The Practice of Devotion

bahkti-devotion


“Devotion is commitment gone mad. It is mad in the sense that you have to leave the order of your mind to enter into the wildness of your heart. Devoted people are literally seized by love. To live devoted means to lie in the lap of the Divine.” ~ Richard Rudd

What are you devoted to? Who are you devoted to? How does your devotion help you to navigate your path in this crazy world? These are questions I ask myself and my community on a regular basis. My answer has always been the same for as far back as I can remember. I believe the 9 year old Terilyn, navigating her first year as an outcast at a new school would answer the same as the 42 year old Terilyn going through the hardest year of her life with divorce and family tragedy: Love.
I am utterly and without question devoted to Love. Does this mean I am a happy go-lucky ball of sunshine all the time? Absolutely not! In fact, I am often quite the opposite; ready to weep with outrage for the inequality and injustice in our world. But what it does mean is I have found a truth greater than my fear and anger, greater than my grief and despair to yoke myself to in times of struggle: the power of  my spirit to Love.
Simply put, the act of yoking myself to this truth is a form of devotion.

Love begins with love of self and in my experience, self-love is a practice and often not an easy one. We live in a culture that profits greatly on our insecurities and lack of self-love and we are constantly bombarded with images of what we "need to become in order to be worthy of love".  So being devoted to the practice of self-love is a radical act. Wanna start a revolution? Truly embrace your shadow and your perceived flaws, forgive yourself and let that be your pathway to loving yourself. If we can devote ourselves to that practice daily then perhaps we can truly forgive and love others. If we are able to embody this and teach it to our children, how revolutionary would that be?

There are many ways to cultivate devotion daily, our yoga practice is one great way, moving in time with the rhythm of our breath, devoting ourselves to the self inquiry that arises with our practice. Another fantastic way is through singing and chanting. Bhakti yoga translates to yoga of devotion. Often in a Bhakti yoga class you will sing/chant throughout the asana practice or at some point in the class and let me tell you that is a very direct pathway to opening up your heart and recognizing yourself as a being of Love! When you're in a room full of 50 other yogis all doing the same, well there's nothing quite like it. In that moment you know we can change the world through our devotion to Love, there are no feelings of doubt that can trump that energy! I have the absolute pleasure of leading a Bhakti class every Sunday morning at
8 Limbs West Seattle that we lovingly call "yoga church" and it sets the tone for my week. I am in awe of the community we have created with that class and I feel so very blessed.

Another way I cultivate devotion is through the art of storytelling. I love mythology and breaking down the meanings within the stories. I find every time I retell a story I drop a little deeper into what each character represents. My favorite yoga teacher and storyteller is Sianna Sherman and she taught me to remember that we are every character in the story; the ones we most love and wish to emulate and the ones we find most repulsive. For when we open our minds up to being every character, a whole depth of understanding of both our ego and our highest self unfolds. She has a storytelling cd set of Hindu myths I find great inspiration in. A wonderful book on the Hindu Goddesses and modern day archetypes is "Awakening Shakti" by Sally Kempton. I find the more I read, listen to and retell these ancient myths, the more I discover that when you strip all the layers of the human experience down to the core, it always comes back to Love, pure and simple. This then reignites my feelings of devotion.

I would like to offer you a simple yet profound practice of forgiveness and love. I have found doing versions of this practice to be an easy way of shifting my perspective back to one of daily devotion. It is a mantra practice/prayer from the Hawaiian tradition called Ho'oponopono. It can be done in as little as a few minutes or as long as time allows. I find devoting myself to a few minutes of practice every day is more beneficial than a longer period of time more infrequently.

Allow yourself to be comfortable, you can do this practice seated on cushions with your back supported by a wall or even lying on the floor with knees bent and feet flat to the earth. Bring your left hand to your heart and your right hand to your navel. Notice the subtle rise and fall of your belly and rise and fall of your chest with your natural, effortless breath. Tune into the power you have to forgive and to love and trust that this power will heal you. Begin repeating to yourself :

I am sorry
Please forgive me
Thank you
I love you

Say these words to the wounded part of yourself until you feel a sense of calmness and peace. It is not uncommon to cry and feel strong emotions arise during this practice. If that happens try and stay with the discomfort of your emotions until they pass. They will pass.

Then when you feel ready visualize someone you love very much seated in front of you. Picture gazing into their eyes and really allowing yourself to be seen and really seeing them and repeat the same words:

I am sorry
Please forgive me
Thank you
I love you

And then imagine your loved one saying it back to you. Feel the waves of healing through love and forgiveness wash over you.

Then imagine someone past or present that you have had conflict with. Picture them seated in front of you. Really allow yourself to see them and be seen and repeat those words

I am sorry
Please forgive me
Thank you
I love you

And hear this person say it back to you. This is a profound practice and can really shift the dynamic and allow great healing in even the most difficult situations. Stay with any feelings that arise until you feel a sense of calmness and peace. This, like anything gets easier with practice and I have found it to be relevant even when I don't have prevalent feelings of discord with anyone. It still helps to peel away the layers of my ego and my shadow and reveal that authentic being of Love that I am.

I gladly step again and again out of the order of my mind and into the sweet wildness of my heart. What, my friends, are you devoted to?