Finding Meaning in Your Life
I write this article today because many of the people I work with in my private practice are suffering from a profound feeling of loneliness. This feeling is often not filled through relationships, sex, drugs, alcohol, politics, etc. I am sharing a personal experience with you. It is meant to offer one example of a stubbly, rocky path that has led to a place of peace. It is my hope that if you have found yourself on some prickly parts of your path, then it may be helpful to hear about another person’s experience of finding comfort within her own roots.
I have lived in the western parts of the United States for 15 years; however, I grew up in an area very much steeped in Midwestern culture. This culture is typically defined by “traditional values” and the notion that people stay in their communities for a very long time. One aspect of this Midwestern lifestyle (particularly in Missouri) is an adherence to the Christian religion. In some parts of Missouri this adherence is quite formulaic and strict. If you do not believe me, then please consider that the documentary movie Jesus Camp was filmed in my home state! Of course, this extreme version of Christianity is certainly not everyone’s way of appreciating their religion in the Midwest!
When I was young, my best friend’s father was a Baptist minister. Somehow at age five or six, I found myself at a bible camp in which Michael Jackson’s character was being questioned. To place this indiscretion in context, it was 1982, the album Thriller was just released. I loved all things of popular culture. My best friend and I spent many weeks perfecting our dance moves. In short, MJ meant everything to me. During my time at this camp, I was told that MJ was no less than the devil incarnate! The camp leader threw his album, Thriller, into a fire stating that this album was the work of Satan. Looking back on this “experience”, I have to say that I am shocked and outraged that someone would scare young children in this way! At the time, I was upset and very confused. This was the beginning of a few “god issues” for me!
Time progressed and I witnessed many different experiences that were similar in nature to the one mentioned above. I so wanted to be like my peers and their families and just believe in Christianity, because that is what you do in Missouri! But then I started to question things, for example: What about the people living in Saudi Arabia or India? What would god think if you were gay? The answer I received from the community was a resounding echo that “those people” would go to hell and I would be going too – if I didn’t figure this whole “god” thing out.
I started to pray out of fear. I prayed from a place of wanting to belong. I prayed and I prayed – yet I felt nothing. I could not reconcile my conscience with the fact that god would send a lot of the world’s people to hell. This did not make sense to me.
I stopped believing in anything at all, as I tried the Christian way and I felt nothing, but fear.
This way of being served me for a while, as I just stopped thinking about the whole issue. Feeling nothing felt better than feeling fear.
Time moved ahead ten years. I found myself surrounded by people who experienced a deep spiritual connection with nature. I would go into the woods and feel this connection, too! Then I met more people, some who honored the woman or goddess aspect of spirituality, and I would pray and have amazingly profound connections with something far greater than “little, old me”. This way of living felt much better to me than trying to force myself into believing something out of fear, or the opposite, of not believing in anything at all.
I now hold a deep respect and faith for my own way of experiencing spirituality and for other people’s way of experiencing both religion and/or spirituality. It has been a long journey; however, I have also come to peace with Christianity. I now understand that even a great idea taken to extremes can cause problems! One of my greatest spiritual teachers, Mother Meera, states, “All religions or spiritual traditions are rivers that are leading to the same ocean.” She recommends that you find one practice that works for you and explore it thoroughly!
Personally, I know what it is like to question the world and the culture in which you are raised. I have lived life trying to force myself to adhere to a religion that didn’t quite fit for me, and I have tried living with believing in nothing at all. Neither one of these extremes offered me a sense of peace. However, slowly, gracefully I have found ways to connect with something greater than myself through nature, community, and the divine feminine. If you find yourself questioning greater themes in your life, then please know that there is not a one size fits all “meaning-maker” that works for everyone! However, if you have the curiosity and are seeking, I believe that there are many ways to find your truth and a reconnection to your roots.