TO CELEBRATE THE OCTOBER RELEASE OF MY BOOK THRASHING ABOUT WITH GOD, AND TO EXPAND THE CONVERSATION BEYOND MYSELF, I HAVE ASKED 31 BRAVE PEOPLE TO SHARE A GUEST POST WITH THE THEME OF #IAMTHRASHING. THESE ARE PEOPLE I HAVE PERSONALLY DIALOGUED WITH, PEOPLE WHO I KNOW HAVE RISKED A LOT TO WRESTLE WITH THE HARD STUFF THAT COMES WITH SPIRITUALITY. OUR FAITH MAY NOT LOOK LIKE YOURS, BUT WE WELCOME YOU TO THE DISCUSSION.
Preface: I thrashed about with this piece since the moment I was invited to write it. It is terribly difficult to put words to a lifelong spiritual journey that has only really started to get interesting. Kudos to dear Mandy for braving that challenge and encouraging all of us to journey with her in our own ways.
* * *
My awareness of a power bigger and more awesome than I could possibly understand came about at an early age. It was Christmastime in my Catholic household, we were putting the ornaments on the tree and listening to the Christmas blues on public radio (a longstanding family tradition), the Nag Champa permeating the air. My mother posed the question “Why do we go to church to worship?” Of course, I was young, and looking back on it those were probably not her exact words, and there was probably more to it than that simple phrase.
As I matured and explored my faith and spirituality, that question reverberated in my mind. I've grown up loving the outdoors, and finding peace within myself and my wild mind primarily when I am surrounded by nature. I was on the hiking trail with my family before I could even walk, being toted around in a backpack and passed back and forth between my parents as I grew heavy and they grew weary. An answer to my mother's question began to form as I grew and began to understand this love and respect of the earth. Why go to a place with concrete and iron and glass to praise the deity that created this universe that I love so dearly? As a young woman, this realization was astonishing. That moment was an awakening, and the beginning of a desire to learn more about this world in a way that my soul would understand. (I believe that awakenings happen multiple times in our lives, that we cannot limit ourselves to one fantastic moment of understanding.)
I was fortunate to be raised by a family that encouraged me to ask questions and explore life in whatever way I wanted to. I became entranced by Tibetan Buddhism, inspired by my research into the Tibet/China conflict. Years later, I was blessed with the opportunity to go on a study tour in northern China. That trip changed my life. It made the smallness of the world tangible, and it happened at the Temple of Heaven.
A brass band was playing vivacious music that set a festive tone for a regular day at the temple. As I walked by, the group of people standing and listening split in two – men and women – surrounding this band. Then everyone started singing along, first the men, then the women, then all together. I had no idea of what they were singing, but I knew how they felt when they were doing it. My soul felt the same joy and pride that these people singing in a foreign language were feeling, because we are all alike underneath materials and flesh. (That moment – that was another awakening. Retelling that story never ceases to bring a joyful tear to my eye.)
Time has passed, and that Temple of Heaven experience still resonates in my mind. I have learned, and am still learning, about this higher-power. I was brought up to ask questions, and to question things that I don't agree with. I can't seem to find a “home” in the religious sense – there is too much that tugs at my heartstrings and pulls me in. I am a wanderer, a nomad, a woman with no spiritual home save for the path that leads me wherever it may. And THAT is something that I am comfortable with. I have always told myself to never settle. There are too many pieces that grab me and move into my soul that I cannot help but HOPE that somehow, all of these things are connected, that there is no one right answer. I will always crave the wind in my hair and a journey to the next magical moment.
To circle back and close this thing out: Thrashing. I thrashed for a long time in this geographical state of Christianity, this state of mind with which I had so much in common, but so much that I just could not agree with. I have been shunned for my uniqueness as well as embraced. I have met amazing people of all faiths – Muslim women who have taught me about wearing the hijab, a Hindu student who taught me about the many faces of God, Buddhist nuns who have taught me about understanding and patience, and more. My closest friends – those whom I consider family – range from staunch Atheists to an inspiring example of a woman of God. I am truly blessed with all of those connections, those connections that I believe have happened through the guidance of the universe and whatever higher power there might be. I thrashed around for so long, thinking that there HAD to be one right answer. Only when I paused to realize that one answer does not suffice for ME, was I comfortable accepting the truth of my spiritual being.
Tarah. Like the earth (terra) or Gone with the Wind." - That's how people meet me. Grew up in a liberal catholic household and have grown into a more organic way of believing. Constantly bearing witness to how connected all things truly are, my neurons flashing like retro motel signs. I don't try to push myself in any one direction, but allow my inner voice and the universe guide me along. So far I'm pretty darn happy with where I've been.