Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Big Questions

I spent this past Memorial Day weekend in one of my new favorite places in the world - Massachusetts.  Specifically, at Marc's parents' beautiful home near Boston.  The weekend was so peaceful but also stimulating - the LeVasseurs a philosophical, intellectual family that can debate, theorize, and just plain converse until the sun comes up.  Especially when there's excellent wine involved!

For a variety of reasons, on the train ride home, Marc started asking me some Big Questions.  Questions about how I deal with my undefined faith and if it bothers me that I don't have something solid that I believe in, the way Christians believe with all their soul that Jesus is the son of God, for example.  Does it bother me that I don't have a defined belief for what has happened to my loved ones that have passed away?

Marc has always been one to ask the Big Questions that mankind has never found an answer for.  What is the meaning of life?  His endlessly inquisitive mind has lead me to realize that mine is startlingly uninquisitive.  Or rather - it doesn't bother me that no one has the answers.  To me, spirituality and all those Big Questions are very personal things that slowly unfold.

When I was a kid, we didn't really go to church.  My mom was raised Episcopalian, but she never connected with a church when we were little and so we just never went.  I never believed in Christianity - it just never resonated with me.  I think it's something you have to fervently believe, and I didn't - it was almost an instinctive lack of belief.  This didn't bother me because I couldn't really imagine living differently.

For a long time I identified as an atheist, until I got older and realized if I couldn't have belief in a God, where was I getting this assurance that there isn't one?  I changed my label to agnostic with no existential crisis or fanfare.

In college, one of my favorite professors and mentors would always reference The Universe.  "The Universe will take care of you, The Universe will show you."  It endeared her to me further and I liked the idea.  I found that after I graduated, I thought and spoke in those terms more and more, and it was the first time I felt the need to have a spiritual connection or some kind of faith.  I wasn't able to define it anymore than "the universe," and I wasn't even sure I believed there was a fate or a way in which the universe provides.  But I was comforted by it.  After spending nearly your entire life in the school system and then college where everything has an order and is mapped out for you, going out on your own without any kind of organizational system is scary.  I needed an anchor, even if it was a vague one.

Here's where yoga really entered the picture.  The year after I graduated college, I started taking a gentle Hatha Yoga class that was pure stretching and relaxation - very little physical challenge and not a chaturanga in sight.  Because there was so little physical demand, which was new for me in a yoga class, I really began focusing the mind.  Eventually, these gentle classes started to feel like my very own church.  I'd dedicate one class to my mom, one to a friend in need, one to myself to try to wish for more strength or whatever you might think of.  I really loved how it felt and was very comforted by it.  It really showed me that I had some kind of space inside me that needed filling up by something spiritual.

Fast forward to today, and I've learned so much about yoga philosophy, meditation techniques, Sanskrit chants, even the Hindu gods and goddesses.  However, I still feel about the same as I did once I turned those gentle yoga classes into church.  I don't have any specific belief.  Ironically, two of my best friends in the world are very devout Christians (and shining examples of all that is good in Christianity!).  It helps to have them to listen and bounce ideas off of when we get into spiritual discussions.

I do wish I had a rock solid belief system.  I often find myself on a difficult meditation day - or a day when I skip meditation altogether - wondering what exactly I'm doing.  Am I praying to someone?  To myself?  If I'm not praying, who or what am I exactly communing with?  I know that I'm still very young and I have a lot of faith that my own spirituality and belief system will develop if I just keep practicing.


What about you, readers?  Is faith and belief something you struggle with - struggling to define it or struggling to maintain it?  Are you testing the waters or have you even decided any kind of spiritual connection isn't something you need?  I'd love to hear opinions.  Until next time...Namaste and enjoy beautiful June!

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