January 17, 2017
On Devotion: what happens when we invest in self-care
I believe in devotion. On giving it over to a higher power – or at the very least remembering that I am but a teeny-tiny cell in the body of the universe. And that impermanence is very real and very much not faffing about.
For a long time, devotion scared me.
It frightened me to think about something so very great and surrendering to it. See, I like things just so. I like my ducks in a row and my space tidy and my shit together. I enjoy care-taking. Which is its own devotion…
But the devotion I was facing was a different sort. This devotion I’m talking about is really about walking into uncertainty; it’s about discomfort and the truth. It’s about trust in what I cannot see.
Trust in what I cannot see is scary stuff (for me).
Because what happens if things don’t work out?
What happens if I made a mistake or it turned out to be a waste of time or money or my heart?
What happens if I devote, and things just stay the same?
I asked all of those questions, and no answers came (surprise, surprise).
And of course I was frightened. Because I’d already been let down so many times by promises of magic fixes and improbable solutions.
None of these quick-fixes worked, obviously, and led me to the conclusion that I’d been offered repeatedly on my healing journey:
I was told that I was broken.
That if only I paid enough money, bought the right things, followed all the rules, dutifully, then I would be “cured.” Or “fixed.” I can’t remember the words, but the sentiment was that I could buy my way into being whole.
When I did those things, I’d be entitled to healing.
All I needed to do was to give away my power and wisdom.
That was the flavor of devotion I was sold: disempowerment and a framework of brokenness. No wonder I was terrified.
But it turns out: Those are not devotion.
You don’t need stuff. You don’t need anyone else’s wisdom. Certainly, you don’t need to rely on outsized promises.
Devotion is something else.
Yes, it is a kind of giving yourself over. It means digging deep and making sincere investment. But it also means committing to the journey, not just to the quick fix. In taking the plunge into the unknown.
It means leaning into equanimity, not as something that devolves into despair or indifference, but as something comforting that says, “We are not in charge, so all we can do is to do our best.”
And there is compassion, and there is joy, and there is lovingkindness – all there, allies for our awakening heart.
Devotion means being willing.
To have some skin in the game.
To invest – not just money (but maybe money).
It is not an act, but a process – a practice – of continually choose to wake up to our suffering, and the suffering of others, and to meet that with compassion.
And, perhaps most importantly, to do the hard thing: to do what is right, regardless if anyone is watching. Sometimes this means being unpopular, making change, and undergoing deep growth. It’s a journey that can take a huge amount of energy and courage.
This change – what happens after we invest – can be painful.
But what we receive in return – the fruits of our devotion – create the conditions where we can endure that. We trust our own strength.
Indeed, devotion means building trust.
It is the ongoing process of having your own back (and letting others having it, too). When we take even the smallest steps toward our devotion, we build this trust. We become someone who is deserving of that trust, as well.
It doesn’t happen overnight. It happens little by little, within yourself.
Sometimes, devotion means grinding it out, even when you don’t quite feel like it.
By making a true investment in our well-being, we commit to see it through, beyond the ups and downs, toward something brighter, something holier, and something unattainable without diligent practice.
This is when we lean into our belief in whatever we know to be higher than this tangible experience here. What we know to be sacred. It’s this knowing that keeps us on the path, even when it’s inconvenient, uncomfortable or