Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Losing My Religion

There was a time in my life when I believed in a “Universal Presence”. An energy that filled the spaces in between. If I “fed” it enough positive energy and positive thoughts I could make positive things happen. I was a member of the Center For Spiritual Living (the church that Ernest Holmes started with several others) and was studying to be a practitioner. I wanted to become someone who could help others by doing “treatments”, otherwise known as prayers, and always seeing them as whole, happy and complete. But, life happened and finances kept me from continuing on that study path.

A couple years after that I craved a spiritual outlet (or inlet depending on your perspective) so I looked into Zen Buddhism. Meditation was always the foundation of my spiritual house and, at the time, I needed to learn how to be more present in the world. After attending a 3 day silent retreat at a monastery in Clatskanie, Oregon I began my Zen practice at a local zendo here in Portland. I found the practice to be very enlightening and benefited greatly from my daily sitting.

But, as I became more connected to the world around me I felt it's profoundly heavy pain and sorrow. So much so that it scared me. So I stopped. I stopped sitting, stopped meditating, stopped trying to be present and mindful. I cut off the connection and felt myself become bitter to the world.

It's been close to four years since I've had a meditation practice. Four years of being disconnected from everything in the world besides what and who I choose to be connected to. I've always been a spiritual person in some way, shape or form so to be without it now somehow makes life feel....empty.

So the question is, can I get back to it? Can I be spiritual again after this time of complete and utter bitterness? Can I get past the cynicism at this point? If not, is there anything else out there? Something I can believe in? Not just follow blindly but actually believe in?

I don't know nor do I know where to start. Perhaps a good place to start is to try meditation again. Do what I can to focus on the positive.


  1. There are days when I feel awful, and its not me. I feel this energy floating around thats so confusing, painful, draining. Its hard to keep yourself open to positive things without letting the negative in too. I think guided meditation can help, because you can notice and acknowledge those things, but still turn them away if you can't help. An odd way I learned that was through animal rescue, a simple rule we always have to remember, otherwise its just too overwhelming. You can't save them all. Meditating opens up yourself, and advanced meditation can open you up to everything, people, animals, the planet. Just some ideas to consider when you start again. Hope it goes well.

  2. As I read your post, I hear you describing evolution and growth, rather than stagnation and a need to go back to what you used to do. Perhaps meditation, as you formerly practiced it, is a path that beckons. But the beauty of what you wrote here: "being disconnected from everything in the world besides what and who I choose to be connected to" - could be easily re-written as a manifesto. "My spirituality for the last four years has been to choose my connections with great care, and to give myself fully to those connections." Where you go next is your choice. Because - tada - you are the Buddha (if you wanna be).

    Beautiful post. Give yourself credit for a rich and varied life journey. And consider the spirituality inherent in your Butch/Femme photo project, your senior portraits, and all of the ways you bring out the beauty in people who might otherwise feel awkward or - here's that word - disconnected.

    You rock. Blessings and motorcycle-level happiness to you.

  3. Yes. I think it is possible to get back to it. Like anything, it starts with baby steps. The more you practice being still, the more still you will become.

    Like everything in our lives, I think our belief systems alter with age. They change, mature, evolve, just like we do in our physical lives.

  4. I'm a forever skeptic, but not in just a religious sense. I'm skeptical of my own feelings, let alone the worlds. Sometimes our parents were wrong ... being selfish is healthy, as long as we don't shut people out. Taking time for just you is necessary otherwise the world will weigh you down. Perhaps your journey isn't about doing the same things as the past, hoping for better results, but rather a new way to connect yourself to you. Perhaps that doesn't even make sense, but maybe it's not supposed to. Good luck!

  5. That presence, I call it God (sometimes I call it "Damn it, God!" or "Lord help me." or "Why?"), is always there, even if you don't believe in it, practice it, meditate on it or otherwise attend to it. That's what I believe. That's the great thing about Lord-help-me. You can even get angry at Lord-help-me. There's a great scene in this movie with Robert Duvall, The Apostle, which is a movie I like anyway, but in one scene Robert Duvall's character gets so mad he starts screaming at God and I was just so utterly amazed and freed by that scene. It made me realize that Lord-help-me is big enough to take everything we throw at it and still love us. Even abandonment, or laziness (I'm not saying you're lazy, that's me, not you), or confusion, or questioning.

  6. I think that you get what you look for to some extent. There is certainly plenty of ugly in the world. I try to counter that by looking for positive things. For me, the connection I feel to the divine brings me joy. It's supposed to, I think. I also think that religion screws that up for people. What is it that you want out a spiritual practice? Is it connectedness? To what? Is it a sense of something bigger than the mundane? That may be a good place to begin.

  7. I found a clip of that Robert Duvall scene I was talking about! And June Carter Cash is in it!

    Lord, now I'm going to have to prove I'm not a robot again. That thing makes me nervous. I'm always afraid I'm going to fail.

  8. I stopped meditating too... probably when I needed it the most. Now I need it the most and I still can't get myself to start. I wish I knew the answer... maybe stop waiting for everything to be perfect, or stop waiting for my situation to improve. Accept the present moment for what it is, and breathe in it...