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Monday, September 6, 2010

The spirituality of not knowing

On Friday I wrote about my recent lack of spiritual feelings and how I was supposed to lead my PRG on Saturday, with the topic being motherhood and spirituality. As usual, my PRG did open my mind to possibilities I hadn't considered when reading the chapter.

To be honest, we all think the book, The Mother's Guide to Self Renewal, is lacking quite a bit. The group and the idea is worthwhile. It is a good guide, but the presentation is pre-t-t-y vanilla. If you are doing this alone, or with a group of women to whom you cannot relate well, you probably won't get much out of it because you are going to have to add in your own flavor.

Almost every month we end up discussing what we think should have been the questions. This month was no different.

Instead of focusing on our own spiritual journeys into motherhood, our group members came to the conclusion that what we'd prefer to talk about is how to relate our spirituality to our children. This is something I gave a lot of thought to while I was pregnant, but since Annika's birth, I have put it off, until she's older. Well, she's older now and will probably be asking questions soon.

I won't deny that the prospect has me a little nervous. I wonder how much of my childhood belief system has spilled over into my daily behavior, even though I don't ascribe to it anymore.

As a child, I was a member of the Church of Christ, which is a non-denominational church that believes that Jesus is our savior. There are lots of rules and if you don't follow them, you will spend eternity in hell. Other than that, I'm not sure which things are important to note as beliefs because when I was a kid, it all seemed important. But I worried the most about heaven and hell. I was so greatly afraid of going to hell, that I obsessively worried about it. I read the Bible cover to cover, searching for signs that I was certainly a member of the proper church that would send me to everlasting life in heaven, not hell.

It seems there was a bit of competition for the Lord's favor amongst west Texan churches, the Church of Christers, the Baptists, and the Methodists. It wasn't unlike the competitive feel amongst our rival schools over who had the better football team.

Nanny, nanny, boo boo, we're going to heaven! You're going to heh-hhhll!

When I was 12 or 13, I learned for the first time in my life that some people who went to the Church of Christ didn't believe in hell.

I was shocked and appalled!

At first.

And then, I was relieved.

It had never occurred to me that there could be a different viewpoint from the one presented to me in church. That maybe, just maybe this whole heaven and hell thing was not something I should be worrying so much about.

I started to worry less about my soul being burned in the fiery flames of the devil's residence for all of eternity, whilst wailing and gnashing my teeth and begging the Lord to allow me to desecrate his steps with my hideous being. After all, maybe it wasn't even true.

As an adult, I put off deciding what I believed in until after I got divorced. For the most part, I was just angry about being sold a bill of goods for my entire childhood, which is how I perceived it.

I felt like I had been gypped out of choices in deciding what I believed in. As an adult, I learned that there was way more to life than Christianity. I dipped my toes into Buddhism and read a variety of religious literature. Most of what I read had plenty of depth. But the practice of it all seemed empty and ritualistic, even the eastern philosophy, except for Buddhism. Meditating at a temple brought me an intense relief, relaxation, and happiness that I had never experienced without some sort of chemical induction.

During my spiritual quest, I started to notice the central theme in most religions. There is a God. There is some sort of salvation. There are rules that will lead you to salvation. There's usually some stuff in there about loving one another and helping people too, but it seemed to me that most people didn't pay much attention to that stuff, especially when it came to politics or homeless people.

I was hardened against the idea of religion for many years, but I've never been able to completely shake the idea that I do believe in some sort of higher power. 

I've lightened up on the idea of Christianity. I know that the fire and brimstone teachings are not all there is to it. There are lots of good messages in the Bible. There are a lot of good messages in all religious text.

I know that I want to approach the idea of spirituality differently with Annika. I want her to understand that the embodiment of whatever spirit life that is out there, is inside of her and how she lives day-to-day can be part of her spiritual life. I want to teach her how to connect to herself. I want her to understand that there are many different beliefs and we don't really know which one is the right one, or if there even is a right one.

I will tell her that I don't believe there is one right way to live. That I believe every person is on a path in different places at different times and what is right for one person isn't necessarily right for another. And even what is right at one time in your life, may not be right during a different time in your life. I want to teach her how to be good to herself and other people, even though I am not always very good at either one.

I want to teach her that the harsh judgments that religions preach are not a good way to approach life and that the message she should take from the religions she studies are the messages about love, charity, faith and healing.

I learned most of that hard way and I think I will always pay for it.

I don't know if I've come a very long way in my spiritual path. There are some days when I think I have and some days when I feel like I've been plodding along slowly and it will take me forever to get to the end. The one thing I do know is that I will never really know. Not in this life anyway.

Maybe that's all I really need to know.

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