~ Devotion is the veil through which awareness shows its beautiful face. ~

Devotion can sometimes be regarded as some grand thing, high-minded and even abstract, reserved for those of monastic living and religious practices. But it is often found in an ordinary day in our ordinary life. We don’t always go out looking for it, and even if we did we may not recognize it. Devotion doesn’t always appear in the way we thought it would, and it isn’t what we may think it is or should be – it is what it is. And when it finds us, it is an absolute and non-negotiable giving of our hands and heart to it, doing the best we can each day along the way, love wholebodily and wholeheeartedly, loving not just when we “feel like it” or when it’s convenient or easy. Devotion is the path of love, where love become us, and we offer ourselves. 

Devotion can find us on a rainy day around the corner; it is an injured animal approaching us and us taking it in our embrace and giving it nurture and shelter. Devotion can be the fires of inspired creativity consuming us and us working on a project, day by day, continuously until we shape spirit into matter; and as we lose ourselves in it timelessness happens, and we don’t quit because it isn’t moving quickly or in the way we thought it should, we keep pouring love, time and energy and dedication to it. Devotion is the meal we cook to give our family, it is the love we have for them and showing up for them, no just sometimes, not just when we “feel like it”, but always.

Devotion kneels us; it kneels us to love, it kneels us to help, it kneels us to hold the hands, and to give our hands; devotion kneels us for love, compassion, faith, and in our tending to, caring for and being in service to another we find our true nature, and we find how love itself transforms us through the fires of devotion.

Devotion is what makes our hands move because our hands are moved by love. Devotion is what dissolves the barriers and boundaries, as we reach our hands across the lines that separate us. And in the tending to, caring for and giving to another, we find our true essence. 

We don’t have to look up high searching for it, it is something to be embodied through our every day lips, hands and seemingly ordinary gestures along the circling staircases of our life – because it is love, and that’s what love it. We are meant to build love, contain love, emit love. Love is to be embodied.

Devotion appears in its own shape and follows its own timing and rhythm of heart. And when it finds us, it is an absolute, non-negotiable wholbodily and wholeheartedly yes to give it our hands, our heart, our everything; to do our best, and love wholeheartedly and wholebodily, not just a little bit or partly.

Photography by me of our beautiful wild roses

You are not dancing, you are being danced;
You are not singing, you are being sung;
You are not moving, you are being moved;
You are not praying, you are being prayed.

Bhakti means loving devotion, and it isn’t reserved for one religion – it is in everything we love. This is why bhakti is the path of love that dissolves the boundaties between us, and we become the cradle of love holding all together – because we see the threads that unite us all as humanity, and there is no more separation.

The dancer dances to all music, from all cultures and languages, until becoming dance itself. The dreamer dreams of all dreams from all worlds, until becoming the dream itself. The lover loves all deeply and unconditionally and sees love in everything around, sees beauty in the small things, recognizes love in all its various shapes and forms, speeds and movements – because the lover becomes love itself. 

The path of bhakti is the path of devotion and love, a path of surrender to the divine; it is a longing and yearning for the unity of which we all came from, and to be married to it, united with it again. There is a sacredness in this longing and in this yearning, and we offer ourselves to it wholebodily and wholeheartedly. This is a universal human experience – to belong, and be united to that to which we belong.

And what is love, if not an offering of our entire selves? For love we give everything, and there is no such thing as sacrifice because this too as a sweet word, a sweet pleasure.

The deep innate spiritual longing can be channeled and cultivated through various practices of devotion that we can do in our every day; and the devotional pathway is actually one of the most natural ways to realize our true nature. Because when we open our heart to love, when we give our hands to love, in sincere love and faithfulness and wholeness, all barriers and limitations begin to dissolve. We become immersed in the oceans of love and the divine, and there joy and harmony and beauty only swim.

When we offer ourselves in devotion we are essentially awakening in us the truth that of unity – that we are not separated from one another, but we are in truth one in togetherness. Our ability to recognize this divine spark and respect the divine essence in another – another person, an animal – softens us and open us to be better human beings, living in greater harmony and respect for one another. Selfness service to others is a foundation practice of the devotional pathway.

It is about recognizing the divine presence all around us and in others, and responding appropriately to that recognition with an open heart and a willingness to serve. When we love others we love ourselves, when we love God we love others we love ourselves. And this love radiates from us and naturally extends to all beings; and in this you find the deepest fulfillment and freedom and purpose.

Another aspect of the devotional pathway is trust and surrender, and this opens us and build faith – we build a strong spiritual core. Through the surrender and trusting the timing of our life, and trusting the unfolding of our life, we essentially realize the interconnection of all, witness the tapestry of life, and allow the magic to breathe on the blank pages – because God too needs space to breathe in the in between lines of our unwritten yet. We step back in the humility that we’ll never know it all but we will always be held; and we trust, and realize, that sometimes our life is dreamt by a bigger dreamer than us, dreaming us into a more beautiful dream than we could ever imagine.

Devotion is the veil through which awareness shows its beautiful face. In our tending to, caring for and giving of ourselves to another – whether project, animal, person, our beloved, our family – the devotional pathway is the doorway opening us to deep love.

Photography by me of our beautiful wild roses

Devotion is something that monks practice regularly – their lives are based upon it. They tend to the gardens, to each other. And through the purity of essence that monasticism holds, we can actually learn love. I’ve spoken to many monks in my life, and they will often tell you that to learn to love is their greatest lesson also.

You see, people go into these sacred places and see these monks and nuns with their peaceful aura, and there is so much kindness and love in their interactions; and people think, “Wow, it is so easy for you to love!” But what they don’t realize is the long path it took to get to here. They don’t know the path and dedication and effort and discipline it takes to love, because love is a kingdom for the brave, not for the faint hearted.

It is easy to love from afar. It is easy to love statues and images and buildings such as churches or temples, because perhaps they don’t move, they stay perfect, so they can’t hurt us. But human beings … well, we’re hard to love; we change, we are non-sensical, we have flaws and imperfections, and unfortunately, we hurt and disappoint one another. People sometimes are afraid to love a person, because feelings are not stable as rock, and they fear the pain they’d feel after the other’s feelings change.

But love is the ring of Venus – and within that ring we choose to show up, move in waves within the ocean of love, and still, be willing to show up for one another. 

And for the monks, just like for all of us as human beings, learning to love is their greatest lesson, and the most difficult too; because it isn’t about the scriptures, it is about the living together, and having that lived-out expression of the love that the faith is. In monastic life, you spend your days in some enclosure, day in and day out, for years and years, bearing the burdens of another. No, you can’t just slam the door when you are annoyed; you can’t put on your headphones or watch a movie in the other room; you can’t quit on each other and walk out; you can’t only show up when it’s convenient for you do so; you can’t just do whatever only you want to without tolerance or understanding of the interconnection and interdependence of all others around you.

Every person has their good and not so great sides, but one must accept, understand, have compassion, and finally, learn to love the full person, with a kindness and patience of rhythm. And really, truly, that’s our greatest purpose in this life: to learn to love, and to be of service to another. This is the essence of devotion moving you – it is love – because the devotional pathway is the doorway opening us to deep love. And it is only ever love, then, now, always.

Ways to incorporate bhakti in your every day & walk the path of love and devotion: 

Take moments in nature to appreciate the flowers and all beauty surrounding you. Observe the cycles of the land, the seasons, the movement of winds and temperatures on your skin – fall into the arms of surrender and acceptance. Appreciate the beauty of nature and see how it is a manifestation of the divine.

Practice prayer, mediation and silent contemplation sitting in the presence of God. If you like icons, there are beautiful Christian Orthodox icons such as those of the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child – hold it to your heart and sit with it. Talk to God and the divine in your unique way – devotion is a path of the heart, there are no formats, it is your own unique way and connection and movement. Find the natural way for you – and build that bridge and relationship to the divine.

Devotion is the path of acceptance, including acceptance of all religions and traditions, and seeing that the common thread uniting them all is love. Learn and stay open to the beauty that all hold in their uniqueness; and look for different perspectives, cultures and stories to find the common threads uniting us as humanity. Challenge yourself to find what unites us; resist separation, find the love in your heart always.

Devotion is in the way you approach the world and live in it. Be devoted to your passion pursuits and projects, to your art and craft, to being a lover and a mother and a wife and friend, to making a sweet meal to your family, to making the home beautiful and tidy and clean. Let passion and heart transform you and all around you; and stay in integrity, faithfulness and aligned to higher values always.

Give yourself to service, do charity, help animals – give something of yourself to another. The devotional pathway is about service and love to humanity.

Practice forgiveness and compassion; walk with kindness and patience of rhythm; move with grace and purify thoughts and actions and hands.

Stay in humility. Humility means “to be of the earth”, so it is about staying grounded, and knowing our proportion in this world and within the cosmos. Humility is the bridge to love.

Find something you love and keep investing and pouring your love, energy and time into it. Don’t feel discouraged how quick or slowly it grows, trust it, have faith in it, keep giving your hands to it. Any project takes time, all takes time in life, just stay present and stay passionate for it.

Create a garden – and nurture it. You’ll see how the cycles of the lands and seasons humble us, and teach us the spiritual path. There will be weeds to clean, time to wait, and soil which holds something our eyes may not see bloom on the surface yet. All in its time. We don’t push seeds into the frozen ground in winter, flowers will not grow, it is not their time yet. All in its time. Nurture what is until then – tend to that which is beside and in front of you. Trust the timing of your life in that way of faith also.

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All photography by me of our beautiful wild roses.

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