In focusing this blog on Devotion, I sense some readers might be troubled by the word itself, thinking it to be a reflection of religiousness or piety.
My husband, in fact, tried to talk me out of using the word at all. He felt it could have a negative effect on people because it did for him. "Devotion" reminded him of his religious upbringing which was rigid and, at times, even harsh.
To me, devotion is an expression of what we love and feel passionate about. There can be a subject or an object of our devotion. Through focused attention and dedicated practice, we align our whole self, our whole life, with it. This "object of our devotion" can be a concept, person, or thing; a value, a truth, a cause, a quality of being that we value deeply.
A definition from the dictionary points out that our devotion may arise from a sense of duty and that it takes courage to express devotion. I believe this to be true, but, personally, I tend to see Love and longing as the forces behind devotion.
Think of the things, people, or qualities of life that stir your devotion. Family and friends. Living authentically. Personifying the values of peace, generosity or kindness. Affirming and protecting beauty or justice. If you are devoted to any or all of these, what are you willing to do to have the highest relationship possible with any of them?
And how does your understanding of and relationship to the Sacred, the Divine*, fit into your devotion?
The primary focus of my devotion is the Divine*. For me, it has to be, because I entered this world alone, and I will exit it alone. As Mother Teresa said, "In the final analysis, it is between you and God." Therefore, this relationship with the Sacred must be the "polestar" of my life, as Yogananda taught. (This "must" is my choice, not something dictated by others.)
Jack Kornfield writes in Buddha's Little Instruction Book, "If you have the privilege of being with a person who is conscious at the time of his or her death, you find the questions such a person asks are very simple, “Did I love well?” “Did I live fully?” “Did I learn to let go?”
Making my spiritual life #1 will hopefully allow me to answer the three questions above with a hearty "Yes!" at the end of my life. I'd also like to be able to answer Yes to each of them every day until then. A path of devotion to the Divine in its varied forms, as wide and varied as my path has been over the years, has grounded me in this, the Ultimate Source—Love.
I welcome your thoughts ...
* I use the term, the "Sacred," to denote our inter-cultural/interspiritual understanding of ultimate reality, God, presence, the All, Spirit, Brahman, Essence, etc. This encompasses, in my view, any term each of us might use to describe our knowing of a transcendent experience of life and true self. We each must find our unique way of understanding and living into this.
For your reflection:
• What does "devotion" mean to you? What role does it play in your life?
• To whom or what are you devoted?
• What blessings has this orientation brought you?
A safe and welcoming space to explore the unfolding nature of our spiritual journeys.
Dr. Janice Lynne Lundy (PsyD, DMin, MPC)
is The Gerald May Professor of Spiritual Direction & Counseling at the Graduate Theological Foundation. She is an interspiritual director/mentor, educator and counselor who has been pointing people back toward the Sacred for nearly thirty years.