do you believe in god?
are you a spiritual person?
to be honest, i care more about the second question than the first one. because, when we answer yes to the second one, somewhere within us there is an answer that is “yes” to the first one. mind you, what i call god is not the typical idea of god. no, no western white-bearded old man in the clouds for me. i use the word “god” because eric weiner, in the book man seeks god, uses that word. however, in my life, that word has morphed into a peaceful, light, divine, unknowingly known idea of love. not that god is only an idea. but, my human brain just cannot fathom something so spiritual. so, i choose to not even really use a word right now. instead, i see the love + peace in the midst of every person and creature and place on earth and focus on that, though i have no problems with the word “god”. it is the foundational word that i have used to describe a divine being. basically, i see god as love made manifest. i suppose this is rather jewish of me… unable to put into words something so… and there are not even any words that i can utter to describe anything around this divine spirit that swirls around and within us.
so, i suppose i believe in “god”. yes. i believe. but, my belief is tied directly to my spirituality. i live with no list of right and wrong doctrines. instead, my belief is mystical, mysterious, and yet completely known. and god is not a person, or a goal, but simply is.
ok. back to the book.
it was so interesting to read about someone who was actively going on an academic, news-reporter kind of journey to find god. this was no pilgrimage like you think of when you read paulo coelho’s the alchemist where a young boy seeks god by seeking his personal legend. no, as i said, this is a reporter on a mission to “find” god. and it felt to me it felt like he was searching for the god that would win over all other gods. that he would find the one, true, right religion that had it all together. and then he could come a believer and live and die and go to heaven. ( i am simplifying a little).
of course it didn’t happen like that. of course seeking god is not something to do academically and with an itinerary. and, in my humble opinion, we will never find the one, true, right god that is correct and puts all of the other gods to shame. this, i am sure, makes conservative christians, or even regular christians, shiver in their sunday best. and the reason i say this is, because, there is only one energy, one love, one deep peace, one god (if you wish), and all of us seekers are simply seeking the same thing. the same god, if you will.
but, more deeply, what i mean, of course, is that god is not something or someone to be “caught”. god just is. god, for me, is the indescribable energy that courses through us all, that makes us all seek to make something meaningful of our lives, that inspires us to do crazy things and follow our dreams, that makes our heart beat fast when we see a sunset or play an instrument or teach a child or talk with a stranger or create a work of art.
ok. enough of all of that. let’s get to the 5 ways i “found” god while reading this book:
1. the search is lifelong
ultimately, we cannot seek god like a hide-and-seek game, because god is not ours to then find + own. this is not a competition. it is a beautiful, life-long journey.
what we can do, is discover god. we can discover and explore and live out our spirituality. and all that means is to seek to listen to our souls, to look in the eyes of another and see that we are not all that different, and to encounter the feelings of awe and majesty in nature. all of life, every single second, if we are simply aware, is infused with spirituality, with god, if you may. it’s just whether we want to be aware of it or not.. however, it is not chasing god, but experiencing god, growing closer + closer as days and years pass.
and, each day, each month, each year that passes is just another opportunity to become more and more the person we were created to be. this journey has twists, turns, mountains, valleys, cliffs, caverns, fields, oceans. if we are seeking god, if we are seeking to be grounded + connected to our true selves, then we will have a foundation that helps us learn to trust life, knowing that time will teach us. and that it is possible to become more and more illuminated, enlightened, and more whole as we continue the journey of learning to listen to our souls and to let that light within us shine.
and lord knows, this is something that i know will take a lifetime for me to come closer to understanding.
2. the goal of religion (good religion) is transformation
there is a lot of religion out there. good religion + bad religion. and all good religion has its problems. and all bad religion has its redeeming qualities. but, for me, the goal of religion is transformation. it is a religion that is focused on the here + now, both the suffering + the beauty. it is not a religion that is focused solely on another world.
the transformation that occurs is first and foremost within. it is a journey towards peace and wholeness. to knowing who we are, loving who we are, and sharing who we are with the world. it is a transformation of becoming our best selves – of following the footsteps of jesus, buddha, mohammad, abraham, julian of norwich, celtic pagans, monks, nuns, rosa parks, your favorite teacher, anyone who lives an authentic life, etc.
as we work on learning to live from our soul, we also work for the world. all good religion teaches us to go inward, but to also go out into the world. not to condemn it or to escape it, but to engage the world, to love the world, and to bring peace and justice to every single nook and cranny. and i believe that we can actually do that. i believe that good religion inspires us to use our unique gifts and talents to bring about change. good religion never ever works from fear, but love. and good religion never excludes, but includes. walls are not built up, but torn down. differences are not scorned, but celebrated.
good religion seeks to transform each individual person for the good of the world. it is a beautiful balance of inward divinity and an outpouring of love.
do you want to find god? look to the parts of religions that teach transformation. there, you will get a glimpse of the divine.
3. to truly live is to experience
there is much to be said for wanting to learn about something. to read + research + write. but there is much more to say about getting out there and living life. i am most definitely a book lover, a researcher, and i love to learn new things about something. what is very, very important for me to do, though, is to remember to put down my journal and close my computer, and experience things too.
the author of the book admits that he is an observer and not a jumper-inner. he loves to be in the back of the room, watching, waiting, seeing all that is going on. his curiosity is inspiring. however, he is the first one to admit that, on this journey, he wants to leave his comfort zone and actually do the things that he has read about. not that that was an easy feat for him.
when it comes to spirituality, and life in general, our journey becomes so much more rich when we engage in activity instead of just engaging our brains. of course it means so much more to actually meditate than to simply read about meditating.
what this means is that we have got to get out of our comfort zones. not easy. very scary. but, the reward in the end is so sweet. and who knows, when it comes to our spirituality, maybe, just maybe, we will encounter god, or have a high, inspiring, mind-blowing, spiritual moment if we open ourselves up to the mysteries of the world?! but, we’ve first gotta put down our books, shake off our inhibitions + fears, and close our computers.
4. we are all on the same mountain
i had a professor in graduate school who explained his ideas about god and all of the religions of the world through the image of a mountain. and that idea has stuck with me for years. in fact, i believe that i had officially adopted it as my own.
you see, he thinks of god, the spiritual energy, a divine being, as being at the top of a mountain. but, the most important part of this concept is the next part. he envisions all of the religions of the world as different paths, different trails all leading to the summit.
this is a beautiful, amazing way of thinking about it, i believe. firstly, because it presumes that the god that christians talk about is the same god that muslims + jews speak of. but, it even assumes that the divine being at the top of the mountain includes the buddha, enlightenment, mother nature, or any other divine being that exists. it basically levels the playing field, saying that we are all searching for the same thing: love, wholeness, peace, light, truth. and whatever we call it, the divine is found at the top of this mountain. and how beautiful is that? the idea that we are all seeking the same thing.
secondly, this image of the mountain gives us room to understand all of the different ways that we, according to where we were born, or what we choose to believe, or our traditions, go about seeking the “god” that is at the summit of the mountain. the idea that we all take different paths, that the worlds religions are all different paths leading to the same being, is so equalizing. for me, it does not pit one religion against another, but it, instead, honors all of the different ways that we humans choose to define religion + spirituality. it is a picture of how we can live in harmony, with different belief systems and religious traditions, but also with the understanding that ultimately we are all on our own journeys seeking the same thing.
man seeks god, simply reiterates this belief/image that i have. when we study or experience other religions, we discover that we are not really all that different. and that, my friends, is the answer to how we create a world of justice + peace. we focus on our similarities and respect our differences.
5. truth is what works
over + over again, eric weiner quoted william james [“truth is what works”] as he journeyed and explored and processed all that he learned on his search for god. and the more i thought about this, the more i seemed to agree with this statement.
as much as i’d love for there to be one, final, for sure Truth; one way that, once i figure it out, i am set. but, i realize that it is not really like that. life is way more gray than black + white. and, life is very subjective. maybe the only truth is what we experience.
and, if the goal is to become more authentically ourselves so that we can make a difference in the world… if the goal is transformation, then maybe what works for me may not work for you. maybe the one real truth is that you + i have to carve out our own path on the mountain. of course, we can follow some well-worn paths of christianity, hinduism, judaism, taoism, etc. but, maybe, our path crosses many of these paths. maybe we start off at the bottom of the mountain on one path, and then cross-over to another one. maybe we take one that has not been traveled on much. or maybe, we explore an unknown path or make our own.
the goal is always the same, though. growth. transformation. change. wholeness. and the destination, the summit of the mountain, maybe that’s not even what matters in the end. what matters is every single step along the way. maybe, just maybe, the truth is that we have been given an opportunity to travel through this life, to climb this mountain, and what matter most is not which path we choose to take to the top, but how open + aware we are all along the way. and, perhaps, the purpose is the journey. who we meet, what we experience, the views we see, the fellow hikers that we pass, the companions that we make, the folks that we help along the way. and the ways that every little step, and every little turn we make changes us, and inspires us to become more and more the best version of ourselves that we can be.
well, there ya go. my girl seeker journey is over. thanks for reading + hanging with me over the past 2 months. it’s been a very enlightening journey for me. a chance to discover and ponder where i am in my own spiritual journey. and now, it is time to continue onwards. so, do you have any tips on another book i can read? is there anything that you’d like to read with me? we can discuss it through the blog. please, leave me your thoughts, tips, ideas. i’m ready to start another journey!
onwards + upwards! xoxo
all photos from an amazing website where you can find + use photos for free –> here
Lots of good stuff in this post, but this was my absolute favorite line: “do you want to find god? look to the parts of religions that teach transformation. there, you will get a glimpse of the divine.” YES. I believe that religion/spirituality is about transformation, whether that’s growing closer to God or growing into your true self. It is meaningful because it has transformational power; it’s not just something you mentally assent to, but it changes who you are.
Thank you, as always, for your thoughtful and meaningful comments, Carissa. I love having your theologically, UMC-based opinions and thoughts on what I write.
Congrats on the job and on moving on to the next step in your professional life!! You will be great! xoxo
I’m glad you appreciate the more UMC-based perspective even though it’s no longer your religious home. 🙂 I know I’m always glad to read your more eclectic perspective because oftentimes it gets me to stretch myself and think about things in a new way. And thank you about the job! I am super excited to start!! (In the meantime, 6 more weeks of student teaching… but I’m glad to get to hang out with students every day as opposed to just studying and then studying some more.)
Thank you, Leigh! xx