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Coming Out

I’ve been experiencing something very new recently, and I’ve been unsure about whether or not to discuss it/blog about it. Spirituality is controversial at best, and people tend to have very powerful feelings about it, for good or ill.

I find that I’ve always linked spirituality and religion, and assumed that if I believed in God, I would be joining the unenlightened masses that believe in a male, humanoid, capricious, cruel, often discriminatory, and all-powerful deity (this secular perspective of religion, while terribly reductionist and judgmental, is not uncommon). In spite of this, I have been spiritually seeking for a long time, for the last ten years or so at least.

What have I been seeking? Insight, truth, some sense of belonging, justice, kindness, peace. It is a very long list. But I have never felt the presence of God, nor have I felt any real connection to most of the religious texts I’ve read or rituals I’ve witnessed. I often experienced it as empty, cryptic, contradictory, and conformist. My belief system has been largely agnostic, humanistic, and rationalistic. While I’ve felt some sense of resonance with the work of Jung and Campbell on archetypes, myths, and the collective unconscious, and an affinity for Buddhist practices and principals, I have always felt very much cosmically alone.

As I’ve gotten older, that sense of being alone has become harder to ignore, and harder to tolerate. As we age, the inevitability of our own death (scary) and of those we love (scarier) becomes inescapable. Buddhist principals say we should neither cling to pleasure or run from pain, but this is incredibly difficult when what lies beneath the clinging and running is emptiness, fear, and often in my case, despair. Easier to be caught in the karmic wheel than face the abyss. Anxiety and depression have been the periodic result of this struggle.

Recently my perspective has shifted dramatically. I have experienced a spiritual awakening. I don’t know a better way to describe it. I have become aware, from deep in my being, that we are not alone. I have begun to experience God or Atman/Self or God-Consciousness (call it what you want) in a way that is very immediate and tangible. It is a mental, emotional, and physical experience.

I’ve been reading a whole lot of stuff to try and help me understand what I’m experiencing. Deepak Chopra, The Upanishads (pre-Hindu texts), Rumi, Hildegard von Bingen, the Thomas Gospel (this is one of the Gnostic texts – concurrent with the bible but not associated with the church), and a stack of other books. I’ve had to re-evaluate my fairly ignorant opinions of people with religious or spiritual beliefs. I’m realizing that strict rationalism or humanism that excludes the validity of others’ spiritual experiences is just as dogmatic as any religion that does not allow for a personal experience of God.

My beliefs are no longer secular, but they are also not strictly religious either. I think that all of the universe and what lies beyond is some form of consciousness, and that I am part of that consciousness. It feels as if I am a cell in a body that exists to experience itself – my life is a vital part of that consciousness’ awareness. This leads me to feel as if the difference between myself and other beings is not as substantial as it once seemed. It also gives me a profound sense of the ecstatic quality of life, something I have had difficulty accessing in the past. I find it easier to forgive myself and others, and easier to let go of fear and shame, emotions that have been very difficult to release in the past.

Strangely, I have been drawing mandalas for years, mostly because I thought they looked cool. Now I think perhaps my higher conciousness was struggling to express itself.

I decided to write about this because I really like to blog about my thoughts and feelings, what I’ve been reading, and my personal reflections. This is a big shift, and has brought on quite a bit of obsessive book reading, so I’m sure there will be more about it in the future. I am a little worried about the reaction of some of the people I know read this blog, but I think it’s worth it to stay authentic in a forum where that’s kind of the point, you know?

3 comments to Coming Out

  • Cortney

    I think it’s really cool that you’ve had some time to think about what you believe and make it real for yourself.

    I know that there is no one absolute right but I think what matters most is finding where you feel fulfilled. For me, I find that in the Christian faith. It’s just what you said, something that fills that emptiness and its something that I couldn’t ever fill myself or by anything I could ever do. It’s something that only God could fill for me.

    I know that joy and happiness comes from that fulfillment that comes from a deeper understanding of your beliefs and I’m glad that you are on a path that is bringing you a sense of fulfillment!

    Have a great day! 🙂

  • Sr. Benedicta

    I hope for you, my dear friend, that this experience deepens and grows within you. The words I chose for my profession “motto” was ABYSSUS ABYSSUM INVOCAT which I translate to mean the innermost depths of my being calling to THE innermost depth, the ONE beyond all words who alone can be the response to this longing. An endless dialogue which is personal yet interwoven with all that is. It was my own “awakening” to that ONE that sent me on my journey to where I have been now for ten years and yet, it seems, the experience of “immersion” in a way of life in which the only purpose of it is the context of this seeking within a specific tradition, has been bringing me back to another perspective, another reality of transcendence which does not fit well into the models of orthodoxy. Perhaps it is a semantics issue. Though it is true that there are many misconceptions in “secular” culture about religion and religious people (likewise in the other direction), these are not always unfounded criticisms. It is a very complex terrain and yet so infinitely simple. The roads have all been walked before and yet we are given a map of uncharted realms which we find as we go. I find it interesting that you note among others our foundress, Hildegard of Bingen. I look forward to how your path will continue to unfold. May it fill you with wonder wherever it leads you.

  • […] I have been trying to retrace my steps. When I was preparing to write this post, I went back and reread my spiritual “coming out” post from 2007. Here is my story, with five years and a lot of changes worth of […]

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