Last night I was sitting at the altar and thinking about how important these moments really are to me. I struggle more when my practice flags; the light and fire and sound and scent of my worship activities sustain me on a deep level, and they provide a shelter and succor that nothing else really seems to. It occurred to me, for the nth time, that this moment can’t be bought or sold or packaged or advertised; it was free from the commercial reality that I find so oppressive in my daily life. Although devotional experience can’t be commodified, plenty of people try to leverage it in the service of their own agenda, trying to position themselves as gatekeepers to genuine experiences, to Real Devotion(TM).
There’s a reason I teach and share information the way I do: I want to empower people with the confidence that helps them have the devotional experiences they are entitled to by virtue of having a spiritual reality. That is, because people have a natural, inherent, and real spiritual reality, they are entitled to devotional experiences if they want them.
So many of us – myself included! – lack the confidence to seek these experiences on their own terms because we worry about one sort of insufficiency or another. We don’t know enough, aren’t pure enough, aren’t committed enough, aren’t devoted enough. And none of these things are true. This is the truth that I want to convey to others, not because I’m some kind of expert or professional, but because I’m here struggling too. I’m haunted by my own feelings of insufficiency, and I often feel paralyzed because of them. I know how hard it is to simply show up at the altar with all my imperfections and hope to have a moment of communion with a reality that feels entirely perfect. That moment doesn’t always happen. Sometimes it’s just me sitting in the heap of doubt, sadness, and failure that I carry around with me and saying, “here I am. This is who You’ve chosen to share love with.”
I get it. I know how much this sucks. I don’t want others to get stymied in their relationships and in their practices the way that I so often do, so I aim to help people trust themselves in devotional matters. It’s possible to learn from ourselves; it’s possible – necessary, even – to become an expert regarding our own devotional life. Even though we’re continually learning and seeking refinement of our knowledge, we can gain confidence enough to trust ourselves first and best of all.