It's easy to forget sometimes the tremendous, heart-shattering joy that lies at the center of devotion. It's easy to close the mind and heart to it, because there are so many things in daily life: work, relationships, stress, anxiety, exhaustion (especially exhaustion) that sap our energy and our attention. Also, devotion can be hard sometimes. It can challenge us to our core. It can hurt. There's such a tremendous vulnerability inherent in the act of opening oneself up to the Gods, of nurturing that relationship, of adapting to the demands of the radical integrity of being that such relationships by their very nature cultivate in the soul. Devotion can be very hard and in the midst of some of the challenges it may bring, it can be difficult to remember the joy.
House Sankofa had a ritual today. We went deep, deep into the flow of ritual ecstasy that is the twin and often the catalyst to devotion. we laid ourselves down before the altar one by one as we were moved ,made our offerings, lifted our voices in sacred chant and called upon a very magical and gracious Goddess. It was Her first welcome to the House but it will not be Her last (and if i seem to be speaking rather obliquely here, it is to protect the privacy of my House members. The rite is too fresh in our collective experience for me to feel that comfortable parsing its particulars to the world at large, or at least the part of the world that reads this blog. Suffice it to say, She blessed us all in individual ways). During the rite, as I was chanting for Her, She enfolded me in Presence and I was given the gift of being shown how I had cut myself off from the joy of devotion. In doing so, I had cut myself off from the nourishment, the sustaining, vital blessings that it brings. It's easy to do when running constantly at the point of exhaustion and i"m a workhorse. Today's experience though opened me up again to that deep current of joy that flows through every act, every offering, every prayer. It reconnected me and I am grateful, so grateful. It also left me thinking long and hard about the nature of devotion, about this process, this thing, this word that can be so highly charged in our spiritual lives.
Let me tell you what devotion is. It's like drinking fire. It's a frenzy. it's an ecstasy that fills the bones and runs in the blood like a drug. It consumes and the soul explodes into pieces of light. It is breathing in a God and being devoured, like ripe, rich fruit in turn. It is joy, a terrible, all-consuming joy that leaves no room for anything else, not even breathing. It is a dance, a wild, laughing dance. It is agony that suddenly turns, all unexpectedly, into magnificence. Devotion is a dance with the Gods that bracket and infiltrate our lives. It's a whirling, laughing, sobbing, maddening dance that, if we're very lucky, plunges us into the heart of our Gods, into a place beyond the worlds and from which they sprang. It's a dissolution that liberates and at the same time compels the heart -- freely, willingly, joyously--into veneration. It's liberation, ecstasy, terror. Devotion takes courage and dancing down that ragged road will squeeze every ounce of it forth, like blood from a stone as we go.