Both my granny Grace and the grand-Jansens were devoted to their faith. Their devotion was demonstrated by saying prayers before meals, a cross or two hanging on the walls of their home, speaking about their faith in God to others unabashedly, and by going to church each Sunday.
I recall feeling a devotional connection, as a child, though my devoutness seemed much stronger during the quiet times alone in my room, with childhood dogs, or lying underneath the giant pines in the backyard. I created personal rituals, to honor my personal connection to this unseeable energy the priest called God. One in particular involved taking my grandpa Ben’s (died when I was 6 weeks old) wood cross. The face portion of slid off the back side of the cross and fit into a cutout on the inside (of the bottom portion). An oblong hole, on the inside of the back piece was cut out for storage. I placed the small, white candles stored in the oblong hole into additional circular holes carved into the inside of the back piece, as well. I believe I would honor the setup by mumbling a prayer and dabbing a bit of holy water on my forehead. The bottle was replenished with each time I would go to church.
Various regiments of certain organized religions such as Catholicism (which I grew up practicing) often made me pause and question their intention. Was it truly a portrayal of a grander love? A devotional practice with restrictions never quite fit for me, so ultimately I declined to be confirmed as a Catholic, to my grand Jansen’s dismay. Since that time I’ve delved into many different religious-based offerings form those of Judaism to Buddhism (my aunt has been a Buddhist since the 70s). None of them quite fit the feeling of God/the Divine I experienced on my own. The capacity to connect with the Divine source was put into hyper-important mode as I faced a terminal illness at the end of my teenage years.
When you are told you may die, your whole world shifts. The details of that journey are another story and detailed in my memoir, Inspired to Live: The Story of an Unlikely Rebel. Attentiveness to personal faith and devotional connections cracked wide open at this point in my life. It is when Yoga(the meditative and mindful aspects) entered my life.
“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back its old dimensions.”
Living life through a Yogic philosophical lens allows this Divine connection to remain alive for me pretty much every day. As most of you know I spent two months this spring in India. For the last three years svādhyāya(self study) has been deepening my experience and understanding of the marga ( Yogic path) of bhakti.
image of Bhakti Sanskrit necklace
Devotion is the literal translation of bhakti. This most recent trip to India culminated a formal training in the elements of bhakti – mantra, Sanskrit, instrumentation, non-violent communication, and other subtle practices. Upon arriving home and taking time to reflect I feel fully reunited with the excitement and wonder of my childhood ponderings on the Divine. I am grateful deeply grateful for this devotional portion of Yoga, and all the others. I appreciate how they all continue to be a force enticing me to keep exploring, experiencing, and enlivening my connection with the Divine Spirit amongst and within us all.
Would you like to know a bit more about bhakti from different perspectives? Take a gander here.