When it comes to spirituality, I’m all over the map. Early childhood in Catholicism, late teenager goddess religion, Irish mysticism and earth-based spiritualty, Buddhism, meditation circles, Emersonian transcendentalism as well as attending mosques, synagogues, stupas, weird pagan festivals and sweat lodges. I found divinity in all of these settings, so, I could not comprehend how all religions feel that they have the one way. All ways lead to God.
Also, the ecstasy and devotion that people felt about their religions, I had only experienced in the woods. This led me to the very natural path of looking at decaying trees and animals, the role of fungi, discovering a mother with baby turkeys, the spring regeneration of Coltsfoot and Lady’s Slippers and the flow of birth, life, death and resurrection from a scientific and naturalistic perspective.
Are we as dead as a skunk on the side of the road? Good-bye and lights out; existence and what we know of life is over; this life is not a dress rehearsal. These ideas reminded me to be mindful because… this moment might be all that there is.
Then, in a concerted effort to drop my damn baggage because it was too damn heavy to carry anymore, I was serendipitously led to kundalini yoga through a mindful woman centered teacher, a guru. Despite my New York skepticism, bits of wisdom slowly crept in. One of our mantras was so real; I am beautiful, blissful and bountiful.
A Bit of Perspective
May the long time sun shine upon you, all love surround you; and the pure love within you, shine your way on. To hear a chorus of women singing this and raising their voices for themselves, each other and all of humanity is life changing.
And the voices of women in our gathering lifted my spirit up, and after decades of Biblical trauma, I finally started to weep because I had not cried since 1998.
I would like to say that everything was rainbows, unicorns and the partner of my dream materialized, but that did not happen – or at least not in that order. This was a human version of Eat, Pray, Love. I stopped wine, weed, over-exercising and type A behavior of doing, accomplishing, and being so busy I basically would pass out at night.
Nightmares, sweats, electric currents running up my body, out of body experiences, dreams, memories, bad memories, really bad memories and panic attacks flooded my system. I made it this far to be hospitalized NOW? I thought I would have to check myself into the fifth floor or whatever floor the psychiatric unit was on.
Thankfully, a kind psychiatrist who agreed to see me said, “Well, of course you’re having a nervous breakdown, you have stopped all of your coping mechanisms. That is why all your trauma and remembered trauma, and abuse is flooding you because you are not denying or detaching from it. You are in you body and mind, finally experiencing it.”
I could cope with this because I was a fighter and this was another thing to overcome. Yet, this was not a Hallmark movie where I suddenly was BETTER. It took years as I began to learn and perceive I am not my trauma or emotions and learn a new way of being.
Which brings me to 2023 and sitting in a Catholic church on Saturday at 5pm.
I am sitting in a pew and letting the words wash over me and as the priest says, “God is merciful.” I am thinking, Tell that to the people in Turkey. I am feeling smug and judgmental and realizing this as I try to plug into something larger because my smugness is irritating me. Then I realize…
I do NOT know any divine path or what is in store for anyone or how it plays out in their or the universe’s karmic soup. This is a horrific tragedy and God is not sending lightening bolts or golden horseshoes. Perhaps the mercy is the community that rises to help those in need, the humanitarian community that is working OT, the donors, the people praying, all of humanity that recognizes the horror.
Because there is no God.
He is not a person doling out blessing and punishments. Suddenly, I reached a beautiful joyful peace in that Catholic church. God, for me, is about divine oneness, that interconnectedness we feel when we do selfless service, like the first responders at 9/11, or when we do something as simple as wave a car in front of us when they are trying to pass lanes.
Yet, I am getting super judgey when the priest talks about this weird martyrdom of Catholicism, the turning the other cheek, loving a-holes.
Then another epiphany hits me that intersects Catholicism with Buddhism. All suffering comes from attachment. I am suffering when I look at my wrinkles, grey hair and weird sagging skin because I am attached to an idea of beauty. To turn the other cheek means I am not attached to revenge or the most important thing, my emotions, which drive my alligator brain, not my divine brain.
I am 60 this year. I recognize more frequently my alligator brain and my divine brain, and my need for divine oneness finally has the majority of my time. In these last few weeks, my attachments are thankfully loosening their grip. And to drop this is to feel so free. I feel like I can just float away. I just lost 50 psychic pounds.
Let’s Have a Conversation:
When was your faith challenged? What steps did you take when you questioned your religion or faith? Has your relationship with God, religion or divinity changed as you have aged?