Turning to the Bhaktas as We Turn A New Page 

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Turning to the Bhaktas as We Turn A New Page 

by Jessica Soares

New Year, New You?

It’s that time of year again—the season for resolutions, goals, intentions, and words of the year. As the Gregorian calendar propels us into a new year, we find ourselves collectively celebrating and honoring this fresh start. Whether we resonate with January’s new beginnings or prefer to mark the turning point in the arrival of spring (in the Northern Hemisphere), reflecting on where we’ve been and where we’re headed can be a powerful practice.

Learning from Surrender

Transitioning from 2022 to 2023, I felt less of the “new year magic” and more of an “unknown apprehension.” The incoming year didn’t carry the usual excitement or significance for me. I couldn’t pinpoint a specific reason, but I embraced this feeling of “not knowing” and set my intention for the year: to surrender to the mystery. Instead of attaching myself to specific desires or expectations, I chose to let go and align with God’s will. I prayed for Love to make me a vessel for its work, to express its divine purpose through me, and to become one with Love itself.

Easy to say, challenging to embody. Surrender can feel particularly daunting in a world dominated by late-stage capitalism, where the prevailing belief is that success is achieved through relentless effort and unyielding determination. Many of us have internalized the idea that our worth is determined by our productivity. In the midst of this, how can we let go? How can we trust enough to relinquish control? How can we find surrender amid the noise of fear, pressure, and perpetual motion?

But surrender is always available. It resides within us, nestled in acceptance and embraced by stillness. Zoom out and see the bigger picture—even in your darkest moments, you have always been okay. You have always been taken care of. Slow down, take a deep breath, and realize there’s no need to rush; things unfold in their own time. Surrender.

In 2023, I learned these lessons through an unexpected teacher named “fear.” I had never considered myself a fearful person. I typically let life flow through me without allowing fear to hold me back. In recent years, I even judged and resented fear. I saw it as a force that restrained many from living fully and openly, stifling Love’s expression. However, life had a sense of humor, and I found myself repeatedly facing moments filled with terror. Fear of death, of punishment, fear of losing love, fear of my body fading away—in those moments, I finally understood the essence of fear.

Why fear? Because in those moments, there was nothing I could control. The moment I stopped resisting and simply accepted, all I could do was surrender. Surrender and let go, trusting that no matter how frightening things appeared, what was arising was precisely what needed to happen, and I was still being cared for. On the other side, I discovered faith—a profound faith I had never known before. A faith that whispered, “I’ve got you. You are safe here. Let go and let God.” And so I did. Through this less-than-pleasant process, I learned the true purpose of fear and reminded myself that I had asked for this; I had asked for surrender. And to receive, one must experience. Messily, painfully, I surrendered.

Letting Go and Letting Whom?

You might wonder, “To what are we surrendering? And what are we surrendering?” These are questions we must each ask and answer for ourselves. Bhaktas, devotees of Bhakti Yoga, offer valuable insights in this regard. One of the core principles of Bhakti Yoga is complete surrender to the Divine—exchanging our attachments, desires, and ego for the will of the Supreme Reality. Saint Tukaram, a 17th-century Indian poet and bhakta, eloquently expressed it: “What is mine, I offer to you. What seems to be yours is actually mine.” The notion of “mine” exists only at the limited level of the ego, in a state of separation. By offering what is “ours,” we acknowledge the absence of “mine” or “yours.” We relinquish our attachments and identities to discover our True Self. In exchange, we realize that what belongs to God and God’s will is, truthfully, ours—all of it. Surrendering our limitations and sense of separation reveals that we are part of this limitless source.

In 2023, fear taught me that faith can be found in the most unexpected places. Once I had anchored myself on a spiritual path, I no longer had the luxury of choosing how I would learn my essential lessons. It taught me to embrace surrender. Through surrender, I discovered infinite choices. My choice was to see the presence of Love even in the seemingly loveless places. This became my devotion—to recognize God in all. Kabir, a bhakta poet, wrote, “Complete surrender is the highest form of devotion.” This was my greatest takeaway of 2023, and it’s what I carry into 2024.

Surrender and Devotion

Surrender often leads us to another core tenet of Bhakti philosophy: devotion. When you wholeheartedly surrender and align your will with God’s, you’ll discover that little else nourishes you in the same way. Bliss, joy, and peace become accessible choices in life, regardless of circumstances, through devotion. This is the invitation for 2024.

Choice and Devotion

Instead of fixating on resolutions or goals this year, consider asking yourself: “What am I choosing this year? To what am I devoted?” Anchoring yourself in this devotion allows the natural unfolding of what is meant to be. Are you devoted to your spiritual practice? To cultivating specific attitudes like compassion or courage? To aligning more of your life with your spirituality?

This isn’t about holding yourself to rigid goals or proving your spiritual journey’s worthiness. It’s not a test of how “good” you can be this year. It’s about surrendering all preconceived notions of yourself and opening up to the opportunity of discovering your True Essence. It’s about harnessing the collective energy of renewal, unlimited potential, and powerful choices. Perhaps your devotion relates more to the material aspects of life—career aspirations, creative pursuits, etc., and that’s perfectly fine. Rather than pursuing them with force or fearing “failure,” imagine allowing them to unfold with trust and ease as part of your devotional practice, a journey that can bring you closer to the Divine. For, in reality, everything can lead you there. If I can find it in fear, you can find it anywhere. It’s up to us to shift our perspective and recognize that nothing is separate from the spiritual path. Life itself is our best teacher, guiding us toward unification with the Supreme Reality. In devotion, we have the opportunity to express the love that we are toward the love that calls us home.

So, this year, instead of fretting over specific accomplishments, why not focus on discovering the divine presence within every choice you make and honor? Choose devotion over resolutions. You might find that there was never anything to seek. In the words of Saint Tukaram, “Without devotion, there is nothing. Devotion is everything. Just as the moon reflects the sun’s rays, in devotion resides the Divine.”

Jessica is a Hridaya Yoga Student and frequent contributor to our blog.

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