Share My Faith Journey? Maybe. Maybe Not.

Via on Mar 18, 2014

journey

At the end of the day, the way I share my spiritual journey is by making my life a testimonial.

I don’t have to witness, convert, convince or persuade. All I have to do is live what I say I believe, every day.

My extended family is made up of atheists and Jews. My working life is spent in among Christians. In my internet world, everyone seems to be a vegan and a yogi. I am none of those things.

Finding myself without inspiration, I polled the members of a Facebook group about topics that might interest them. One of them wrote this: “Interfaith issues. How to find and blend your own sense of spirituality.” Another wrote this: “How to share one’s journey without being obnoxious.”

Dear reader, I laughed. Not at the people who asked the question, but at the sheer, cosmic perfection of the inquiries at this moment in my life.

I was born to a Jewish mother (who believed in God) and a lapsed Catholic father (who does not). Their deal: no established religion at home, all belief systems respected. I went to mass with one grandmother and Catholic Christianity was incense, choral music and mystery. I celebrated holidays with my mother’s family and Judaism was family, food and a kind of dark, yearning stubbornness of spirit.

My brother and I were given the gift of choice. He is maybe an agnostic, possibly an atheist, a doctor and a scientist. It’s worth noting that despite our lack of religion in the home, and the fact that my brother chose a completely different spiritual path, our values are extraordinarily similar: family, service to others, compassion and justice.

I experimented with everything, including Judaism, Catholicism, Wicca and straight-up Protestant Christianity. My father told me Greek myths over breakfast when I was in preschool, I read the Tao Te Ching in high school, learned to read Tarot cards and dipped into astrology in college, and read the Bible cover to cover, picking things up as I rolled through cultures and traditions. What I picked depended largely on what movie I saw, how much I loved my Japanese History professor, or the guy I was chasing at any given time.

Sometimes, many times, I envied those who had a solid and consistent belief in something. It seemed to give them peace, stability and a real cushion against the sharp things in life.

There were things of value in almost every spiritual path I had studied, but there was not one that felt right to me as a way to live my life, forsaking all others. I believed in the power of nature, and that maybe what people call “God” can also be seen in every tree, rock and cloud. I admired Jesus tremendously as a teacher of compassion, forgiveness and love. I loved hymns and chants, the power of voices raised in prayer, The Sermon on the Mount, The Wiccan Rede and the Mourner’s Kaddish. I felt alternately blessed with an embarrassment of riches, and flaky because I couldn’t seem to settle.

Honestly, because my parents gave me the gift of choice, I never fully understood why it was necessary to pick just one path, not only to choose it but to reject all other paths as “wrong,” and possibly dangerous. Wrong and dangerous seem to lead to crusades, inquisitions and genocide.

The teachings of Jesus work smashingly well with those of The Buddha, and reverence for nature unifies everything from Taoism to Wicca. I am, today, as uncomfortable with lefty Christian-bashing as I am with super conservative attacks on anything that isn’t Christian. A belief system can be a powerful force for good, or a tool for control and division.

When I found Buddhism, it fit like an old shoe. There certainly are man-made trappings available, but they aren’t necessary. I pray and meditate every day, I try to be present, and I have the delightful charter of spreading compassion and eschewing judgment in the framework of a very real moral construct. I am the solution to the problems in my life, not asking someone or something else to fix or change anything. It’s up to me to accept things the way they are, or get up and change the things that need changing.

I like it that way.

In my head, in my heart, in my home I am comfortable with what I believe. I still gravitate to all things spiritual including chakras, The Gnostic Gospels, Islam, Sikhism, Hinduism, St. Francis and Ayurveda.  Buddhism is, maybe the rock of my spiritual life but there are barnacles that become a part of me, that fortify me and make me stronger. That, maybe, is the answer to the question about blending my own kind of spirituality.

As for that other thing, the part about “sharing my journey,” it’s trickier.

I used to think, maybe right up to this moment, that my policy was basically “don’t ask, don’t tell” unless I’m writing. And mostly, nobody asks.

When it does come up, I am neither surprised nor offended by the responses. A member of the congregation at work asked me about the Tara I wear around my neck; when I explained it to him he told me he would pray for my salvation. I’m pretty sure my brother’s family believes I’m a woo-woo wacko, although they love me (and my niece bought me an awesome Buddha T-shirt for Christmas). When I wrote a post about exploring the chakras, one commenter was aghast that I could ever have questioned their existence or validity.

At the end of the day, the way I share my spiritual journey is by making my life a testimonial. I don’t have to witness, convert, convince or persuade. All I have to do is live what I say I believe, every day. That’s my “sharing,” and it works for this me, no matter where I am.

And if someone asks, if they see in me something that ignites a flame of hope or curiosity, I will sit down with them over a cup of chai and we’ll talk.

Otherwise, I stay with this journey, embodying my beliefs, knowing that I need no one to stamp my passport.

Love elephant and want to go steady?

Sign up for our (curated) daily and weekly newsletters!

Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

Photo: Cornelia Kopp 

About Ann Nichols

Ann Nichols has been everything from a cellist to a lawyer, and is currently a Buddhist who gets paid to cook at a Protestant church. She lives in a 100-year old house in Michigan with her husband, her son and an improbable number of animals. You can hang out with her by joining the Facebook group “Metta-Morphosis.”

2,944 views

Appreciate this article? Support indie media!

(We use super-secure PayPal - but don't worry - you don't need an account with PayPal.)

9 Responses to “Share My Faith Journey? Maybe. Maybe Not.”

  1. Dana Gornall DanaGornall says:

    Ann, I think you and I have a lot in common.

  2. Rose says:

    I find your article thoughtfully done, non judgemental and enlightened at your path. Religion is not about defending our beliefs, it's about allowing others the same choices without judgement.

  3. I went through a similar journey in high school trying to find my place. Nothing ever fit for me either. There are more of us out there than we even realize. Great article. Spiritual, but not religious is what I now say to the age old question of what church do you go to?

  4. I've often thought of myself as a lint brush "rolling through cultures and traditions" too. This is one of my new favorites in your collection, Ann.

  5. Kathleen Herrick says:

    I'm over 70 and want to be just like you when I grow up. Thanks, Ann, for your wisdom, compassion, and love of humanity.

  6. karen katz says:

    when you start to live in the truth of your heart, and it reflects in your outward person, people notice. some might be amused or threatened or confused, but a lot are enchanted with the person that you are becoming. the important thing is that you are living the valid spiritual life, of YOU, and that you treat all God's children equally, with compassion and calm.

    • encounterillumination says:

      I loved your comment most especially because that is exactly how I've been experiencing life this past year as I feel more and more like ME. I cannot worry about the threatened or confused ones. Bless you Karen

  7. twomoonsrising says:

    Thank you for a wonderful article :) You and I are on the same page, and it's so nice to relate to someone in this way.

Leave a Reply