Altars of Devotion.
“There’s a Muslim man praying,” my boyfriend said as we walked through a parking lot to have brunch on a bitterly cold January Saturday in Ohio.
I looked in the direction of my beloved’s eyes and witnessed a man kneeling on a prayer mat beside his car; a thermal bag with the Door Dash logo sat off to the side. I stopped in my tracks—I felt something stir deep inside of me. I wanted to simultaneously watch and run at the same time; I wanted to be in the presence of his sacred prayer and give him privacy.
As I turned my gaze and continued walking, I felt an overwhelming sense of respect and admiration for this man. There he was, in between food deliveries, taking time to pray. He didn’t just take time to pray, but to pray outside, in a public space, kneeling on the cold asphalt. I briefly and quietly mused on his courage and devotion. I thought to myself: That is devotion in action.
Since bearing witness to his parking lot prayer, I’ve been ruminating on the idea of devotion. I’ve asked myself, does praying or attending a religious service—even in the dead of winter or the most inconvenient times—illustrate devotion? It’s a devotional practice, yes. But is the act of praying—even five times a day, even in the cold, even in a parking lot—necessary to be devout?
The day after witnessing this man’s prayer in action, I read in Chapter 5.2 of A Course In Miracles, which said: “The Voice for God comes from your own altars to Him. These altars are not things; they are devotions.”
Your own altars are not things; they are devotions.
My takeaway from the reading and my own reflection is that altars of devotion don’t have to be a thing, a place, or even a specific practice. Devotional altars require nothing but a mindset and heartset. I believe devotional altars exist within us and are brought to life by how we live. Devotional altars arise from the mindful cultivation of stillness to allow for connection to self.
Being devout is a decision to be made each day, hour, and minute.
I believe that a divine presence or energy lives within each of us, that we have the ability to directly connect to this power source through devotion. There are numerous ways in which altars can be brought to life, where a connection with the divine is enlivened within one’s self. I believe it is our life’s work to nurture this connection in order to live as divinely human.
And this divine connection can be brought to life in myriad of ways, including prayer, meditation, yoga, religious services, journaling, and being in nature.
For me, this connection to the divine happens when I see the magnificent colors of a sunrise or sunset; when light sparkles on the surface of water; when I gaze into the eyes of my beloved; when music resonates with my heart; when I meditate, when I pray, or when I’m surrounded by trees. For others, altars are enlivened in a church, synagogue, or mosque, or through the practice of religious customs or ceremonies.
There is no right or wrong way to connect with this power; it is a deeply personal journey.
I have tremendous respect for religious and spiritual practices and the discipline one must cultivate in their practice. Seeing this man pray, to witness his practice of devotion, was a gift. I wish I could thank him personally for being a beacon of light, an example of devotion in action, and a reminder that connection to the divine and devotion can happen at any time, anywhere.