Friday, October 9, 2009

I Am Free to Live a Spiritual Life of My Own Making

 Don't be satisfied with poems and stories of how things have gone for others. 
Unfold you own myth.

Sometimes giving yourself permission to do something is difficult. Especially something that might alienate you from others. Or, possibly, change the course of your life ... forever.

Such was the case for me. In my late twenties, the spiritual life I was raised in began to chaffe. Around the time I started giving birth to children (especially girls), a late-blooming feminism showed up. I noticed a longing for a spiritual life that honored my feminine nature, my journey as a woman.

Enter Joyce Rupp.

I happened upon her book, The Star in My Heart, where she revealed her own search for the "Divine Feminine," an understanding of the Sacred that affirmed her feminine nature, and had a uniquely feminine face — "Sophia" —the Wisdom face of God sourced in the Hebrew scriptures.

I thought to myself, can you really do that? Venture outside of the box and seek (and hopefully find) an understanding of the Divine that is feminine, or embraces feminine values? After reading Joyce's book, I knew I could. She gave me permission to search. She was my guide and mentor as I launched a pilgrimage that was to last for many years—a pilgrimage into a spirituality of my own making.

This pilgrimage (as I wrote about it in Your Truest Self) entailed traveling ... "from Protestant Christianity in my twenties; through forays into Buddhism and yoga in my thirties; through the Goddess movement, Sufism, and Native American spirituality in  my forties. I made pilgrimages to sacred sites, walked labyrinths, meditated at ashrams, and danced on moonlit beaches with circles of women. It was a spiritual sampling of grand proportions."

Eventually, I arrived at a spiritual life that was solid and true for me. It is interspiritual, contemplative, as I am a mystic at heart, with my spirit firmly anchored these days in Buddhism (though I have a deep connection with certain aspects of Christianity). I hope there will always be room in me to expand ...

It's funny, even saying this here brings up a bit of fear once again. I experienced a lot of fear when I ventured outside the spiritual tent I was raised in and set up camp elsewhere. Relationships changed, doors were closed, yet brilliant new pathways and companions made themselves known. What a marvelous journey it has been!

So, how about you?

Have you given yourself permission to fully explore? To create a spiritual life that is rich and true—one of your own making?

And, if not, what holds you back?

I am eager to hear ...

P. S. Did you know that you can read Chapter 1 of Your Truest Self in its entirety online?
This is the chapter based on the first Transformational Truth, "I Am Free to Live a Spiritual Life of My Own Making," and the pilgrimage I took with Joyce Rupp as my guide. You can find it here. Just scroll down to the bottom & in the right hand column you will find the free download. Enjoy!


Make a comment here before Monday, Oct. 12 and you'll be entered into a drawing to win a copy of Your Truest Self. I'll be choosing two lucky winners!

And don't forget, if you wish to "formally" put your voice into the circle gathering here, choose a "new name" for yourself, and be listed on my blog roll, click here. All are welcome here!


shiny mamaof6 said...

I am finally giving myself permission to explore my spirituality. I have so many questions and so many different beliefs that I feel connected to. I am planning on taking steps to go back to school, so that I can begin this exploration. The only thing truly standing in my way is finances.

I know in my heart that I will start this journey when the time is right, so lack of funds is not discouraging me. I learn so much about my own spirituality from the blogging community.

Jan said...

Hi Jill,
This is wonderful. So good to hear that permission has been granted! Going back to school would be great. But, as you say, this blogging network and the internet can be most helpful. If money is an issue, there is also the library. Also, ask a few good friends you trust to share their resources or form a mini circle to explore your feelings about this. Of course, you can do that here. I am also only an e-mail away if you have a specific question or concern. As our others. Share the journey. This whole process is really about "just DOING it."

Journaling helps. You can make a list of what in your spiritual life (or upbringing) doesn't resonate any more and make a list of what does. Also setting an intention of what you are "looking for" can open us up to new opportunities, people, books, etc. Be gentle with yourself, too. You are a very busy mom with lots on your plate. :-) This journey takes time, years to unfold...Enjoy the journey. There is no rush.

Thank you so much for sharing your heart! You ARE on a powerful journey right now... Hugs!

Julie G said...

Jan, you mention "fear" in venturing away from your original faith traditions. I have that too.
I was raised in a strict Catholic faith environment. To stray from this brings on feelings of guilt and fear.
I have been exploring my spirituality for almost a year now and I'm opening up to many new ideas. I made an accidental (or not) stop into a Buddhist temple while in Chicago this past summer and now I can't get enough of these teachings. I'm reading about PEACE these days.
I still don't venture too far from my roots but I feel that I can enhance my faith and connection to the Divine by opening my heart to others.
This takes a great deal of support and encouragement. I find all that and more here, in this environment. Thank you all for being here, Thinking Brown

Anonymous said...

I was raised in a Southern Baptist home. Sunday school and church every Sunday without fail. From the first memory I can retrieve I questioned what was being told to me. Always asking "why", "how come" and never given an actual answer that wasn't a quote from somewhere else or simply told "because".

I never fit in with organized religion, never really wanted to and so I have never struggled with the guilt or fear that some of you have hit upon. I simply decided when I was in high school that I would find my own way. The way that feels warm and makes my breath fall easy in my chest. It is an evolving process but lately, within the last 2 years (after I became a Reiki practitioner and made a commitment to honor my path as an energy worker) my spiritual landscape has really become a home that I feel ever happy and comfortable living in, 24/7. When I hear tales of people finding their OWN truth and being okay to travel their own path, I receive such a rush of joy for them. I am so happy to know that the women participating in the virtual circle are taking such big steps on their own behalf. Big hugs and unending support to you all!
Still Water

Nadia - Happy Lotus said...

Hi Jan,

I grew up in a house where my two parents were from two totally different religions. When I was five, my dad told me what my parents had gone through in order to get married. He also said that I was free to pick whichever religion I wanted to follow. He said that all religions were one and that all people were equal.

I wholeheartedly knew that what he told me was true. It is hard to be a product of a mixed marriage because you do not know who you are. As a result, I went out into the world and tried to figure out this whole God business.

It was an amazing journey and I am so grateful that I did it. It showed me and proved to me that we are all alike than we realize.

Rose - The Center of My Self said...

Like so many of us, I have spent time happily exploring many ways of belief, many paths for living a spiritual life. My circle includes shaman, Wiccan, nuns, earth workers, light workers, etc. I reject none of their beliefs as I feel we are each called according to our personal journey.
I'm a practicing Catholic for the beautiful sense of community I share with those in my Franciscan parish. And I feel no conflict with my other beliefs: Native American, mystic, Buddhist, healing energies, etc.

In the end, we are all One.

Wilma Ham said...

I was raised a Catholic but thank goodness we were of the freer kind. So that gave me the space to question rituals without feeling that I would go to hell as a result of my non belief.
I think that was a life saver, however the other side was that in the end I put all spirituality under the same umbrella of religion, nonsensical goobledegook.
So for a long time I rejected the lot and the word God had no meaning.
Then when I did start to question what rules to live by, I gradually started to find explanations that made sense to both my mind and heart. God now has a meaning I feel really comfortable with.
For me life is love in action, love is what creates our wealth and what we harvest through life.
God is love. And that is a great guide to live my life by.

Jan said...

I love that you acknowledge your spiritual roots. (So would the Dalai Lama, by the way :-) To add to your already satisfying faith with the practices of other faiths is what the interspiritual movement is all about. Peace is one of those truths that is universal, however we seek it.

Still Water,
The joy you find in your "self-created" spiritual life is wonderful to hear. I'm celebrating that you have found your way to a spiritual home within you that is truly satisfying.

What an amazing journey and I am not surprised that you "turned out" the way you did--open and receptive to others and their beliefs. By making the choice the did, it seems that your parents did give you a great gift--the gift of making your own choice.

This is such a joy to hear. You are open and aware and very hospitable. (But isn't that the Franciscan way. :-) What a role model in St. Francis, one for all faiths. Your "circle of friends" sounds so interesting and gracious.

Happy to hear that you have come to a spiritual life that is rich and satisfying. Love is at the core of all the world's traditions. Finding our unique path into it is just plain exciting in my book. Love rules...

I am so heartened by all the openness and acceptance I am reading here. What amazing women! Thank you for your grace.

Caroline said...

Yes, I am giving myself permission! My husband is catholic (but never goes to church). I am not. But I did baptize my kids. I don't feel comfortable in church. I could almost use Dawn's comment as my own. I too am a Reiki practitioner. I follow my own path. A path of light. I believe in karma and energy. For me, I want to live a happy joyful life... I don't think you have to go to church to do that.

Sandi Delia said...

I left organized religion at the age of 16 when I had a profound gut level reaction to something a preacher said in his sermon. From the depths of my being came a loud "YOU'RE WRONG!!!" I have not been aligned with any religion since that day.

For a long time, I relied upon 12 step community traditions as my religion. When that ran dry, I've found spiritual sustenance in Mother Nature. And of late, I am connecting with the Great Creator through writing. I'm also very drawn to Buddhism and A Course In Miracles.

What a wonderful question. I had no idea my spiritual journey looks like a wonderful sampler platter.

Angel Wings

Joy said...

I was raised Catholic, bit much of what I learned was automatic/ rote. My grandmother is a woman of great faith and led by example, so to me faith was always most important. I went to Catholic schools, and was quite sheltered so when I got to college I was astounded to find there was any other way. I guess in life I use others stories to inspire my own, but I definitely create my own myth. I believe in Jesus and his resurrection, but also in love and energy and positive healing, and the powers in the universe. I don't quite fit in with "one group" and while that can be frustrating at times, it's my truth, my essence and I like that. My children are exposed to quite a lot, and I encourage their curiosity and individuality; I want them to have faith to stand in because it is the only sure thing I know to pass to them.

twila (whimsical mystic) said...

Reading over these comments, I had to chuckle out loud. For years now I have felt quite alone, spiritually. It made me smile to see how common my experience really is! My path has also been twisted and happy to feel a bit less like a spiritual hermit!

To answer the question...yes, I have given myself permission to create a spiritual life that is mine...perhaps the only thing holding me back at this point is the fear of detour. I've lost too much time running down paths that weren't true to my own spirit. I think that might make me too hesitant at times to trust my ability to discern when it comes to listening for inner wisdom.

Rose - The Center of My Self said...

I want to add my own thank-you to all those here. Instead of feeling alone on my journey, I sense a profound community of like-minded and accepting women, filled with grace, beauty and love. Thank you!

Jan said...

It's so nice to learn a little more about your spiritual life in this way. I am glad you've given yourself permission to "believe" as you have been guided. Blessings!

Angel Wings,
Openeness is what I hear as you speak. And receptivity to your inner knowing and honoring that. Some of our paths are very wide and circuitous. You have embraced wonderful concepts and are obviously integrating them into a unique spiritual life.

I honor the choices you are making for children to receive an "open" spiritual education. Not always the easiest path to walk, but it does grant freedom to explore at an early age. (Though some would argue with that. ) I salute the courage you have to walk this conscious path...

Whimsical Mystic,
I'm wondering, is it be possible to reframe your "detours" as learning opportunities? Personally, I don't think too much about detours because whatever we experience forms the whole of us. Yes, sometimes wounds are created, but this also provides the opportunity for resilience to build and healing and a deeper dedication to a path that is right and true for us. Sometimes we really do need to wander far and wide. Sometimes we need to "lose our way" to find the most authentic one. It takes time and openness. Blessings to you...

Jan said...

I''m with you. I am so grateful for all the women who have come forth and are sharing their journeys in such a beautiful way. It can feel lonely on this path, especially when yours does not quite fit the mold (wink). So we are definitely here for one another. Yes!

Joni Golden said...

Jan, the story of your spiritual journey has helped me suss out the meaning of my own spirituality. I was quite literally raised in the Lutheran church, but as I grew older, I became very disillusioned with church leaders. I drifted for years, until I met my husband, who is Jewish. Through him, I became a student of kabbalah, and oddly enough, have been able to re-connect with the Christian faith of my childhood and to fall in love with the teachings of Jesus all over again.

So I attend High Holiday services at Temple Beth El and I find comfort and wisdom in the Christian Bible and I fast on Yom Kippur and I'm reading the Tao - and it all fits. I used to think there was something wrong with that, as though I had to make a decision of some kind. Your Truest Self helped me see the wisdom in embracing, rather than choosing.

I have come to believe there was enormous benefit in being raised in a Christian home, because it gave me a fundamental belief in a power higher than me. Even if I found out the Creator never existed, I believe my life is better for having had that sense of humility.

Paul Maurice Martin said...

I'm struck by the similarity of our perspectives and a big difference in our processes: for me, conscious exploration of alternatives played a relatively minor role.

Instead, at a conscious level there was a period of increasing despair before I was struck by a spontaneous version of meditative or non dualistic experience that was like a force of nature pushing me onto a new and unsuspected path.

I've always found this aspect of spirituality interesting - that there are commonalities to be found, but at the same time, the process for each of us is so individualized.

mermaid said...

Your spiritual blossoming is timeless. I love that you offer the possibility for us all.

Jan said...

I loved learning this about you! What an amazing interspiritual journey you have been on. So wonderful to read when someone can listen to their heart, follow its lead, and trust where she ends up; back where she started but born anew. Beautiful!

Yes, it does seem our processes differ but the result is the same. What grace! One river, many wells....

We all our journeys continue to unfold with ease. Bless us all!