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Practical Aspects of Bhakti
|by Om Johari|
First a beautiful sher:
As a backdrop please always remember that at any time we can disappear or our lives change suddenly (due to some health-related event or accident). Afterwards, one can attend funeral services or cremations, or visit hospitals, these ideas derive from: can we not to do something when one is alive and healthy?
For me, the central premise of Bhakti is: God is everywhere, always. Are we prepared to unconditionally accept, without any "ifs", "buts", "perhaps", etc., this premise: God is everywhere, always? Unconditional acceptance of this premise has far reaching implications:
The important question then becomes how to lead our lives so that we do not forget this Omnipresence of God.
Again, the question is how to take the name of God all the time?
One can quote many such lines, but in each case, the real practical issue is how to remember Him all the time?
My idea of gratitude is that in the worst of things which are happening to us, whatever have happened, if we can be aware that we are breathing - that the breath is coming, breath is going - and if we can just say a simple prayer of thanks - just a thank You for allowing me to breath. We are able to hear sounds, if you can say a simple thank You that we can hear sounds. One sees many shapes, colors, wind playing with the leaves, clouds, etc., can we say a simple thanks that we are able to see? Can we say a simple thank You when we eat the food: for our ability to taste, and to those who have kindly prepared the food for us? Can we say thanks that we are able to move, we walk, can we say thank You for that? One has a desire to itch or scratch, can we feel thankful that we have that much sensitivity that we can feel a desire to scratch? We lift our hands, there will come a time when we will not be able to lift our hand, can we feel grateful that we are able to do all these little things.
Thus, my request: please come up with your own reasons, using your own creativity, as to what I am thankful for. If one can do that, if one can develop an attitude of gratitude for little things, then if anything undesirable happens, at that time, one will look around and will be able to find something to be grateful for. Not only that, as this thinking develops, for any "bad" happening to us, one will be able to see that there are reasons for it. May be, through that happening, we are being taught something.
There is a very subtle connection between meditation and gratitude. To feel grateful for all the little things mentioned, first one has to be aware! I teach / share meditation techniques at many senior centers, private homes, etc., they are all about how to increase our moment-to-moment awareness. And when we are aware of little things, we will slowly become aware of all the things around us. So, for some of us, meditation is just first step (of awareness), and then it becomes easy to bring gratitude in.
So here, as an example of practice of gratitude, is my technique to go to sleep when one wakes up in the middle of the night. The normal tendency is usually to object: to feel bad that tomorrow I will have a bad day, I have to go to work, I will be sleepy all day, etc. I take it differently. First I say God thank You for waking me up, thank You for giving me this opportunity to look at Your world at night. I have seen Your world during the day, now let me experience it at night. So, first thing is total acceptance: no opposition as to why I am not going to sleep. And then, I say, let me do a listening meditation. What is listening meditation? I close my eyes, and I listen to whatever sounds are there. That is all, nothing more. No analysis, why the sounds are there? Of course, if I hear faucet dripping, I will go and close the faucet. But otherwise, there is no opposition. I just listen to the sounds. And, then one step further: when listening to the sounds, I feel and say, thank You for giving me that much peace in my heart that I can listen to these sounds (including the sound of silence in the dead of night). We walk outside, hear a bird chirping; many times while we walk, the bird will chirp, but lost in thoughts we will not hear that. But if we pay attention to the bird chirping, and at that time we can thank Him for giving us the ability to hear the chirping of the bird: thank You that I have that much peace at my heart that I can hear the bird chirping.
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