Often times, when I begin soul work with my students, they have shut down their concept of God because of earlier experience with traditional religion. Sometimes they will consider “nature” as a potential point of reference. Many times the word “God” is loaded and we have to take the topic off the table so that they can feel safe in our work. At the same time, they often express a desire to use our work to create emotional maturity, a part of which is to return to their own inner knowingness, enliven their own spirits.
As we continue our work though, and as each student begins to forgive him/herself, and their past, and as they clear out old patterns and stuck emotions, their spiritual lives begin coming back into view.
This is an exciting time for both of us. Now we are looking at a clear white canvass on which they can write whatever is true for them this moment about their inner lives. One student has defined her God as Yoda, another as a “never-ending river flowing inside” and a third has returned to her earlier religion but has taken the dogma(the dead rules) out of the picture.
It's not important to me what their new definition is; it is important that they see that they can grow up in their spiritual lives. They do not have to choose their parent's idea of religion and they do not have to rebel and choose the opposite of their parent's religion. They get to choose. They get to take what they like and leave the rest.
If they shift away from religion and rebellion from religion, they can create a vital spiritual life. The reason that is so important is because without having a connection with Spirit, they are often left resourceless. There have been times in my own life and in the lives of most of my students, that our problems cannot be resolved by any human power. These 'dark nights of the soul' must be experienced and in traveling through them, the Spirit of resiliency can come back into focus.
My own picture of my spirituality is diverse, eclectic and open-ended. I was 17 when I left Catholicism and I always say I did not “fall away”, I rose. My God is an every day God and God is part of my whole experience. I love dogs, horses and elephants and I consider them spiritual guides. Prayer, meditation, dancing, gardening and yoga are pathways to my capacity to remain connected. Poetry and writing always bring me back to center.
I love Sufism and Rumi, Buddhism and Buddha, and Christ but don't consider myself a Christian. I think if Christ were here today, he wouldn't appreciate many aspects of Christianity either. I believe in rebirthing, reincarnation and resiliency.
I love many Hindu and Muslim poets and I often use their poems to enter my meditation practice. I'm fond of the Kabbalah and I love Native American earth based teachings. My occasional attendance at Quaker services is a comfort as I enjoy sharing the silence.
The form of meditation I use is “contemplative prayer” which comes from the Catholic tradition(I'm grateful to have this link from my past.) I'm an active participant in 12 step programs. The Dalai Llama's thought that kindness is his only religion has been a great inspiration to me. I practice Hawaii's Shamanistic tradition called Ho o pono pono which translated means “I'm so sorry. I love you. I forgive you and thank you.”
I see that there are countless paths that carry you to your own spiritual center and you need not choose only one. And, there are many folks who are utterly devoted to one path. The point is that you get to choose, and choose again!
I am inviting you, sweet reader, to love, accept and nourish your own true spiritual path even if your path is agnostic or atheistic. Let it grow as you grow. No matter what, you are welcome here. If something touched your heart in this blog, I'm grateful and if not, I respect you completely!
I'll close with one my favorite Rumi poems.
By J. Rumi
Come, come, whoever you are
Wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving
It doesn’t matter
Ours is not a caravan of despair
Come, even if you have broken your vow a thousand times
Come, yet again, come, come…