There Is A Candle In Your Heart
There is a candle in your heart,
ready to be kindled.
There is a void in your soul,
ready to be filled.
You feel it, don’t you?
You feel the separation
from the Beloved.
Invite Him to fill you up,
embrace the fire.
Remind those who tell you otherwise that
comes to you of its own accord,
and the yearning for it
cannot be learned in any school.
If we relied on society and the media as our only source of truth, Rumi’s words would certainly fall flat. In our culture we are raised to believe if we just read the right book, buy the right clothes, or use the right dating app we will be able to attract just the kind of love we want and deserve. The music industry and media would have us believe Love is something we must search for, must fight for, must lie, cheat and steal for. Just listen to an hour of pop radio sometime, if you have any doubt. Love Hurts, Love Stinks, Love is a Battlefield….. The way love and relationships are often depicted on TV and in film, one might wonder, “Why bother?!”
As we approach February 14, greeting card, candy and diamond peddlers are enticing us to express our unending love and devotion with pretty words, sweet morsels, and sparkly baubles. Some would like us to believe that greeting card companies invented Valentine’s Day, but it is said that the holiday is likely named for a St. Valentine who lived in Rome in the early part of the 3rd c. CE.
As the story goes, he was imprisoned for ministering to early Christians who were persecuted by the Romans, and for performing weddings for soldiers who were prohibited from marrying. If he converted to paganism, disavowing his faith, the Emperor Claudius II, who interrogated him, promised to spare his life. Instead Valentinus attempted to convert Claudius to Christianity, and as a result was put to death. He was martyred for his devotion to his flock and to his faith.
While in prison, Valentinus healed his jailor Aterius’ daughter of her blindness. Legend states that before his execution he wrote "from your Valentine" as a farewell to her. He is also said to have cut hearts from parchment, giving them to the soldiers and the persecuted, in order to "remind them of God's love and to encourage them to remain faithful Christians," a possible origin of the widespread use of hearts on Saint Valentine's Day.
Our current association with Valentine’s Day as a paean to love and devotion is rooted in the medieval tradition of “courtly love.” That’s courtly love, not Courtney Love, a chivalrous expression of love and admiration, carried on by the nobility in secret. In essence, courtly love was a union of seeming opposites- erotic desire with spiritual attainment- " a love at once illicit, and morally elevating, passionate and disciplined, humiliating and exalting, human and transcendent."
The word yoga has its root in the word yuj, meaning to yoke. The implication is one of union, of joining two seemingly opposing things together. You might imagine you have two oxen you wish to use to plow your rice field, but each has its own agenda. One wants to bask in the sun munching on grass, enjoying the perfume of flowers, like our beloved Ferdinand, while the other has his sights set on a cow in the other pasture. Unless you introduce the discipline of the yoke, not much plowing will get done.
When we “yoke” our self to the practice of Yoga, we bring our dualistic nature, represented by the two oxen, into a state of union, union with the Supreme Self, the One. In its most pure sense, we practice Yoga to align ourselves with the Divine.
The practice of Yoga is becoming more and more ubiquitous in the West. When it was first formally introduced in the US in the 60’s and 70’s, it was shrouded in mystery and viewed as exotic, even something to be feared, and it was only practiced in a handful of ashrams scattered around the country. In the intervening years, we have seen what might be termed a "yoga explosion." It is hard to walk down any city street these days without coming across a Yoga Studio.
Yoga has become big business in the US. It is slowly being woven into the fabric of society. The fitness industry has co-opted Yoga, incorporating it into every possible regimen: Yogalates, PiYo, Yoganetics, Aqua Yoga, Hip-Hop Yoga, Ariel Yoga. It is more regularly featured in commercials and TV shows. It would seem everyone wants to get a piece of the action.
In the West, we are most familiar with Hatha Yoga. Hatha Yoga is an umbrella term that covers all physical forms of Yoga practice, of which there are many. In the Documentary Film “Enlighten Up”, which I highly recommend, we follow the journey of a man, a total novice, on his 6 mo. immersion into the world of Yoga. Initially, we see him explore various Yoga classes, speak with Yoga students and teachers in New York, Massachusetts, and Hawaii.
As a journalist, he has, shall we say, a healthy dose of skepticism, regarding all the claims he hears people making about the benefits of Yoga. All he knows is he isn’t “getting it.” Through the course of the film we see him begin to transform. First, his body hurts and perhaps his pride, as he struggles to “keep up” with the yogis and yoginis in class. Slowly we begin to see the edges soften, as unwittingly, the practice begins to take effect.
It isn’t until he travels to India that the walls of resistance really begin to crumble. Ironically, what he discovers in India is that there isn’t much Yoga being practiced, at least not the kind of Yoga he had experienced in the US. He does take in a class of Laughing Yoga, however, and visits two of the most venerated Yoga gurus of our time, Pattabhi Jois and B.K.S. Iyengar, both of whom convey that the practice of asana (the physical poses) is only a stepping-stone to something higher.
B.K.S. Iyengar reminds us of the purpose of asana in his book Light on Yoga, when he states, "Their real importance lies in the way they train and discipline the mind...The yogi conquers the body by the practice of asanas and makes it a fit vehicle for the spirit...He does not consider [the body] his property...The yogi realizes that his life and all its activities are part of the divine action in nature.”
In the film, our intrepid yogi’s eyes are further opened when he visits Guru Saran Ananda outside of Gokul, India. It is there that he learns that most people in India are practicing something called Bhakti Yoga. This is the Yoga of Pure Spiritual Devotion to the Divine, a yoga very foreign to this Westerner, indeed.
The Sanskrit word bhakti comes from the root bhaj which means "to adore or worship God." Bhakti yoga has been called "love for love's sake" and "union through love and devotion." Bhakti yoga, like any other form of yoga, is a path to self-realization, to having an experience of Oneness with the All That Is.
With this form of yoga, one cultivates a personal relationship with the Divine, in much the same way as one would cultivate a personal relationship with a partner, child, friend, or master. In this case the relationship being cultivated is that of Soul to Super-Soul or Soul to God.
The path consists entirely of concentrating one's mind, emotions, and senses on the Divine. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna states, that love and innocent pure intention are the most powerful motive forces in a devotee's spiritual life. At the heart of, and the ultimate expression of, bhakti is surrender to the Divine as one's own Inner Self.
The bhakti tradition emphasizes the intense longing to know God, generally referred to as "the Beloved, or “Lord”." In this yearning to touch and know the Divine, we are longing for union with Self. Unlike other relationships we foster, this one is the most intimate, the most precious, the most blissful. But this beloved is one that will never lie, never cheat, and never betray us, because it is the Divine aspect of our own nature.
As one nurtures the relationship with the beloved, there is a level of emotional fulfillment that is unmatched. Let’s just say that God never lets us down. As we deepen our practice of Bhakti Yoga we come to understand that the Divine is always present and committed to our greater wellbeing. Any lack of fulfillment in the relationship fully rests on our shoulders. Any sustenance and satisfaction we derive from this union is totally our responsibility. As with any relationship, we get out of it what we put into it.
I have heard some say they do not believe in God, because they have never had any experience that would prove God’s existence. The Absolute doesn’t need to prove anything. The exquisite intricacy of Creation and the infallibility of Divine Law are proof enough. One only need look, one only need open the door, one only need invite the Lord or beloved into the heart and the “proof” will reveal itself in the flow of Shakti, Grace, and inner peace that are the fruits one reaps with mindful cultivation.
We may choose to devote ourselves to a beloved teacher or guru, a revered saint or an ascended master like Jesus or Buddha, or an aspect of the Divine like Krishna or a deity such as Shiva. The practice may consist of meditation, ritual observance, or chanting, through which we direct our devotion toward something outside of ourselves that serves as a mirror for the Divine within us.
As we open our heart and surrender our ego, we create a space in which a merging of consciousness can occur. The energy or Shakti of the being or deity is invoked in the practice and then ultimately evoked within us. The bhakta opens the flow of her heart’s love and adoration, and shares her deepest thoughts and concerns with the focus of her devotion, until a continual flow of awareness moves between devotee and her or his beloved.
Generally, in bhakti meditation there is awareness of relationship, two-ness, or duality. The devotee is aware of the Lord and of his own being, and of the relationship between them. With continued practice, one loses self-consciousness and is aware only of the beloved. Eventually, the bhakta experiences that the Divine Spirit, or consciousness, moves into, fills and dwells in his or her heart. Our awareness is expanded, and periods of higher consciousness come more frequently. We are transformed as we move from our limited dualistic consciousness toward Unity-Consciousness. With even greater development, the aspirant, who practices bhakti meditation, lives in a sense of permanent intimate relationship with the Divine! How awesome is that!
With whom or what are you in relationship? To what or whom do you give your devotion? We may be devoted to our spouse or partner, to our family or a worthy cause, all of which are noble pursuits. When we look a bit more closely, we may discover that we are devoted to some things or people that are not really serving our greater good.
In our capitalist culture, many are devoted to the “almighty dollar.” In the West one is far more likely to find someone devoted to enhancing their shoe collection or supporting their favorite football team than they are to their relationship with God.
The boom in the Yoga business is a reflection of so many who are devoted to their health and wellbeing. Unfortunately, too many are merely focused on the outer shell, the vessel of the physical form. When we only tend to the material, neglecting the spiritual, there is imbalance. Prashant Iyengar, son of B.K.S Iyengar says, “There is no physical yoga and spiritual yoga. If it is exclusively physical, it won’t be yoga. Yoga is dealing with the entirety; it is a union.”
All Yoga is about union, about cultivating the soil that will foster a dynamic relationship with the Divine. In my own experience of the devotional practice of Aarti to my guru Sai Maa Lakshmi Devi, I have come to understand that this permanent relationship is anything but static. It continually grows and changes, developing into a multi- dimensional experience of love that flows both ways. My relationship with Maa is ever new and always a reflection of what I am offering to it.
Maa is an embodiment of the Divine Mother, the Shakti, the Shekhina. I am not so much cultivating a relationship with her as a physical presence as I am with her as a spiritual and energetic being. Her love is unceasing. Her love is non-judgmental. Should I neglect the relationship, her love does not waver, because she is an expression of Pure Divine Love. There is no ego on her part to be disappointed or let down, if I lapse in my practice. The benefits I receive may lessen, but that is only because I have turned away from the Sun.
What I have found the most challenging in my practice is to surrender, to surrender the ego, the aspect of my being that perceives itself as separate from Maa, separate from the Divine. It rears its head less often, but when it does pop up, and I sense myself resisting Maa, I know that I am actually resisting my relationship with my Higher Self.
The practice is the yoke that is uniting the mind and body, disciplining and transmuting the lower vibrations of my physical and subtle bodies. The yoke is the breath, the chanting, or the ritual observance that pulls me out of my mind and directs my focus away from my ego related desires, and centers me gently in my heart. It is here in the garden that Divine Love emerges like a flower bud that has forced its way up through the darkness of the earth to seek the Source of warmth and Light that nourish its unfolding into the full blossom of fragrant Life.
One of the most well known bhaktas is Mewlana Jalaluddin Rumi, the 13th c. Persian mystic poet.
The Seed Market
Can you find another market like this?
Where, with your one rose
you can buy hundreds of rose gardens?
Where, for one seed get a whole wilderness?
For one weak breath, a divine wind?
You've been fearful of being absorbed in the ground,
or drawn up by the air.
Now, your water bead lets go and drops into the ocean,
where it came from. It no longer has the form it had,
but it's still water. The essence is the same.
This giving up is not a repenting.
It's a deep honoring of yourself.
When the ocean comes to you as a lover,
marry at once, quickly, for God's sake!
Don't postpone it!
Existence has no better gift. No amount of searching will find this.
A perfect falcon, for no reason has landed on your shoulder,
and become yours.
Katrin Naumann, Director of Inner Balance Life Works: Dynamic Self-Transformation, began her journey of self-discovery and healing, through art, theatre, and design. With the guidance of some exceptional healers and teachers, Katrin learned to transmute her own patterns related to trauma, guilt, and toxic shame to become a gifted Trauma Informed Life Coach, and Intuitive Holistic Healing Artist.
Katrin Naumann worked for 20 years as a Theatre Artist, both behind the scenes as a Costume and Scenic Designer, and on stage, film and TV, as an Actor. She has been a lifelong adventurer on the path of Self discovery, which has led to her current role as Director of Inner Balance Life Works. Her holistic healing practice focuses on offering pathways toward (R)evolutionary Self Transformation. Katrin serves the community as an Energy Healer, Intuitive Spiritual Guide, Qigong & Yoga Instructor, Author, Public Speaker, and Workshop Creatrix.