Many people conceive of devotion as a pleasant, pious emotion that they experience occasionally. However, devotion is much more: it is conscious continuous cultivation.
To appreciate the difference, let’s look at the three words: cultivation, continuous and conscious.
Cultivation: The emotion of devotion – of feeling attracted towards Krishna – is like a beautiful flower in the garden of our heart. Just as one attractive flower may grow by itself in a garden, an occasional devotional feeling may arise by itself within us. But just as a garden full of flowering plants would require cultivation, a heart filled with devotional emotions would require cultivation. We cultivate our heart by practicing bhakti-yoga as a discipline. Such practice brings our consciousness in contact with all-attractive Krishna, thereby stimulating our desire for him (Bhagavad-gita 12.09).
Continuous: Just as we need to water our garden daily, not just when we feel like doing it, we need to practice bhakti steadily, even when we don’t feel like doing it. Such committed practice shows Krishna our earnestness. And he reciprocates by purifying us, thereby weakening our non-devotional emotions that interrupt our bhakti practice and strengthening our devotional emotions that intensify our bhakti practice.
Conscious: We need to do bhakti activities not ritualistically, but with conscious intention to love and serve Krishna. While practicing bhakti, we remain ritualistic and distracted from Krishna as long as we think that other things are more attractive than him. But we infuse conscious intention into our bhakti practice when we understand that Krishna is the source of the attractiveness of everything that we presently find attractive (10.41) –becoming attracted to them will give drop-like pleasure, whereas becoming attracted to Krishna will give oceanic pleasure.
When we thus cultivate devotion consciously and continuously, we gradually reap and relish eternal ecstatic absorption in Krishna