DEVOTIONAL PRACTICE

by contemplativeinquiry

I’ve never really thought of my spiritual practice as devotional.  Most devotional practice concerns relationship with deity or deities who are perceived – or at least talked about – in terms of self-conscious, independent being. The most widely used practice is petitionary prayer. I have never sat easily with this, though I know it works for many other practitioners. One of the earliest self-directing steps I took in my OBOD path, 19 years ago, was to change the beginning of the Druid prayer when using it by myself.  Instead of ‘Grant O Go/dess thy protection’, I said ‘I seek, within Spirit, protection’.

Although ‘my’ (?) spirituality – even in its most withdrawn and solitary moments – is in many ways all about I-Thou relationship of various kinds, relationship with separated deity/deities has not been my way of expressing it.  I do have a relationship with the Holy Wisdom, who is more and greater than I am, but I do not experience ‘her’ as separate.  That’s complicated, and I can’t say what’s “really” going on there (to the extent that “really” might be a useful word).

So my devotion has to be different. And the difference goes beyond a shift from petitionary prayer to contemplative prayer or other forms of deity yoga that practitioners use to deepen a relationship with the divine, take on the presence and energy of the divine, become possessed by the divine, or enter fully into Godhead.  I am deeply moved by the stories (when shared) of people who go down these paths, whilst finding that I am on a different one.

So – at this stage of my journey – I am grateful to Sally Kempton and her Meditation for the love of it: enjoying your own deepest experience.  I’ve been in dialogue with this book for well over a year now, because I’ve drawn on its teaching and practice without exactly agreeing with the first of following the second.  But she has influenced both.  She calls her path a “devotional and contemplative tantra” – a “fusion of knowing and loving” that inspires her to meditate.  She says:

The way is tantric through recognizing “the world and ourselves as a tapestry woven of one single intelligent energy”.

It is devotional because “it cultivates a loving attention to ourselves and the world”.  It is contemplative because it asks us “to turn into and rest in the interior spaciousness where we know the self as pure transcendent awareness”.

I’m still in dialogue.  I’m not sure I’d express myself 100% in the same way.  But I find here – as in the case of Taoism understanding and practice – a view from another tradition which is close to that of my ever evolving Druidry.  In particular “loving attention to myself and the world” (especially other beings who are close to me) seems like a good way for me to reclaim the word “devotional” and see myself as both devotional and contemplative in my practice.

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