of divine spirit, yet we have different personality traits, God is not different. God, Atman, Universal Consciousness, Brahman, Siva or Christ Consciousness can take on aspects of anger, generosity, grace, righteousness, and even vengeance. God is all-encompassing, and therefore the deities that represent God can only represent a few aspects at a time while staying in character.
Once you’ve selected the deities that resonate most with you and your values you can cultivate a space in your physical home for them by dedicating an alter to them. You might want to place a picture, statue, feather, or rock on a table with crystals, incense, or candles that remind you to bring the aspects of your deity into your heart. Some people place photos and trinkets from past experiences on their altar. Traditionally, practitioners would place money, fruit, water, and grains on their altar so that the deities they worshiped would have enough sustenance to sustain them.
After creating an altar, you can set up a meditation space close to your altar. By setting up a meditation space near your altar you will be able to connect to the energy of devotion you’ve infused into your altar and you’ll be able to maintain your focus. Cultivate some time during the day to get quiet and connect to your deity. When you come to your meditation space, you might begin with a cleansing ritual to set the tone for your practice.
Cleansing rituals can look many different ways. One way to cleanse your space is with sage. Sage has been a traditional way of cleansing spaces of energy in indigenous cultures for centuries. If Sage is not something you’re interested in using or can’t use for whatever reason, you might use palo santo or incense. Better yet, you can simply clean your altar and strike a bowl or bell to cleanse the energy in your space. In cleaning the surfaces you’re putting intention behind your desire to have a clean space for your practice and by striking the bowl you are using sound waves to cleanse the energy by disrupting stagnant energy with radiating sound waves.
Now that the space has been cleansed we can take a seat and meditate. Bhakti meditation is a meditation of devotion. You can begin by placing your deity of choice, or something that reminds you of it, in a prominent place. Take a moment to adjust your body in either a seated position or a standing position. If you take a standing position you should stand with a wide base to support you in the event that you feel faint. This is common in Bhakti meditation. If you’re seated in a comfortable seat you might take a mudra, like Gyan mudra.
Once your torso is supported you will want to open your arms to open your heart. You might want to cultivate a felt sense of wellbeing or connect to your inner resource, and once you’ve tapped into that feeling you can let go of any anchor you might have and turn your attention to your deity of choice. Ask your deity to make a home in your heart; invite it in to be one with you and to fortify and support you in every aspect of your life. You might want to chant, or you might want to perform Japa, whatever speaks to your heart. Once you’ve completed your chanting or mantra you can take time to thank your deity for all of the ways it supports you.
Bhakti meditation concludes by closing up your altar. If you lit a candle at the beginning you might want to snuff the candle with a prayer of gratitude. If you light sage at the beginning you might want to smolder it in water to counter the ritual aspect of opening your meditation with cleansing with sage. This is also a great way to say safe when using sage. However, you decide to close your meditation, do it with an element of gratitude and humility of the bounty of abundance and love God provides. If this is the foundation of your Bhakti meditation practice you will be set up for success.
If you’d like to connect with the My Vinyasa Practice community on Bhakti Yoga or similar practices, we’re warmly inviting you to join one of our Satsanga meetings, held every Sunday on the MVP app as a free Community Event.