“Beauty is not in the face; Beauty is a light in the heart.” - Kahlil Gibran
This week in the online Spiritual Literacy program I am taking through Spirituality and Practice, we immersed ourselves in the practice of devotion.
We began the week with a talk via Zoom by Jamal Rahman, a Sufi inter-spiritual teacher.
As I watched Rahman, I was transfixed. And, I have since read and heard similar reactions from many others. At the end of his talk, many said their hearts overflowed.
Rahman’s presentation resonated, I believe, because of the light in his heart, and the way light shone through his eyes.
That light in his heart and the reflective light in his eyes is a direct result of him living a life of devotion in his own tradition.
Here is a little secret, one is at the heart of this program I am a part of: we don’t all have to believe the same things in order to learn from one another, or to experience similar spiritual realities. Despite participants in this program being of various traditions, or no specific tradition, they could recognize light in his heart, because light is universal to humanity connecting to something larger outside itself.
That something being Love.
Each of us might have varying religious or spiritual backgrounds: Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and so on. Through each of these traditions, practitioners’ express devotion in different ways. But the result is the same in all of them: a steady, conscious awareness of Something bigger than them being at the heart of all existence, and sustaining them, as they live lives of meaning and compassion toward all living beings.
As Rahman put it, the overarching goal of practicing devotion is to “go from knowledge of the tongue (mind), to knowledge of the heart.”
Devotion in the Catholic tradition can often be recognized and symbolized by the faithful praying the rosary. Other traditions use prayer beads too, which actually predate the rosary. For thousands of years, those who believe in something bigger than themselves have used a mala, which has 108 beads, to practice devotion in Buddhism and Hinduism.
There are countless other ways to be devout as well. The key is to practice consistently.
Maybe you get up each morning and spend time by yourself, reading from Scripture. That is devotion.
Maybe you chant or listen to chant each day in words from your faith. That is devotion.
Maybe you have a practice of walking each day at the same time, as a way to connect to your spirit. That is devotion.
Maybe you have a keyword you return to throughout your day as a way to stay grounded in the Holy. That is devotion.
Maybe you spend an hour each day in prayer or meditation, or in utter silence. That is devotion.
Those who follow Christianity will recognize in St. Paul’s direction to “pray without ceasing,” the heart of what the practice of devotion is based upon.
Devotion is a foundational practice in my life, and in the spiritual life in general.
By practicing devotion on a regular basis, in whatever form we choose, we are training our minds to focus on the Holy, so that our lives will begin to express and reflect that connection.
To make devotion a regular part of your life, pick something that feels comfortable to you, as you are more likely to stick to it, and reap the spiritual benefits this practice promises.
SPIRIT MATTERS is a weekly column that examines spirituality. Contact Jerrilyn Zavada at firstname.lastname@example.org to share how you engage your spirit in your life and community.