We talked a long time ago. Since then I've become very “spiritual,” though I would just call it the search for awakening. Already my commitment to it is manifesting in small ways, and it will snowball soon.
I read some of your spiritual beliefs. I agree and disagree in different ways, but those aren't important. I just wondered if you are still searching or not. I think that you and I are on the right track, but I was curious if you believed in something like 'awakening', or what your beliefs involved.
Where did you learn your beliefs? Was it a big mix of unremembered sources? Or did you follow particular religions and spiritualities? Any specific teachers?
I hope you don't mind the multiple questions :) Be as concise or drawn-out as you'd like.
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I’m a firm believer that there are many paths to the truth, not just one, and that people who assert that “my way (or the way I follow) is the only right way and all others who don’t follow my way are doomed” are either experiencing the height of hubris or the height of self-delusion. When one contemplates what the very nature of God or the “Ultimate Truth” might be, one should be humbled, because there is no way our tiny, severely limited intellects and perspectives can every fully comprehend something so infinitely expansive, so mind-bogglingly (if that’s a word LOL) powerful. Therefore, all we can hope to do, at best, is get closer to the truth, as close as we can get in this short life we are given.
So, to answer your question, I am still contemplating what is out there.
To give you a Reader’s Digest version of my journey (and here’s hoping I don’t offend anyone): I was raised by a Southern Baptist father and an agnostic mother. This, in itself, was an interesting start. My father was very religious (though not above being an ass), brought up that way to religious parents in Texas. When I was young, he made the family attend a Baptist church and I went to Sunday school for a while. Even at that tender age, I had a sense that it was all crap. My mother had enough of it when, one Sunday, the minister stood up in front of his congregation, and in all earnestness said, “Jesus wants our church to have a new red rug.” Jesus, my mom later asserted, doesn’t give a crap about floor coverings. She eventually convinced my father not to force us to go if we didn’t want to. Mostly, I didn’t want to, but sometimes I felt sorry for my dad so I went with him. My sister did not (she’s a scientist and an atheist these days).
Anyway, fast forward a bit through my parents’ divorce and my going off to college, and I came back to Christianity briefly when I went to college and met my future wife. I read the Bible cover to cover a couple times, and even though I saw a lot of flaws in it, I saw enough good to try to follow it. The college was affiliated with the Methodist church and there was a very nice minister there who was open-minded and wore a Winnie-the-Pooh stole. Gotta love it. I joined the church’s mime troupe, of all things, and we did little skits with a Christian message. I enjoyed it.
After college, I got involved with work and building a life and didn’t get too into religion. I worked at a publishing house and met a couple very good Christians there who are still my friends. They embody the true spirit of what Christianity is supposed to be, including, when I eventually came out of the closet, of remaining my friends and being supportive and nonjudgmental. They were Presbyterians. Generally, I have found people belonging to such denominations as the Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and the Congregationalists more pleasant to be around than Baptists and Catholics (except for the lapsed Catholics, who are a hoot LOL).
Interestingly, my personal experiences were a lot different from what I kept seeing in the media: a lot of hate coming from “Christians” who were constantly doing what Jesus said not to do: judging people you don’t agree with and also a lot of coveting money, building huge edifices to themselves costing millions of dollars that would have been better spent on, oh, I don’t know, helping the poor? Some of these people—Pat Robertson is a mucho bueno example—are out and out batshit nuts. I started getting really turned off Christianity again. There seemed to be a lot more hate and greed coming out of it than love and kindness.
I started looking into other religions, from Judaism and Islam to Jainism, Buddhism, Wicca, and shamanism. About the time I was getting to identify more with my furry side, I was also identifying more with Wicca and shamanism (but also Buddhism). I read Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft (I actually am acquainted with Raymond Buckland personally through my work with my publishing company), but while I liked a lot of stuff about Wicca, especially the credo of leaving people alone as long as they aren’t hurting anyone, I couldn’t really get into all the magic stuff. What kinda killed Wicca for me was when I talked to Buckland once and asked if he’d like to write another book on Wicca and he said no, he was tired of defending Wicca and felt it was rather pointless to keep trying. Interestingly, Wicca is one of the fastest-growing religions in America right now.
Meanwhile, I doubled my efforts to get involved in Buddhism, and even joined a temple in Michigan. I tried meditating, but was a little disturbed by the reverence for Buddha and bowing to his golden image. I guess that just freaked me out a bit from my Christian upbringing. Why was I bowing to a golden statue? It just didn’t feel right.
So, next was shamanism. Well, exploring Native American beliefs, there are lots of different kinds of shamanism. Of all the areas of spiritualism, this one has made the most sense to me. I found a teacher on Facebook who is a part-Indian teacher in Oklahoma. He taught me about the Medicine Wheel and the importance of Bear in my life. I really haven’t touched deeply enough into it, but I have found a couple places out in the desert where I still go to meditate in private now, trying to connect with the spirits that exist all around us. Yet, part of my problem both with Buddhism and native beliefs is cultural. I feel disconnected from both because these cultures still feel so foreign to me. I know I shouldn’t let that bother me, but it does. I still feel rather like an orphan who is trying to find adoptive parents but has not succeeded yet.
I’ve been forming a lot of my own conclusions about the spiritual side of life, some of which is influenced by modern knowledge of science, especially physics. And that’s where I am now. I am still a questioner, a seeker of truth and will be until the day I die and, hopefully, long after that.
Hmm, maybe that was longer than the Reader’s Digest. Hopefully, it wasn’t boring.
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