As my husband Jai Uttal, me, Daniel Paul and 60 other Bhaktas are about to embark on a weeklong retreat of Bhakti Yoga- our 12th Annual Summer Kirtan Camp – I am reflecting on the gifts of this practice in my own life.
I always functioned in the realm of faith, deeply trusting in life being guided by someone-something Higher. I do tend to be devotionally inclined and my actions and art are expressions of this devotion.
Looking back as a child in Brazil, the best memories I have of my childhood are been in church and dancing, singing and communicating with the community and relying on Jesus to shelter me. Praying to Sir Francis de Assisi, repeating his words of service and of becoming an instrument were so truthfully resonant to my heart. I still sing the songs I’ve learned on those days and they give me strength and awaken a memory of spiritual duty and connection in my inner most self.
As I begin my journey into Yoga, the devotional songs and mantras I’ve learned in the past opened different doors in my heart (and mind’s heart) and although the names and energies are different, the experience of communion is the same.
The realization of the divine reality cannot be put into words, it cannot be differentiated by culture and time; it simply awakens the Heart. By practice we allow ourselves to dwell in His-Her domain and by Grace we enter their Divine Realm. It’s is not a religious experience, it is a Spiritual realization. It doesn’t separate or pull us apart, it unites all and everything in the One-Love reality.
When I met my Guru Lama Gangchen and started dancing Odissi, both in the year of 1997. I thought I had met “The one and only Guru” and that Odissi was “my one and only devotional practice”. How could I expect more in this life time?! I devoted soooooo many hours to learn by heart the Ngnalso Tantric Self Healing and all the simple steps of Odissi Tradition. The blessings that came from this focused period are still deeply built in my cells.
Life took me into a total different turn when I met my husband Jai and “without knowing” or “planning” I saw myself under the auspicious parasol of Vovo (grandfather) Maharajji and Siddhi Ma (Durga in her benevolent form of Vaishnavi Devi). Embraced by daily Kirtan with Jai and the prayers of Hanuman Chaleesa and in praise to the Mother! I just did not know it could get more profound.…and it did!!!! The culmination of full devotion came to me with being a mother to Ezra Gopal and praising the Divine through every act of my simple ordinary daily life, allowing me to slowly see the One in everything and everyone.
As I continue on the path I daily ask: May it become easier and clearer to see The One in everyone, within my inabilities, within others faults, with our differences. May I be able to devote myself to my spiritual path and keep my heart open so I can serve my son, my husband, my family, my sangha, my students, strangers I meet on the path and the One (with all of his/her colors, names, faces and beyond).
Summer Kirtan Camp….. Here I come!!!!!!!