Advanced Yoga Practices
Lesson 68 - Relationship of Traumatic Experiences and Bhakti
Date: Mon Jan 5, 2004 10:18am
Q: Four years ago my bother and I were in a car crash. I survived and he didn’t. After that my life was hell, filled with grief, guilt, anger and despair. Then something happened. I just couldn’t take it anymore. I longed for an answer, and something let go inside me. Immediately, spiritual knowledge started pouring into my life, and I knew what I would do for the rest of my days. Your lesson on bhakti rings true with me, though my experience with it has not been gradual. It came suddenly out of my traumatized state, and my emotional state continues to move me forward rapidly. What are your thoughts on this?
A: Traumatic experiences can often lead us to an awakening. While the sudden loss of a loved one can never be fully rectified by anything, if we are able to open, the process of bhakti will certainly try. The emotions are so huge that the slightest letting go, the slightest redirecting of emotional energy will have dramatic results. None of us would volunteer for such a mission, but in life it happens.
When trauma happens, whether it is the loss of a loved one, a loss of health, or other serious dislocation in life, a cycle of grief will occur. It begins with disbelief, then can go into denial, then anger, and then down a long emotional slope into despair. For most of us, there is little control while this is happening. Then, at some point, there comes a letting go. It can be months later, years later, or decades later. Maybe a letting go doesn’t happen at all for some. Everyone is different. When it does happen, this is a crucial point in the process. Crucial in the sense that emotionally we may gravitate back to some semblance of the way things were before the trauma. It is normal to try for that. Or, we may let go into a divine space, as you have done. That point in the grieving process is a kind of crossroad.
Again, it comes down to the first impulse of bhakti, that question: “Is there something more?” If that question is there in some form, emotional energy will rush into it. That question is a letting go, and the beginning of the manifestation of our ishta inside, our highest ideal. It is also the beginning of the manifestation of the guru, and responses are stimulated in our outer environment by it.
It is an opening, a receptivity, a letting go that enables the bhakti effect. As soon as we surrender our emotions to a higher purpose, they become divine energy rushing in. Traumatic experiences put us in a position where we may have little choice but to surrender, or face many years of misery. It is a much more clear-cut choice to make than considering the divine quest while engaged in the smaller ups and downs of mundane life in the work-a-day world. The truth is, every emotion is an opportunity for bhakti — the very small ones, the very big ones, and every emotion in-between. The emotions will be there. The letting go may or may not be there. That is up to us. It is we who choose.
Having embarked on the spiritual path with a strong and continuing bhakti surge, you have found something sacred in your tragedy. Keep in mind that bhakti is powerful spiritual practice. Make sure to balance your practices to give the best chance for a smooth unfoldment of pure bliss consciousness and divine ecstasy.
The guru is in you.