Infinite Heart: The Path Of Love In Bhakti

Most of us just aren’t taught how to be with our emotions so they sometimes seem scary or unmanageable. But that’s where spiritual practice can be so helpful. This article explores how different paths and especially bhakti encourages to express our feelings in different ways.
Carrie Grossman is a singer and composer.
bhakti yoga
Carrie Grossman is a singer and composer.

In this article, Carrie Grossman explores the different approaches and paths in the yogic tradition that can lead to Self-realization and highlights how practicing bhakti helps to express our feelings. Also, explore some of Carrie’s songs in the bhakti tradition.

About The Struggle When Meditating

When I started meditating many years ago, every time I sat down and closed my eyes, I burst into tears; it seemed like a problem. Other people appeared so peaceful and sublime when they meditated. What was wrong with me? My crazy mind was on fire with thoughts and all I wanted to do was let out a long, piercing shriek.

Still, every day I sat on my cushion and tried again. Without fail, as soon as I began to scan my inner terrain, the tears made their way out of hiding and demanded my attention. I didn’t get it. Wasn’t meditation supposed to make me feel peaceful and loving towards every speck of dust in the universe? If so, something was wrong because that definitely wasn’t happening. Instead, my experience was complete torture. I spent most of the time swatting thoughts away like flies and berating myself for not doing a better job.

Then one evening, everything changed. After lighting a few candles, I crossed my legs and closed my eyes. Again, the intense emotion pressed against my chest, but before I could bolt, the tears began to flow. This time, instead of running away or resisting the pain, I surrendered. The grief felt unbearable, but there was no turning back—every ounce of sadness I had ever suppressed was in my face, or at least it felt that way. I wept for everything: lost love, resentment, loneliness, fear. It was all right there, and it hurt.

This rainstorm of grief went on for a long time until suddenly, out of nowhere, something shifted: My mind relaxed into a deep space of effortless meditation. No matter how hard I tried to dig up painful thoughts and feelings, I couldn’t find any. Everything was quiet and, for the first time in ages, the world felt soft again.

Read more: Explore what it means to surrender in yoga or meditation.

How Attentiveness To Uncomfortable Feelings Frees Us

Sometimes, the more we resist something, the larger it looms. This is particularly true when it comes to painful emotions, which perpetually ebb and flow in the ocean of consciousness. As we turn our gaze within, so many old wounds call out for attention. This “unloading of the unconscious,” as Father Thomas Keating refers to it, is par for the course in spiritual life. After all, how can we go from darkness to light without first becoming aware of the darkness? How can we free ourselves from suffering if we don’t realize that we’re suffering in the first place? We need to look with kindness at the tangled knot we call “me” and embrace all the threads, even if they’re kinked and frayed.

The problem is, as soon as we sense such uncomfortable feelings, we often run away or distract ourselves. Most of us just aren’t taught how to be with our emotions so they sometimes seem scary or unmanageable. But that’s where spiritual practice can be so helpful.

Whether we choose silent meditation, chanting, yoga, prayer, or anything else, attentiveness strips us down—it exposes our strategies of self-protection and reveals all the places where we’re stuck or insincere. Although this may feel profoundly unpleasant, ultimately, it’s the willingness to be real with our experience that truly sets us on the path. As we look with love at our self-contraction, it begins to unravel in the most natural way. Like a dark cloud that releases its rain to the earth, our tears purify us.

Yogic Philosophy & Sanātana Dharma

In the Bhakti tradition, or the yogic path of love, it’s said that we don’t have to abandon our emotions; rather we can channel them in a higher direction. This means that when we feel sad, we don’t have to will that sadness away with platitudes. Instead, we can ride each wave of emotion back to the source of our pain—the sense of separation from our own heart. 

In today’s world, most people associate yoga with postures, fashion fads, and fitness—but yoga is so much more than that. The word yoga actually means “union” or “to yoke” and it refers to the union of the soul with the Source of all that is. As a spiritual technology, yoga encompasses a wide range of approaches to help us awaken our full human potential. That’s why, when we only focus on the physical aspect of the practice, we dishonor the vastness and complexity of the tradition. 

Yoga philosophy is one of the six major schools of Hinduism, an ancient tradition that dates back thousands of years. Although Hinduism is often considered a religion, the term “Hinduism” is a more recent development of a timeless tradition known as “Sanātana Dharma”. There are many translations for Sanātana Dharma, but a common one is “The Eternal Truth” or “The Eternal Path”. Unlike institutionalized religions that revolve around a central founder, prophet, or scripture, Sanātana Dharma is completely non-sectarian, and it encompasses a wide range of sacred texts, teachings, and practices. 

One of the most beautiful things about Sanātana Dharma is that it’s all about spiritual freedom. On this path, there are as many ways to Self-realization as there are people—and there are as many names for the Infinite as there are waves on the ocean. The Hindu pantheon is said to have 333 million gods—so there’s something for everyone. If you resonate with Durga or Shiva, that’s great. If you love Jesus, Kuan Yin, or the formless ground of being, that’s fine, too. Every form is considered a manifestation of the one underlying Consciousness.

Since everyone is unique, the sages offered a variety of paths according to each person’s nature. They understood that people have different mental dispositions or inherited tendencies known as samskaras. Some folks are more intellectual in nature, while others are more emotional. Some feel drawn to meditative practices, while others find it hard to sit still. 

Those who are intellectually inclined may be drawn to jnana, the yoga of knowledge, while those who prefer to be active may resonate with karma yoga, the path of service. For those who like meditative practices, raja yoga may appeal, whereas those with more emotional dispositions may embrace bhakti. These paths all overlap and interpenetrate, but you may find yourself drawn to one approach more than another. Ultimately, all yogic paths share the same goal: to free us from suffering. It doesn’t matter what form the river takes—all streams flow to the same sea.

Bhakti As The Way Of Heart

Of all the streams, the one that emphasizes our emotions is bhakti. Bhakti is the way of the heart. This path encourages us to express our feelings in different ways—through music, dance, poetry, and other devotional art forms. While not everyone can perform yoga postures or delve into the esoteric meaning of the scriptures, everyone can love and be loved—it’s innate. Love makes us forget ourselves, gives us courage, inspires us to serve, and opens us to the beauty and mystery of life. That’s why the sages say that Bhakti yoga is the easiest path. Anyone with a heart can practice it. 

The Sanskrit word bhakti comes from the root bhaj, which means “to participate” or “belong to”. It’s often translated as devotion or love towards something greater. This could be a deity or a teacher, or it could be something formless like the universal consciousness or even a principle or virtue like justice, mercy, or compassion. The basic premise is that infinite love dwells within everyone and it can be discovered through a personal relationship with the divine, however you may conceive it. 

One of the cornerstones of Bhakti Yoga is the practice of devotional singing, sometimes referred to as kirtan. This practice involves the repetition of sacred names or mantras as a way to quiet the mind. Unlike silent meditation which often requires a certain amount of focus and effort, music melts us—it softens us and effortlessly draws our mind inwards like a flower lures a bee. As our defenses fall away, we have more space to be with ourselves exactly as we are without judging, manufacturing, and criticizing our emotions.

Melt away with this Bhakti and kirtan music by Carrie Grossman:

  1. Narayana Carrie Grossman 5:51
  2. Om Tare Carrie Grossman 6:36
  3. Honey Hanuman Chalisa Carrie Grossman 12:51
  4. Lokah (Peace on Earth) Carrie Grossman 6:31
  5. 108 Names of Devi Carrie Grossman 10:34
  6. Guru Stotram Carrie Grossman 11:55

So, the next time you sit down to practice, see if you can be with whatever arises, without telling yourself it’s “wrong” or trying to make it go away. Grief can be a gateway to enlightenment if we embrace it with love. So can confusion, disappointment, envy, joy, and everything in between. All we need is an attitude of acceptance—a willingness to meet ourselves completely, knowing that who we really are is beyond any thought or emotion. We don’t have to fear our habits of closure because, in truth, they’re portals to great openness. As we step towards them, we awaken the tenderness deep within and tumble into silence.

Meditation. Free.