The word devotion stems from the old latin meaning roughly to "dedicate by a vow, sacrifice oneself, promise solemnly" or to preach from the base or root of one's being. I'm a fairly passionate person and though I am quite comfortable with throwing love around, I do not make declarations and vows of devotion lightly. I have often known within minutes, if not hours, the love contract between myself and another. This isn't to say I can't be surprised, for the road of love between two people, whatever the relationship, can twist and turn several times over.
And yet I've found that often deep within, we have a sense of who and what we are meant to be to one another. We just spend time (days, weeks, months) clearing old wounds, or ego, in order to fulfill that original spark of vision.
The other day I was with a good friend of mine I haven't seen in a few years. We spent several hours talking, and I expressed that I was so excited to see her son, whom I hadn't seen in years as well. The following day, I came to her home and there he stood. He was friendly and chatty, but none of that mattered. Instantly my heart was overwhelmed with a deep filial connection I have only ever felt for my own child, and none before or since. I knew, as certain as my own breath, that "come hell or high water" I would protect the life and interests of this little boy as if he were my own. It was an unreasonable, soul-certain feeling. My friend and I talked about this, and other forms of love for most of the evening.
This is the nature of devotion. It is a vow that comes from the Great Below within all of us, from our own primal, very human selves. A vow so strong we would sacrifice our lives. This vow may be spoken or unspoken. It may blossom within us like a surprise, or burn so deeply born of karma and circumstance.
Where and how we choose to express this life-on-the-line kind of devotion is critical, for our very life is at stake. In Nichiren Buddhism, it is said that those who practice Buddhism today made a vow many thousands of lifetimes ago to flower with life, to remain in the karmic cycle of death and rebirth, regardless of enlightenment, in order to help others. It is a vow of great compassion. To live it means to release the judgements of ego completely, and honor the beauty of our human process. Some say that this kind of higher-consciousness devotion (ie to God, to the compassionate healing of Earth or Humanity) is the only place we should place our deepest devotion.
I say that devotion to a small child and devotion to God are one in the same. Both are Divine. We all are. When we honor anything in this world as we would honor Supreme Life, we heal the frayed threads of communal consciousness. We remember the greatness that we hold as individuals, but also as a collective creating life.
And yet, devotion itself is a neutral energy. It is the expression of our willingness to give our all. If we devote ourselves to acts or routines that disconnect us from our life force, or take on commitments that have nothing to do with our soul needs, we minimize the light of loving wisdom we are able to share--because this kind of devotion ultimately saps our energy. If we devote ourselves to people/places/causes that negate who we are, we eventually need to do the healing work of returning to wholeness around those parts of us that are shut down in that process. We then become busy repairing and healing our own relationship to ourselves. While this is not "bad," we can experience greater expansion by being discerning in what we choose to devote ourselves to.
Daily meditations and prayers, nourishing foods and activities, actions that support healthy and balanced relationships-- these are all hungry for our devotion. When we are devoted in love, we vibrate love and draw the world around us into a resonance of love. In turn, more love is created.