100_4239I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the idea of devotion.  My blogging buddy Caer over at Not All Who Wander Are Lost has just finished a little series on developing a devotional practice.  The work she’s done is deep and useful, but my own explorations of this concept take me in a very different direction.

Caer acknowledges that devotion and worship are closely related words.  I’d add to that list: discipline, commitment, dedication, daily practice, reverence, piety, allegiance and loyalty.  All of these words have clear definitions and what I think of as fuzzy meanings.  They all come charged with our personal relationship with them in our daily lives, in our culture, and in our Spiritual practices.

I read a while back someone speaking about daily practice.  She said that the reason we give for not being successful is that we don’t have discipline.  She didn’t like that because discipline implies punishment.  She preferred the term devotion.  That resonated with me and got me started on this windy road.

100_4065 I was with my women’s group talking about a ritual we’re planning in February as we start a new series of ritual exploration.  I was referring to the group making a commitment.  They were offended, they’d already committed.  They were happy however to do a dedication.  There were no objections to the ritual planning, just the language.

Caer describes herself as an Urban Monastic.  In that context it makes sense that committing to a daily practice of ritual acts of worship is an appropriate expression of devotion, and an admirable one.    When the word devotion conjures up images of piety and reverence what we expect is exactly what Caer is doing.

For me the strongest association I have with the word devotion is affection.  When affection becomes ritualized it sometimes seems to lose its value, unless that ritualization is also reinforced with random acts of (you guessed it) devotion.   It is the paying attention and responding part of devotion that informs much of my spiritual practice.  Much more so than the daily worship or reverent action that make devotion easily identifiable.100_3184

For instance, supposing I saw healing as a spiritual calling.  Suppose I pursued this professionally and became a nurse.  What if I go to work everyday reaffirming that calling.   The reaffirmation – the ritual – isn’t the devotion.  It is the day-to-day practice of the profession, the act of following the calling and responding to need,  where the devotion is expressed.  My friend Donald at Walking in Beauty refers to this kind of responsiveness as meeting a “joyful obligation.”

Even working with the same aspect of the Divine, different people will have different relationships, different callings.   Using Hecate as an example one person might be called as a guardian of the gates, another called to give light and direction at the crossroads, another called to make challenges and give riddles at those crossroads, someone might be called to run with the hounds, 100_4681another to guide souls into the afterlife.  Thinking about what might be effective or appropriate devotional practice for each kind of relationship you can guess they’d be very different.

The one whose devotional practice is going to be perceived as most pious is the one who is called to take care of Hecate directly.  This person is called to light the lantern and prepare offerings of food and drink every day.  Easy to spot the devotion there, but that does not necessarily make that person more devoted than any of the others.

100_0003I was talking about this concept with a group of friends last week and another word got thrown into the mix.  Gratitude.  It is hard to be responsive when we’re not paying attention.  The practice of gratitude opens us up to the light and allows us to see in a different way.  It promotes that desire to give back, in reverence and devotion, celebrating the abundance in our lives.

Taking action on that thankfulness is an act of devotion.  Being committed, dedicated and loving is devotion.  Recognizing and responding to joyful obligations is devotion.  And yes, when you’ve dedicated yourself to working with a particular Deity, doing the research and following through with appropriate daily practice, as Caer described in her posts, is devotion.

About lisaspiral

I've been writing and speaking about spirituality to small groups for years and am looking to expand my horizons. Hopefully this blog will inspire you to expand yours as well.

Posted on January 13, 2014, in daily practice, grattitude, Pagan, spiritual, spirituality and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. My mother still has her devotions (as she calls them) every morning. I’ve always associated them with meditating, which I am horrible at. 🙂

  2. I guess I associate this mostly with Christian practices. And, like Andra, my mom had daily devotions–of that sort. I don’t think that self-discipline involves punishment–only the kind imposed from the outside does. Also, I’m fascinated by the term “urban monastic” but have NO idea what that is.

    Hope you’re doing well, my friend.

    Hugs from Ecuador,

    • Although the terminology is Christian the actual practice of being devoted to whatever the practice may be is much more universal. You can easily see ancestor worship as devotional, with an implied punishment (making the ancestors angry) when you fail in your devotions.
      As far as urban monastic goes I suspect it’s something Caer herself is working out.

      • Hello Kathy! I’m the self-described “urban monastic”. I saw the question and thought I’d explain what I mean by the term!

        When we think about monastics – monks and nuns – we think of strictly regimented lives spent in seclusion and contemplation, right? I do as much of that as I can, just like a nun would. My life IS strictly regimented, and I spend a majority of my free time in various modes of contemplation. I place my relationship to my Lady above my relationship to any person, which means a traditional marriage and family are no longer options for me, and strive to reach ideals of simplicity and discipline in my own life. That’s the “monastic” part, and it isn’t much different than what you’d find in the lives of other monastics in a wide variety of faiths.

        However, I simply don’t have the option of seclusion. Polytheists ad pagans lack the support structure for that. I have to work in the world to earn my way. I have rent to pay, groceries to buy, public transit to navigate. Instead of living in the country somewhere under a vow of silence I live in a large city that rarely sleeps,. That’s where the “urban” comes in.

        Does that make sense?

  3. I am always surprised (wonder why?) to realize that a word or concept means something different to each person. One of us might resonate with a word like devotion and have a feeling-sense of affection. Another might have an entirely different feeling-sense associated with it. Often the word “discipline” resonates with me as discipleship, as reverence. However, other times it holds connotations of punishment. Perhaps we all must seek our own language to describe our spiritual journey, and perhaps that changes over time.

    Thank you for this thoughtful post, Lisa–you really made me think. Blessings to you this upcoming week.

  4. I loved this, and I’m so thrilled that you referenced one of my posts here!

    The part that most spoke to me was when you were using your Hecate example, and said (paraphrasing here) that visible daily devotional acts do not necessarily make someone more devoted than those doing less visible work.

    This is SO true. I think that, as a culture, we don’t really have a framework for the devoted layperson any more. I was recently looking at a picture from Pompeii of a standard house shrine, and it came to me that we don’t have anything like that in the modern day US. Most of us don’t have a daily connection to spirit at all, in any fashion whatsoever. We think that we either show up to church and balance our checkbooks once a week or we become full-on religious specialists. No middle ground, no devoted layperson, no way forward without jumping to extremes.

    The thing is that the majority of the people out there are going to get more from a middle path than anything else. Balancing a connection with the Powers with things like career advancement and family is a struggle. It’s posts like this that will help people figure out how they can maybe achieve some of that balance in their own lives. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the topic!

    • Thanks for your comments and for reblogging my post. I agree that it is hard to find people in that middle ground. Part of the reason my workshop “Daily Practice Sucks” is so popular is that the desire is there but the support isn’t.

  5. Reblogged this on Not All Who Wander Are Lost and commented:
    This is a different perspective on some of the devotional stuff I’ve been blogging lately, so I thought I’d share!

  6. thank you, the article and the true happiness rays began to warm hearts, when we share it with sincerity. Greetings from Gede Prama 🙂

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