I am deeply familiar with the beautiful side of devotion. What has been unfamiliar to me is the fierce side. One night, I experienced this other side of devotion in a dream.
In th dream, an indigenous woman called me by phone, although she was also somehow physically present. She was more fierce than anything or anyone I have known. She told me two things – that I was attached to the white walls of my home, and that I needed to open my heart to women in a new way. She said, The only importance is that women’s hearts be open, and then what flows through them can come into life.
At the end of the dream she took off her necklace and placed it around my neck. It was a long necklace made of slate green stones strung together. A certain constriction I had felt was now gone. When I awoke, I felt an opening in my heart.
A few years ago I asked a friend, Sister Galen, about her understanding of devotion. Sister Galen is a Benedictine nun, Jungian analyst, and poet. She said,
“Devotion is a natural instinct, but it has been diverted. It is often seen as a weakness, and then there is a betrayal of this natural instinct. We have been warned against trusting ourselves. There is a deep place in women, and that place is sealed off. It is viewed with suspicion.
Women struggle against guilt. And I see in women a fear of being quiet. They are frightened of being in a space where nothing appears to be happening. There is a space inside of them, and it is unknown, undiscovered. People impose themselves on this space, rather than trusting this sense of knowing, holding the pieces, and listening. In the last 10-15 years, I have seen how there are no maps for Americans, no maps for their interior landscapes. It’s as if the inner world has been turned into a psychological concept.”
She said, “There are great mysteries of the soul. There has been an attempt to soften this mystery, to make it nice. But it can be fierce, unrelenting. And in those depths that we face, there we find our devotion.”
I also interviewed Tessa Bielecki, who lives in a log cabin outside Crestone, Colorado, with no running water, no electricity. She comes from a strong tradition, but is interested in a broad approach of spirituality that goes beyond any particular tradition. Tessa spoke intimately about how she lives her devotion.
“I have to be immersed in the ordinary. That is where my devotion is, after years of doing practice. I get up and greet the day and spend a lot of time just silently tuning in to the mood of the day. It’s as sacred as anything I have ever done. When I speak of devotion, it is never a technique.
Everything I do every day, the sacred is shining out of it. Washing the dishes, stacking the wood, even at the computer writing to people, is a deep act of relationship, an act of love.”
These stories speak of devotion both beautiful and fierce, which grounds me in the earth, in the cells of my body. It is a deep bowing to the life that I am given.