Friday, April 15, 2011

My Easter Reflection

This week has been a roller coaster but the one thing that has been flashing its' bright lights in my face is the fact that my spiritual beliefs are pulling me through. I will start by saying that I grew up Catholic, went to a Catholic grade school, Christian Brothers high school and a Jesuit College. My parents have a deep faith, they were not bible thumpers, my dad could name all of the books of the bible and give specific quotes from each though. They converted from Baptist to Catholic before I was born. Many of their friends when I was growing up and still today were people that they met at church when they converted. So I remember dinner parties that included a priest and a mass in the home before dinner. As I got older I started having questions about the religious part of being Catholic and all of the dogma. My parents supported my questioning but we were Catholic...that was that. I began noticing people who I saw in church and who professed a deep faith acting & speaking in ways that were hypocritical. Now, nobody is perfect & I don't expect anyone to be but it bothered me a lot and fueled my questioning. So basically I just stopped practicing and did nothing. I believed in God but not so much in many other things I had been taught. I was well into my 30's when it became apparent to me that I needed a spiritual path of some kind. I was the victim of a serious health issue that almost took my life. Frankly, it is a miracle that it did not. My doctor's told me that. My mom and dad prayed for a miracle everyday and when I woke up and later was able to leave the hospital my mom told me that it was the miracle they had been praying for along with many other people and prayer groups. I believed that it was a miracle that I was alive and that those prayers helped make it so. It renewed my belief that there was a higher power. One that was not looking at me as a sinner but as a being in need with a lot of determination to get better. So, I kind of wanted to find something again. Then wham, bam, my husband was diagnosed with stage IV cancer. This shook things up for both of us in just about every possible way. He did not grow up with any religion really and had asked me lots of questions about it in the past which was kind of shocking but he too wanted and needed to find a spiritual path that fit now, we both did. We discussed many options. As one of my close friends would put it we were shopping for a belief system that fit us and what we believed in. One day my husband told me about a meditation group that he had been told about and he thought we should check out. We had started meditation as a stress reliever and therapy for both of us during some pretty difficult times. We really did not know what to expect but what we found was amazing. This group was not just a meditation group. They practiced Zen Buddhism under the teachings of Tich Nhat Hahn. Paul & I felt comfortable there and with the teachings. They suited our beliefs and our new lifestyle. We became regular members of that Sangha. When Paul began to get very sick our teachers and fellow Sangha members were there to support us. when he passed our teachers went out of their way to support me in every imaginable way. They led his services which were perfect and beautiful. When I relocated I joined a similar Sangha in my new city and have fallen in love with each and every member and the practice. Without this spiritual path I could not be where I am in my life today. Without my Sangha I would be lost. I have never believed that one religion or belief is right or wrong and I still don't. I do not care if someone is Muslim, Hindu, Baptist, Catholic, Buddhist, Pagan, etc. I just believe without a doubt that a right (for you), positive spiritual path is essential in our lives. It makes us whole. It is open minded. That is where I believe so many get lost in their spirituality. An open mind fosters a spiritual life. Miracles...they happen everyday. They really do and so many times we do not recognize them. There are reasons that things happen and there is freedom in being able to turn to your spiritual beliefs for comfort or to have something to trust in. I separate spiritual beliefs from religion and religious dogma. I enjoy certain rituals and celebrations just like most people do but my faith does not reside in them. My faith resides within myself and the high powers. I encourage everyone to really consider their spiritual sides because they are a huge part of who we are. Explore them and have fun. Become connected and become whole as we are meant to be. It does not matter if you find that in a church, temple, on a meditation cushion or outside in nature. Just find it don't deny it.

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