When my ex and I started trying to get pregnant the first time, we started talking about church. He’d grown up in the Methodist Church, been president of his church group, gone to a Methodist college on scholarship. He felt like we needed to raise our child in the church, or at least have some way of exposing our child to religion and spirituality.
I remember Methodist Sunday School my mom took me to probably less than five times. We sang songs, ate graham crackers, and drank grape juice. I may have colored Jesus with crayons. When I was fourteen, I went to a church youth group for a few weeks and made out with one of the guys in the church pew. I’d gone to hear Christmas choirs a few times. So, I did not have a strong foundation in any church.
My parents had moved to NM in the late sixties to study with a guru and do meditation. They had a whole community of people, Sunday meditation groups, some chanting, mantras. The kids cleaned up the cups with coffee dregs. We learned how to sit in the lotus position young. I had some hazy ideas about karma, reincarnation, and the Eightfold path. But my spiritual beliefs were mostly homemade, meaning I made up my own belief system culled together from whatever philosophies and faith appealed to me. Then I got to college and people from Campus Crusade for Christ quoted the Bible at me so I took the Philosophy of Religion, the Bible as Literature, and Biblical Archeology in some attempt to learn the lingo and somehow educate myself about the culture at large.
Now my partner wanted us to orient our child to God, seemingly a Judeo-Christian God. I didn’t quite know what to do with that.
What I did know is that I have always wished I had a place to go, to be in community with people of similar beliefs or with similar practices (I needed to get some of those). So we did a church tour: Methodist, Unitarian, Unity, Baptist. No matter what the sermon was about, the minute I sat down in the church, tears began rolling down my face. I felt some big energy there, wherever there was. Then they would start talking about things I just couldn’t jive with. I was still crying and feeling God. I just wasn’t quite in alignment with this particular group’s interpretation of God.
By then I was pregnant and with this baby growing inside me, I felt some big interconnected miracle with life and some higher power. We hadn’t picked a church, but I was finding God. Then I had my first miscarriage. By the second pregnancy, then the second miscarriage, we were no longer looking for a church.
Now we’re getting divorced and, contrary to anything I would have predicted,I am feeling God again, or whatever you want to call it. For me, it’s a still small voice that I can only find when I stop spinning my brain around trying to predict the future or culling through my past. It is a deep felt sense that comes with just stopping to listen. Why now? Because my whole world fell apart and all of my best thinking wasn’t answering my questions. Because more nights than I could count I have done my best to get out of my son’s hearing distance when I’m sobbing so that I won’t wake him. I was ready to listen.
Whenever I’ve heard about people hearing from God, I imagined some evangelical hallucination happening. So in case you think that’s what I’m experiencing now, let me clarify. When I hear a still small voice, it is in my gut. It’s intuition or this felt sense. Really, it’s this quiet certainly about what the next right thing is.
Because I have such a (maybe) out-of-the-ordinary spiritual background, my practices might not be yours but here are my three top ways to get with God.
- Go out in nature, preferably to a mountain or the ocean but a walk around the block or lying in the hammock in my backyard gazing up through the mesquite leaves can do it for me too. Really, getting to any part of the world that is not man-made, that is much bigger than I am, puts things in perspective.
- Pray. As I’ve mentioned before, I learned my go-to prayers from Anne Lamott in Traveling Mercies. They are “Please– sometimes substituted with “Help Me”–and “Thank you.” Another big one for me is “Please show me what you want me to do and give me the strength and resources to do it.”
- Read books about spirituality. I prefer hugely irreverent approaches to God, you know the kind that don’t take themselves too seriously. Here are some of my favorites:
- Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott (followed by Plan B, and Grace (Eventually).
- I love reading the Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön. She was the first person who told me I wasn’t failing at meditation if my mind wasn’t totally silent. Whether you’re seeking a spiritual practice or are experiencing any big losses, When Things Fall Apart is a must read. Preferably over and over.
- Today, I finished Hardcore Zen: Punk Rock, Monster Movies and the Truth About Reality. I reviewed it at Goodreads.com if you want to read about it or other books, my reviews are here. Check out the Spirituality shelf.
Specifically related to parenting and spirituality, my favorites are
- Momma Zen: Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood by Karen Maezen Miller,
- 10 Spiritual Practices For Busy Parents by Jacqueline Kramer, and
- Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year by Anne Lamott.
How about you? How do you get in touch with your spiritual self? What are your practices?