My friend recommended that I read Jennifer Fulwiler’s book: Something Other Than God. She said it was a page turner… an easy read. I was sold. I’ve been reading some pretty heavy stuff by Alan Watts, and my attention span was waning. It’s a true story about a woman who was atheist and decides to become Catholic (in a nutshell). I love talking about spirituality and hearing about other people’s struggles/efforts/conclusions about it, so, this book was right up my alley.
Only one problem. Even before I had opened the book I was already wondering at what point was she going to convert me. I got a little more than halfway through the book and realized that she wasn’t going to do that to me *phew*! I’ve have my fair share Christian guilt tripping, and I didn’t want it from this lady too.
I ended up loving how Jennifer Fulwiler writes about her journey. It wasn’t a heaven’s opening, angel’s singing moment that thrust her into the Catholic religion. It was many years she spent looking into it and the specific events that happened to her/came to light on her journey that led her to Catholicism. It was God’s energy creating a perfect tapestry for her to pick Catholicism. You can just tell at the end of the book that she’s found something that truly stabilizes her life. After reading her struggle with spirituality, and it shed some light on what I’m looking for to satiate my spiritual needs. I’m looking for a place where the vocabulary fits me.
It made me think a lot about my spiritual journey. Where I’ve been led, and what path I’m currently on. I haven’t completed my spiritual journey yet… but I’m excited to see where it goes. Let me give you a brief history of my experience with Christianity and spiritualism.
When I was in elementary school, my mom and dad took me to a local baptist church. Everyone stopped talking to us when my dad got laid off. So, we stopped going. (I didn’t realize that at the time, but my mom told me later when I asked about it.) We didn’t talk about it or pray at mealtime or anything like that. It made me feel like an outcast. Especially, since I had so many friends that went to church… and their families looked so perfect. Why couldn’t my family be perfect? In middle school I tagged along with some friends at their churches. I needed to get baptized! That was the way! So, I got baptized. I didn’t feel any different. You need to accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior! So, I got saved that the end of every service just to make sure I wouldn’t go to hell. I still wasn’t good enough. I talked to the counselors at the end of one service – just crying my eyes out. How many times do I have to save myself so that I don’t go to heaven?! I just didn’t understand. They told me: You only have to do it once. I didn’t go back to church until I could drive in high school. The kids had their own cliques by that age. I didn’t fit in. I’m sure I was awkward, but I really didn’t fit in for some reason. That’s okay. I stopped going to church. I decided to try it again when I was at the University of Texas in Austin. I wanted to feel like I was part of an organization – something bigger – but I still never really fit in. I wasn’t becoming part of the clique – whatever that was. I felt like I didn’t belong there. So, I stopped going. I had purchased the Bible at one point, but reading it put me to sleep. I just couldn’t get myself to read it at all.
After college, I started going to yoga classes. Nothing serious, but enough to where I started really enjoying the movements and hearing what the teachers had to say. I decided to begin yoga teacher training and have been on the most amazing spiritual journeys. One major thing I’ve found out about myself is that I have always been trying to live up to other’s standards and my own standards (which keep on increasing at a rate that I seem to never catch up to them). I had: gotten baptized, gotten saved (multiple times), tried to fit in to whatever those kids at church wanted me to be… and never succeeded in feeling a calm – that feeling that you get when you realize you are one with God. But honestly? I found that I was striving to fill the mold of perfect yoga teacher. I had also tried to fit in by going to pharmacy school, joining multiple organizations, writing multiple (abandoned) blogs, become a niche photographer…”Teach me the rules! I’ll do exactly what you tell me to do”… was my basic approach to everything in life.
Luckily, I’ve figured out that a relaxed vocabulary on spiritual material (and life in general) is what makes me feel most connected to God, right now. God isn’t just God from the Bible, for me it’s what the Native Americans call the Great Mystery, it’s what I imagine scientists call the “unseen forces,” it can be described as a rock, a tree, a bird, but it is not those things, it is in those things, it’s in all of us. For me, God is all around. Everything is connected by that energy. It releases the boundaries of me and you – because we are not separate. This energy, it never goes away. It is what it is. My energy is “Laura,” now. I spend my “Laura” energy writing blogs, taking care of my dogs, having relationships with my husband, family and friends, reading, making healthy food, but also eating pizza & cookies, binge watching tv, and obsessing over things that can’t be changed. This view on spirituality sets me free. If I were part of a church (Baptist, Catholic, Buddhist, Hindu, etc.), I’d be obsessing over the rules and bylaws trying to be the perfect student. I would get easily drawn in and lose sight of what God actually is. For now, I’m happy being a part of this universal energy – all connected and everlasting. Maybe one day I’ll turn to religion again, but today, I just need to be… without having to fit into someone else’s rules.