When did the search start? Why did I search?
There must be something inside of me that caused me to question. I didn't ask for the silent stirrings inside of me. I longed to feel the peace that I saw around me. The voice, with the questions, could not be quieted...I finally raised my hand.
Instead of an answer, I was sent directly to Sister Dominica's office. Shamed in front of the other students, I headed down that narrow hall. After a meaningless lecture (I was about ten years old) I was sent off to kneel and told to say 10 Hail Marys and 10 Our Fathers...something I was told to do, quite often.... Was this the answer to my question?
I was born and raised Catholic. I actually loved the church, loved the alter and loved watching the nuns parade to and from their seats. Loved the candles, loved kneeling...but something was missing.
There were never any answers. The mass was in Latin. Even at this young age, the sermon left me with more questions, and the contradictions filled my mind. And...thinking to myself that even these thoughts must be sinful. So here I was, at 10, leading a sinful life, filled with guilt, and...doomed to hell!
I was never told to read the bible, never taught much about the bible, the mass was in Latin, no Sunday school, but tons of rules...church rules, and oooh gosh...I just kept sinning, and confessing. I ate meat on a Friday. Told my mom, "no". Didn't say a prayer before supper.
Sure enough...10 Hail Marys, 10 Our Fathers.
Mom and dad got a divorce. Mom took us to Unity. WoW! What a change this was! Now God was love! Same God, different God? Same bible, different bible??? Sunday school...I was coloring pictures of Jesus now, and hearing wonderful stories of a wonderful, loving Father.... Mom took us to Unity one Sunday, Dad took us to Catholic Church the next. I got even more confused, had even more questions and for goodness sake, now I was sinning because I was going to church with mom!!!
In my twenty's it was "game on". I started going to different churches. I'd stay for awhile, but then it always ended the same. What I was beginning to realize at this point, was that God was presented differently at each of the churches. It seemed to me that God was being created in our image, rather than us being created in His. I was so frustrated.
In my mid 20's, I went to my first astrologer. How did she know that I was on an in intense spiritual search? aah...maybe it's my Sag Moon and Sag Sun in the 8th house for starters. This was when I started looking to alternative beliefs. OOoooh my...there were other people, out there, searching for answers, just like me!!! I read and read and read. I read everything. I was finally learning... finally getting some answers... I really got hooked on the different Native American beliefs. Studied this and other earth based ways for years and years.
During this time, I learned of colors, numbers, different incense, totems, fetishes, and felt the earth move into the different seasons, and celebrated this... As I bought books on this and that...I'd pick up a book on Buddhism. Then, maybe a book or two on meditation. Then maybe a Zen book. Added to my collection, books written by HH Dalai Lama.
After my husband died, 1999, my sister and I were talking. She is still a devout Catholic...anyway, she questioned why I was so consumed by this search and why I had ventured so deeply into (her thoughts here) different cults. She offered this advice to me. She said that one of her teachers said that there was a reason we are born to a certain religious tradition.
That spring, I took off for a two week camping trip. I went by myself, wanted/needed time to ponder the changes in my life. Death of my husband, another career change, my boys were grown, being alone... While I was on this camping trip, I thought about my sister's advice. I went to confession...the first time in 27 years. Forgive me Father for I have sinned. My last confession was 27 years ago... You guessed this, I'm sure...10 Hail Marys and 10 Our Fathers......
I signed up for RCIA classes that fall. From September till Easter, I relearned the Catholic church. After the class, I went to mass on a regular basis. Then one day...I just couldn't do it any more. I wasn't happy. I sat in the pew, I saw the contradictions, I felt myself fill with guilt, and knew that in this tradition...I was sinning again. I would have my thoughts, feel guilty, confess, do the required "10 and 10" and it would start all over again. I was miserable.
I desperately needed to quiet the chatter in my brain. One day, I reread one of my books on meditation. I saw in the newspaper that the Rime Buddhist Center offered a free meditation class. The minute I walked into the center, I felt at home. I took more classes and started attending the Sunday practice. I felt a calm that I had never felt before. I'd meditate, read and take classes. When I read this quote, I knew I had found what I was looking for.
"Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it. "Buddha
So far, it has brought me much peace and such a calm. I'm learning to simply live in the now. To be in the present. To become awake... And, there is no guilt. I love the fact that it's called "practice". I'll finish this post by adding that in looking back at all the churches I've gone to, to all the traditions that I've studied...I see the beauty and love them all. I'm glad my sister is happy in Catholicism, I'm glad if a friend is happy in a Baptist church, I'm glad if my Native friends are happy with their beliefs and ceremonies, I just want peace and happiness for all....