way of devotion
Devotion, praise, and worship are most often thought of as acts of religion, associated with religious observances. But they can also become paths of spiritual transformation. Devotion has the capacity to absorb the whole of our mind, heart, soul and body in a great yearning that propels us out of our limited personal interests and captivates us with the unending beauty, wonder and awe that encompasses the perfect, pure Reality that is the Infinite.
Worship lifts the spirit out of the confines of the trivial, inconsequential concerns of the material self and opens it to the astonishing miracle of the exquisite transcendence of God, Truth, Reality, which is the source and goal of its own being.
All that we are and imagine ourselves to be, comes from God. All that we most desire, resides in God. The most ancient first love of every heart is God. All the other things we go after are just the reflections of that original infinite beauty and loveliness that is God. When our hearts begin to find the beauty of God in every beautiful thing, the power of God in every powerful experience, the tenderness, gentleness of God in every sweet compassionate encounter, we begin to realize that we are turning toward that essence of our very self.
Devotion sets the mind on a new quest, redirects its attention, readjusts its focus. We begin to notice the soft ephemeral touch of God on all of life. As we experience our daily activities, the mind catches glimpses of God around the edges, underneath the strident obviousness of everything. Devotion begins a gradual shifting of the mind's interests and the heart begins to feel the profoundly deep resonances of delight, hope, grace, beneficence emanating from within the heart of life itself.
The mind progressively learns to recognize the hand of God in the mundane as well as the sublime, in the dark as well as the light. It trains itself to look deeply, intently, resolutely to find God even in pain, injury, injustice, tragedy and heartbreak. The mind looks for God and offers each minute whisper to the yearning heart.
The mind teaches itself to practice devotion when life is wonderful, when life is terrible, when life is tedious. It turns itself with deliberate intent toward that inaudible murmur at the boundary of conscious awareness, focuses its attention on the place it imagines God to be, and reaches toward That with a constancy of determination.
Devotion takes each fleeting feeling of the heart, gives it words and sings it out toward that unseen Presence who is closer to us than our own breath. It sings the sorrow and the joy, the despair and the hope. It sings from adoration and from anger and hurt. It continues to sing even when it cannot see or feel the presence of God. It sings itself tenaciously into the void and waits.
The path of devotion nourishes the heart, gives it the strength to carry on. The heart feels all of the good and bad of life flowing through it. When the mind focuses on God with devotion, it lifts the heart above the ever-changing experiences of life. The heart is able to transcend its sorrow in the embrace of God. It finds its joys magnified in the presence of That infinite spring of delight. Tedium is forgotten in contentment; exhaustion unravels into its rest; the endless meaningless despair finds the imperceptible Knower of infinite suffering remaining close in the silent darkness.
But with every path there are difficulties, ways that we can drift off course, get turned around. On the path of devotion the difficulty is in that toward which it is directed; it is easily deflected to lesser targets. The wandering of the focus is not intentional, not even conscious.
We forget that we cannot really know God as he is, but can only perceive minute fragments that fall within our limited understanding. And even those fragments that we think we understand, we misunderstand. The limited ego-self, or the intellect, or some emotional attachments, can mislead us into thinking that our understanding of God is the "right" understanding. And before we know it, our worship and devotion has been diverted from God and become a talisman for asserting the rightness of our beliefs about God.
We need to keep tuning our hearts and minds to respond to that hidden chord, that silent song that is the breath of God. We need to be always, continually turning our gaze to find where God is in the myriad, jumbled, transmutations of our life. It is that seeking, that turning that is our spirit's truest transforming devotion.