Bhakti sutra #79: “Bhagavan alone is to be worshipped without worry, all the time, with all the heart."
First question – who or what is Bhagavan? The word Bhaga means share, or portion. It also means benevolence or graciousness. So Bhagavan is the one who possesses “bhaga”: as Bill Mahony says, "The one who shares divine care, affection and love for the human soul." So basically it is another name for Love, God, the or Consciousness that portions itself out with benevolent grace to pervade the entire universe.
What struck me about this sutra was that it doesn't say "Bhagavan alone is to be worshipped all the time, with all the heart." It makes the distinction of "without worry". To someone who struggles with anxiety (otherwise known as "worry"), this is a striking distinction. I am a worrier. It is, unfortunately, how I react in many situations – I’m usually not aware in the moment that I am “imagining the worst”. It is only later when I’ve had time to step back and bring my rational mind to whatever happened that I realize I've been anxious about something. When I take the time to reflect on how I'm feeling and engage my mind and my heart in the in that reflection, what I know is a deep faith in the workings of the Universe. I remember that there is a greater plan to which I am not totally privy to or in charge of and that my life has proven to me that that plan is intelligent, benevolent and gracious, and not just about me. My life has proven to me that everything will be okay in the end, that things will work out the way they were meant to (even if not necessarily how I want them to be), and that if things are not okay, it just means it's not the end yet.
So what am I worrying about?
I think often worry is equated with love. If someone is worrying about you it must mean they care about you, right? And if you're not worrying, you must not care about something or someone enough. This couldn't be farther from the truth. When we fall into a paradigm of worry it takes away from our own enjoyment of life, and the enjoyment of life of those we are worrying about, by bringing more stress into what is probably already a stressful situation. One of our wonderful Shree teachers, Valerie, says it this way: “Worrying is like praying for something you don’t want to happen.” Because wherever we direct our energy towards is what expands in our lives. It clouds our vision from seeing what might be possible in terms of where we WANT to go, and instead directs our energy and carves a path towards where we DON”T want to go.
On paper this makes perfect sense. In practice, of course, not as easy to implement. How can we not worry when we or our loved ones are sick, or out of work, or facing other hardship or challenge? Like all things in a yogic life, we need to find balance. We need to learn how to engage concern which spurs us to action, rather than leading us into anxiety which can be paralyzing. The action it should inspire should keep us moving in the direction we wish to go, towards whatever will help alleviate the situation we find ourselves in. Which might mean a goal or treatment that will move us out of a challenging situation, or moving into acceptance of a situation that is not going to change and we will have to live with.
Yoga practice helps to connect us to all the aspects of our being - those we can see and those we can't, which inspires faith. Faith helps us to feel certain of realities we can't see, and in doing so dissolves worry. Every time we focus on the breath we invoke faith by connecting our awareness to the force that breathes us. Faith allows us to soften, to accept that we are not ultimately in control, and in that knowing, let go of anxious or worrisome thoughts and feelings. When we can let go of those thoughts we live with more ease and joy, and we inspire the same in those we love.
Bill Mahony says: “Faith in divine Love is based in the experience of human love in all of its delightful, poignant, touching, transforming ways, even in a world that does not always seem to express such love. When there is faith, there is the possibility of movement forward in life within its uncertainties. The world will always present us with complexities, contradictions and vicissitudes. Yet, when there is love for God, that love will remain steady and trusting and, in this sense, without worry.”
Off the Mat:
Become aware of anxious or worrisome thoughts. When they come up, see if you can direct your thoughts to what you want the outcome of a situation to be rather than what you are nervous that it might become. Sometimes this is just a feeling of acceptance when we know it is something we don’t have control over. Either way this moves us from the paradigm of worry to an environment of moving forward.
On the Mat:
In asana practice in my classes we worked on opening up the back body, which is our connection to the unknown and to our faith. We practiced going upside down with the awareness of engaging our abdominals to broaden and stay full in the back waistline (which often collapses in poses like pinca mayurasana or forearm balance, and handstand) and to keep us connected to faith as we turn our world upside down.
Open to Grace:
Breathe in and fill with faith in the benevolence, gracious goodness that is Bhagavan.
Draw arms and legs to the midline, to the place in the middle where we can feel love and compassion without it turning into worry.
Firm your muscles and affirm your faith in the ultimate benevolence of the universe/Bhagavan
Draw the front ribs together and move the floating ribs back to engage abdominals and trust.
Broaden your back body and your trust in the universal that things will work out the way they are meant to.
Shine with the radiance of knowing your connection to love and grace.
Let your pose glow with your connection to Bhagavan