“Still Walking Around the Temple” by Suzanne Clores.

Via on Sep 15, 2010

The Rabbi said, “This is a book for freaks and outcasts.” He hadn’t read it, of course…

Memoirs of a Spiritual OutsiderTen years ago, I published a memoir that enraged a famous Rabbi because it legitimized the personal quest for spirit. On the public television panel, the Rabbi said, “This is a book for freaks and outcasts.” He hadn’t read it, of course. And back then, I didn’t understand his fear of my earnest, twenty-something search for a divine life. But I do now. He was threatened. He didn’t believe in my line of inquiry: Could sacred experiences really replace my religion? Could chasing the sacred really be more fulfilling than religion? He didn’t believe that leaving the shell of religion—any religion—for a life in the unknown was a good idea. He didn’t understand that for me, and others, asking these types of questions is absolutely essential to happiness.

A decade later, the process of self-inquiry is a celebrated practice by millions of individuals. In fact, it is practically a religion itself. I count not only the lapsed Judeo-Christians like myself who sought meditation and yoga for a more personal experience of self. But women and men who question whether parenthood is truly right for them, and heterosexuals who question whether gender is so simply defined as that, and progressive business owners who wonder if the dollar is really the only bottom line. Thanks in part to higher education and a powerful media, self-inquiry for the average person has become part of the culture. Most recently it has stirred Americans to question whether or not they truly believe in freedom of religion. The fury displayed by the conservative pastor in Gainsboro, Florida over the negative influence of the Koran, for example, reminds me of the fury in the wrinkled face of that Rabbi on the panel discussion. Both were threatened by a different characterization of the divine. Both feared that someone else’s freedom meant losing their own.

In both cases, I like to think the Rabbi and the Florida pastor could have quieted their fears if they had engaged in self- inquiry.

Some questions I would recommend:

Do I believe in my own goodness? Do I believe in the essential goodness of others? What frightens me? What do I not understand? And why? How can I be my most authentic self? How can I inspire others to seek their own authenticity, whatever that may be?

I learned to ask these questions when I studied some of the world’s oldest spiritual systems. Yogis, Vodou priestesses, American Sufis, Meditators and Shamanic Practitioners all understand that questions and answers are what keep them connected to spirit. They understand that dialogue—especially inner dialogue—sparks insight and truth and, often, change.

Suzanne CloresI won’t kid myself into thinking that self-inquiry can solve the world’s political, social and religious problems. But it is an approach to solving personal problems, and that’s a start. If you’re brave enough to engage in self-inquiry, you may end up somewhere you never expected. And that’s exactly the point.

Suzanne Clores is celebrating the 10th anniversary of her book, Memoirs of a Spiritual Outsider, now available on Kindle.

About Brooks Hall

Brooks Hall is a Yogic Muse from Chicago, Illinois. In this capacity she teaches Yoga, writes about Yoga, and generally enjoys it. You can find her at: brookshall.blogspot.com.

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13 Responses to ““Still Walking Around the Temple” by Suzanne Clores.”

  1. Jennifer Shin says:

    "your practice as a vehicle to access deeper parts of yourself. " that's something a yoga teacher of mine said recently, and something I keep thinking about and coming back to. Congratulations, Suzanne, on 10 years! That's amazing. From a fellow freak and outcast that finds great inspiration form sangha and people like you.

    Love,
    Jen Shin

  2. Jennifer DeMeritt says:

    Right on! I work right around the corner from the proposed Islamic center at the WTC site, and I have to walk past a gaggle of strident Jesus freaks to get my Vietnamese sandwich at lunch. I wish people like that would read something like this.

    • Shazam says:

      That sounds both terrifying and irritating. The WTC is now the American holy land. If we're not careful, a mini gaza could form.

  3. lilysea says:

    Congrats on a decade and more of asking important questions, Suzanne. It's too bad you didn't get a rabbi more influenced by the deep and legitimate Jewish tradition of doubts and questions, eh?

    • Shazam says:

      Exactly my thought. I was so surprised when I learned, after the fact, that one of the foundations of Judaism is inquiry and dialog.

  4. Patti Clores says:

    Sa: As someone who has known you almost all of your life, I can personally attest to the goodness in your soul, and the acceptance in your heart. Continue your search, knowledge is power. Proud of you as always, Aunt Patti

  5. justsayin' says:

    Somehow i missed this book, now excited to read it….And, as someone who grew up (not unusual) in basically NO religious tradition (forced to go to church 2 or 3 times a year, which i actually enjoyed, but it was by no means a regular or structured thing) in my family, I am/was basically forced to develop my own form of spiritual inquiry/tradition, which as a girl/woman in this society seemed like a no-brainer to me. The concept of spiritual inquiry/spirituality being considered "outside" religion is actually pretty strange to me. Thanks for this!

  6. Linaflora says:

    great article suzanne. its always good to be reminded that we are ALL working with "verbal handles" (my new fav word of the week) whether the name is religion, spirituality, atheism or otherwise. compassion comes easier to me when i consider that perhaps the verbal handles comfortable for one, may not match mine, but are the reality for that given moment, for that individual, or at least thats what i understand today, perhaps tomorrow that will change ;) i appreciated the reminder that this newfound non religious, but spiritual path could very well be another container in itself. 'Still walking around the temple' made me smile, and take a nice long overdue moment to laugh at myself and my valiant attempts to contain, categorize, and dissect, that which is beyond all handles. Thanks for posting.

  7. Jon Zerin says:

    I enjoyed reading your article, as I enjoyed reading your book. I agree with you entirely about self inquiry being a revelatory exploration, that if done soundly, can lead to personal happiness. We are not the first generation to question the dogmatic principals of organized religion or the social structure of society, but we en mass undoubtedly questioned the belief systems of our parents and grandparents. It makes sense when we look back and see that we were the first generation to go to fully integrated schools and to see women as capable of doing any job a man can do, all the while being exposed to picture books full of little white children and other outmoded ideas, if not in our homes than in our schools and in the greater part of society.

  8. Jon Zerin says:

    Our generation has often been labeled cynics. Those of us whose cynicism didn’t descend into bitterness instead turned down the path of spiritual and social exploration, and those who didn’t succumb to the pitfalls of excess found a personally satisfying sense of spirituality.
    What were the roots of our dissatisfaction? I for one saw religion, as practiced by my family, as ritual without a great deal of substance, a rote exercise without spiritual joy. I was exposed to social, societal and economic expectations that didn’t mesh with the reality of a world in the midst of a metamorphosis. I was frustrated and confused by a regimen of socialization whose constructs no longer fit the shape of society as a whole.
    The current reactionary response to the evolution of society is a natural response by the last of the adherents of the old societal code. Just like species doomed to extinction, anachronistic ideas become ardent in their fleeting hopes for survival

  9. Heather says:

    Suzanne – I remember how much I enjoyed reading your book the first time, and now I want to go back and read it again. In my attempt to regain my personal balance and self-worth, I am very appreciative of how anyone can find that kind of spiritual peace and comfort, no matter what form it may come in.

    Hope to see you soon.
    Heather

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