I’m starting to understand that dedication to the ideal of a “simple life” is not a sufficient foundation for my journey. All by itself, it won’t bear the weight of the transformation that is necessary. It is a needed step, an important component, but it is not sufficient in and of itself.
I woke this morning to a cold bedroom and a chaos of boxes strewn across the floor. I banged my toe against one of the boxes and uttered an oath, followed by the thought, “What in the hell are you doing? Are you going to spend the rest of your life being cold, uncomfortable, and rootless?” Almost immediately a voice emerged from deep in my belly, “If that is what is called for, then yes, that is exactly what I am going to do.” I stood there in my bare feet with aching toe and felt a sensation that I hadn’t felt for decades, if ever before in my life. It was a sense of, for lack of a better word, “devotion.”
Though I tried mightily, I could never truly devote myself within the Christian tradition. I wanted to, but the God I saw portrayed by Christian culture was not worthy of devotion. I found in Zen/Taoism a spaciousness that helped me empty my conditioned mind of lots of crap and bring me to a point of renewed dedication and love for the Earth. Even in this tradition, however, I did not find a foundation upon which I could plant my feet for complete devotion, In a sense, there was no “There” there.
Gradually, as Nancy and I have put one foot in front of the other on our path, we have both discovered that the Mystery behind it All is real and manifests Itself in a myriad of forms – all, in a sense, metaphorical, but nonetheless very real expressions of the Energy of Life. I find myself sinking into a deep devotion to this Life and to these Forms as they continue to manifest themselves to me and guide me along my path.
I find that I can not practice simplicity merely to separate myself from a society I consider dysfunctional and destructive. I am not just seeking a more satisfying life nor am I just trying to be a “good” person. I am surprised to find myself, after all these decades, waking up to an actual devotional life. Whatever my experience of the day, I am learning to offer that experience as a devotion to (I can’t say “God” anymore) the Living Earth and the Divine Cosmos – words that embody everything that the term, God, might embody, and so much more. This is of great comfort to me as I stumble through the confusing process of finding out where to obtain our next home – trailer, mobile home, whatever. The process of simplifying and moving is shifting from being something I have to do “wisely and responsibly” to something that emerges from my devotion. This devotion persists through all the “mistakes” I am bound to make in the coming months. It puts me in the presence of unseen Energies whose purpose is akin to mine – to serve and heal the Earth and Her Children.
Perhaps devotion is the practice that helps my poor ego, so separate from everything, find its way to peace. I affirm that my true identity, my Soul, has never been separate from Life and has no need for devotion since it is, itself, One. But my ego, my learned sense of identity, longs for Home and will, of necessity, devote itself to something. Culture uses this longing to lure our egos into devotions that sustain economies and uphold power structures. Only the Transcendent, in whatever forms it manifests, can unconditionally accept the ego’s devotion and use it for compassionate transformation.
I suppose I have always been devoted to something, usually unconsciously, that could not authentically carry that devotion without turning it to selfish ends. It may be that my Soul and my ego are finally finding their compassionate relationship along the Path. Support seems to come from invisible and mysterious sources and energies that transcend my conditioned ego and therefore are capable of sustaining a healthy devotion. Whatever the case, my feet feel, aside from an aching toe, solidly planted and ready for the next step.