Bhakti & Devoting Yourself
ear Miracles: My prayer for you today: Be devoted. Absolutely, unequivocally and expansively.
I have ended a week at the Upaya Zen Center were I sat zazen several times a day and studied at the heels of a truly great writing teacher. The mantra that I took away from this experience is: keep your pen moving. It is one way of saying: Be. Devoted.
Devotion can often come across as a grand thing — high minded and a bit abstract. Let me ground the idea in a true story — one of my own personal encounters with Devotion. In 2007 I was living and working in San Francisco. My husband and I lived in a shoebox apartment at the south end of the city, a place not even legally zoned as an apartment, that was how small it was, and money was tighter than a girdle after Christmas dinner. One night in the bookstore where I worked I had the door open and was listening to the city evening sounds of Hayes Valley while I sat inside reading the Bhagavad Gita. I heard a sound over the street noises and the weeping violins of Bach. At my feet was a small mourning dove with a badly injured wing. The bird was obviously frightened and scurried her way over to the speakers and radio — somehow getting inside of the radio itself. Finally, I was able to wedge her out and put her into an empty cardboard box. My husband showed up at closing to take me home, saw the wounded bird, and knew that we had a new addition to the family. Years of rushing wounded creatures from Santa Fe to the Espanola animal shelter had taught him that he had fallen in love with an animal loving (and occasional custodian-taking) gal. The mourning dove came home with us and I called her Bhakti — the Sanskrit word for devotion and a central theme in the Gita as well as a play on “Bach.”
Trips to the vet ensued and they told me that Bhakti’s wing would have to come off as it was too damaged to save. The price tag was steep at a time when money was short. One look at Bhakti’s grey feathers and blue lidded eyes and I said “yes”—I would find a way to make it work and I did. She had shown up at my feet needing care and I was dedicated to seeing this through. I can only thank my beloved for being the most understanding and tolerant partner ever. The wing came off even though the vets both felt like it was a waste of money and made no attempt to hide their feelings from me. Her fleshy pink and raw wing nub eventually healed and feathered out again. She was never comfortable being held but loved it when my husband played the guitar. Her years with us were full of fun and laughter and love, she continued a lesson that creatures have been teaching me forever — to love even more and that is the crux of devotion. Loving More.
I learned to through Bhakti that devotion finds you. You do not have to go looking for up and even if you did you might not recognize it—Devotion does not appear the way we think it should, it is what it is — an absolute and non-negotiable request that we do our best, walk our talk, love with our whole and not just a part, not just when it is convenient or easy.
Life is short and death is certain, it grows closer with every breath you take. Devote yourself now. Absolutely. Completely. Don’t hold anything back, just get on with it.