(Bitter)Sweet

I just finished my last weekend class of this degree!  I feel simultaneously relieved and also quite sad.  Though I often felt somewhat on the periphery, I have incredible respect and love for the beautiful souls I have had the privilege to study with.  These are my people.  It’s rare to find that.

It’s funny how we can work so hard to achieve a goal and look so forward to getting there, and then wake up and see that it truly is the journey that matters.

Okay, that’s not true.  The outcome is pretty damn important too!  Yet it is the journey that adds to the richness of the accomplishment.

Moving forward, I feel some regret that I always kept myself slightly removed and yet I acknowledge that is part of who I am and that is okay too.  I stretched myself throughout this process and I am proud of that – I choose to place my attention on that aspect.  Was I always able to partake fully?  No.  Did I manage to push some previously inflexible boundaries and to respect yet others?  Yes.

I choose to focus on how my education has helped me to grow and how beautiful an experience I have had.  I was lucky enough to spend many many hours over the past three years discussing topics that make my soul smile.  I have engaged in introspection and reflections that have broadened my world view and allowed me to see the validity of other perspectives.  I have learned to apply empathy and compassion to all people, not just the ones for whom I feel affinity.

I have not just learned the “skills” of counseling.  Even more amazing (to me), I have internalized the essence of counselling into who I am.  I will forever approach life with this new lens.  This is still somewhat startling and wonderful to me.

I am changed.  Thank you classmates, thank you profs, thank you God.

Thank you self.

I like me better now.

Birds

Birds have become my anchor these days.

A few weekends ago, I woke before the sun and had one of those “dark night of the soul” experiences.  It was bitterly awful and raw.  I spent hours feeling as if the world was simply too difficult and scary to face.  Finally, as the sun was rising, I heard a bird singing.  A single voice sharing a cheerful melody and welcoming the light.

That song was my hope and salvation wrapped up in music.

Since then, I have noticed how surprisingly frequently we are accompanied by birdsong in my city.  Though it often melts into the general overture of car tires, sirens, and idle chatter, if I choose to listen, I can often isolate a trilling somewhere nearby.

I have chosen to allow these gentle sounds to ground me.  To intentionally tune in and be reminded that no matter how desperate or afraid or sad I feel, that there is still a note of hope playing on for me.  There is a connection to the world and to others that endures every misery.  This is a revelation that I keep experiencing anew and each time it humbles me with its grace and brings a grateful smile to me face.

Nature’s vocalist reaches out and offers me hope.

I accept.

Bias, Take Two

Last post I spoke of my own biases in spiritual exploration.  Today I will speak briefly on what I witness as other people’s judgments.

We live in a culture where there is actually bias against overt religiosity.  Many people cautiously claim themselves as spiritual, but not religious.  That has been my default for years.

When someone proclaims a specific faith, there is often a moment of pause, and an almost visible recoiling backward.  We frequently have fears that their belief system may include recruitment or that we are now being judged as somehow unholy and lesser than.

It’s somewhat akin to the reaction I sometimes get when I say that I am vegetarian.  That immediate need to decry one’s “need” for meat or cheese.  I realize that is how I have reacted in the past to a friend mentioning that she is Catholic.  Or another stating that she is Jewish.  It became a moment where I felt impelled to explain my lack of religion.  The cultural stereotypes of the faithful led me to make assumptions about how such a friend might live and how they might view me as a non-believer.

As I explore my faith base, I remain hesitant to reveal it to people, fearing judgment from the other side.  I am a rational, intellectual person and I feel sheepish about admitting that I am looking for something bigger than myself.  For believing that such an entity could exist.  It creates a great internal discord, as my academic and questioning mind is confronted with the needs and leanings of my soul.

I strive to remember that kindness is a universal quality and part of kindness is being open to other people’s experiences.  My journey is mine and no matter where it ends up, I will maintain an attitude of acceptance and compassion to all.

Bias

This spiritual journey of mine continues on and it is quite interesting to witness the implicit biases that exist, both in me and in others.

Today I speak of my own biases.

I feel pulled toward Eastern philosophies and practices.  Yoga, Buddhism, meditation… these are ways of being that make sense to me.  I feel a sense of peace while moving through the movements and I feel communion while sitting in silence with strangers.  There is a wholeness and unity that draws me in.

I want this spirituality to be all I need, and yet, it feels beautiful but incomplete.

On the other hand, when I enter a Christian Church cathedral, I feel like I have come home.  There is a quality of safety and comfort that wraps around me and fills my heart.  I am strangely resistant to this.  The stories of Jesus and the idea that as humans we are all sinners… these concepts make me uncomfortable.  I believe that people are inherently good and I bristle when I am told that we must repent.  Yet the house of God (specifically the United Church) stirs in me a feeling that it is my house as well.

It’s all confusing.  As mentioned before, my goal is to keep remaining open as I continue this exploration.  That openness includes being open to finding a resonance that I didn’t expect.  It means that maybe I will learn that certain tenets may be viewed differently from how I think now.

My journey continues…

Peace

A brief post this evening as I sit here feeling peace.

There is no reason for this serenity, no big change or event.  I attended a meditative church service last night and during the calming hush of choral music, a warmth of the soul settled over me and has stayed.  Whether or not it lasts, I am savoring this feeling and letting heal me.

I feel whole and safe.  I have a sense that whatever happens in my life, it really will all be okay.  I have an inner smile in this moment.  I feel God/spirit/love/connection/source and life feels precious.

Source

Source

I sound high. 🙂  I’m not.  I swear.

In the midst of the darkness that has cleaved with tenacity to my days and nights, there is a momentary sparkle of lightness and, in this moment, that is all that matters.

 

A busy Sunday

Apparently when I dive in to something, I go full in!  It was a blustery day where I live yesterday making it an ideal day to be inside and exploring my faith seeking once more.

Please note: I am a religious ignoramus in many ways – if I get anything wrong in my descriptions or characterizations it is merely a function of my un-knowing – I am approaching this search with an open mind to various ways of connecting with spirit.

I started off my day with an Anglican service.  It had the distinct advantage of being near home.  It is a progressive, new, young congregation and I felt immediately welcomed into the experience.  This service involved a lot of ritual (liturgy, I’ve learned it is called) with standing and sitting and singing and repeating.  I loved the music – again, young and welcoming and with all the lyrics projected on a big screen (very helpful for those of us who needed guidance!).  I felt a bit awkward at some of the invocations of Jesus, his teachings and what that means.  I am learning about myself that while I feel at home in more traditional churches, I feel some resistance to traditional explanations of the bible and the need to pull others into one’s faith.

Late in the afternoon I visited an even smaller service with less than 15 people, gathering in a local cafe.  Despite the small congregation, they had a four person “choir” (do you call it that with only 4?) whose rich voices lifted in powerful song, filling and blessing the room.  This meeting had an even more progressive feel and clearly welcomed and embraced people from all walks of life.

Finally, in the evening, I attended a candlelit music service in a large cathedral (a United church this time).  I love the feel of history and reverence in such a setting and the choral music was calming and gentle.  It was gently peaceful.  Despite being tired from a busy day already, I was glad I took part.

After all that, I felt inspired and uplifted and yet still seeking, still searching.  I recognize this may be long process for me.  In the midst of all this Christianity, I still feel a pull toward more Eastern philosophies as well and am looking into various opportunities in that direction.  I have dipped my toe in Buddhist waters before and I know there is some resonance there for me.

Ultimately, I see that my soul feels pulled in the directions of inclusivity, believing as I do that there is not one “right” path – we are all taking different routes and making different connections to the same oneness.  I realize that it may be less about the specifics of the path than it is about finding that place that houses the community that will support me in embodying the spiritual principles of love, connection, hope and peace.