I, personally, am not wired for it. Not.
That said, unlike a lot of people these days, I love religions. All of them. Present and past. I think religions are important and valuable and necessary and that they do a lot of good.
(Harm, too, of course, but my inner purist is pretty battered at this point. The wild ride from shining eyes to growling cynic to the mysteries of a hospice bedside was a bitch, but it did leave me with this one kernel of truth: Throwing stones is hard on my hope.)
I don’t currently belong to a religion, although I used to convert a lot back in the day. In my troubled teens and twenties I was something of a spiritual nomad crossing the vast desert of life and let me just say…when you’re exiled and wandering through the dunes and darkness like that, you can’t afford to be picky about who’s well you will or will not drink out of. A ladleful of grace is a ladleful of grace and I was glad for every offer.
I found the same kind of life-saving grace at the heart of each religion I fell in with. Even though the words they used were often different…not to mention their customs, costumes, stories, and songs (and sometimes even their Gods)…still, that rippling, silver grace lying pooled in the bottom of each ladle was the same.
Maybe that’s why I’ve never been able to choose between them…commit to just one and forsake all the others. Because how could I turn my back on any of these friends who once took me in from the night, bathed and bandaged my feet, and let me rest till I was stronger? I can’t shake the feeling that that would betray the very grace they once shared with me. I may not be a Christian or Buddhist or Hindu or Jew or Shinto or Muslim or Taoist or Pagan…or any of the other beautiful, twinkling, mysterious faiths that offer the shelter of tents where we can kneel in safety and drink with both hands…but I still love and believe in them all, in their value, imperfection, and gifts. In the grace lying veiled and tender at their cores.
Y’know, the thought just occurred to me…maybe I am spiritually monogamous, just not to a religion or a God. What if it’s that grace I keep finding everywhere that won me over time?
Although not even over time really. It was love at first contact. I fell for it hook, line, and sinker the first time I ever experienced it as a small child, long before I entered a church, had any words to describe it, or even knew that grace was a thing. Honestly? I have no idea in the grand scheme what that feeling of being enfolded and cradled is all about, where it comes from, or if it comes from anywhere. Whether it’s a sign of something divine, a neurological by-product, or something generated by an as-yet-to-be-discovered energy field like electro-magnetism or gravity.
What I do know is that without its influence over the years, the odds of my surviving to write this blog post were pretty bad and I can hardly bear to think about everything I would have missed. So yeah, maybe I’m wired to be spiritually monogamous after all. Who knew?
(This piece of beauty is called Night Sky Over Desert Dunes and is an acrylic on canvas by artist Kathryn Beals. 8×10 prints are available here for $14.00 USD. Something of a steal really.)
copyright Dia Osborn 2013
Lovely. I remember as a child be embraced and rocked wrapped in a blanket. I felt so loved. I am reminded of this reading your post. I have longed for it since, offered it many times to my own babes – even into their ninth year. I am hanging on, knowing one day they’ll no longer be receptive, as I am now, but not spiritually. I have a longing to be held by something much larger then myself – I know I am, just not the way I imagine it from that childhood memory.
Although I rarely subscribe to one thing, the word grace does encompass a lot doesn’t it. The whole language around religion tends to conjure up our inner dictionaries based on experiences and filters, any triggering – but grace is a stand alone.
What a sweet image that is…a lifelong memory of being wrapped and rocked as a child and the way it spills over onto your children, too. I remember when my oldest was first born, feeling like I could finally pour out all the love I had to give into this tiny life that would receive it all, like that was all I’d ever really longed for. It was a rude shock when he and then my daughter grew up and started having boundaries, let me tell you. 🙂 So now I have a dog and a garden. Animals and plants don’t ever seem to get tired of being adored. 🙂
‘many triggering’…note to self to reread before posting. 🙂
I looked into a number of religions, and like you, found succor or comfort in most of them, at least for a time. Unlike you, i found one that wrapped its arms around me and felt right, deep in my soul, so here i have stayed. I tend to think the other religions were by stepping stones to help me find my way. I’ve often wondered if the religion i have called home has been a stepping stone to others finding their way. And, if *I* have been a stepping stone for others; i hope i’ve not been a stumbling block.
Thanks for such a thought-provoking post.
I love that image of stepping stones. Maybe everyone has a trail of moonlit pebbles to follow through life, like Hansel and Gretel trying to find their way back home. I’m pretty sure I’ve been both a help and a hindrance to other people at various times of my life. Sometimes I wonder if there really is a life review at the end after we die, like some believe. I kind of dread the thought of having to see all the thoughtless hurts I caused over the years, but it would be worth it to find out that some of the good went farther and deeper than I ever imagined, too. Thanks Megan.
“I have no idea in the grand scheme what that feeling of being enfolded and cradled is all about, where it comes from, or if it comes from anywhere.” This seems to describe life before birth, something so essential that only one steeped in grace could recognize it.
Hmmm…I never thought of that. I wonder how much the experience sources from some kind of vague womb memory? A really fascinating idea actually.
Beautiful!! Now into my 60’s, when asked which religion I follow, I say, “The God is Love one.” I, too, have ‘been around’ in the circles, learned something from each. But when I’m at the bedside of a Hospice friend I just try to share The Love, no name, no handle, no rule book, Namaste love.
Bless you Dia for sharing your amazing heart and soul!!
“The God is Love one.” That’s great Becki. I’ve always felt like I had my hands full with the “love your neighbor as I’ve loved you” thing (not much of a multi-tasker I’m afraid.) Maybe someday, if I ever feel like I’ve got that part handled, I can try working on something else. Although as long as insurance adjusters exist, moving on will be a challenge. 🙂
I really identify with the part about grace. Mr. B followed a Buddhist practice. One of the songs I picked for his memorial service was Amazing Grace. I got the impression that most people thought I did that because even though it is a Christian hymn we liked it and it sounded awesome on the bagpipes. The bagpipes were part of the reason that I picked it but I also believe that the words apply directly to Buddhism. A large part of Buddhism is awakening (I was blind but now I see). And does “saved” refer only to Jesus or can it also mean that the grace at the bottom of any ladle can save our sanity and equanimity. The Buddha said “no one can save you but yourself. You alone must walk the path. ” But it is the grace inherent in every molecule of the universe that gives you the strength to pick yourself up and get back on the path again. Thank you for the lovely and inspirational post. You so often express what I can feel but do not have the skill with words to say.
“…the grace inherent in every molecule of the universe…”
That’s exactly what it feels like for me, too…like it’s the basic building block of everything. I’ve really come to wonder over time if grace might not be an actual physical element or field of some kind, too, as well as the transcendent mental/emotional/spiritual experience we have when we come into contact with it. The farther I go and the more I see, the smaller the divide becomes between the physical and spiritual.
I’ll need to to talk with you for a very long time about this one. But for now, I’ll share these thoughts: You address what I’ve struggled with since age 15 and although many decades later I am more accepting of life’s mysteries, including the religions which man created, I still have questions which will probably never been answered. But I have tentatively concluded at least some things: 1.) our world and the cosmos are so amazing that a grand and unknowable and unimaginable power so inifinitesimally (sp?) greater than ourselves did indeed create all of it (just not the parts of it that man screws up so badly); 2.) how we see and relate to that higher power that is called God by millions, if not billions, takes the many forms that we call religions; 3.) that man’s need for meaning and understanding of “the mysteries of life and death” are instinctively driven, and so we have developed many religions as ways to make sense of unanswerable questions, dilemmas, contradictions and mysteries; 4.) no single religion offers THE one answer to all the questions and mysteries; 5.) no single religion is better than any other religion in telling us how “to relate, understand or ‘get to God'”; 6.) since the religions that exist have been created by man, there are flaws, some known, others unknown, in all of them; 7.) you don’t have to follow one or any religion to be a spiritual person or have a spiritual life. Maybe we can talk some more over coffee or tea somewhere, sometime for the next fifty to a hundred years and see if we can finally come to an understanding of it all. Philosophers and other wise men have been doing that for eons, so why not us?
I suspect one visit over coffee probably wouldn’t do it. 🙂