I honor the place in you in which the entire universe dwells.
I honor the place in you
which is of love, of truth,
of light, and of peace.
When you are in that place in you
and I am in that place in me,
we are one.
I love that statement. It's been giving me a bit of peace lately.
I started reading "Eat, Pray, Love," by Elizabeth Gilbert a couple weeks ago. I felt like a break from parenting books, and one particular night when I went to the gym, someone had left that treasure of a book in the basket of books in which you can "Take one and leave one."
I snatched it and the author hooked me from the beginning. This liberal chick with a great wit was about to set off on a journey that a girl like me can only fantasize about. And so every night as I read her book and lived vicariously through her descriptive words, I went to a place of calm, and a place of joining. So many of the things she said, from her thoughts on religion to her desire to find peace, and her struggle with quieting her mind rang so true for me.
And it got me back to really thinking about all my struggles with spirituality and religion. It was bubbling under the surface and finding "Eat, Pray, Love" served to bring it out. As a child, I prayed every night when I went to bed, every time before I ate a meal. I did so silently and secretly. "Thank you God for the water, the air, my food, and my shelter. I love you. Amen." Often, laying in bed, I'd make it lengthier, "Please God. Let my sister start talking by this time next year. And let her be ok. And keep me and everybody else healthy. Thank you. I love you. Amen."
For years this went on until I hit my teen years when someone introduced me to the concept of atheism. How do we know there is a God? And is Christianity right? Or is some other religion right? If there's so many different religions and beliefs...how do you know what works and what doesn't?
The doubt ate away at me, and as a teenager ripe for rebellion and questioning authority, I declared myself an atheist. If there was a God, fuck him, I thought. Fuck him for letting my sister suffer and for all the other suffering. Now, perhaps Christianity could explain suffering away and point out why it is...incorrect, for lack of better words...to think that, but that's just what ran through my mind.
But still. What if I was wrong? What if there was a God? College hit and I met Dave, a Catholic. I went to church with Dave. I had full intentions of reclaiming my religion, but all I did was argue with the priest (in my mind). I tried a few times, hoping it might get better. But it didn't. It only served to highlight that I couldn't stomach this way of thinking.
So I let go until about six years ago when our struggles with infertility and losses screamed for me to find peace. Somewhere. Anywhere. I tried going to a number of different Christian churches and a Zen Buddhist temple in St. Paul. At one point, after I escaped the men blocking the doors at a very homophobic church 2 hours into it's hateful sermon, I found myself running to my car half fearing for my life. They were saying and singing some crazy shit in there and it scared the pee-diddle out of me.
Fast forward through the blur of having twins plus one more, I'm now at that place in my life where, as a social worker, I know that I need to find a way to nurture the spiritual side of my being -- if possible.
Desperate for something to give me inner peace, I begged myself to try a church. At the same time, my hairdresser is finding her religion for the first time. I noticed she seemed so much more grounded and peaceful...and then she shared that she grew up never having a religion pressed on her, much like me, and how she appreciated that, much like me, and how she finally needed something to balance her after a close friend died quickly from cancer.
I went on-line and started researching a few churches and found myself so uncomfortable and even angry after reading what the churches were all about, that I finally came to a place of complete acceptance. I am not ever going to be able to embrace Christianity for myself (don't freak out on me here -- I'm not condemning those who do embrace it). Furthermore, I finally accepted that it's OK for me not to be Christian. You can't fit a square peg in a round hole.
Maybe it's not about the religion, maybe it's more about finding the practice that speaks the words that speak to me. I don't really know what a scholar would say the goal of a religion is, so I'll fall to my ignorant self and what I think religion is supposed to do for a person. Make them kind, balanced, give them peace, give them understanding and love for others without judgment, and give them a framework for dealing with the challenging times in life.
So maybe it's not about practicing a certain religion, maybe it's just about finding what works for me, and in the end, don't many of the religions end at the same place? Do the words we give for the divine really matter when ultimately the meaning behind them is possibly -- likely -- the same? Elizabeth Gilbert does a great job of articulating what I have been trying to say on page 143 of her book as well as page 13. Really, she totally had me at page 13.
I have driven by a Buddhist temple that is nearby -- out in the country -- and twice have sat in the parking area. The little round faces of monks watch me from the window and I imagine they are just as curious about the skinny white lady peering over her steering wheel as I am of them. I hope I haven't spooked them. Should I go in? Would I be welcome? Do they even speak English? Would I be walking in on something -- sacred or whatever and appear disrespectful?
And so in the end, I leave, still searching for where my spiritual being belongs, but I think, moving closer to an answer.