“Devotion is diligence without assurance.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert
When I was first asked to write this month’s newsletter on Devotion I have to say I was a bit daunted. As someone who was born into Christianity but raised in a vehemently anti-religious household I thought, “What do I know about devotion?” Then when I turned to the internet for a little research and found mostly the words of preachers, I got scared. “Oh god” (can I even say that???), I am in very uncomfortable territory. How can I make peace with this word, that for me and probably many others, had such religious baggage?
The month went on, my mind and notebook remained blank on the subject. And my life continued. I dutifully and joyfully looked after my 15 month old, day after day, and sometimes night after night. I went to Yoga class. I taught my Yoga classes. I sat on my cushion in meditation and in community. All the while wondering what does it mean to be devoted to something.
Then one day reading Jennifer Dumpert’s book on Liminal Dreaming, I saw it in black and white. There were the practices I love: Yoga, Mindfulness, and Meditation, holding space on the very same pages with the religions of the world: Christianity, Muslim, Buddhism, and so on, in her discussion on “practice.” Like Jennifer, I share a love of practice, which she defines as: “an exercise or ritual that you dedicate yourself to as a way of creating meaning and integrating your values and desires into your daily life.” One might even say I am devoted – oh god! – to my practice. How could I, despite my upbringing, have actually found myself happily, willingly, devoted to a spiritual practice and community? Had I just found a new religion with better marketing?
On this, Dumpert again offered some insight. “A major aspect of what religions do [is] they offer you practices that help you connect to the ultimate, whatever you understand that as being.” That ultimate might be Buddha, Allah, Jesus, Mother Nature, The Universe, your Dog, your Mom, Love, or anything you, let me emphasize YOU here, deem worthy of your dedication and diligence. My ultimate shows up everyday in the eyes of my daughter, the embrace of my partner, the willingness of my students, the kindness of strangers, and my commitment to practice. For me, the ultimate is found wherever there is love.
As someone who was raised without religion, I was always uncomfortable with the idea of a “practice” being associated with a belief system that was not my own. However, it is through these very practices I have learned that I can hold space for devotion, and for devotees, regardless of who or what they worship. I can hold it dearly, and still be authentic to myself and my ultimate.
As it turns out, I think I might know a fair bit about devotion. And I’m guessing if you are reading this newsletter you probably do too. November is Devotion month at the CEC. Come and find a myriad of practices and experiences to explore as we dive into what devotion means to you!