“Attention is the beginning of devotion” – Mary Oliver
I shared this quote in a class description, a ritual working, and in the path I co-facilitated as part of WorldWide WitchCamp last weekend.
Last November during a poetry reading / spell working I did for a public event, I walked onto the stage and offered this as part of a grounding: “Your attention is the greatest gift you can give tonight and any day.”
When I think about how my attention is divided these days, I can see it wandering off to class planning, to writing, to marketing, to faraway beloveds, to magick, etc. My attention wants to be in all the places at once.
And while I don’t think this is possible, I still try to direct my eyes to the places of love and power. As a result, I end up spinning around a lot, trying to see it all and only finding vertigo and wobbly knees.
Calling my attention back to myself, though it were able to curl in and comfort me better, is the first step to devotion. The kind of devotion that sits still enough to tell me what it needs, what it wants, and what it hasn’t been getting.
Slow Down, Breathe
The Witch’s Pyramid speaks of ‘to keep silent’ and I know I’ve talked about this before. But there is nuance in returning to what you think you understand. There is power in coming back with new information, new habits, new patterns, and new questions.
I hesitate to say ‘silence is power’ because there are many reasons to speak up, to yell, and to say more. And both can be true.
Quiet doesn’t mean a lack of words. It doesn’t mean a lack of thinking. Bringing your attention back doesn’t mean emptying yourself of experience, but rather setting the table for a delightful conversation with your emotions, your memories, your senses, and your internal parts.
When my schedule allows, I like to create a long stretch of time for this ‘get together.’ But that’s not necessary. Small meetings work too.
Remove distractions & interruptions – Turn your phone over or turn it off for a bit. Let others know you are taking some space, if needed. Get the things you need to not interact with other people.
Download your thoughts & thinkings – I like to write things down in notes on my phone, but you can also write things down in a journal or draw things or sculpt things or talk to yourself. This step allows me to unburden myself and my mind by taking it all out so that I might look to see what happened.
Breathe – If possible, the unloading should not come with interpretation (yet). Instead, breathe with yourself after you download what you can. Breathe and be with all of it. There is no need to judge, qualify, quantify, or understand just yet. Just be with everything you are.
Open to insight – As someone who likes to figure things out, I often look at information in my life as ‘problems’ that need ‘solutions.’ But this is not the case. The things I am stewing on are just…things. Instead of looking for answers, I make space for things to emerge organically. I will go for walks and listen to music, allowing new ideas and insights to come to me through lyrics and the beauty of nature. I might write these things down as they come or I might just let things arrive, trusting they will stay if they are important to hold onto.
Take time – Integration takes the time it takes. For me, integration is what happens when I listen to myself and reflect long enough to put the lessons into practice. An example might be how I had a not-great interaction with someone, sat with it, and now understand how to interact better if that situation arrives again. I know what I am bringing forward because I paid attention.
What about Devotion?
Yes to bringing attention back, but what does this have to do with devotion? I think being devoted to myself and my growth is a pretty important relationship to cultivate.
As someone who was brought up in the clutches of codependency, I still have troubles navigating the emotions of others. I’ve come a long way to the place of recognizing I’m not responsible for another’s emotional landscape. I can make decisions that might make someone angry and it might still be the best decision to make for myself.
That is devotion to the self, but I only know how to respond in this way when I pay attention to what I am doing, feeling, and desiring.
Attention is the beginning of devotion to myself, to my magick, and to my beloveds.
How you call your attention back is a personal practice, and a valuable one. For those who are neurospicy, you may need specific coping strategies, medication, or things that look nothing like what I have suggested.
Your attention might be fully engaged when you are fidgeting, snacking, or watching television. I have done some of those things while writing this piece, even as I’m focused on this writing as something that aligns with my idea of devotion.
Come back to yourself, pay attention to yourself, and act in ways that are devotional.
This is how I can come home to myself, this is where I remember home is inside of me and a part that wanders and wonders too.
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Blog originally published on my Heart Magick substack.