Monday, 11 November 2013

Room in the Sandbox (for us all)

Today's musings were set in motion by hearing, that a friend's daughter was to be confirmed today in the Catholic cathedral along with her classmates that attend a private Catholic school. The nature of my pondering then, is all things "spiritual." By it's very nature the "spiritual life" is a journey so in that respect I suppose mine is not exceptional.

I attended Catholic private school (for grades 1-6) though I was raised in a family that declared themselves to be Anglican. I do recall my classmates preparing for their "first communion" (which I was excluded from because I wasn't Catholic. Unquestionably this created for me irreconcilable  confusion with respect to the "teachings of Jesus" and my reality. I perceived myself to be on the outside looking in (which I'll grant you was also a story that I created through having been adopted - this just occurred to me to further exacerbate my perception. What of "love thy neighbor?" (not if they're Anglican - seemed to me to be the message to me). Eventually someone intervened and I was no longer left alone in the classroom while the rest of the class went to the church - I could go (even sing the songs) just couldn't take part in the other rituals.

I highly value inclusion (& have deep compassion for those that experience exclusion) - I guess I won't ever know if that would or wouldn't be the case if I hadn't walked the path I did. To this day I'm not really a card carrying member of any religious organization (though perhaps the Anglicans might try and lay claim to my soul as I was baptized and later confirmed) I don't resonate with the theology and I certainly haven't attended in those circles for years (though I have sat in various "holy" places of worship while observing my own sacred practices and connection with the divine.

I don't understand the divisiveness that so frequently exists between "differing" adherents. It doesn't even have to be entirely different groups - there is even distention within groups that both claim to be "Christian" or Buddhist. I mean I do "understand" fear and ignorance that create walls rather than bridges - I just don't get why it still, seems so difficult to overcome these.

It was years after I had largely stopped frequenting Sunday school and therefore leading I suppose what would be called a secular life, that I was reintroduced to the idea of living a spiritual life when I came through the doors of Alcoholics Anonymous - where I was introduced to the concept of adopting a belief in "God as You Understand Him" (yes.... still a gender bias within their teachings) interesting in one breath you're encourage to establish your own understanding and in the next breath it is declared God is "Him." Nonetheless this (at least initial) lack of dogma gave me a refreshing opportunity to explore on good days, and seemingly, enough rope to hang myself on other days. I did gain some further insight into divisiveness (in a program that espouses "tolerance,  acceptance, open-mindedness" etc.) it was said somewhat tongue-in-cheek - "all you need to start a new meeting is a resentment and a coffee pot" (and half the group was moving across town to a new venue). So it goes seemingly in human evolution (I guess it is not a strictly linear process - individually or collectively).

Still it was a "beginning" for me - my natural curiosity, quest for the "truth" that began my hunger to find meaning in life (it wouldn't be until later that I would realize that I would be required to scrutinize myself with "rigorous honesty") good thing,  at the time I was quite sure that my outward oriented critical eye would bring about the necessary changes in the world. If I'd known straight away, I was going to have to look at myself I might have run off. 

The afore mentioned curiosity has compelled me through 12 step rooms (with a number of different focal points) over a period of some 26 years - the same time I have immersed myself in a wide variety of paths, hungry for what each has to offer with respect to "being in the world and not of it." I seek to keep the conversation alive - and have listened (to many that might experience rejection more frequently than be extended an attentive ear). Surely they all have a piece of the puzzle I reasoned - I have opted not to "join" any one group - but I deeply yearn to see them all adjoined. I have received literature and teachings upon my door step from the Jehovah's Witnesses - while on a road trip in the U.S. a tour of the Mormon Tabernacle yielded me another free book (hand delivered by a couple of finely dressed gentlemen right to my front door in Victoria - that Mormon organization has very long arms apparently.

I have been in innumerable healing fire ceremonies, sweat lodge, received from practitioners of assorted modalities different forms of energy healing, practiced martial arts, yoga and meditation. I had shamanic healing - discovered a large piece of my ancestral origins and have journeyed once to the homeland of my ancestors (that is a plot that certainly continues to thicken to this very day). I have sat in circles that base their spiritual life on "Christian mysticism" - viewing the "teachings" of Jesus as literally "the living word" and a path for a personal and profound connection to "God" (which is what I believe he was teaching all along - before the "church" co-opted - the man & then, set about to commandeer and misrepresent his teachings in order to direct the masses to "join" and willingly uphold the newly formed power structure of "organized religion." Dogma and "intellectualizing" these teachings has rendered much of it's transformational power benign (but my experience is this is a matter of practice - no shortfall on the teachings.

I have sat in Buddhist meditations and retreats and in talking circles around the fire, sat alone on the mountaintop - I have on more than one occasion had fascinating conversations with some of the local street corner evangelists (some representing a particular group - others representing a raw, authentic brand of humanity that is hour by hour, a dance that is far closer to the realities of life and death than the likes of me typically experiences). Society looks down it's collective nose at some of these folks when they could have the vision of living saints - talk about misuse of resources!!
In Ireland I sat in ancient stone circles and visited sacred sites - awakening me to the call of my ancestors. Through the Balkan countries I visited a wide variety of churches, cathedrals and even had the chance to attend a prayer session in the Mosque in Sarajevo. Again I sat on the mountain top - alone for the night on "Apparition Hill" in Medjugorje, Bosnia (where pilgrimages continue to this day to connect with Mother Mary) and kneeled at the tombs of St. Francis and Saint Clare in Assisi, Italy (though it is not my intention to take away from the beliefs and reverence bestowed upon them by the Catholic faith  - I personally don't believe they have the monopoly on them, their teaching or their energies now that they are in the spirit realm - I personally had profound experiences at these sites.

I also took the opportunity to view the splendor and grandeur of Vatican City. My personal experience connecting to all of these holy places is that the energy of reverence, worship, sacredness is present throughout (in some cases that was all I could connect with as the "sermon" was in different languages none of which I understood. Why then can't (won't) people connect at that level and forget the differences?

It is this heart connection that I believe many (if not all the faith paths) describe - obviously that connection is frequently lost while different groups quibble, debate and wage wars over the particular strategy they follow.

I know in my heart exclusivity is not the way - I don't believe that the love that is espoused throughout the spiritual paths of the world, is well embodied by those that practice alienation.  I understand fear, greed and the desire for power (I also know of the illusory nature of all of these and the havoc it reeked in my life - my life is just a microcosm of the whole) in fact I have in various ways contributed to the state of the world (if only through my inaction) and various levels of unconscious living.

Personal crisis (which I believe is always "spiritual" in nature) changed my life trajectory (actually first it saved my life) and continues to do so - "does a leopard change its spots?" Yes, absolutely and completely (at least I can speak for myself) given I know I'm really no different than anyone else I know transformation is available for all those that choose it and therefore humanity as a whole. The ways and means that individuals and groups choose to seek this transformation should not matter. Love is all that matters - if you buy a cake mix from the store it doesn't matter if it's Duncan Heinz or Betty Crocker either will yield a cake. Are you going to refuse dessert at your neighbors house because you disagree with their choice of mix?

Most of the "major" religious paths have a version of "Love your neighbour as yourself" when then, will it start?

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