A religious or spiritual commitment given thoughtlessly or half-heartedly does not Devotion make. That kind of behavior is more akin to socialized obligation or lip service. True Devotion happens when we make a personal connection between our own Divinity inside and the greater Divine. It is the desire for the objects of our Devotion— the Divine, Nature, ourselves and others— to experience Equanimity, Peace and Joy. It is the compulsion to help these objects thrive.
Devotion is not a chore. It should not feel like an obligation. Devotion is the freely given daily gushing of Love, worship and commitment to the greater Divine and the Divinity within ourselves.
Devotion is a bowed head; it is Humility.
Devotion is commitment to transformation; it is passion.
True Devotion is seen in every action, emotion and intention. It permeates. It is daily; it is constant. It is an unconstrained commitment.
When fully in effect, Devotion runs through our circulatory system like blood. Church and ritual are more obvious examples of Devotion, but living each moment— exciting and mundane alike— as a Prayer is the best example of it. Minor acts of kindness or Service we commit for another’s benefit are demonstrations of our Devotion to that individual, to the Divine within them, which we recognize as part of ourselves.
With true Devotion, there is little distinction between one’s spiritual life and one’s daily life.
In the Judeo-Christian Bible, when Jesus was asked to identify the greatest commandment, he said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.”
Paramahansa Yogananda, the famous Indian spiritual guru, taught students to “think of God all of the time.”
Devotion is the lifeblood of any spiritual path. It makes one care about and dedicate oneself to that path despite the hardships and moments of doubt. Devotion, like Equanimity, helps you to see the bigger picture— to play the longer game.
True Devotion comes after we have done our own “Spiritual Due Diligence.” Due diligence is defined as the “proper review and investigation of the background facts and materials before finalizing a transaction.” In a spiritual sense, our final transaction is a commitment and submission to Devotion. We just have to do our homework first.
If you are trying to buy a house, you want to make sure that it is not infested with termites or sitting on top of a toxic waste dump. If a deal sounds too good to be true, you might want to dig a little deeper and find out what the real deal is. You should be particularly concerned with the foundation of the house— what it is built upon— as well as the structure— what it is built of and how the pieces all fit together.
Spiritual Due Diligence is a less analytical process, but some of the same aspects apply, such as considering the foundation of our beliefs and the structure or framework within which we decide how to treat ourselves, each other, and the world. This kind of diligence involves Freewill-fueled exploration of all the different spiritual paths that may appeal to you and that may be different from what you experienced growing up. Search with caution— if something sounds too easy and “too good to be true” in this realm, it may very well be so.
The Law of Equifinality states that there is more than one path to connect with the Divine and no one particular way is more righteous than another. Finding the path that is just right for you is the key. When we find this unique path, we will know it. It resonates with us. It feels natural. It is the one that naturally engages and instills Devotion within us. When we are on the right path for us, we are not hypocrites. Our words and our deeds are compatible.
A challenge to finding our own unique spiritual path often arises when we are handed a set path based on family, community or societal expectations and constraints. For instance, if your parents are Catholic, your grandparents are Catholic, your great grandparents were Catholic, you live in a largely Catholic community (or country) and you went to a Catholic school as a child, the odds are that you will be expected to be Catholic, too— and raise your children as such. When this dynamic occurs, spiritual exploration is limited and can even be disallowed. More often than not, a lackluster or forced Devotion, i.e. a false Devotion, occurs because we did not choose the path based on our own Freewill. What’s more, in this scenario, the Devotion that we do demonstrate may be based on obligation, guilt and fear (although we may still commit to a set family tradition of our own Freewill upon completing our own Spiritual Due Diligence).
Sadly, many people do not practice true Devotion. Instead, they have very loose affiliations or pay lip service to a particular brand of belief that doesn’t really inspire them or permeate their daily lives. They may engage in certain rituals which have largely lost meaning to them, or they may turn to a brand of belief temporarily during times of stress or loss. It should become clear when, after having engaged in this false Devotion during a time of hardship, you choose to abandon it when things start looking up, that the rituals or belief system you adopted was not your true spiritual path. If it was, you would continue to adhere to it, not out of obligation but out of Truth and desire to do so, even after the hard times passed.
A Jealous God
There are a number of references in the Old Testament to a “Jealous God.” This phrasing never resonated with me. Why would God be jealous? Jealousy seems to be one of the pettier emotions, based on insecurity and lack of self-worth. Even when I was young, it just didn’t make sense. Now, many years later, I interpret this phrase a bit differently than what one might expect.
True devotion permeates all actions, emotions and intentions. This is a tough standard— an ideal. Still, the practice of “Due Diligence” demands that you consider what other objects and activities the Divine may metaphorically be “jealous” of; I think that the Old Testament language was just a way of God saying, “Watch out for being devoted to other things when you say you are devoted to me.”
If aliens came down and observed the human race in modern times in order to determine what we might be “worshipping” by our actions, that list might include:
T.V. Making money
High Tech devices Consumerism in general
Women as objects Media in general
Prestige or social capital Alcohol, drugs, “numbing out”
In applying Due Diligence, I am not saying that we all have to live like monks. Instead, we should be wary of any object or activity in our life that may be surpassing spiritual Devotion. Devotion requires Self-Awareness and Mindfulness in how we spend our time. Is what we are habitually doing consistent with the spiritual elements? As we pursue our Truth and our Service to others in alignment with the Divinity within, is what we are doing on a day-to-day basis consistent with Devotion to the Divine?
Upon performing your Due Diligence, you may realize that some aspect of your life is incompatible with true Devotion. In other words, you may determine that you are spending excessive time at the casino and, in reality, gambling is that to which you are Devoted. Based on this realization, you may choose to spend less time there or cut that activity out of your life altogether and replace it with more time in self-reflection, self-care and spiritual study that will connect you with God.
On the other hand, a simple change of perspective may be all that is needed to switch your Devotion to the inner Divine. For example, perhaps you are an entrepreneur making good money. Upon doing your Due Diligence, you realize that you are worshipping the money that you are making as you take on an air of self-importance around being financially successful. Instead of riding that ego trip, you can switch your focus to being thankful for your Creativity in business. Likewise, you can treat your customers and employees how you would like to be treated, rather than however is most convenient at the moment and what you know you can get away with doing as their “boss.” This change of mindset may even inspire you to take on charity initiatives in the name of your company, using some of that extra income to benefit others besides yourself.
Devotion is about discipline. We are human, and we all make mistakes as we explore life. Through Devotion, we look to eventually align our thoughts and actions with the Divine and be mindful of how we may stray from this path in any one area. Occasional distraction or relaxation, is okay. To be Devout does not mean that we never use electronics, or that we never “waste time” doing things that aren’t important or won’t benefit the world. It just means that we commit ourselves daily to doing so less often and engaging regularly in pursuits that are more worthy of our attention.
You can still have fun. With Devotion, you simply do not let Divinity sneak too far out of the picture with any activity.
Devotion can also be known as “making your life a living Prayer” because Devotion is about Worship, Reverence, Praise, Loyalty and Commitment. It is about feeling the connection with the Divine and honoring it at all times. The opposite of Devotion would be separateness, i.e. not recognizing the integral connection between you and all there is.
Worshipping with some expectation of reward is also an opposing energy to true Devotion. This topic reminds me of what I call “The Moral Atheist.” Contrary to the beliefs of some, every true atheist I ever met was good, kind, and generous. Interestingly, as atheists, they had no expectation of receiving any kind of reward or pay-off in some afterlife for being this way. They did good just to do good. Atheists consistently affirm my belief in the Divine!
On the other hand, sometimes I hear believers of different types, in explaining their motivations for Devotion, say things like, “I want to assure my place in Heaven” (Christian) or “I don’t want to be reincarnated as a cricket” (Eastern thought).
We can learn a lot from the Moral Atheist in this regard. We should be good for goodness’s sake. Goodness is our nature and is the foundation of true Devotion.
“If I adore You out of fear of Hell, burn me in Hell!
If I adore you out of desire for Paradise, lock me out of Paradise.
But if I adore you for Yourself alone, do not deny to me Your eternal beauty.” -Rabia al-Basri
Keep the Sacred Simple
There is history of, and perhaps temptation toward, complicating Devotion. We tend to construct elaborate methods of worship and ritual within contexts of hierarchy and ceremony. We are often instructed, by persons in positions of authority, in specific ways as to how Devotion is to be expressed. We can sometimes be left to feel inadequate in our individual ways of Devotion as we come to depend upon gurus or pontiffs to tell us how to be righteous and devout. We may feel unworthy until we have passed through specific hoops of religious learning, when we have been “certified” in some spiritual practice, or until when we have taken the necessary pilgrimages to obligatory sacred sites.
Ritual, ceremony and teachings of specific devotional methods can be helpful. You can and will find great teachers who guide your path in this realm. I simply caution against allowing your methods of Devotion to feel too out of reach. When in doubt of your methods of Devotion, basic works.
The sacred is always here and now. We need not complicate it.
-The most sacred action is breath.
-The most sacred moment is this moment.
-The most sacred place is the place is here.
-The most sacred prayer is: Thank you.
-The most sacred mantra is: I am.
-The most sacred blessing is: May you hear your Truth.
-The most sacred text is that which calls your name.
-The most sacred pilgrimage is just one step within.
-The most sacred alchemy is the one that unfolds for you.
-The most sacred way is love.
Different practices of Devotion may work for you. I only recommend keeping it simple or always having simple methods in your quiver of practices. All that is Divine is accessible and obtainable to all. Don’t allow anyone, including yourself, to complicate your Devotion and access to the Divine too much.
Freewill is absolutely necessary in order for Devotion to truly occur. When we do our Spiritual Due Diligence, we find our true path not through a sense of obligation but through our own Freewill.
Gratitude and Humility are key elements and serve as catalysts for Devotion.
Love (without expectation) is the element most closely aligned with Devotion. It simply is the Love of God.
Being Mindful (often done through Meditation and other awareness exercises) clears the mind for the other essential elements of Prayer, Mantra and Communion. These elements are vital components for Devotion to take root. Mindfulness also helps us monitor when and where our devotions may be straying.
Service to others can be a primary vehicle in manifesting Devotion. On the other hand, living your Truth and practicing Devotion naturally leads one to offer Service to others.
Prayer and Meditation are the doorways to the Divine and the backbones of Devotion.
Solitude, Stillness, Mantra and Communion all go hand in hand with Devotion as well.
Breath is our most basic celebration of the Divine.
Light brings a Light-ness and buoyancy to our practice of Devotion, which for some can take on an air of absolute seriousness otherwise. Light invites Joy to the practice as well.
- Make life a living Prayer. Appreciate and be grateful for each precious moment, to endeavor always to see the good in others, and to acknowledge times of hardship as temporary and only representative of a small fraction of our overall experience.
- Establish places and routines of devotional prayer and contemplation, such as morning meditations or afternoon walks, and integrate these into your schedule.
- Conduct a periodic personal spiritual inventory or “Spiritual Due Diligence.” This process will help to solidify your own personal belief system, strengthen your Devotion to your concept of a higher power and help you discover when you may be getting off track.
Reflecting on the following questions may guide you in your due diligence:
-What is my spiritual belief system? How did I develop this belief system? Was it through inheritance/socialization or through my own Freewill?
-What are the principles of my belief system? How much do I follow its principles in my everyday life?
-Do any of the principles of this path cause me anxiety or cognitive dissonance?
-Does my spiritual belief system conflict with any of the elements in the Periodic Table of Spiritual Elements? Does it ask me to suppress Reason? Is it a fear or shame-based path? Is it rule and ritual-based?
-Are there any aspects of my spiritual belief system or religion that do not resonate with me personally? Can I reconcile myself with these aspects and, if so, how?
-Are there other spiritual concepts outside of this belief system (including creating my own belief system outside of organized practices) that appeal to me? If so, how can I explore those concepts?
- Take an inventory of objects or activities you may be worshipping (i.e. spending a lot of your time and energy on) that separate you from your connection to a higher power. How can you change this behavior? Seek help when you need it, such as for addictions.
- Engage in Service to others by volunteering in your community or in some fashion outside of your field of work (or offer a sliding scale for your chosen field for a select group of individuals).
- Learn the yoga posture called Child’s Pose. Utilize it with prayer and mantra This pose resembles a pose of deep prayer and submission to the Divine.
In my body, mind and soul, let me worship God.
Let my love flow outward, let my love shine.
Let me love God in all I do.
I know who I am, I am humble and grateful before the Universe.
All the praise and thanks be to God.
I am your humble servant in thought and deed. Please let me serve.
Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Praise God. Amen.