During my recent trip to India I found myself contemplating devotion more deeply, a path I have been exploring for some years. I want to share those thoughts and the journey I have had over the last ten years.
From the first day I started singing Kirtan the split between my head and heart on devotion, and what it really is, has always confused me. Kirtan has been like a calling for me, something that I cannot not do. I have always had this deep sense that without needing to understand it too much, it could take me on a deep journey into love and acceptance. Into the flow of life and the sheer beauty that existence can be, with its joy and sadness, it has also been my path to share this with others. Yet, like so many people, my mind likes ‘facts’ and I shy away from religion and lip service to ritual.
Kirtan stands in a place that has often been uncomfortable for me on a mind level, as it is impossible not to acknowledge that we are singing the names of Hindu gods. Yet something has always told me that to focus only on this level will not help me truely understand the depth that devotion can take me to. For me devotion, is not simply the opening of the heart, but, increasingly, a deep bowing in humility to the enormity of the power of universal love, the incredibly powerful all pervading energy that penetrates into every part of our existence and that which witnesses this incredible dance of life. In that bowing, I feel I have the potential to complete freedom, which is not yet realised.
I have spent and still spend so much of my life not connecting, not listening, wrapped in my own neurosis that this energy becomes forgotten and with that comes a sense of deep lack. Loneliness of the deepest kind. Yet the more I acknowledge and notice and bow my head in surrender to what is unfolding in front of me, the more I sense this incredible power and feel the support and guidance I so long for. With this also comes a deeper understanding and relationship with the energies I have been singing the names of for so long, otherwise known as gods.
I spend much of my time, as many do, massively confused by Indian philosophy, it is so different from the rather fundamentalist Christianity I met and rejected at school, and hugely complex. Gradually the importance of intellectually understanding it is diminishing and my own connection and relationship with the divine is developing. The Hindu gods are increasingly coming alive for me, as I am able to see beyond my limited western understanding of God, and dive deep into energies that are undoubtedly at play within the universe. This is not a form of worship of some foreign god nor blind faith, but instead a deep listening to what seems almost palpable to me. The more I access and speak to these energies from the inside, the more I feel their support. With that the more I then feel the awareness of what lies beyond them, that which they are guiding us to. The absolute, all pervading oneness.
Mystical Hinduism seems to have given name, sound and form to these energies in a way that has really helped me connect incredibly deeply to the power of what lies beyond my limited mind. That which can support me on my life’s journey to a deeper and deeper opening to my true nature. I feel that as long as we do not get stuck on face value, or a fundamentalist view that they are limited to a rigid concept, or that our own understanding of them (or lack of them) is the only way to truth. If we keep our hearts and minds continuously open, anything becomes possible. I am not speaking about belief. I truely feel that Kirtan and devotion transcend belief. That they open the possibility of simply creating our own relationship with divinity, both in the world and in universal consciousness.
I have always been deeply drawn to the divine mother, as the energy of all creation. More so than the other deities. That which encompasses both beauty and pain, mind and soul. My connection is most directly to the Indian Saint Ananda Mayi Ma, who although I never met in person, I have met in dreams and internal dialogue, and I have felt her guidance for many years. I have an ongoing communication with Ma through my heart. I ask questions, I get answers, not always in an obvious form but they are there if I listen. I feel supported, protected and often humbled, sometimes in a very uncomfortable and painful way! This is not something I feel it easy to speak of or share, as I feel taken on surface value it does not do justice to what this relationship really is and if I am honest not something I am particularly comfortable with. I would so much prefer to have been drawn to something like Buddism and be able to say that God does not exist. But this is not my truth or my experience. We all relate to the divine, (or our true nature, if that term is easier for you) in different ways. For some this is emptiness, for others there is a fullness and for many I guess somewhere in between. For me it is fullness, the magical force that surrounds me and supports me is living and real and is worthy of my awe and my head bowed in humility. It is also the absolute witness, the emptiness. For me it is both at the same time. This force has many qualities and faces. My deepest prayer is that I will remember and be connected to this force all the time.
I do not feel it is important how we look at things or what our beliefs are. None of this matters. I just feel it is important to be true to who we our and our relationship with the divine. I do not feel in anyway I am an authority on any of this, my desire is to simply share my own experience, as it unfolds.
Kirtan, is a wonderful way of connecting to this devotion and I am sure each person’s journey with it is unique and different. But I really feel it can open us up to devotion and with that the possibility of love, compassion and joy. The journey can often be deeply painful and humbling, as we face ourselves honestly and acknowledge both our shadow and our beauty. A journey that whether we know it or not we cannot help being on.