When it comes to spirituality, I’m all over the map. Early childhood in Catholicism, late teenager goddess religion, Irish mysticism and earth-based spiritualty, Buddhism, meditation circles, Emersonian transcendentalism as well as attending mosques, synagogues, stupas, weird pagan festivals and sweat lodges. I found divinity in all of these settings, so, I could not comprehend how all religions feel that they have the one way. All ways lead to God.
Also, the ecstasy and devotion that people felt about their religions, I had only experienced in the woods. This led me to the very natural path of looking at decaying trees and animals, the role of fungi, discovering a mother with baby turkeys, the spring regeneration of Coltsfoot and Lady’s Slippers and the flow of birth, life, death and resurrection from a scientific and naturalistic perspective.
Are we as dead as a skunk on the side of the road? Good-bye and lights out; existence and what we know of life is over; this life is not a dress rehearsal. These ideas reminded me to be mindful because… this moment might be all that there is.
Then, in a concerted effort to drop my damn baggage because it was too damn heavy to carry anymore, I was serendipitously led to kundalini yoga through a mindful woman centered teacher, a guru. Despite my New York skepticism, bits of wisdom slowly crept in. One of our mantras was so real; I am beautiful, blissful and bountiful.
May the long time sun shine upon you, all love surround you; and the pure love within you, shine your way on. To hear a chorus of women singing this and raising their voices for themselves, each other and all of humanity is life changing.
And the voices of women in our gathering lifted my spirit up, and after decades of Biblical trauma, I finally started to weep because I had not cried since 1998.
I would like to say that everything was rainbows, unicorns and the partner of my dream materialized, but that did not happen – or at least not in that order. This was a human version of Eat, Pray, Love. I stopped wine, weed, over-exercising and type A behavior of doing, accomplishing, and being so busy I basically would pass out at night.
Nightmares, sweats, electric currents running up my body, out of body experiences, dreams, memories, bad memories, really bad memories and panic attacks flooded my system. I made it this far to be hospitalized NOW? I thought I would have to check myself into the fifth floor or whatever floor the psychiatric unit was on.
Thankfully, a kind psychiatrist who agreed to see me said, “Well, of course you’re having a nervous breakdown, you have stopped all of your coping mechanisms. That is why all your trauma and remembered trauma, and abuse is flooding you because you are not denying or detaching from it. You are in you body and mind, finally experiencing it.”
I could cope with this because I was a fighter and this was another thing to overcome. Yet, this was not a Hallmark movie where I suddenly was BETTER. It took years as I began to learn and perceive I am not my trauma or emotions and learn a new way of being.
Which brings me to 2023 and sitting in a Catholic church on Saturday at 5pm.
I am sitting in a pew and letting the words wash over me and as the priest says, “God is merciful.” I am thinking, Tell that to the people in Turkey. I am feeling smug and judgmental and realizing this as I try to plug into something larger because my smugness is irritating me. Then I realize…
I do NOT know any divine path or what is in store for anyone or how it plays out in their or the universe’s karmic soup. This is a horrific tragedy and God is not sending lightening bolts or golden horseshoes. Perhaps the mercy is the community that rises to help those in need, the humanitarian community that is working OT, the donors, the people praying, all of humanity that recognizes the horror.
Because there is no God.
He is not a person doling out blessing and punishments. Suddenly, I reached a beautiful joyful peace in that Catholic church. God, for me, is about divine oneness, that interconnectedness we feel when we do selfless service, like the first responders at 9/11, or when we do something as simple as wave a car in front of us when they are trying to pass lanes.
Yet, I am getting super judgey when the priest talks about this weird martyrdom of Catholicism, the turning the other cheek, loving a-holes.
Then another epiphany hits me that intersects Catholicism with Buddhism. All suffering comes from attachment. I am suffering when I look at my wrinkles, grey hair and weird sagging skin because I am attached to an idea of beauty. To turn the other cheek means I am not attached to revenge or the most important thing, my emotions, which drive my alligator brain, not my divine brain.
I am 60 this year. I recognize more frequently my alligator brain and my divine brain, and my need for divine oneness finally has the majority of my time. In these last few weeks, my attachments are thankfully loosening their grip. And to drop this is to feel so free. I feel like I can just float away. I just lost 50 psychic pounds.
When was your faith challenged? What steps did you take when you questioned your religion or faith? Has your relationship with God, religion or divinity changed as you have aged?
Tags Finding Happiness
What a wonderful article and interesting perspectives! I enjoyed reading all!
Reading this felt so much like how I felt. I was raised as a Catholic. Now 63 & exploring Buddhism & reincarnation. No longer go to church but still believe there is a God but he does not punish. Meditation has become my faith. God has blessed me in so many ways. Feeling my best and yet feel the best is yet to come
I had a hand-me-down religion. It was given to me by my parents, and I never questioned it until recently, So I’ve spent a lifetime believing in magic. Because that’s what religion is. I’m an intelligent woman and I wonder how I could have believed this stuff for so long with no evidence to back it up. It’s strange not believing after so many years. It’s fresh and new. Like you, Maggie, I felt oneness walking in the woods. The most profound moments in my life were in nature. When that feeling of peace and love fell on me, I assumed it was God because what else could it be? I didn’t know that the body’s response to nature is to produce dopamine and other feel-good chemicals. I am free of “the gods” and what a relief it is.
I too have Catholic Roots; fallen away and come back I am so grateful to God. He is my one and only peace, the peace of Christ. I am so glad there have been so many who have returned. I believe there is truth in most spiritual practice but only The Truth is found in knowing Jesus. He is my only hope
I want to try to keep this simple. Testimonies can be long. I was raised in the Catholic church but always questioned so many of their traditions. But I will say that it was a starting point and gave me a foundation and I learned about Jesus, although not personally and did not read the Bible. I never delved into Eastern mysticism or other cults. I tried mainline churches.ti
I finally started attending a non-denominational church (before they were popular-lol) And I went to Bible studies and was mentored by precious Godly women.
As I result, I asked Jesus into my life. I discovered the simplicity of the Bible and of Jesus. No one else laid their life down for us so we could spend eternity with Him in heaven. He never said our lives would be perfect because sin came into our lives and there are consequences to sin. But He can give you His peace as you endure trials. I know that personally. I have been a Believer for 35 years and although I have questioned, at times, and have had cancer and many trials, I knew He would never leave me or eforsake me.
HE is the Truth. If you want to test everything I have shared, just get in a quiet place and ask Him if He is real? If He shows you, then repent of all your sins, believe He is the Son of God, was sent here to die for you and you are forgiven of ALL your sins, past, present and future. Then find a good church that simply teaches the Bible. Calvary Chapels teach verse by verse but over the years other churches have beginning teaching that way. It is not what man says but what Gid says thru the Bible. Keep it simple. Jesus did.
Very well-said Joanna. I too, grew up very Catholic, and tried very hard to please God – and my father & mother. I left the Catholic Church at the age of 28, when Jesus “called me” at a Catholic Charismatic meeting. I accepted Him as my Savior. I read the Bible for the first time after that meeting & had so many questions for my priest – questions he could not answer – his response to my questions was that it was Catholic doctrine & I had to accept the teachings of the Catholic Church. I continued to search by visiting other churches & talking to people of different denominations. I made the choice to attend a non-denominational church & stayed for years – until my husband & the father of my 3 children left for a “happier” life with a younger, more beautiful woman! I was devastated – my children were 6 years, 4 years and 3 weeks old. Spoke to the pastor of the church I was attending & he assured me that with my faith, my husband would return – he did not, even though I “professed” & believed he would (my poor kids during this time…). So I got mad at the preacher AND God, and left that church, but God is faithful… I remarried after 6 years of struggling with 3 children to support & not much help. Fast-forward 35 years & I am still married to this wonderful, wonderful man who adores me & loves my children & grandchildren – I have been blessed abundantly by my God. I am 70 years old now and still looking for a “church”. Tried to go back to Catholic Church (I love the peace that the Mass gives me). Talked to a priest about returning & he basically told me if I do not annul my first marriage, I cannot receive Communion – that being married to my current husband, I am living in sin (unless we live as brother & sister – his exact words!). I will not annul my first marriage – I have beautiful children & grandchildren & have made peace with my first husband. My children have forgiven him and moved on. I miss attending church, the social interaction with believers, but my relationship with Jesus Christ is what I stand on.
Sadly, neither priest or pastor steered you in right drection.
I can relate to not receiving sacraments. Why I left church. My mom married my dad, who was divorced. My mom raised us Catholic but never received communion. She told me she was excommunicated because she married my dad who had been divorced. When she passed away, after 30+ years I marriage she could not receive “last rights” and her body could it be in church. But priest could go to funeral home and she could be buried in Catholic cemetery. He ended telling me she could have had an annulment.
When I became a Christian and read the Bible, I discovered that although God hates divorce, it us not the unpardonable sin. If we repent, God forgives us. The unpardonable sin is rejection of the Holy Spirit.
As for the pastor, he didn’t know what the future held for you. He was so wrong to tell you what he did. I don’t endorse divorce (I was divorced) because it affects so many people and causes so much pain. Also, the Bible allows for divorce if spouse has been unfaithful. But many marriages have been restored.
We cannot trust any man, only God and His Word. No church is perfect but I have gone to Calvary Chapel for years (again not perfect) but they are simple and teach the Bible verse by verse. There is no membership so you can just go and sit and let God speak to you and direct you. Study the Bible and you will learn the truth. Also learn about Jesus. He was a humble man, a servant and displayed love, mercy and forgiveness. That is who clergy should be emulating. If not….run away fast.
Sounds like we’re on same page! I trust Jesus, not man – any man. He came to set us free from the law and to show us love as it should be. Amen sister.