Friday, November 30, 2012

One Mystical Boat

In her book, The Wisdom of No Escape, Pema Chodron writes about sticking with one boat, going deep along one path instead of shopping religions every time you come up against pain. During one of my recent stays at Yogaville, I had a consultation with Mataji (Swami Gurucharanananda) who advised me that “sampling here and there is not a path.”

My first path was Catholic. I had nothing to do with that. I was born Catholic and followed that path for 18 years until one day I looked at the genuflecting congregation and saw that they were just following a routine. There was no spirituality involved.* They had this memorized routine for mass: words they said, sitting, standing, kneeling. None of it was spiritual. I could see right through them. That was when I decided to go on a spiritual quest.

I began my quest by partying because I was a freshman in college and that’s what freshman do. After a couple of deathly experiences, I began investigating the Mormon church because my best friend and everyone we knew were doing that. So, I “investigated” and “prayed about it” and “received a testimony” that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was the one true church.

I transferred to Brigham Young University. I met a man and got married in the temple and brought my children up in the convenant. I was a Mormon for 18 years. And then one day it hit me that there was no spirituality in my path and I left that church.

For years I wandered with no path until I met a group who had decided to make up their own religion. So I did, too. I created my own goddess. From there I began investigating the basic and ancient religions, and acquiring gods and goddesses. After 12 years of snatching the best bits from other religions, I finally wanted to know what I really believed. I took the famous Belief-O-Matic quiz and learned that I was first of all Neo-Pagan, second New Age, third a Liberal Quaker, and fourth Unitarian Universalist (UU).

I had heard murmurings of Neo-Paganism in the various online discussion groups over the years but figured that real pagans were hard to find——what with the Inquisition and all. I felt I had a grasp on New Age and wasn’t interested in Liberal Quakers because sitting around not talking didn’t seem like a good way to investigate spirituality.** There was a UU church I drove by frequently and that seemed a convenient place to start.

In the Sunday services I found the first spiritual lectures I could relate to. The minister spoke from experience with facts and research. It was a thoughtful approach with nuggets of wisdom that catalyzed my quest. I joined the local UU congregation and plunged into a plethora of small groups investigating various spiritual paths i.e., Taoism, Buddhism, Humanism, and Yoga.

This led me into the wider community where I joined a local Buddhist group, a local pagan church, and a Shamanistic journeying group. This has been my path for five years: investigating and living various paths in an earnest effort to walk my own personal path. Which is what led me to Pema Chodron and Sri Swami Satchidananda. UU reorganized and focused my spiritual quest.

I am in one boat. A boat of my own device. A boat that lets me investigate creeks and rivers, canals and oceans. With it I’ve discovered there is only one path: the path to my own true nature. This is what Buddha, Jesus, Patanjali, Guru Nanak, and Mohammed were all talking about. True spirituality is the path to one’s true nature. The one and only boat. Or in Yogaville parlance: Many Paths. One Truth.

*As part of my investigations through my UU membership, I have reclaimed the parts of Catholicism that are good and precious to me.

**It’s ironic about my aversion to Quaker silence because that’s a big part of my practice now: meditation. Sitting around quietly, breathing and noticing. Also, the Richmond Quakers sponsor the Dances of Universal Peace. Shows what prejudice will keep you from.

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