Relationships and practicing Bhakti

I watched this sweet video the other night and it was a real gamechanger for my week. The lecture comes from a wedding, so the setting is both a bit more informal and a bit more private than usual - an interesting window into some strangers' lives. The content is universal, however. Radhanath Swami is offering his prayers and blessings to the newly weds, and begins by speaking about the tremendous and superlative difficulty of partnership - that it is definitively challenging for everyone and can inspire violence in even the Nobel Peace Prize winners of the world.

I am always reassured by the message that I'm not alone - the reminder gives me courage to face my fears and challenges, no longer distracted by the idea that the existence of my struggle is evidence that there's something wrong with me. Instead I feel fueled by the possibility that this struggle is part of relationship, and I can sink my teeth into this aspect of life with engagement and optimism.

Radhanath Swami goes on to remind us that relationships are opportunities to practice Bhakti - devotional love to the heart and spirit. Bhakti is practiced by making a conscious offering of our thoughts, actions, service and love to the divine. When we are in relationship for more than just our material satisfaction, we have the privilege to guard, protect and care for a child of god/a spirit soul/a piece of the eternal. With this shift in intention, everything we do in our relationship becomes the practice of offering our loving service to the divine, of elevating our consciousness beyond the material realm and cultivating the bliss of Bhakti.  

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Integrating Bhakti into my life has a dramatic impact on my desire to be right, win arguments, be recognized and get my way. Since I tend to be proud, ambitious and even arrogant - at least on the inside - this is a really big deal. I like to be in charge and get extremely grumpy when I don't have things my way. These patterns in me may never go away, but they easily get trumped by my spiritual desires - to love and serve and connect with my heart. I've made a pact with God - to love my partner - the spiritual center of my partner - and to do it on God's behalf. Bhakti gives me an unconditional sense of purpose and focus: whether my partner is in a good mood or not, recognizing my awesomeness or absorbed in his own activities, in a state of presence or unconsciousness, I'm doing my work fulfilling my pact with God.    

So this week, I'm amplifying the way I love my partner, using our relationship to cultivate a strong energetic focus on my spiritual life which in turn elevates my experience and presence in all of my relationships. I feel wealthy with the abundance of having such unconditional love to offer and making time to offer it. I'm enjoying the growing simplicity and contentment that's emerging as I practice.

Questions and comments?  Let's go!