Journey of a seeker: Devotion as a spiritual practice

devotion as a spiritual practice, spirituality

Devotion: what images does the word conjure up for you?

Until about a decade ago, it brought to mind images of the prayer room at home, of the temple I visited as a child, the church I sought refuge in during my teenage years when I was looking for peace.

Over the years, though, this image has changed. Devotion, for me, is no longer limited to prayer; it has become much vaster and deeper than that.

For me, devotion is about the tending of the flame: being deeply aware of my own needs and desires, inner  impulses and self care. Because it is only when I am nourished and looked after on the inside that I can devote myself to the outside.Devotion. There is a sacred quality to the word. And yet, one of the meanings of devotion is the key to understanding it better:

the fact or state of being ardently dedicated and loyal

But it bears thinking:

Can we really be devoted to anything if we are not, first, devoted to ourselves? Click To Tweet

And as selfish as that may sound, I assure you, it is not.

It took me a long time to wrap my head around this. Devotion to self, in a spiritual context, goes much deeper than spa dates and bubble baths. It is about getting intimately familiar with the workings of our inner mind, our impulses, our desires. We do this through mindfulness, meditation, writing, nurturing and heeding our intuition, shadow work and integration.

When we care, deeply, to nourish our heart, our mind, our soul, that inner devotion automatically starts permeating into our outer world. We can then bring that devotion to the things that matter deeply to *us*: art, creativity, advocacy, activism. The inner feeds the outer; the outer does not always feed the inner. Because if we are not in devotion to ourselves, meaning that we do not know ourselves intimately, the rigour of the activism, art, life, will inevitably weigh us down and corrode our peace of mind.

But when we can draw on our inner impulse, when we know what we need to feel soothed and rested, we know when to rest and refuel so that we can fight the good fight. It took me a long time to understand this facet of devotion – it was only when I looked back on my journey of the last couple of years and connected the dots that this concept clicked into place for me.

Devotion. It is a many-layered concept. I have just begun to peel back its layers, and there is much that I am yet to discern. But for now, I remain devoted to tending the flame: to making time for a regular meditation practice, to meet myself on the page, to commune with the divine through paint and art, to create ceremony and ritual, to try to make the mundane sacred.


End notes: Towards the end of last year, I went through a rather rough time. I had a falling out with a spiritual mentor, which pushed me to a crisis of faith. As I contemplated the lessons and the warning signs that I ignored, I took the question of the meaning of devotion and the role of devotion in spiritual life to the meditation cushion. This is the answer I received from my inner wise woman. I sat with it for a long time because it was so unexpected, so beyond the pale of anything I had ever heard, that I was afraid to trust it.

But there is no point in asking a question if you refuse to heed the answer. And so I spent some months following this advice, and I found that these words had immense truth. As I tended to my bruised heart; as I paid attention to my needs and desires {not to be confused with material desires in this case}, I started finding my way back home. And as I did, I felt like this was a truth I needed to share. But again, I sat on that nudge for a long time, afraid to put it out there because it can be a challenging concept to think of devotion and the self in the same breath. Ultimately, though, it is up to you to weigh these words, to test them against your inner knowing, and to see how they land for you.

So, tell me, what does devotion mean to you?

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19 Comments

  1. I liked that you mentioned self love isn’t about spa dates or beauty treatments. It runs much more deeper than that where you try to understand what truly makes you happy and what you desire – good or bad. The idea of spending on materialistic needs in an attempt to be happy sounds superficial to me. Although a decade back, I wasn’t like that. Maybe wisdom arrives at its own pace.
    Devotion to me is to be passionate about something in life where you spend all your energy and time around it.

    • Sadly so many people still think only of spa dates and movie nights when they think of self love. These are also important, but this isn’t what self-love is about at all. Until we don’t get clear on what makes us happy and what our desires are, all the spa dates and materialistic goods in the world won’t help! And yes, devotion is that too – art is one area of devotion for both of us, correct? 🙂

  2. Hey take care. Good that finally you have got your answers. There are times in life when you know the answers yet you refuse to believe and you get into a loop of committing the same mistake. With age I have realised this and it has taken a lot of time to realise this. Good luck to you

  3. What an absolutely beautiful post. When I think of devotion, I think of my faith in God first, and then I think of devotion to my husband and family. Your explanation of devotion to mindfulness is just perfect and something that relates to what I am currently bringing to my life. So, thank you for an excellent post!

  4. Lovely post. Devotion for me is being a single mum to my three incredible children and ensuring we (our little family unit) is cared for, happy, and healthy. I totally agree that self-care is much more than a spa day. It begins within and radiates out into our daily lives.

  5. Devotion to me is much wider than the religious context. I think devotion is all about sticking through…your passion, partner, choices…
    In normal context, people usually associate it with a religion. But I think it’s about your attitude! What do you think?

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