The Power of Devotion
I hadn't really thought about "devotion" as a feeling that could enrich a person's personal growth and development. I have thought about the importance of feeling a strong "desire" to want to grow and evolve, but not devotion. I associated the term "devotion" with religion and deities that one is devoted to. But recently, the term "devotion" has been showing up in my words and books I'm reading, and I'm starting to understand that we can be devoted to something within ourselves as well.
Recently in yoga classes I've found myself saying things like, "inhale your arms up towards the sky, fully devoted to your breath," or "with full devotion to the breath, exhale and fold into the pose..." The breath changes everything, it's the thing you can control and when you do, everything else changes: the relaxation response kicks, your heartbeat slows, you feel more calm, your body has a chance to heal and restore, and your perspective changes as it's easier to see the outer world in a positive light. So why not devote yourself completely to that breath, and the rest, all the positive results, will follow?
With devotion to the breath in your yoga practice, your flight in "eagle posture" will be more steady, but outside of your practice your breathing habits will have been retrained to promote this relaxation response at will. For example, when your manager calls a last-minute meeting right when you were supposed to take your lunchtime yoga class, rather than tense up, you devote yourself to breath and breathe the hell out of that meeting. Rudolf Steiner, philosopher and educator, discusses the importance of feeling a sense of "devotion to truth and knowledge" as the first step to developing our inner worlds. You may think of your "inner world" as that place within you that is composed of muscle, tissue, bone; your physical body. You may think of your "inner world" as the mind which controls thoughts and habits and the functioning of your physical body. Or you may see this "inner world" as the soul which directs all else that makes you who you are, a mind and body with a rich inner soul life that is connected with the outer world.
Feeling a sense of devotion and veneration, that deep respect for truth, is attained by looking inward and expanding our consciousness. When we look inward we can change our "thought-life" so that when we notice negative critical judgments we can convert them into thoughts that focus on "admiration, respect, and veneration for the world and for life." He explains that we can develop this "vivid inner life" by minimizing and lessening outer distractions, which strengthens that power of devotion. Developing your inner world will help you get closer to truth, to your truth. That inner development and growth will change how you relate and connect to the outer world.
Steiner reminds us that "we must have experienced the divine within ourselves before we can hope to discover it in our environment" . A traveler, he says, who passes through a beautiful mountainous region who has developed their inner life having a "depth of soul and wealth of feeling" will experience that outer landscape differently than a traveler who has not.
"One person sails across the ocean, and only a few inward experiences pass through his soul; another will hear the eternal language of the cosmic spirit; for him are unveiled the mysterious riddles of existence. We must learn to remain in touch with our own feelings and ideas if we wish to develop any intimate relationship with the outer world".
Looking inward, you can experience inner freedom and truth, and feeling a sense of devotion to that experience is key. With that devotion, the rest, the positive results, will follow. These ideas supports the notions that:
When we experience clarity within ourselves, the outer world appears more clear.
When we experience truth within ourselves, the illusions in the outer world become more apparent
These are concepts we concentrate on in The Vision Board Practice class that I currently teach only in person, and will soon transition to online offerings. If you've begun and/or completed a Vision Board in The VBP class, and you fall off the horse every now and then or for long bouts, I want to remind you as I remind myself when I don't make time to practice, that the intention for this practice is to enrich your own inner life towards devotion of knowledge and truth, to expand your consciousness so you can identify the thoughts that don't serve you so you can replace them with thoughts that serve you, so you can feel connected within and therefore connected with the outer world.
It's the same with your meditation or yoga practice, your daily run, your spiritual reading, whatever it is that helps you get closer to truth.
Keep on keeping on. It's hard work to remain devoted and not give in to distraction, but if you know that this activity is an act of devotion to yourself, your development, and your existence in the world, it's easier to push distractions aside. If you know someone who might want to take the class or you haven't taken the class yet but would like to, I'll be teaching the introductory class next Saturday, June 25, at Yoga Shelter in Rochester Hills from 4:30 - 6:30 p.m. Click HERE for more information and testimonials or HERE to sign-up. With love and devotion, Sandy
 Steiner, R. (1947). Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and its Attainment. New York: Anthroposophic Press, Inc.