Sri Yukteswar says we can’t even put one foot in front of the other on the spiritual path without “the awakening of the natural love of the heart.” How do you open your heart? How do you love God more and more? How do you overcome feelings of dryness, or “I really don’t feel anything right now,” or resistance to meditation? Here are a few tried and true ways to develop devotion:
Yogananda says: “Chanting is half the battle!” It’s the #1 way to develop devotion! Chant as much as possible. With a group. Alone. Silently. Aloud. Any time you can remember to do it! A chant is like an affirmation or a prayer set to music, and is often even more powerful than an affirmation because it bypasses the brain and goes straight to the heart. Even if you feel you have no musical ability at all, chant anyway! Go to kirtans (group chanting sessions). Learn to play an instrument like the harmonium, guitar, electric keyboard, or whatever and play and sing the chants. It’s a perfect way to lead yourself or others into a deeper meditation.
Practice the presence of God. Take a walking meditation. Walk slowly and deliberately and feel God in everything around you. Feel God walking, breathing, and thinking through you, present in every cell. Walking in nature is wonderful for this! Gradually extend this feeling to every activity of every day.
Love the God within others. Forget and forgive their personality quirks and disorders — go beyond that and perceive their soul, which is ever perfect and pure in every way. You don’t need to love their actions or how they are behaving, but you can love their pure essence. This is the beginning stage of divine unconditional love for all! Pray for people all the time. Learn how to do healing prayers and do them regularly. If you feel you simply can’t love somebody or forgive him, ask God to do it for you.
Feel yourself to be a part of everything and everyone. This is the truth — all is one! Yogananda says: “It’s not ‘love thy neighbor as thyself.’ Rather it’s ‘love thy neighbor for he is thyself!’” Extend your love beyond just loving people to loving all creatures, all creation.
Selfless service. Never go to work again. Cross out the word “work” from your vocabulary and your consciousness and substitute the word “service.” Service is purifying and uplifting and opens the heart perfectly and naturally. You forget the little self in offering your energy to others or to a cause greater than yourself. This is a great way to develop love and devotion.
Transmute emotions into devotion. Good or bad, emotions are just energy. And energy can always be redirected. When you perceive the stirring of emotion in your heart (at the heart chakra) offer it up the spine from the heart to the spiritual eye at the point between the eyebrows. Keep the energy firmly fixed there for a while and then offer it all to God.
Live in joy, not sorrow. It’s your choice. Choose to love in a divine, unconditional unselfish way as much as possible. Meditation with love and devotion cannot fail, in the long run, to bring you bliss everlasting and final union with God, who is love. Master says: “Kriya Yoga and devotion — together, they work like mathematics; they cannot fail!“
Meditate on this statement by a great saint: ”If you knew how much God loves you, you would die for joy.“ Then take that love and offer it to everyone you meet. Pray this simple prayer as often as you can remember to do so: ”Divine Mother, awaken your love within me, and then let me awaken that love in all!”