Thursday, February 26, 2015

Spiritual Practices A to Z: Devotion

This is the fourth focus of the "Spiritual Practices A to Z" challenge that I'm doing that is based on the spiritual practices that are shared on the Spirituality & Practice website. So far I have focused on Attention, Beauty, and Compassion. For the past two weeks, I focused on the spiritual practice of Devotion.

Spiritual Practice: Devotion
Enhances: Self-discipline
Balances/Counters: Lack of commitment

Prayer Beads I Made
Prayer beads.
Taken on October 12, 2012.

The Basic Practice

The Spiritual Practices website noted that "the world's religions demonstrate an amazing variety of ways to practice devotion. To name just a few: Sufis dance. Buddhists chant. Catholics pray with a rosary. Protestants sing hymns. Orthodox Christians meditate on icons. Hindus gather to receive blessings in temples. Jews wrap themselves in a prayer shawl. Native Americans bring up the sun. Muslims make a pilgrimage."

It is suggested to begin by cultivating one's own garden of devotion. The Spiritual Practices website said, "Pick as many seeds to plant as you desire. Water them with love. Be vigilant in your caretaking. Add new plants to the garden for variety. And be happy knowing that this garden" pleases not only yourself, but the world.

Why This Practice May Be For You

Devotion is not something that is done once a week, only on religious holidays, or in response to a particular event in one's life. Special devotions may be called for at those times, but as a spiritual practice, it needs to be part of one's daily routine.

Devotion helps build self-discipline. Being constant in one's prayers prepares a person for other disciplines needed in life. On the other hand, if a person lacks commitment and doesn't tend to follow through in the long run, a devotional life will suffer as well. This practice needs to be done regularly.


For the person who is religiously or spiritually inclined,
work even becomes a vehicle for devotion, 
a way of utilizing one's gifts and talents to serve others.
— Marsha Sinetar in Do What You Love, the Money Will Follow

Panola Valley Gardens
Taken at Panola Valley Gardens 
on May 21, 2012.

Her garden is work because it is of devotion, 
undertaken with passion and conviction, 
because it absorbs her, 
because it is a task or unrelenting quest which cannot be satisfied.
— Donald Hall in Life Work


I read and wrote a review about Chanting from the Heart - Buddhist Ceremonies and Daily Practices by Thich Nhat Hanh.

The book has a variety of verses, chants, ceremonies, and discourses used regularly by the monks, nuns, and laypeople of a Buddhist monastery and lay practice center in southeastern France. It was established in 1982 by Thich Nhat Hanh and his community.

The other book I read and wrote a review about that focused on devotion was The Mystic Hours - A Daybook of Interspiritual Wisdom and Devotion by Wayne Teasdale. I f The Mystic Hours.


Baraka is an non-narrative film that delivers a collection of snapshots from the global family album. It shows many devotional activities practiced at sacred sites, in homes, and in communities around the world. I ordered this movie, didn't have time to watch it so I had to return it to the library, and then re-ordered it. My goal is to watch it some time in March.

There were two other films that were recommended that I want to watch, but are unavailable through the library system. Perhaps someday I'll be able to find them. The Spiritual Practices website recommended:

- Brother Sun, Sister Moon saying it is "a gorgeous piece of filmmaking by Franco Zeffirelli. [It] is an inspiring and edifying portrait of St. Francis's spiritual practice of devotion and his humble life of service.

Therese "is a stylized screen portrait of Saint Therese of Lisieux (1873-1897), later to be known as the Little Flower of Jesus, conveys the purity and simplicity of this saint's devotional life."


A wide variety of sacred music is attracting a worldwide audience - including Gregorian chants, and Hindu and Buddhist meditation music.

B'ismillah: Highlights from the Fez Festival of World Sacred Music, Volume I contains Pakistani chants, Egyptian odes, flamenco-style Christian songs, and Sufi dance music. Hamdulillah: Highlights from the Fez Festival of World Sacred Music, Volume II showcases spiritual songs from Iran, medieval Muslim and Andalusian songs, Moroccan Jewish traditional music, and Islamic songs of Central Asia.

Neither of the above-mentioned CDs are available through the local library or MNLINK system of libraries through the state. So, instead I watched a YouTube video that showed excerpts from the opening concert of the Fez Festival of World Sacred Music.There was a combination of singing, drumming, and dance.

The other video I watched is Moments from the Fez Festival of World Sacred Music. The first part includes an introduction by Fez Festival organizers and participants. One person said, "One feels so comfortable when they hear music that they love." Another said, "The only important things is the moment where we are." Another person (Omar al Kyayyam) said, "Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life."

I watched the Whirling Dervishes. I've never seen anything like that before. The men kept twirling around for about four minutes. The amazing thing was that they never lost their balance or fell off the narrow stage.

Daily Cue, Reminder, Vow, Blessing

Orange Walls and Bell at the Macy's Flower Show
Taken on April 5, 2013, at
the flower show in downtown Minneapolis.

• The sound of a bell, a church chime, or the stroke of a clock is a cue for me to pray.

About 2 1/2 miles from here, there is a church with a bell tower. At noon and 6 p.m., if the wind is coming from the south, I can hear the bells. It always makes me take a moment to focus on the bells and the beautiful music they create.

I don't do much beyond that, but that simple gesture is often times enough of a reminder for me to stop and focus - however briefly - on the beauty of sound and all that around me.

• When I hear reports of war, famine, and other disasters, I vow to remember all those who are suffering in my prayers.

There has been so much disturbing news in the paper recently. The images are so graphic and make me stop to reflect about the pain that so many people are enduring on a daily basis throughout the world. I have stopped watching the news at night specifically for this reason. It's just too much for me to take in and process.

Practice of the Day

Prayer Flags Tied to Tree
Prayer flags at Pipestone National Monument 
(a national park) in Pipestone, Minnesota. 
Taken on June 8, 2012.

The Hopi Indians of Arizona believe that our daily rituals and prayers literally keep this world spinning on its axis. For me, feeding the seagulls is one of those everyday prayers.
— Brenda Peterson quoted in American Nature Writing 1994 edited by John A. Murray

To Practice This Thought:

Pillowcase Dress for Little Dresses for Africa
Made a pillowcase dress that was sent to Africa
on April 9, 2010.

Identify one activity you do every day that can be regarded as a devotional act to sustain the world.

I thought about this and there are several things that I do each day that I could regard as a devotional act to sustain the world. The one, though, that is most consistent is recycling. Every day I am recycling paper; packaging from items I used to cook and bake meals for my family; and/or creating something from an item that could have been tossed.

As I look at the dress above that I sewed, I think about the girl who received it. Perhaps she didn't have many clothes, and the dress brought her spirits up on the day it was given to her. She could hold and collect things in the two pockets that were made from fabric that was sitting in one of my fabric bins. The decorative fabric band, also, was made from that same fabric that was just in my room waiting to be used for something.

The pillowcase...that fabric...even the thread - all could have been tossed in a landfill. Instead, I repurposed it into something useful that a child could wear. I need to continue to do things like this - not only to use up what I have on hand, but to help others who I will never see face-to-face in my life, yet are deserving of help to make their lives easier.

Spiritual Exercises

Each week make an effort to simplify your life as an affirmation of your commitment to beauty. Give away or discard one excess possession.

I like this idea and need to start getting in the habit of doing this practice. The timing for this spiritual practice came when I was out of town for several days and trying to get a lot done with 4-H in preparation for a club meeting and two wildlife project bowl meetings. I'm hoping that in March I can retroactively look at this spiritual exercise and make it a regular habit throughout 2015.

Discussion Questions, Storytelling, Sharing

Setting the Time
Olivia was playing with a clock while Sophia was playing behind it
on our trip to the New England states.
This was taken on September 9, 2011.

• David Steindl-Rast points out the importance of finding cues to prayer. He tells of two sisters who had a clock that struck every 15 minutes. With each stroke of the clock, one would say, "Remember God's presence," and the other would add, "Let us always be grateful." Talk in your group about what kinds of things spark your prayers.

I contacted a clock repair shop on February 17th to fix our mantel-size grandfather clock. The repair shop makes house calls, and I'm going to get the clock fixed. I miss hearing the rhythmic sound of the clock ticking. It's a sound that was very familiar when I was growing up between the cuckoo clock and grandfather clock with the ticking as well as chimes and cuckoo noises throughout the day and night.

• What benefits have you derived from worshiping in a community? What parts of the service are most satisfying to you?

The benefits for me have been being around like-minded people who enjoy listening to the same inspirational readings, talks, and music during a service. I particularly enjoy the music within any service - instrumental and vocal.

Household, Group, and Community Projects

• Find ways to expand the devotional activities in your household. Use a variety of graces at meals. Incorporate blessing prayers into such activities as leaving for school, going to the grocery store, or washing the car.

I didn't have a chance to do this during the past two weeks, but I like these ideas. So, I'm going to keep this idea as future reference.

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