Not what I meant.

I had some time to mull over that last post (I really should know by now not to post things either a. just because and b. at 11:30 at night, when I’m not really mentally present), and came to some realizations about what it actually means (not just what it says).

The issue isn’t food. Food is a convenient distraction. It gives me something to focus on while I avoid the thing that’s actually troubling me.

What’s troubling me is that niggling little practice vs. belief thing again. Maybe it’s part of the process. Maybe it’s because Easter is looming, and this is the first year ever that I probably won’t go to Sunday Easter services. Or maybe I will. You can see the dilemma.

What this isn’t is a question of belief, because I still hold to what I believe. I believe that past karma directs what happens to me in this lifetime, and that with each passing moment, that karmic balance shifts around. My dharma is to do good in the world (to create good karma without generating bad karma, especially where other beings are concerned, but also with respect to myself). I believe that I’m on this world for a reason, and that while this isn’t the first time I’ve been here, it’s not the last, either. Each of us has to go through the cycle of life and death multiple times, learning as we go, until we learn the ultimate lesson, which is realization of the Self within. All the physical stuff we worry about? It’s inconsequential in the grander scheme of things, and worrying about it will only cause us frustration. It’s each person’s job to see the Self in every being he/she encounters, and treat that person (cat, dog, whatever) as a piece of the Divine. I also can’t judge people as being less than, wrong, etc, just for who they are or what they believe, because that is part of the path they’re on. Their actions are not necessarily their inner being. My actions aren’t my inner being. We’re each of us responsible for the well-being of the whole, no matter how small our contribution may be. And after we’ve realized that the body does not make the man (to be utterly cliche about it), we’ll get together and laugh about all those silly things we thought were so important while we were in physical bodies. (It is obvious that I have no idea which sect appeals to me above the others, since I’m pulling things from each, even if those beliefs are  beliefs I’ve had for the majority of my life.)

What don’t I believe? I don’t believe that Jesus is the only way to God. I believe that he is one in a select group of enlightened individuals, spreading truth and light. But for that matter, so was Mohammed, and the Buddha, and several other sages and mystics throughout the ages. The messages in the poetry of Rumi and Hafiz, the great Sufi poets, are the same. The teachings of the Vedas are the same message.

So why in the world am I so hung up on Easter? For one thing, I am not at all comfortable with public Hindu ritual practice yet. I like the music and the chants and the beautiful ways in which temples are built and decorated, but I am so shy and unsure of  myself. I think this is the main reason, actually. Church is familiar and a little comfortable. I like the hymns and the art. I like the culture wrapped up in the Episcopal church, because it’s what I grew up with. I know what to do when I go. I’ve been praying the same prayers for my entire life (basically), so nothing’s a surprise. But what do I do when it’s really just a surface thing? My mother gave me some sage advice  at one point, which was that people have two driving needs that surface when confronted with change: safety needs and growth needs. Frustration arises when those needs are almost in balance, because then you don’t know which course of action to take. In order to make a decision, you have to weigh each of those needs and decide which is more important.

My safety and growth needs are at parity. On one hand, spiritually, I need to grow and move on. I need something where my soul feels at home, and that something is Sanatana Dharma. I’m not in Arkansas anymore. I know people of all sorts of other faith, a few of them Hindu (okay, laugh, but that was a rarity in my hometown). On the other hand, sentimentally, I need the familiar and the comfortable. I think that the struggle to move past those safety needs is preventing me from connecting with the Divine the way I had before I started this journey. Slowly I’m moving past it, but holidays are hard. I’ve been thinking about kids, too. I will bring them up with the beliefs I have, but what cultural tradition should they have? I know that’s waaay far in the future, but it makes me stop and think a lot.

As usual, I’m probably just overthinking this. I may still go to Easter services, though, just because I like the hymns.

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About HappyGoth

By day, I'm a graphic designer. By night, I'm a knitter. I'm doing my part to keep Hotlanta stylish. I imagine that if you don't already understand the title of the blog, you're probably confused and perhaps slightly annoyed, but never fear - I do have a reason (and it's a good one). Having gone to hear Stephanie Pearl McPhee, and then having been inspired to blog about knitting, I found myself wondering what to call the blog. I recalled a conversation I had with Mouse and the Chicken Goddess about why it is a Bad Idea to anger knitters - this conversation was following SPM, aka the Yarn Harlot telling the assembled throng about Those Who Do Not Understand Knitting and Therefore Belittle It Much to the Chagrin of Others, or TWDNUKTBMCO, which is not the acronym she used but is the one I'm using because I forgot hers - that is, we are numerous and we all have very pointy sticks, easily transforming into an angry mob. Therefore, knitters = angry mob.
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13 Responses to Not what I meant.

  1. Telaryn says:

    All these years later, I still miss belting out “Jesus Christ is Risen Today” on Easter morning. Leaving the cultural rituals was a gradual process for me – I continued to attend services on Christmas and Easter long after I stopped believing in the spiritual rituals of the church.

    One day I just simply knew that I was ready, and that I had moved past the need for the comfort of those cultural touchstones. For me it was a case of listening beyond my own expectations of when I *should* be ready to move on and being able to recognize when I truly *was* ready to walk away.

    • HappyGoth says:

      I actually thought of you a bit while I was writing this, because you’re the one other person I know well who has gone through a very similar process. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that because the Episcopal church encourages you to THINK about your faith, it may be one of the hardest denominations to move away from, since there’s a lot of heretical thinking that goes on. But the Book of Common Prayer is still at its core, and my beliefs don’t jive with the beliefs in those prayers.

      I also think that you retain a little bit of cultural memory, no matter how far you’ve distanced yourself, and it’s comforting to know that it’s been the same for you (since you’re pretty devout in your own current faith).

      It’s probably something that all kinds of folks go through. Thanks for sharing that you’ve been through the same thing.

  2. Sita says:

    Would thinking of Easter etc as the way the church or Christianity honours Spring & rejuvenation Help.I am not Chistian but have studied in RC institutions long enough to say ‘Our Father’ as automatically as I would say my Hindu prayers,so can understand the anguish of the Dilemma .We had to join mass &other prayers often & didn’t affect our faith.I like the hymns ,too.

    • HappyGoth says:

      🙂

      This is encouraging. I doubt that I’ll lose much of that comfortable appreciation for the traditions. Eventually I might learn how to reconcile the two – my cultural DNA and my religious makeup. I imagine the more I practice Hindu prayers, the more naturally they’ll come to me!

      And yes, I think thinking of Easter as a season of rejuvenation and new beginnings is a good way of looking at it! I’ll try that and see how it goes…

  3. surya says:

    no big deal just go and have fun, Brahman wont mind it, I just asked !!
    Small town in Arkansas? Tell me about it.
    (even) Saint Louis feels like another planet, now. Namaste.

    • HappyGoth says:

      Haha. Thanks!

      Every town in Arkansas is a small or large town, though some are more progressive than others. There aren’t really any cities, although Little Rock claims to be one. I suppose that’s splitting hairs. Anyway, it is the left hip of the Bible Belt (assuming that Kentucky is the buckle), with all the baggage that comes with that. Because of our proximity to Fayetteville (I lived 45 minutes south), the home of the University of Arkansas, we got a little diversity. Some of my best friends in preschool were Indian, and I got exposure to Hinduism there. My brother’s best friend (or one of them; he was a popular 5-year-old) in preschool was Muslim. And then everybody else was some denomination of Christian, mostly Baptist and Catholic. I went to Catholic middle school. Some friends in high school were D.I.Y. pagans, and we had a large Buddhist population, due to being a Vietnam War refugee center, but Buddhists don’t really talk about their beliefs (or not in my experience). I honestly had never met a Jewish person until I went to college. So eventually it became automatic to assume that the entire world was Christian, even though I knew that wasn’t true. Moreover, the entire world might as well have been Catholic.

      I realize that’s not what you meant, but it gives some perspective. I had met a larger percentage of the population of my hometown (all 80,000 or so of them) than the percentage of Atlanta I’ve met. Everybody watched the same news programs, went to the same theaters, ate at the same restaurants. There was Asian food, Hispanic food, and American food. Big chain restaurants and stores were pretty fancy. There were two high schools. Things were pretty simple. I think the biggest difference was that we sort of took certain things for granted that I don’t now, which translates to “small town life is simpler.” It’s simpler because there’s simply less of it.

      On the other hand, there were some lovely historic buildings and, well, history to the place. It was the last bit of civilization before you got to “Indian Territory,” and as such has some crazy stories to tell.

      The wikipedia page is decent: Fort Smith

      There are actually quite a few cool things there, but I’m not in a big hurry to move back (ever).

    • HappyGoth says:

      Or if you want the short answer, I’ve got two words for you: True Grit

      Perhaps not the best analogy, but that’s where the place started out.

  4. Kodanda says:

    Wow you’ve been a busy bee, trying to catch up on all your posts.

    One word of advice from one who has been there:

    “Breathe”

    Jai Sri Ram

    • HappyGoth says:

      I have to remind myself of that every single day. I can remember mantras and steps of a puja and stories of gods and goddesses, but it takes constant reminding to step back and let things flow.

      I have a feeling that when I learn that, things will become immensely easier.

      I suppose there’s always pranayama, right? 😉

  5. Katie says:

    I grew up in a very church-going Methodist family (my great-grandfather was a preacher) but with a very universalist (little “u”) perspective. When I was 12 we started attending the Unitarian Universalist church and that’s home to me now. However, I know what you mean about the rituals. I miss some things about the practice of it, but not the theology. It’s often a hard place to be. And it is more difficult when you feel like you have to explain all of the non-Christian rituals to almost everyone (and I often feel like I have to justify them, but maybe that’s just my own personal baggage).

    Anyway, came across this and thought of you: http://monkeymindonline.blogspot.com/2007/04/unitarian-universalist-easter-story.html It’s written from a UU perspective, but I think it’s a bit bigger than that.

    (Easter is a hard holiday for me to reconcile and I always get frustrated with it.)

    • HappyGoth says:

      I’ve had some conversations with my friend Jennie, whose family has always been very active in the UU church, and she’s pretty baffled as to why this is any big deal to me, because it’s no big deal to her (although to her credit, she has been open and accepting of it from the get-go). She gets really uncomfortable when things are over-ritualized. For example, there is apparently an air of “doing things right” during an Episcopal church service that I did not consciously pick up on, but that she felt acutely.

      I think that may actually be a big part of what I’m struggling with. It’s cool to hear that it’s basically the same thing for other folks, even moving between Christian denominations, to say nothing of moving to an entirely different religion.

      (and that story you shared is very cool)

      • Katie says:

        I think when you grow in the UU world what you’re going through often happens so it isn’t a big deal. Only, really, I think it probably is. We’re just to intellectual about it so we don’t feel it as acutely. And most UUs I know are uncomfortable with highly ritualized stuff. I can handle ritual, but I have serious issues with being expected to have a communal-“flamboyant”-spiritual experience. It’s incredibly hard for me to explain. Just seem incredibly inauthentic for me.

        One of the reasons I’ve enjoyed following your posts and that you are telling the story of finding your own spiritual/religious authenticity – and it is so hard to do that. To me there is often something scary about that and it’s very easy to back down from it when I get to close – it’s nice to see a friend pursuing it.

      • HappyGoth says:

        I am two things – stubborn and ritually minded. So I’m happy to hear that you’re getting something positive out of this blog (I’m never one to turn down vicarious living!).

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