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Written by: Cherry Mangat

Free Pink Waterlily Flower in Full Bloom Stock Photo

This April, the SIYLI team was able to attend the Wisdom 2.0 conference. The annual gathering brings thousands of people together to explore how we can live connected to one another in ways that are beneficial to our well-being, effective in our work, and useful to the world. One of the conference formats that fosters meaningful discussion is the Birds of a Feather dinner, where attendees can organize a group dinner on wisdom topics that are interesting to them.

Devotion and Symbols

At SIYLI, one of our values is devotion, specifically a practice wherein we cultivate a culture of inquiry, curiosity, connection and big-heartedness. Questions that I have been grappling with is:

How do we stay devoted to the things that are most important to us, at a time when the world is constantly pulling our attention in other directions? What can help steer us back to the path of our heart and our path of service?


Perhaps there are symbols in our lives that can be those reminders to course correct. 

For example, in Burma, pagodas are stupas that serve as places of worship. Thousands of beautiful pagodas have been constructed as striking symbols of devotion, as a focus of community life and a source of comfort. I thought the stupas would be an interesting symbol to inspire a Birds of a Feather discussion on “Devotion: Symbols that Support Service.” Conference attendees were invited to join me at Burma Love in downtown San Francisco where we admired the pagodas on the restaurant’s mural and talked about various aspects of devotion. 

Map of Burma Mural | Burma Love | Bringing the Bold Flavors of Burma to San Francisco

It was an intimate group of four attendees ranging in age, gender, ethnic background, geography, and spiritual beliefs. After we did a grounding arrival practice, everyone immediately started speaking from their heart. Here are some of the prompts and the shares:

What does devotion mean to you? 

  • Devotion is unconditional love. 
  • Devotion is humbling myself to something greater than me.

What are you devoted to? 

  • I’m devoted to staying alive, I grew up being bullied for being different from those in my community. 
  • I’m devoted to my family, I took a lower paying job so that I could spend time with my kids and nurture them.
  • I’m devoted to my practice of Buddhism, and to honor my teachers who brought this wisdom to me. 
  • I’m devoted to yoga as a path of uniting with consciousness, and to help others in their spiritual journeys as well.  

What are some symbols that help you to stay devoted? 

  • The smile on my face in the mirror is a symbol of whether or not I’m staying devoted to what’s most important.
  • The Star of David necklace is a symbol of staying devoted and true to who I am, even if I get bullied for it.
  • The lotus flower is a symbol of fighting through hardships and always reaching for the light.

Free White Water Lily Flower in Bloom Stock Photo

It was a lovely discussion about how devotion can be a path to supporting ourselves and through that resourced place, serving our communities in various ways. It was also fascinating to hear different perspectives on symbols in our lives which can guide us towards what is most true and most needed. I’ll continue to take inspiration from those I meet, whether over dinner or wherever we find community together. What are you devoted to and what symbols help keep you on track with your devotion?