A friend recently asked me the “big scary God question” and it forced me to pause and really give this thought. What is God…..to me? How do we communicate our intimate, personal experience of “God” to another? Can we believe in a God that is not just “the old man in the sky?” Of course, I don’t have any of the answers….but here are a few thoughts taken from what I shared with my friend:
What Happens When Someone Asks About God?
A friend recently asked me the big scary God question. As the words left their lips, I felt my heart stop, my breathing ceased and the movement of my life seemed to come to a screeching halt. Of course I was tongue-tied and couldn’t come up with a intelligible response while my brain was running around wondering, “What happens if I answer the question incorrectly or what I tell them is not what they want to hear?” After a night of being able to “sleep on it,” a better answer showed up. I penned the best response I could come up with that felt authentic to my own personal experience and beliefs. Knowing this friend was a regular yoga practitioner, I crafted the response in language that would be relevant to their own personal experience. Here is what I wrote:
Answering the Question:
“You know how you are feeling at the end of a great yoga class, while lying in Shivasana, that blissed-out, totally peaceful feeling? That is God to me. God is that place beyond the constructs of the mind that allows us to access our truest self – pure, clear, peaceful, content, joyful and full of love and accessing knowledge of our highest truth and the path of our highest good. While I might image “God” as something outside of us that gives guidance, support, healing, love, inspiration, etc. I also know that which I call God is WAY more than that. I can’t explain it, define it or describe it, I can only experience it and it is in those times of deep meditation, high creativity, blissful reality, intimate connection, natural wonder where I experience and KNOW this “God.” Taking time to access this “experience” is the grounding point of my life and the pivot upon which the rest of my life is directed. And I have found limitless ways to access this experience – whether it be through meditation, prayer, yoga, going to mass, reading scripture, enjoying poetry, a good movie, reading something inspirational or educational, cooking, gardening, cultivating healthy, intimate relationships, being in nature, just having fun, being with my kids etc. It has all become an access point for that place of peaceful contentment, joy and love that resides within each of us….and that is just WAY COOL!”
God and Religion
Then came the religion part of the question. If I believe in God, does that mean I am religious? How does my Catholic upbringing fit into the whole God question? Again, these were the best words I could come up with in response to the question, but I think they are pretty fitting:
“So….am I religious? Probably not. Spiritual? Definitely. And….apparently once a Catholic, always a Catholic, so a lot of my
language is of that vein and my journey will always look a little Catholic….but at the end of the day, my spirituality is WAY bigger than anything the Catholic Church could ever attempt to contain. That being said, I have been known to get on
my soapbox over things the Catholic Church is doing because on many levels, I still care. I grew up there. It has been my home. And it was through the rituals and practices of Catholicism that I did find that deep and true place of peace…..in spite
of the Institutions attempts otherwise.”
Honoring Our Differences
And finally the question, “What happens if we have differing beliefs?” Ultimately, I don’t think any of us can claim to believe the same thing because each and every one of our experiences of the “the Divine” is personal, intimate and unique. So in response to that question, here were my thoughts: “Honor. Respect. Support. Are the words that surface when I ask this question. I recognize that the spiritual journey is unique to each individual. I honor, respect and offer support for
wherever people are in that process….and I expect the same.”
What have been your experiences of “the Divine?”
How would you describe your beliefs in “God” “Higher Power” “the Divine” to another person?
How do your personal experiences inform your spiritual and/or religious choices, beliefs, etc.?
Authentic Freedom Ministries