I remember sitting on my grandma’s green, shag rug as a child, about 9 years old. I found a television channel with a man who had a long beard and wore flowers around his neck. He spoke very softly and slowly about things I didn’t quite understand- I was intrigued. Later, I discovered that he was the Mahareshi Mahesh Yogi, which meant nothing to me by name, but I knew I had found something special.
I was raised by a strong mother who took us to church each Sunday, while my father stayed home to watch tennis. We asked why HE didn’t have to go, and my mother replied, “I am not responsible for his salvation, only yours!” I thought that sounded like a lot of pressure, but then I asked, “How do we know we’re going to the RIGHT church?” Even with my limited awareness of the amount of different religions and denominations, I knew there were a lot of churches! She assured me that once we got to Heaven, we would not be punished for something out of our scope of knowledge. Mom was raised with NO religion and started going with friends as a teenager. Throughout her relationship and marriage to my dad, it gave her something to depend on outside of herself. My dad was raised in a strict Methodist family by a father who ruled with a harsh word and iron fist, and a mother who converted from Catholicism to a life where she could have a “personal relationship with her Lord and Savior.” Both of which gave my dad an excellent reason to rebel against this upbringing and did not choose either path. To this day, he refers to himself as a “Born Again Evolutionist.”
My brother and sister and I were always encouraged to be tolerant and open to other people’s ways of worship. At age 15, I chose to be baptized in the Baptist Church. I knew that I was guilty of “sin” and wanted to be cleansed. Pure and simple. I looked at God as a parent who ultimately loved me, but decided what was right and wrong for my life. In high school I struggled with the guilt of having feelings for other women, and I began reading books on the existence of God, the energy or spirit in all of nature, and the concept of reason and ethics. Yeah, I missed out on a lot of Pep Rallies!
Eventually I started wearing stones around my neck and in my pockets, attending the Native American Indian Gatherings, and eating only foods that did not encourage a violent lifestyle. I stopped coloring my hair (a huge sacrifice) and began studying nutrition. Unfortunately, for me, this was not enough… I still felt that there was something else out there for me. By the age of 22, I began visiting different churches regularly. I read the Book of Science and Health, the story of Bahaullah, the Life of Gandhi, the Life of Buddha, and the Bhagvagita. My sister and I were roommates at the time and she attended the singles ward of the Mormon Church. I started going with her because I valued her choices and opinions- even if I didn’t always like her advice. I read The Book of Mormon and fell in love with the security and values it provided. I married and vowed to be a “good Mormon wife” because THAT would make me complete. At 25, I felt that I was no longer flailing about in this life of uncertainty. I had found answers.
Four years later, I had become unhappy with the answers I had been given. I felt oppressed, belittled, and subjugated. I could not logically go back to the “born again” life I grew up in… I felt tired. Not lost, not alone… just tired. I chose NOT to search. Not to move along the path any longer. At the prompting of a friend, I read Siddhartha, and was struck by the similarities of the seemed “struggle” along the path. I had also questioned and committed, but I lacked community. I came across McLennan’s book, Finding Your Religion, and it gave me perspective.
I have come to realize the necessity for community. Not only to commit to being ON a path, but to accept that it will not always be lined with flowers and trees. It may, at times, get rocky or be overgrown with thorns or weeds… but we must still move upward toward the top of the mountain. I don’t need to have the answers given to me regarding every aspect of my spirituality. I find God in little things… I want my son to know that we are more than our bodies, more than our ability to think and reason; we are also a soul that needs to be fed. This can only happen along the path.