Firstly, sorry for the extended hiatus. My job has become extremely demanding, time-wise, which leaves little room for other things, like blogging. I’ve chosen to devote my spare time to things outside the internet, such as errands, house cleaning, a little Zelda and some extra focus on my home spiritual practice, in lieu of dumping my thoughts here. Thanks to all for your patience.
Anyway, back to the main point of this post. As of the past three months, I’ve been going through an intense period of self-reflection, attempting to identify and deal with those things that are keeping me from realizing my inner, true Self. I won’t go into how that’s happening, but it is something I’m working on, and about three weeks ago I had a realization about that and its relationship to my own spiritual life and the decisions I’ve made in that area.
Now, for some perspective, I’d been obsessing about the decision ever since I made it. I have never felt particularly culturally connected. Heavy emphasis was put on individuality in my early life, and then as I grew up, which meant that an individual person who did things counter to her peers or popular culture was more valued in my house than someone who followed trends or liked what her friends liked, etc. That is not to say that being your own person and forging a new, unique path isn’t a good thing. It is mostly to say, though, that because I wasn’t ever comfortable to do that, I never learned how, and as a consequence have felt cut off from “normal” people my whole life. Except where church was involved. Church was a thing I did with other people, the same as other people, and did the same way my family had done for generations. That was the one “normal” thing I could hold on to.
Imagine, then, the sense of total groundlessness I felt when I finally realized that the religion behind that community no longer held a meaning for me, and that I was now fairly well cut off from anything I identified as “normal.”
So that went on for some months, and then maybe two weeks ago I had a very welcome realization: cutting myself off from that also meant that I was cutting myself off from that immense, inherent sense of shame and guilt that came with the whole thing. I had been brought up in a tradition that taught that no matter how many good things I did, or people I helped, or lives I changed, or bad things I avoided, I was still inherently damaged. I was born damaged. I was inherently sinful, because of the actions of people who may or may not have existed thousands of years before I was born. So my whole life was an attempt to correct the “wrongness” that I came into the world with. And I had one small lifetime to work it all out.
Oof. That’s a heavy burden to put on a child, or an adult, or anybody, for that matter.
So imagine, then the freedom that I felt when I realized that there was another way to think about things. That each person is actually inherently perfect, except that we’re here in imperfect bodies, trying to remember our own perfection and beauty. That there is no “wrongness” in anybody, only experience and growth and learning. That we each have an unlimited amount of time to make that journey. That there are as many lifetimes for us as it takes to work that out, to realize our Selves, and understand that we’re already one with God. Man, what a relief!
I’m not totally over that shame/guilt complex. Far from it. But it helps to shed a little of the burden that was creating it.
[Note: I acknowledge that not all Christian traditions believe this, but this was my experience, and this is my blog, so this is what I’m sharing. I also acknowledge that many Hindu people feel guilt and shame in their lives, for whatever reason. I get that we’re not all perfect, but this is where I’m coming from.]
Post-holiday wrapup: The American holiday season went as it went. Nobody in my family really does anything religious on the holiday, so it was nice for what it has become (and what the spirit should be) – a time to spend time with my loved ones, letting them know how much I love and appreciate them. Over Thanksgiving, while visiting the in-laws in the Baltimore area, I stopped into a little jewelry store that I know sells lovely stone malas. I haven’t bought one, but I still like to look at them. This time, there was a small bowl of silver rings on the counter, stamped with impressions of Lakshmi, Ganesha, and Hanuman. Being the Ram bhakti that I am, I totally fell in love with the Hanuman ring, and when I bought it the lady behind the counter (a white lady) asked if I was a Hare Krishna. I get this question a lot, usually at a temple, but often when out doing something more conspicuously Hindu. I replied that I was not, but merely a devotee (I didn’t say of whom). She shared that her husband had built the local ISKCON temple in the 1980s but had left due to disillusionment with the movement, and that they still honored Krishna at home in their own way. She sent me off with a “all glories and honor to Hanuman,” and though I was a little too flustered to respond, the interaction totally made my day.
I think I may be more okay than I realized.