In my writing and conference sessions I sometimes talk about how devotional practice is essentially an emotional experience – it is something that flows from the interior world to the exterior world via the expression of emotional sentiments. However, the activities we adopt as expressions also act as stimulants for emotions we wish to have; that is, we can aspire to the emotional experiences characteristic of the devotional path – we aren’t expected to come fully loaded with everything we have the capacity to feel. The expressions are containers for both what we already feel and what we hope to feel.
I’ve struggled with my practice for a while now and I finally hit on what was challenging me. I’m not feeling the interior sentiments that I hope to feel. Even though I’m doing the same things, I’m not feeling the same things. I keep hoping that the same actions will evoke the same emotional reactions and they haven’t.
My personal solution for this (and it’s not the only solution or the only correct solution) is to simplify my actions a little bit and focus more on correcting my interior stance. I’m going to focus more on being grateful for the opportunity to worship and practice, and less on what I’m actually doing. There are times when perhaps the right course of action is to lean into the doing and take refuge in the repetition, but right now I need to work on my interior stance. I need to get my heart and head back in the right place.
There are so many potential containers for sentiment; indeed, we are limited only be our imagination and ability to see potential containers. Our entire lives are filled with the opportunity to recall, experience, hope for, and share the sentiments of the devotional path. Sometimes that takes us in front of the altar, but that’s only one possible venue of expression among countless. For me, my time in front of the altar is a very important venue of expression because this is such a private setting. It’s just me and my closest Beloveds, free from the pressure of other factors in my life. Sometimes I talk to Them, sometimes I just sit. Sometimes I take a lot of time, sometimes less. I need to work on making sure this time is a genuine and as honest as I can make it. This way, hopefully, I can learn to see my interior world with greater clarity and honesty in turn.