Tag Archive | religion

Understanding Through Love

My spiritual journey this past year or so has been one of seeking understanding through love. Even though I was raised Christian, I rarely felt an affinity with that religion; I did admire Jesus and found fascinating many of the myths and legends of the Bible, putting them in my mind in the same category as the Greek myths I simg_0319o enjoyed. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties, after a disastrous first marriage, that I realized the harm imposed upon my female identity by the patriarchal stories of the Bible that denigrated women. For almost ten years, I abandoned all religion; my spirituality subconsciously became simply the animals in my life and Nature herself during the long hikes and walks that nourished my soul. Thankfully, nearly twenty years ago, I was introduced to a Nature path of spirituality that has been my touchstone ever since, and, though its essence shifts and changes, as do I, though we grow and die and transform into new awareness, I am content with my current path of faith, an eclectic or “barefoot” spirituality (that I’ve often written of here).

Perhaps because of the contentment and loving approach to all life that my own path provides (most of the time – I certainly fall into despair about our local and global situations as well, as do we all), I found myself desirous of understanding more about the Christian religious faith in which I was raised, as well as its sibling faith of Islam, both born from the Old Testament, both, along with Judaism, known as Abrahamic faiths. Our world is currently caught up in a maelstrom of blame and fear and confusion about Christianity and Islam, so I’ve been studying, reading, and reflecting upon these (and other) religions and/or spiritual paths. One thing that is readily apparent is how they are based upon men writing about their interpretations of what other men said and did; the men themselves, Jesus and Mohammed, apparently never wrote anything down. And, to further confound the teachings, the writings were done after these men had died, so they could neither confirm nor deny the messages. Then, there is placing the writings within the historic context of when they were written. Adherents are then expected to ignore their own inner light of perception to follow those after-writings. This remains a curious puzzle to me, though I understand how much simpler it is to follow dogma and laws than to turn continuously inward for divine guidance.

The fierce fundamentalism that is often part of Christianity and Islam, grounded as they are in patriarchal past and present, present a dire situation for the life of us all – not only humans, but all inter-related life with our Mother Earth and Universal Cosmos. The anger that is rioting within Christianity and Islam, and among the people who feel forgotten in an unfamiliar world culture of rampant capitalism and identity crises, is understandable – I can finally empathize with many of these people; empathy for those who are similar to us is relatively easy, it is the empathy for those who are different that is challenging – but this processing of the anger needs to be transformed by all of us.

We need to somehow learn to see into others, to make the time to go within ourselves, into our own subconscious belief systems, and recognize the implicit biases that we have. We need to understand the pain and fear of others. That’s the first step, and the one that many people I know resist, sometimes vehemently. It can seem quite frightening.

A wise woman* has said, in going beyond tolerance that,

“My favorite word is “understanding.” I know it’s somewhat colder than the word “compassion” or “empathy,” but my regular lab seminar, which is an ongoing course, is called the Understand Seminar. And it has many different meanings, of course. We’re there to understand, to understand the research, and to make our own. But we study a set of topics that I believe that when you understand, you are left with no option but to change in some way. And I like giving more complexity to the word “understand” whenever I have a chance.”

Imagine the possibilities that are inherent within truly understanding one another!

__________

* Mahzarin Banaji being interviewed by Krista Tippett at OnBeing.

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Barefoot Spirituality

Would it help for someone to understand my intimacy with Gaia, the journey to reach my own sacredness and the on-going path into personal spirituality? I know that one of my joys is to read of other’s spiritual journeys and beliefs, for that opens me into my own wholeness. And so I write of my journey on this path–in my books and on this blog–to share, to commune with the energy of others.

I don’t follow one faith or religion or system. I’m far too questioning — far too much of a seeker straddling a rickety fence as I cross one more field — to embrace fully someone else’s path. But, and this is significant for me, I value something in every path of Spirit I’ve read about or witnessed because of core similarities. And I know that there are many concerns in cultural groups, in indigenous peoples, in ethnic families and tradition, as well as in established religions — concerns that picking out what is appealing may be viewed as disrespectful, but I absolutely do have deep respect for these other systems and traditions.

Yet, perhaps I am genetically disposed to always be journeying along a more eclectic and individualized path in approaching the Divine. Because I am a hybrid, a melting-pot American who lives and expresses the genetic memories of German, English, Scots, Black Dutch, and various tribes of Native American, do I wander back and forth more easily? And those are only the links I am aware of; there are probably more.

I grew up without ethnicity or cultural heritage other than ‘white, working-class American.’ And, while I was raised into a particular religion, it never resonated. The Divine within me remained asleep like Snow White, waiting for the kiss of the one I would recognize. And She was years coming. I needed to grow and learn more about this personality housing my soul before I would feel Her awaken within and provide guidance upon a spiritual path.

But when she finally opened Her eyes (or I opened mine), our love and my remembrance was instant. She had been with me all along; I knew that at once. And yet, while I recognized Her, and followed at first the path of those who shared their own journeys and systems of belief, I found before long that the Divine within me couldn’t be fenced in here either, no more than my nature could. Neither of us could handle being penned up or caged, defined or labeled. And so we took the next fork in the trail, together, knowing our journey of discovery was personal and individual and solitary.

I knew that I might never find a ‘perfect fit’ and that was fine. It’s okay. I would try on spiritual shoes, boots, sandals, moccasins, all shapes and sizes. Some feel comfortable for a while, but then I have to pull them off and walk barefoot once more, without restriction or fancy designs by someone else. Some got too tight, cutting off my circulation with their pointy-toed sharp looks; some became floppy, loose and I fell out of them because they made no sense to me; some were heavy and I felt that I couldn’t walk on my own path at all. All were valued for the temporary support they provided in various ways, but not for me to wear long-term. I learned about beauty with pain, about fluidity within form and function, about structural support limiting freedom. Not in struggle against them were they valued but because I experienced or witnessed the joy they brought to those wearing them quite happily as they walked with compassion. I just needed to be barefoot in my own spirituality.

And Gaia has supported me every step along this path, always kind. As long as I continue to honor the gifts of those spiritual paths traveled by others, respect their beauty and depths, and the love within the mysteries and stories they hold so dear, I know all is well. I feel peace in the exploration.

Gaia has many faces and places. And, for me, She is here within and everywhere I walk feeling the earth beneath my feet, the wind in my hair, the sun on my skin, and the rain cooling my face. Her smile is infinity, and we won’t be fenced in.