The Third Step and Bhakti Yoga

The Third Step and Bhakti Yoga

Who doesn’t want to be cared for? Who wouldn’t like to have a loving guide in life? Where does the resistance to safekeeping, guardianship and guidance come from? In my case, it was trust, or
lack of trust.

Growing up in an environment where anything can happen can be both exciting and terrifying. It was exciting because we moved a lot; new apartments, new furniture, new people, new languages, new countries. But terrifying for those same reasons. Within the walls, it was exciting and terrifying as well. Exciting, because we might be able to try something wonderful and new with our dad; making models, looking through microscopes, playing games and reading together. Terrifying, as these all became opportunities to please him, to learn beyond our abilities and to fail. We never knew when dogma would supplant play.

Home was also the place of the alternating loving mom or unavailable mom. We could experience the loving mom of kindness and encouragement, a buffer between the play of discovery and the mandates of my father. But there was also the mom of withdrawal and sadness, depression and isolation. We never knew when retreat would supplant support.

All of these characteristics are human but, in excess, they are not healthy. They weren’t great guides to parenting, and they were not the building blocks of trust. The actions and attitudes were not slow in developing, but rather strobed on and off at a dizzying rate. There was no way to predict or to adapt, except my finding a store of self reliance and letting go of trust in others.

Wildly swinging moods and energies were my childhood norm and I brought them into my life of addiction. The one common denominator was that I MANAGED IT ALL. Or so I thought. I was the one who adapted to the mood of the moment. I stuffed my feelings or let them fly—no medium way for me. I lived a life of extremes. This is a painful way to live, and I medicated to manage it.

I was using drugs and alcohol to care for my wounds, to give me the illusion that I was fine. My guiding force was to design a life that would support my addiction. This led to illness on all levels of my being.

I continued in this fashion of active addiction until no amount of “medication” could salve my broken spirit, to heal my core pain, to bring me to the point of self love or self care. I was on the brink of spiritual death and I chose recovery.

In recovery, I discovered that I could, in fact needed to, admit that I was not the center of the universe. In fact, I was a part of the universe and the universe had a spiritual core and direction. I was not in charge of the direction, but I could join my efforts in “good orderly direction.” I could trust this.

Trust was in an intellectual effort for many years. In fact, I resigned myself to the concept that I would only have a connection to others and to the universe as the result of efforts of my mind. It was enough for a while, and then it wasn’t. I was in deep spiritual pain and had to find a higher power of my heart.

Enter yoga, and the practice of bhakti yoga. A definition of this can be: “to adore or worship God,” “love for love’s sake” and “union through love and devotion.” Love for love’s sake—what a beautiful concept. What if I could live my life in the now, finding gratitude (some days) in the smallest of things — having a clean toothbrush, having drinkable water, breathing. Who wouldn’t want to recline in the hammock of the love of a higher power? All I needed was to trust.

Trust was developed over days, weeks, months in recovery. I had the routine of meetings, the unconditional love of my sponsor, and the community of my fellow travelers. I was learning that I was not in total control of my life—that choice was mine, but control was not. I was selecting people around me who were also on the path to wellness, body mind and spirit. The Yoga practice of living a life from a devoted heart was my way of practicing the third step: I was willing to turn myself over to the care of my higher power. I was willing to work in companionship and not obstinence.

Today practice a little yoga: try bhakti! Live your life in the present; find love and devotion. Let go of that attachment to the illusion of control and enjoy life in the fourth dimension!

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