When I was pregnant with Nora, I believed I was an Atheist. I didn't believe in God and also thought I knew, without a doubt, that there wasn't one. Being raised Catholic I know about Christian values and beliefs and I have to admit, I didn't care for them much. There was a time in my life when I believed in God but I never got into the whole Jesus thing. I preferred the Virgin Mary (maybe it's because I was Catholic.) But as I got older, I grew disenchanted with the almighty and frankly I didn't like the violence and hate that was spouted in his name.
Instead I found science, agreed with the scientific method, and believed in logic and so the way of the Atheist naturally fit me and my family’s values. And I was a solid believer. I remember on my first date with Nick asking him what his religious views were and with the words, "I'm a retired Lutheran," I fell in love.
Then as I entered graduate school I found Buddhist philosophy incredibly appealing. I ate up anything Buddhist. I studied complementary healing techniques in graduate school while I got my masters in social work and learned all about the way of the Buddha. I loved the four noble truths, the idea of enlightenment, mediation, and the yoga sutras, and I tried to improve my karma. I even went to India and meditated in the presence of his Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama up on the mountain tops in Dharamsala.
Yet, even loving the concept of Buddhism, I still declared myself an Atheist. Until recently, in the early weeks after Nora's death, my views hadn't changed. I didn't want to believe in God because that would confuse the issue and I would be admitting that I was "changed" by this whole experience. (Yes, I had a hard time admitting to that at first.)
Then one day on a family walk, Nick turned to me and said, "Why do you keep saying you’re an Atheist?" I was confused and said, "Because I am. I don't believe in God." And then he replied with, "How can you be so sure one way or the other?"
I thought about it as Nick went on, "I don't believe in a specific God and I don't care for religion, but I also can't prove that there isn't some type of higher order to things. Why don't you just say you’re Agnostic? Besides, you say you are spiritual, so doesn't Agnostic fit better?"
Taking a minute to think about it, I realized he was right. All I know is that I don't know. I'm not capable of knowing and I do love spiritual experiences and things such as Reiki, psychics, and spirits. I just never believed they came from most of the organized religion's version of God.
I then talked about it with my therapist and explained the conversation with Nick and my whole thoughts on the matter. Sitting in her office I ended with, "I just don't like all the violence that religion has caused in this world." She responded with a gentle challenge for me to be more open-minded and explore my beliefs.
So that is what I am doing for the month of August. I'm exploring the importance of spirituality in the grieving process by "Contemplating the Universe" and all its grander.
I am now a newly declared Agnostic and I think that is a wonderful place to be when you start a journey on exploring faith, spirituality, God, and the universe. I'm going in with an open mind and will gravitate towards what resonates with me.
This month we will explore faith from a non-faith based person's perspective (my sister), using different Buddhist philosophy, reflecting on Reiki sessions, trying prayer, talking directly to God through letter writing, and my favorite, seeing the spirituality in nature and the world around us. I will also explore my disappointment with spirituality as much as my moments of divinity. And hopefully we will hear from friends who have experienced loss but find a sense of spirituality and faith as a source of strength during their grief. (It's always good to look at a situation from every angle.)
I look forward to this journey and hope you too will find some of my 'stepping outside of my comfort zone exercises' helpful. Walk with me if you like. Who doesn't need a friend as they walk through the places that scare us?