Thoughts on God on Your Own

Since consciousness is one, if you have done it in yourself you have done it in all. ~Joseph Dispenza

I have just finished reading Joseph Dispenza’s book, God on Your Own: Finding a Spiritual Path Outside Religion. I thought I’d share my immediate impressions.

In an effort to be present to my feelings immediately after turning the last page, here is what I notice. I am feeling grateful, relieved, encouraged in my journey, grounded in what I am coming to know as truth and in the process (means, practice) of knowing in general. I am more sure of where I am in my spiritual journey than I ever was in organized religion. And I am thankful.

With that said, there remains one rub for me. While I value his experience in finding his spiritual path after years in the Catholic monastic life, I couldn’t help but be slightly unsettled with with his “othering” of the path of religion. Almost immediately I noticed a tone of “that’s the wrong path” and for those of you who want a better path, keep reading. I don’t think that was his intention and he certainly doesn’t assume that his path is “best”, but the idea that religion is wrong was an overtone that I felt at various points throughout my reading.

As much as organized religion is not the path for me and for many (and a growing number of others), I am not prepared to “wrong” those paths. Again, I bring with me some things I hold as truth from Christianity. As a whole, however, the religion (and religion in general) results in more questions than answers. But, for those who find their soul’s satisfaction in the answers it proffers — who am I to judge?

Here’s a prayer from the book that will stay with me for a long time. It has left quite an impression and will inform, from this point on, what I do with prayer.

Thank you, Source of our lives, for already having given us all we need for this fascinating journey in the flesh–and thank you also for continuing to be here when we have not fully grasped our fundamental connection to you. May we always remember that unbreakable bond–but if we forget, remind us, lest we begin to believe the unthinkable: that we are somehow separated from you [and all].

I felt like root vegetables

Two weeks ago I spent an entire week in a conference for a government program serving Native American tribes. Recent legislation has allowed me to work more closely with this tribal program but I find the timing more than coincidental.

At the beginning of each conference day and before each shared meal, an elder or a spiritual leader gave a blessing. I was deeply moved by one blessing in particular. We were in a conference session on culture – specifically, how tribal culture affects the implementation of this government program and those who benefit from it. This particular blessing was reserved until the end of the session. I’ll say more about it in a bit.

During the session I, an outsider, was able to listen to members of many different tribes, mainly in California, discuss what makes them who they are: their values, customs, beliefs, traditions and practices. I listened to discussions about how natives growing up in urban settings experience finding their way back to the tribe and the cultural traditions, learning their language, finding their place. There was a discussion about the influence Native American culture has had on the culture at large. In that discussion, I got an answer to a question I’ve wondered about for a long time – why I can’t find much written about Native American spirituality that is particularly helpful. The answer is that their spirituality is regarded as so sacred that it is only passed down within the tribe to those who are entrusted with the responsibility of not teaching it to anyone who may use it with less than pure intentions. It is an oral tradition, passed down at the feet of the elders who are highly regarded and respected for their wisdom — it is not written in books.

The blessing after that session went something like this:

Great-grandmother, great-grandfather and all the ancestors upon whose shoulders we stand, it is your collective wisdom that has brought us to this place, to this time, to this day in this room. We carry with us the wisdom of the ages that propels us forward and calls us home. Be with us as each of us goes about our tasks to serve our families-our tribes, to preserve our traditions, to learn to live in two worlds at once. Help each one in the room today who is in the process of finding his way home.

Just hearing him call upon his ancestors and acknowledge them as still quite present and involved in their lives sent chills down my spine. I’ll try to explain why as I go along.

I think “collective consciousness” is too much of a buzz word right now to fully express what I felt but, for lack of better words, I’ll use those. I felt a tremendous sense of single-mindedness that was rooted in something good, pure and timeless. I felt like root vegetables. I felt like something ran deep and anchored these people – both like they were a part of something, and that this something was part of them, a part of their very selves that they could not avoid. I felt like there was truth all in the room – if not mine, someone’s, and it was real. I believed the spiritual leader who said that he couldn’t agree immediately when asked to come and participate – that he needed time to ponder what he was to say because if he had nothing to say, there was no point in speaking. I believed the sign that came to him, an eagle feather. In his tradition, the person speaking to a group holds an eagle feather and as long as they hold the feather, they are required to speak truth. I believed that this eagle feather coming to him while he sat in the mountains contemplating his decision was indeed his sign to come. And I felt grieved.

I felt the weight of history. I felt the bleeding severed ties to my anchors. I felt lost and robbed. I felt distant and flighty. I felt like the disembodied feather floating around, landing for a while and floating away again. My people are a tribe in Africa – somewhere, with traditions and stories and a spirituality that explains their connection to All That Is. My people are a tribe in America – somewhere, with a secret understanding of All That Is that has been passed down from our ancestors. My people are among the faeries on the Emerald Isle -somewhere, with stories and encounters and interactions with a world we can not see. I come from spiritual peoples-but history has robbed me. All I have ever heard, my entire life, is the tradition of those who oppressed my peoples, on three different continents. I was raised with the tradition of a people who used their spirituality, rather their religion, as a sanction to enslave and oppress.

I felt cheated. I felt like I was handed a processed cheese food instead of the self-sustaining wisdom to produce my own real cheese.

I grew up in a faith that says that connecting with (cavorting with) the spirit world was the devil’s work. I find that so strange though when I read the accounts of Jesus’s conception and birth. Everyone was talking to helpers from the other side – and no one thought it strange. My peoples are three cultures with deep roots in spiritual places I am starting to feel fine exploring. I want to sit with elders in my tribes and ask them about the way of understanding oneself as a spiritual being having a human experience. I want to hear from those who believe that life after leaving the body is more than going to heaven or hell based on your behavior, or your proper baptism, or belief in the right savior. I want know the wisdom of nature – what is right under my nose that can heal what baffles modern scientists? I want to understand what it means that I felt the presence of all those ancestors the leader called upon that day for guidance. But who do I ask?

I can probably narrow my Native American ancestors down to two possible tribes. I have no clue about where my African ancestors are from. I have never heard anything at all about my Irish family beyond my grandfather that gives any hope of finding a connection.

Who are your people? I was dumbfounded at that question when asked. The asker was completely sincere. It was her way of showing that I mattered. Who are my people? To know the answer, I can only imagine, would sustain that rooted feeling – that sense of root vegetables that I had in that room that day.

…as long as you don’t answer yourself

I blog because I need to write.  I don’t  claim to be a particularly skilled writer, I just know that written words are the best way for me to see, hear, process what I’m thinking.  Many times, as with the previous post, I’m surprised by what comes out of me when I write.  The pages, these pages serve as a mirror to my Soul. 

I have been feeling drawn to go back and read my old journals from the period in my life when I was gaining strength to take a good look at myself and get honest and naked with myself for the first time.  This is also the period that led to my decision to leave my marriage and to begin this process of re-thinking who I am, what I believe and why I believe I am here.  I am afraid to go back and read these journals.  It wasn’t until two nights ago that I could really articulate why. 

At the risk of sounding like a freak, I journal in two voices.  One is my conscious voice to whomever (God, ex, family, friends) and the other voice speaks to my conscious self in the second person.  So, yeah, I write to myself.  I have always believed that these passages are God’s way of breaking through the distractions and speaking directly to me in black and white so that I can get it.  While those passages have always been deeply comforting and empowering to me, I’ve doubted them often.  “God wouldn’t say that,” I often tell myself.  I judge what I have written and struggle to make the words fit into the box I’d built around the concept I had of God at the time. 

Along this journey I have gotten to know a God who isn’t confined by a box and certainly not by a Bible.  I believe he resides in me and in you and in every created thing.  I still believe this is the voice that speaks to me as a write “to myself”.  I am afraid, though, that I’ll go back and read what I’ve written in the past and feel like something (then or now) is wrong.  I am afraid I will have to choose between that voice and the voice the comforts me today.  I am afraid to see where I was with the distance I have now and I’m not sure why.

(Big parentheses around this whole paragraph…

I really feel a merge of my blogs coming as I write this.  I haven’t said very much here or on Unpacking Faith lately about where this spiritual journey is taking me.  I plan to write about it more, and I will probably just do it here.  I can’t realistically separate myself into 3 divergent paths; after all, they really are one.  It’s almost like I inadvertently created a mind blog (this one), a body blog (Fine Tuning) and a spirit blog (Unpacking Faith).  God forbid I separate my mind from the other two!   

 …close parentheses).

So, I’m not sure why I am afraid to see where I was or who I was then.  I’m not sure what it will make me feel.  I know that it’s obviously something I need to do because the urge is so unrelenting.  I’m going to try to post after I read through them.  It may be stream of consciousness…wouldn’t that be fun!  At the very least, I’m sure it will remind me of parts of my story I’ve yet to tell. 

I’m not sure if You Know Who You Are still reads this, but if you do (and I know I still owe you an email response) I would love to hear you chime in on this one.   

Namaste!