Friday, March 5, 2010

Evolving My Spirituality

This is a somewhat personal post, focused more on me and my process than on social change. But I figure that maybe someone else can learn from my struggles with spirituality.

Up until recently, if you had asked me what my spirituality was, I would have said I was a Naturalistic Pagan. I haven't thought of myself as even remotely interested in being Buddhist since the nineteen seventies.

But lately, I have been doing a Buddhist meditation for a half-hour every morning and a different Buddhist meditation for ten minutes or so every evening. I have been attending meditations and talks at our local insight meditation center, went to an orientation at the local zen center, and have recently started attending a meditation run by some Tibetan influenced folks.

There are certain teachers that have stayed with me through the years, principally Stephen Levine and Pema Chödrön; but the daily meditating started a few years ago when I read Stephen Batchelor's book, Buddhism Without Beliefs. Like it or not, this was an approach that I could follow. Eventually I found myself reading Buddhist writers like Joanna Macy whose writings I have written several posts about (see my posts on World as Lover, 1/15/10; Mutual Causality, 12/18/09; and The Great Turning, 11/15/09) and John Makransky who is one of my current influences.

But, as I'm reading all these Buddhist books and doing all these Buddhist practices, I kept saying, "I'm not a Buddhist, I'm not a Buddhist, I'm not..." And I'm not. I find the stuff incredibly useful for my emotional growth, but I saw the core of my spirituality as being around the world and nature, thus a pagan.

And I love reading pagan writers like Starhawk (and have written a couple of posts on her work, One with Nature2: The Path, 12/28/09, and Starhawk, Political Theorist, 8/17/08) and Luisah Teish and Thorn Coyle. (All three of these women have connections with Reclaiming Witchcraft and Starhawk and Thorn Coyle are witches.)

But I have also been occasionally going to Quaker meeting, and have been influenced by my Catholic upbringing (and Thomas Merton), my Jewish friends, my Ethical Culture friend Susan (see my post, Unoffendable, 12/4/09), my univeralist (not UU) friend Robert (see my post, WWJD, 12/25/09), and Christian blogger Robyn Coffman (also featured in Unoffendable, 12/4/09). I was starting to call myself things like a 'Reclaiming-influenced Pagan, also with Buddhist and Catholic influences'. It was getting a bit ridiculous. There were people encouraging me to shed the labels, but that's hard for me.

Finally I did something similar to what I had done with my political beliefs (see my post on SECS, 9/22/08). There I replaced the political labels with what I actually believed in. Now I am replacing the spiritual labels with the source of my spirituality.

When I look at what really nourishes me spiritually, I realize that it is four things. At the center is Love. Truly, I am a devotee of love and compassion and forgiveness. (See my post on The Four Gardeners, 2/14/10, and my post entitled And Their Four Offspring, 2/24/10.) But also Community is not only a political belief of mine (see my four posts on community in October, 2008), but a source of my spiritual strength as well. (Somewhere Thich Nhat Hanh said something like 'the next Buddha will be a sangha'--that is a community. I think most spiritual groups also honor community.) And, of course, Love (in the larger sense) and Community are related. The third source of my spirituality is Nature and the fourth source is the Earth--and these two sources are why I thought of myself as a pagan for so long.

But no spirituality has a monopoly on Love, Community, Nature, and the Earth. So rather than labeling myself, I am now choosing to honor the sources of my spirituality--and act in ways that connect me to those sources. And for me, while Nature, the Earth, and Community are very important, I am realizing more and more that my spiritual base begins with Love.

Quote of the Day: "Love is a choice -- not simply, or necessarily, a rational choice, but rather a willingness to be present to others without pretense or guile. Love is a conversion to humanity -- a willingness to participate with others in the healing of a broken world and broken lives. Love is the choice to experience life as a member of the human family, a partner in the dance of life..." - Carter Heyward


ethicalsusan said...

Nice post.

MoonRaven said...

Thank you.

As I mentioned, you have definitely been an influence on my spirituality.