In a conversation with a person wanting to begin a more serious practice of bhakti yoga, we spoke about many things. The 9 process of devotional service, the 4 regulative principles to follow, the 6 Gita values, and of course the 16 rounds to chant. It all seemed a bit overwhelming.
Then we settled on 3 commitments - to a daily spiritual practice, to maintaining physical health, and to good relationships. In other words, a spiritual practice is not a stand-alone thing. Our effort to stick with it, to give it the attention it needs, is affected by many things, and especially by health and relationships.
Let’s start with health. This person likes to work out in the gym. He needs to keep doing that to remain fit for the added spiritual commitment he wants to take on. The body, the good machine that it is, needs care - rest, exercise, fresh air, and suitable nourishment. 2 of the 4 regulative principles we follow are about what we should not give to our body - no meat, fish, or eggs, and no alcohol or drugs. Our health affects our mind, and then our emotions. Which in turn affects our attention and ability to focus, meditate, rise early, and have the energy to apply ourselves to task of excavating our lost relationship with Krishna.
Then there are relationships. As a married man, between work and his new spiritual inspiration, it’s important that he doesn’t get too busy for his wife and children. When we can’t sit at the dinner table, read a book to our child, take a walk together, help each other, or just sit and talk and share - if relationships are weakening all around us it will be hard to maintain any spiritual practice. We might think we can go it alone, but that’s for the rare soul, if any. Spiritual life is never about ‘me’; it’s about ‘us’. That doesn’t mean we don’t have time alone, it just means it’s balanced with other relationship connections - family, friends, and community.
A daily spiritual practice means a commitment to releasing time to do it. Health and relationships also need time. If these 3 commitments are honored and given the attention they need, which will be different for each of us, then, along with the other guidelines for a successful bhakti-yoga practice, we will make it to the end in one piece - conscious of our true spiritual self beyond the body and in a deep and loving relationship with Krishna.