Bhava is the deep emotional state of ones mind. As humans, we experience a wide range of emotions: anger, sadness, fear, anxiety, bliss, desire, joy, detachment – but often these emotions are either not fully felt or expressed or they are overfelt to the point of running our daily experiences. For many of us, emotions run our lives, they change our moods, initiate our decision making, and dictate our relationships. These emotions, while valid, are more often the cloak of darkness over our inner experience.
Deeper than this fluctuating and dramatically shifting wave of emotion is something much steadier. Deep within our authentic levels of experience a much softer whispering is present. This whispering is the true bhava, the deepest and clearest feeling of our being. This emotion is controlled yet boundless, and can be thought of as deep resonance, as is referred to in the Yoga Sutras: “This sound [specifically the pranava or OM] is remembered with deep feeling for the meaning of what it represents.” Bhava is a steady light and is never extinguished, but is often concealed to us.
The goal of daily practice is to refine these emotional states to reveal that more authentic bhava. Over time and with practice, this whispering becomes stronger than the more superficial emotions and even one’s entire mental landscape. It is ideal as yogis that we attempt to cultivate loving and clear intentions within our emotions. Bhava must thus be cultivated through practice and refinement – this is the means of lighting our way home. As Swami Rama notes: “A candle light is extinguished by the breeze very easily, but if that light is protected and allowed to catch the forest, it will grow into a forest fire. Then the breeze helps that fire instead of extinguishing it. Similarly, when an aspirant, with the help of discipline, protects the flame of desire burning within, it grows more and more.”
Bhava, when highly refined, is the light of yourself: it is the lamppost in the darkness. It is a signal to you that actions are in flow or if they are frictioned and karmic. If you have lost this deep, connected feeling, use this as well as an opportunity to refine your approach or path. Bhava once experienced, is then within your control to then evolve with your practice – Bhava is not isolated from your intentions or goals – but it requires that the unnecessary layers be stripped away before you can begin to move your Bhava in the direction you need it to go. So often ideas of what it means to live a practiced, yogic life, mean that ones life is sterile – bhava asks that you still feel the life your living, but feel the experience of it through the lens of deep, perpetual feeling, instead of the fluctuations of more superficial experience.