What’s it all about?

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I used to blog, somewhat haphazardly, at a wonderful little cyber-community, first called Zaadz, then called Gaia, for about three-and-a-half years. In March 2010 the economic recession had its way with Gaia and that IP address is now a dead-letter office. The community is trying to reform but it seemed the opportune moment to create something more intentional.

Although I was a self-avowed agnostic/atheist for my first forty-one years, I have held a life-long fascination in and with religion and spirituality―an insatiable curiosity about what others believe regarding life, the universe, and everything (to quote the awesome Douglas Adams). Several years ago I began attending a Unitarian Universalist (UU) church because I was hungry for spiritual growth, though I didn’t know what that would look like for an atheist. UUs have no dogma, require no confession of a creed. Its members support and encourage each other in the individual search for truth and meaning. My particular church leans heavily towards Humanism, though I may see glimmers of that changing.

In the spring of 2009, after four years as a UU, the most unexpected thing in the world happened to this old unbeliever . . . . I had a personal, real-time, mystical experience of God. Many things in my life have fallen away since then, other things taken up. But what remains is the overarching question, “Well, now what?”

This blog is a contemplation and a conversation. I admire, to the point of obsession, Krista Tippett’s amazing radio show “Speaking of Faith.” I’m sure I will reference it far more than anyone wants to hear. I freely admit that I hope to have some similar conversations here, thought perhaps of a slightly more personal nature, about  spirituality, religion, theology, ethics, and finding our way through this life as best we can.

Although I feel like I know things I didn’t know BME (before my experience), I don’t feel like I suddenly have the answers. Far from it. A million more questions have, instead, been unearthed. And while, I believe there are universal truths, I paradoxically also believe there are individual truths that are equally valid, equally powerful. I want to hear your truths as much as I intend to work out my own in this space.

Namaste and blessed be,
a cUrioUs gUUrl

A word about comments

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16 responses »

  1. You write: “the most unexpected thing in the world happened to this old unbeliever . . . . I had a personal, real-time, mystical experience of God….”

    Yup, speaking from personal experience, transcendental experiences have a way of messing with one’s carefully thought-out philosophies/theologies. However, they also keep life from being boring.

    Welcome to the UU blogosphere.

  2. When you write that you had a ” personal, real-time, mystical experience of God” … can you describe what that was? What happened? What you saw? Felt? Heard?

    Those of us who are still skeptical, agnostic, yet nice — I mean, spiritual — want to know!

    PS I’m Dan’s sister 🙂

    • Jean, that’s quite a question for my first post . . . one I’ve been trying to work out in my journal for the past 15 months : – )

      The short answer is, unfortunately, no. I cannot describe it.

      There are a few reasons. Primarily because, as I’m sure you can guess, there are currently no words I know of in the English language that come close to capturing the experience. Every time I try to write it down, I grasp fragments but never the whole. The technicalities but never the guts. Oblique glances but never the face of it.

      There is a second reason. It is my own precious jewel. A thing between me and God. There are just some things a gUUrl doesn’t mess with. I guess it’s a matter of respect. Even if I could say, I wouldn’t.

      But I can tell you pieces.

      What I saw was God sitting in my heart. Literally. In my beating, anatomical heart.

      What I heard was the beating of said heart. Amplified. I mean really loud. I heard the geese on the river that runs through my town and the wind soughing through the trees. I heard utter silence. I heard myself sobbing and sobbing.

      What did I feel? Well, this is the hardest part and the most cliched. The part most open to ridicule and disbelief. The part I would have written off if someone had told it to me BME (before my experience). I’ve heard many people say God is love. Televangelists. Self-help book authors. Medieval mystics. It seemed to me always an incredibly facile and vague thing to say. But, indeed, that is what I felt. The most overwhelming love, purer than my mama’s love, which is pretty pure. Total, 100% acceptance and love. Let me just say, it was a frickin’ good feeling in the moment, though there was a lot of sadness in my reaction to it. Hard to explain . . .

      The whole experience probably lasted, realistically, maybe 90 minutes, but it felt like hours and parts of it even felt like my whole life. I’ve since read that a sense of being “out of time” is a common trait of spiritual experiences. It was true for me. Although I’ve described it as a “real time” experience, I mean only that I was not asleep or in surgery or under hypnosis or something like that but simply going about my daily business. But parts of it did feel like what I have heard described as eternal time.

      This is entirely inadequate, but all I have to give you : – )

  3. Ah. Since I’m a writer, and teach writing, I have a feeling I could create an entire course around teaching how to write what this moment is like. It all starts with the details — where were you, what did you see, hear, taste, smell, touch, etc.

    That aside, I am so interested in this phenomenon — and I don’t know if that’s even the right word.

  4. Oops — I meant to add to that. No, what you write is not inadequate. It’s clear this is important and genuine. Unfortunately, out here, where I live in the Midwest, this kind of experience is talked about as though it were as common as chickens. Children as young as six, seven and eight are routinely encouraged to be “saved” and to “admit Jesus as their personal savior.” It’s pretty clear you don’t mean anything like that, but I must admit that as someone who grew up as a UU, and now lives among mostly evangelical Christians, I have become super wary of professions of transformative moments. And that’s not about what you’re saying either, and I’m glad to read about this!. My wariness comes from what evangelicals have done to something quite clearly pure, it’s about what these kids are being urged to say, what entire congregations urge upon their members, all of which seems so transparently wrong.

    At the same time, I am absolutely convinced I experience transformative, transcendent moments, and regularly. How’s that for irony? Yet, out here, to admit that is to invite — well, invitations to go to church. For me, anyway, it’s so much more complicated than that.

    Anyway — I do so really look forward to reading your blog! (And I promise not to hijack it with endless comments — I’m just excited to see someone writing about this!)

    • Jean, you haven’t hijacked anything. As I say, this blog is meant to be a conversation! Please come by and chat frequently.

      I understand what you mean. It’s funny because it was almost the opposite for me from your evangelical Indianans. Because my church is primarily Humanist, I was afraid to talk to anyone about my experience. The only person I told for the first nine months was the spiritual director I began to see. Finally, one night, we were discussing Annie Lamott’s Travelling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith in our church book club (a book I had suggested!) and someone mentioned they’d had a spiritual experience. I very ungraciously leapt right in to say I’d had one too. It was the first time I’d said it out loud in my own church, which made me happy and sad at the same time. It gave me courage to be able to mention it a month later in my covenant group (small group ministry). I finally told my family in late April and my pastor in late May. What I wanted to avoid more than anything was that look. You know that look. Half skeptical and dismissive, half oh-God-please-don’t-start-talking-about-God. I’m sure I’ve had that look on my face at some point or another.

      What continues to surprise me over and over again is that no one, not once, has given me that look.

  5. Great blog, and I’m glad to know that there are others who share my interest in discussing spirituality, theology, etc. Too many people think of Unitarian Universalism as a religious philosophy, not a religion. Talking about spirituality, is, I believe, what is most missing in Unitarian Universalism today. Thank God (Spirit of Life, Ultimate Reality, Interdependent Web of All Existence of which we are a part, Whatever..) for Covenant Groups.

    There’s an interesting history of how our early religious ancestors viewed the type of spiritual experience you describe, and how it has changed over time with different generations, because of the values they bring with them, and how those changes have affected our understanding of covenant. It’s in a series of lectures on how we came to be a covenantal faith by a retired UU Minister – Alice Blair Wesley – and it starts on page 6 of the following document: http://www.minnslectures.org/archive/wesley/Lecture3.pdf

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