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On spirituality...
shortindiangirl asked me: Let's take a detour: I'm interested to know your relationship with the Church and/or with God.

I've been meaning to respond to this one for a while, but its been hard to find the quality time to do it.

I suppose i could make a general post about it.. but then, there's SO MUCH i could say, i don't know what all to say, and I draw a blank. Its much easier if I have a feel of who/what my target audience is. So, i guess i'll just type for a few minutes here and see what comes out.

My parents -- Mom is a follower of Sai Baba (the 1st); Dad is from a Punjabi family and i'm not sure if they had a particular deity affiliation. Definitely Hindu-ish. Non-practising, from what I saw... I grew up identifying with the stuff I had at home, which I guess is "Hinduism" without knowing what it was. In Zambia, we went to a Sikh temple, so I learned to say those prayers, and I almost got to wear a pugudi(?) (head thing).

In Liberia, the "Good" school was a Catholic school, and they accepted me in, so I went there. It was not a "school for catholics", but rather a bunch of good Catholics who had gotten together to run a school whereby people could learn math, science, etc, as well as being exposed to Catholicism. A lot of the folks who went to that school were actually Muslim, and one of the more adventurous RE instructors I had, had some of them share about their belief systems with us. It was pretty wonderful.

The same RE instructor, btw, totally revitalized "hymsinging" class. He threw out the old hymnal, and made a new one.. and it had these really cool songs which I later found out were Simon & Garfunkel songs. Heh. He also taught me to play guitar and harmonica.. Br Martin O'Rielly -- I owe you so much that I could never repay you. Thank you for being a light in my life.. and I pray that I can be a light in other's lives as well.

When I came to the states, I didn't know what to think.. so I stayed Atheist for a while. Or Scientist, or whatever. About two or three years in, 1989: things were going pretty bad -- my mom & dad had split up, dad had taken all the money for my tuition and absconded to India.. mom had fallen and broken something and was bedridden.. I was in the dorms, in danger of getting kicked out due to no $; i was a F-1 student and couldn't work... my whole life was falling apart at the seams. I remember walking back to the dorms from campus one day -- not able to think objectively, just numb.. I looked up at the sky, and I said: God.. if you exist... please please please help me.

And something responded. There was a lightness there.. a feeling of comfort flooded through me.. and I knew at that point.. that God existed, and at that time, my experience of God was female.

I never took that anywhere. Life became better rapidly -- mom moved to the States, got a job (somehow, on a B-1 visa.. miracle), things stitched themselves back together again. I lost myself in DND & geeking, graduated, and life moved on.

Fast forward to about 1998-ish. I had just split up with the person whom I had defined my existance with -- i was an empty wreck. Or, was it after that, when my family was trying to get me married off, and I backed out of it, and they kicked me out of the family. (something that is dimly "threatened" as the worst possible punishment in overly dramatic Indian families). (Yeah, I got kicked out. We're back on speaking terms now.) Sometime around then, my emotional support system was pretty much nonexistent -- i think i had my friends (who were not equipped to handle me), and my ex-gf's parents (my "foster family" is what I call them now) and I was falling apart again. I was hanging out at Borders, in the metaphysical section, and a book literally jumped off the shelf at me. It was called "Conversations with God", and i took it home, and devoured it.. and it gave me a story that I could hang my coat on. I decided to pursue joining .. joining something.

I started attending a Unitarian Fellowship. It was.. an interesting safe place to be. Man, i was just barely hanging on to my sanity at that point in time.. i was no longer suicidal, thank goodness.. Probably after a month of going there, i started to feel comfortable there, and then...

... and then somehow, I ended up at a Unity church. I don't know how, or why, or anything. Its like, i blacked out for a week or two, and when I came to, i was now going to Unity. I *think* my friend Robin has recommended that I check them out, and I went there once just to see, but i don't remember it. I do remember crying during the sermon, and feeling a "spiritual home".

Unitics are, well.. umm.. man, they are hard to define. There's a story that might help make sense:

- there is the tree of life, alone on a hill. Grass grows around it. Every now and then, it drops seeds on the grass. Some seeds grow, some seeds die. The seeds that grow, grow into trees.. yet none of those two trees are alike, yet they are all from the first tree. Over time, those trees grow into forests.. yet there is still the source tree.
- So, Hinduism, Christianity, etc -- they are all like different trees, in the same forest.
- Or, its like walking up a mountain from different sides. The closer you get to the top, the more the view is the same.

So as far as right now -- heh. I'm a Unitic at heart... which makes sense only to those who know what that means. If someobody asks me if I'm christian, I say: "I go to a church." I've made my peace with Hinduism and Christianity and Bhuddism; never was much exposed to Islam, albeit i feel an affinity to Sufi's(?) with the constant breath of prayer thing. I feel at home with Unitarians; i understand and love Quakers and Ba'hai. I _feel_ the flow in native american spirituality. I agree with and can echo the experiences of my Wiccan friends. I can feel, and I love, the nature spirits (and they love me too). I experience the Tao and Te. Its all one, one and the same, to me. And I love it all.

I should make a note: that while I am a Unitic, not all Unitics are like me. Ie, not everybody _feels_ the other paths resonating within like I do. I think i'm specially gifted, due to having bunches of varied religious experiences and many years of searching for a common ground where I could respect all of my past.

So, m'dear, hope that answers your question. Et Vous, if you have the time?
And everybody else -- dere ya go. Didja know i was so goofy? :] How goofy are you?

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Yes, that answers my question. Thanking muching.

I have my own story, but don't have the time. Not right away, anyway. Let's just say that I believe that I am my own God. Through my worst suicidal moments, the closest I came to "God" was only that God was a convenient creation that I choose to believe or disbelieve in as it served a purpose in my life.

Of all religions, I would ally myself with Vedanta. Among many other reasons, I don't think it either has roots in, or has any links to political or control issues that can be attributed to religions.

By cultural practice, I am Hindu and Indian. I enjoy the idiosyncratic daily Hindu rites and the meaning that they can infuse in my life and my actions.

But after going to Catholic School, much like yours in the religious sense, I am very sure, very very sure that I can never be Christian. My priest friend from Ghana has heard my religious and spiritual views extensively. Where I may call myself agnostic, he swears that I am a true Christian at heart and just need to open my eyes. Mostly I think I'm a heathen satanic something or the other.

Basic tenets for me:
1) One's spiritual connection is theirs alone and can and will be unique.
2) One's spiritual connection must be defined by that person alone, and may be helped, and guided by others, but cannot be mandated or regulated by others
3) There are no absolutes, but we have to create some in order to participate in a constructive and cohesive society
4) Religion has long been used as a tool of control just as much as it has been used as a tool with which to explain the world around you. One must be wary of the conflict between the control and its usefulness in understanding one's spiritual self.
5) If God exists, it is very hard for me to absorb a God that is human like in anyway.
6) It is very hard for me to accept any portion of the Bible or most religious texts as literal.

Labels only go so far!

sounds like you've had a rough life as well... and you've found yourself something that works for you. That's pretty awesome.

Reading your tenets -- i think I understand where you're coming from; its actually pretty similar to me. I've never tried to make up tenets, perhaps I'll do that sometime.

Hmm.. kinda scarey to say it out loud amidst people who *might* disagree with me.
1. There is a God, and its a happy God. Its more a force than it is a person.
2. I am a piece of God that has manifested itself as a human to "experience life" (becuase its fun and joyful). Within me, will always be my link to the source.
3. Human religion is very human and as such is full of icky politics and other crummy stuff. They aint treated each other very well. This applies to Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, all of them.
4. I affect the shape of my reality by thoughts and actions. In the end, I am responsible for any and all negative or positive stuff happening to me, by my level of surrender to God-spirit-force-nature within.
5. My job as a human is to focus on that divine spark within and let it express itself.
6. There are no literal texts, Bible, Quaran, and everything else included.
7. Although its very hard to see, i choose to believe that humanity in general is evolving towards a closer harmony with God-spirit within.

And, I also totally understand where your Ghanian priest friend is coming from.. i have an Indian friend who'se a devout Christian who tells me i'm carrying a great christian message. At first: Yuck. Now: livable, as long as I'm living in *my* definition of the world and not his.

There was a thing I saw once.. called "2000 years of Christianity".. made by a bunch of German folks... and it was AWESOME. They totally focused on everything humans have done to muck up the religion. It was GREAT.

question: how did you get to be so .. cosmopolitan? i don't know the word, exactly.. but that, in the short time i've listened to you, i've heard you talk about Ghanian friends and Denmark stuff and... i'm sure there were others.

and: I appreciate that you are so sure of yourself -- you have your opinions and, well, there you are. Are you the oldest or only kid in your family?

That's true. I'm pretty much "in your face". Very little layered in emotional nooks and crannies. but that's also because I pride myself in understanding my self thoroughly.

I don't think I'm very "cosmopolitan". My heart and I continue to be totally Indian. I was born and raised there. My parents were well off enough that I have made two trips outside of India as a child. To Italy, England, Canada & Oosa once, and to Oosa and plenty of time in NYC and Vermont the second time.

Came to the Oosa when I was 17 for undergrad (kicking and screaming, I didn't want to leave India). Did an undergrad sem abroad at Denmark, so was there for 6 mo's. While there I fell for an Estonian man who I continue to have a close relationship with. My Estonian man (er..friend) is living and working in Sweden, but also widely travelled around Europe. While I was in Europe, I too travelled a bit. Germany, France, Spain, Czech Republic & Norway.

In the interim between my undergrad and grad my father lived in the Oman for a bit, so visited there for substantial periods of time. I was a minority and continue to be so in the U.S. This means that I have no option to seclude myself in mainstream culture. In grad school, I went to Spain for a sem and lived there. My Ghanian friend was from Architecture school. Now come to think of it, what the heck would a Ghanian priest be doing in the U.S. after having fallen in love with Architecture in France ?! Bizzarre, but intriguing and so we spent time together.

My most recent trip was to Mexico, albiet very much in the border zone from Arizona. Took a little overnight bus trip into Magdalena, but didn't stay long enough for much.

I am not so sure of myself, but I do appear that way. I often think out loud, so when I say something it sometimes sounds like I've already thought about it enough to articulate it. But the real truth is that I'm just good at articulating things the first time around. I do think about life at large and much enjoy that, but my thoughts / convictions / beliefs derive a lot from my conversations themselves. I don't read a whole lot, wish I did more, but find that my 'knowledge' comes from the everyday passerby as much as it does from great gurus who've written tomes. I don't like putting anyone on a pedestal and for me all people are equal in what I can & do learn from them.

I'm the only child.

:] Thank you, your history gives me a better perspective of you.

I'm a youngest child aka spoiled brat, myself. If we hung out a lot together, i'd probably drive you nuts. *grins*

You mentioned suicidal stuff earlier.. just to let you know, i also went through a suicidal phase a while back... If I don't keep a close eye on my internal balance, the attitude/feelings/thoughts come back, so I spend a lot of time on internal balance stuff. that's the "recovery" stuff in my calendar thing that I pasted a bit earlier.

Got goals / things you want to do in the future?

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