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Posted by on Aug 4, 2015 in Life Reimagined, Vietnam | 0 comments

Finding My Spiritual Side

For the last 30, well maybe 40 years, I have been trying to come to terms with my spirituality. First I was Christian, and then searching which lead me to being an atheist, a term I was really uncomfortable with. I don’t like that label – I think the word is ugly and cruel at best and doesn’t really sum up my beliefs and who I am.

I believe that everyone has a right to their religious beliefs, or not.  Religion should not be in our schools or our government, if so which religion do you choose?  Is conservative christian our chosen religion? What if the population changes and the majority have different beliefs? You can choose to send your children to a school that offers religious training, but it shouldn’t be forced on those that believe differently, as it is in some countries. Our country is about freedom and about religious choice.

I was raised in a very Christian household. My Christian mentor would have to be my grandmother. On her headstone it says “Gentle Christian” which is the best way to describe her. In my memory she was never judgemental, allowed a lot of questions and shouldered her hardships with love and compassion. She died when I was 15, and not surprisingly both my older sister and I named one of our daughters after her.

My grandmother and grandfather with their boat

My grandmother and grandfather with their boat, the Vamoose.

Grandma painting the trim

Love this photo of grandma painting the trim – she was fearless

Grandma with Darrin and Denise

I couldn’t find a photo of me with my grandmother (not with me in Vietnam), but here is a photo of her with my younger brother and sister.

After my grandmother passed away from cancer I did some soul searching. My sister used this time to try many different types of churches researching her way to finding her spiritual soul. She visited all dominations, everything from Quakers to Morman. I read the bible – all the way through. I admit to quickly skimming the many chapters of who begat who, but loved reading the stories in the not so simplified version I got in Sunday School.

After reading through the stories I became a disbeliever in the god of the bible. I didn’t want to follow someone who was so harsh. I didn’t find a lot of love and understanding and this was reflected in many of the people I met at the time. Timing is everything and for whatever reason the Christians I bumped into were people of judgement. After talking to them I often felt that their message was, “It is my way or the highway” and if you don’t believe 100% there isn’t room for you. I did meet people who reminded me of my grandmother. Her gentle soul reflected in the kindness of their eyes and the wisdom they shared with me, but they were far and inbetween and not enough to make me want to throw myself down the Christian highway.

For 30 years I went back and forth, always wanting to be proved wrong but never hearing anything that would make me want to participate in Christianity again. I missed the rituals, particularly around the holidays. I missed the music we sang – those beautiful hymns.  I missed sharing this with my family. I would roll my eyes when my parents asked me to please attend the Christmas Eve service, but secretly wanted to go to relive those favorite memories from my childhood, and to share that with my children.

I got to the point in my mid 40’s where I didn’t want to do Christmas at all.  I hated that it had become a season of buying, not giving. When we told our six kids that were weren’t going to do gifts anymore at Christmas I was surprised at how quickly they took this on (except for the youngest who still enjoyed the unwrapping).  Unfortunately because our extended family is so large this made holidays a little more stressful when we were all together.  I started to get judgemental at all the money that they were spending on each other, which in turn depressed me because I didn’t want to be that person, to in turn judge others for their beliefs.

Having so much time on my hands now has given me even more time to reflect, to study, to read.  Meditation is something that both my husband and I have latched onto and have been practicing that for about 4 months now (not claiming to be experts here). A few months ago a friend recommended a book to me by Thich Nhat Hanh, You Are Here: Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment.  A few weeks later I happened to notice a meditation series sponsored by Oprah, but given by Deepak Chopra, which I quickly signed up for.

The message is similar, being grateful and living in the moment. It sounds simple but it takes time and practice. Much of the message that Deepak and Oprah give is a blend of Christianity and Buddhism.  Thich Nhat Hanh is a famous and practicing Buddhist from Vietnam.  I am not sure where this journey will take me but I feel so much more at peace.  I have no plans to turn into a Buddhist, but I love the message of loving yourself and those around you.  Sounds a lot like my earlier upbringing. I will continue searching for my spirituality but I think that we should be always doing that, no matter how we believe. I am lucky that my life partner is also enjoying the teachings that go along with this journey and that we get to go there together.

John, his wife, Dawn and their bulldog, Bubba walk the trail in Kirkland on the Eastside Rail Corridor

Starting out on our journey.

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