Q11. What blocks to devotion have you had to overcome?

Consistently, my biggest block to devotion is awkward self-consciousness. I have a hard time with experiencing emotions in general, and devotional stuff is a very vulnerable emotional state for me. It is really wonderful, but it isn’t something I’m entirely comfortable with. I can’t access that emotional space in my normal day-to-day state of mind, and I can’t reliably bring myself into a compatible state of mind. Very often I can’t “get over myself” enough to enter into any meaningful experience of devotion. I get stuck in my business-oriented practical “work-mode” and there is not a lot of space in that mindset for deity.

So, what do I do about it? I wish I had a really good answer to that. Theoretically, various meditative techniques to quiet the “talking mind” ought to be helpful, but in practice I find that the most effective thing for me is to find a space where I can be alone and undisturbed, get some appropriate music and sing along with it, preferably at high volume. It could be music I associate with a specific god, or even just something neutral with a strong beat to it. For a while, No Shadows by Gaia Consort was my favorite for this. I suppose I could use a repetitive spoken prayer or chant, but I generally don’t. Moving around definitely helps. Doing that for a little while helps to put me into a very lightly altered state, where it is easier to “get over myself”. (If I drank alcohol or used drugs, those might also be useful in this context. Just enough to take the edge off the normal waking consciousness, not enough to substantially impair cognition.)

If I can’t manage some kind of “experience of devotion”, then I might just give an offering and sit awkwardly for a little while. That is pretty normal for me.

I’m realizing, though, that one can interpret “devotion” in many different ways. I don’t think I can describe exactly what I mean by an “experience of devotion”. I’m not sure why that experience of reverent emotional connection is what first comes to mind for “ways I have struggled with devotion”, but that is what I’ve got today.

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