culture

girl seeker: nature + mysticism, and two religions i knew nothing about.

18 Mar 2015

i missed my post on the book, man seeks god, last week. i had just moved into my new apartment and, frankly, things were a crazy, beautiful mess, and i completely forgot. so, today, i’m gonna share the last two religions that eric weiner “researched” in quest to discover his god. and that means i’m going to talk about communing with nature in the ancient religion of shamanism and kabbalah, the mystical tradition within judaism.

shamanism

ok. this chapter in the book was not good at all. and it was short. i am thinking that the author, weiner, didn’t really enjoy his shamanism experience either. so, i had to go to the internet to find out exactly about this ancient religion because according to the book, it was just a bunk of crazy kooks dancing around a room, pretending to connect to the animal within them. of course, weiner’s experience happened in new jersey or pennslyvania or somewhere up north in the states. it sounded like a completely new age-y, crazy experience.

trees

so, here’s the other stuff i found out thanks to the internet. it’s so much deeper than portrayed in the book, and this is stuff that i can get on board with. in fact, much of it is includes thoughts, beliefs i already have. not that i’m going to turn shaman or anything. hehe.

shamanism is “an ancient healing tradition and moreover, a way of life. It is a way to connect with nature and all of creation. The word shaman originates from the Tungus tribe in Siberia. Anthropologists coined this term and have used it to refer to the spiritual and ceremonial leaders among indigenous cultures worldwide… One could view shamanism as the universal spiritual wisdom inherent to all indigenous tribes. As all ancient spiritual practices are rooted in nature, shamanism is the method by which we as human beings can strengthen that natural connection.” (from this –> website)

the core beliefs/aspects of shamanism include:

  • connection with nature – shamanic practices tap into the power Mother Earth has to offer and the ancient indigenous teachings are derived from the simplistic truths of nature.
  • healing of self and community
  • spiritual practice
  • pilgrimage to sacred places (natural, outdoorsy, beautiful places)
  • vision + ceremony to honor the spirits of nature

basically, this religion is all about creating and sustaining harmony within one’s self, community and with nature. and that’s a pretty damn good focus, i believe. to connect with an ancient religion of indigenous communities, i feel like i am tapping into something very deep, and mystical, and tribal, and organic. i am reminded of the beauty and simplicity of the cherokee indians from my home state.

kabbalah

the author, weiner, was raised jewish, so this last religion that he explored was like coming home to him – but not necessarily in a good way. he seemed to dread it. a bit like how i feel confused about christianity right now. it’s something familiar and comfortable, and yet something confining and suffocating at the same time.

so, he decided to learn about this kind of secret, mystical, esoteric part of judaism that lives on the fringes of the religion. right off i love the mystical, spiritual sense of kabbalah. the focus is, simplistically speaking, on living a spiritual life – taking everything that is mundane and ordinary in the here + now, and bringing it to a spiritual, divine, sacred level. it’s not a religion that focuses on earth: bad, heaven, good. but, instead, delights in the belief that we are all here on earth to connect with god and to repair and transform this world to be what it was created to be.

of course, there is much, much more to this interesting. it gets intense and deep, with lots of layers and other beliefs and practices.

but, one that i love, one that is also found in christianity, but not nearly as practiced, is the idea of the sabbath (shabbat in hebrew) . the word sabbath actually means “to rest”. crazily, i discovered (not in the book) that the idea of sabbath is found in tons of religions from wicca to paganism to buddhism to cherokee tribes. of course, our whole western culture is based on having a weekend, and at least one day of rest. but, also in our western world, we are not so good at practicing sabbath.

not only is it a day of rest, it is day that is to be devoted silence, meditation, tuning into our souls, dwelling in time. as a southern american would imagine, sabbath is like the good old days of people rocking in their chairs on their front porches, sipping on a glass of lemonade or sweet tea, waving to passersby, letting time pass slowly by. just being in the moment.

one of the amazing quotes that inspired me from this chapter is this: “what we are depends on what the sabbath is to us.” ah-mazing. just ponder that… we disengage with the world just for a day so that we can engage with god, according to kabbalah-ists. we need this time to disengage, to meditate, to just be, to reconnect, because the rest of our days we are completely connected and engaged in the world. it’s important work we do on the 6 days that we are active in the world, but it is also critical, important work that we do on the one day that we rest, should we choose to practice sabbath.

the jewish passover plate that i received from lina’s late grandfather, a methodist minister. it hangs with pride on our wall, reminding me of my connection to judaism.

so, our work, in my opinion, within kabbalah, is to connect with our soul, with god, who lives within us – because our “inner essence and the essence of god are one” (p.323) – an idea that was completely foreign to the author, who only thought of god as a “cosmos male parent” or an “infinite, milky, formless, whatever”. crazy + very constricted images, i thought. but, like the kabbalah-ists, i had dropped those images of god a long time ago. with he knowledge/belief that our soul contains a divine spark, then it is our calling to let our lives be used to work from that creative energy within to transform and make sacred every single part of life here and now.

yep. this resonates deeply with me. and i see much of my own christian beliefs within it. then again, i’ve always had some crazy, left-wing, mystical view of christianity. still, i simply must do some more research about kabbalah. i am completely intrigued.

onward + upward!! xoxo

| stay tuned for my last post on this book next week, where i mention briefly how the author ended the book, but focus mostly on what i have learned as i have vicariously been seeking god through the words + experiences of the author. of course, nothing can ever replace experiencing something for one’s self. but, reading about it can definitely inform and pique interest. in any case… i can’t wait to sum things up next week! |

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1 Comment

  • Reply Louise Gallagher 19 Mar 2015 at 14:04

    I love how your words so often describe my thinking/feeling!

    “i’ve always had some crazy, left-wing, mystical view of christianity.” — me too! 🙂

    I look forward to your next installment.

    and btw — I have always wanted to live in a place called Uppsala — what an awesome name for a place to live! So glad you’re settled in and adventuring along.

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