Evolving Your Spiritual Life
Since the recent move, I’ve been exploring various spiritual communities in our area. This exploration led my husband and me to attend a Unitarian Universalist service last weekend. The hour was lovely, complete with a Buddhist Tonglen meditation, hearty banjo music, and contemplative moments to ringing bells.
The minister also gave a captivating talk. She spoke of her lifelong journey of coming to know God. In childhood, like many of us, she associated God with a deity who alternately rewarded the good and punished the bad. She also pleaded with him to fulfill her youthful desires. Couldn’t he please make the cute boy in middle school like her back?
As she became an adult, this view of God struck her as silly. She tossed it out. She also disdained other people who believed in God. How could they swallow such nonsense? Because her view of God had not evolved since childhood, she assumed theirs hadn’t either. This was a false assumption. A wake-up call taught the minister that she was projecting her own childlike image of God onto other people, believing it was also their image—when in fact it was not. Once she “got” her projection, she took it back, and was free to begin evolving her spiritual life beyond the messages of childhood.
The minister’s talk got me thinking about how my own spiritual views have evolved. As a child, I too believed in a God that beamed some people to heaven and condemned others to hell. I went so far as to become a perfectionist, in part attempting to ward off a dark fate.
Today, at thirty years old, my spiritual life has changed. (To clarify, I don’t mind what words we use. God, the Universe, the Tao, spirit, energy, and so on are all good with me. I choose not to get hung up on semantics, as they pale in comparison to direct, personal experience.) Now I experience God as the animating energy propelling all of life, within and around us all the time. The force that converted a tiny embryo into a 5'9 human called “Ann,” that which breathes air into my lungs, digests my food, and grows my hair and nails—all without me doing a thing. The same force that transforms a seed into a flower, morphs one season into the next, keeps planet Earth and the entire cosmos in motion. This connection is a far cry from the polarized God of my early years.
I imagine that your spiritual views have also altered since childhood. When you were little, how did you perceive spirituality, religion, God? What messages were prominent in your family and culture? Which ones did you accept? Reject? Did any memorable experiences shape you—positive or negative?
Now, as an adult, how would you describe your spiritual life? (Feel free to interchange the word “spiritual” with any others you may feel more comfortable with.) Do you have a practice that grounds you? Are any vestiges of your spirituality stuck in time, perhaps obeying or rebelling against authority figures from the past? How could you update your spiritual connection so it supports you more fully?
This month, give extra consideration to what feels true and right on the deepest levels of your being. Allow your innate wisdom to emerge, and your inner life to grow and change along with the rest of you.