Building Your Spiritual Home

Making Friends with God

My religious education as a child was left in the hands of my Christian Scientist grandmother, whose life was rescued by her conversion to “Science”. It never took, nor did one year in Hebrew school. In prep school I won the senior religion prize for an essay agreeing with George Bernard Shaw that belief in God was a hoax designed to pacify and enslave the “masses”. I did like the hymns, but as a good Jew, I wouldn’t sing the word “Jesus”.

My first spiritual experience followed my sister’s suicide just after my marriage at 25. I was in agony, but the episodes of crying were occasionally followed by my first experiences of ecstasy. The encounter with death showed me that we can’t take life for granted. There is an alternative, and it is vast. I had the image of living on the surface of the ocean, seeing only the waves, and now realizing that the ocean goes down miles. All of a sudden, what I had always taken for granted seemed like a huge gift. I came to see the enormity of the gift of life.

Then things went on as before. We joined a Temple, for the sake of our two daughters. Services seemed empty. When the Temple voted to spend more that $100,000 on modernizing our perfectly adequate bathrooms, we left in search of a new home. The Unitarian Church, with its emphasis on social action- opposition to the Vietnam War, respect for all other religious paths- suited us and we settled in. Still no sign of God though. Simultaneously we joined a small group of renegade Jews and formed the Alternate Religious Community, seven families including Everett Gendler, a Rabbi open to alternate ways of celebrating Jewishness. Everett oozed out a deep love of Nature and God, taught us the lunar nature of Jewish observance, and tolerated our child centered celebrations- for example, baking a birthday cake for the earth on Rosh Hashanah, meeting at the beach at sunrise and letting the wind blow out the candles. Through his eyes, I could get a sense of the grandeur that surrounded us and the joy of being alive and awake. It was around this time that we began camping and bought our land in Vermont, where we were surrounded by nature’s beauty and lushness.

A minister friend, Ward, introduced us to Creation Spirituality. Creation Spirituality teaches that God can be felt and understood by paying attention to His creation, and that to learn the laws of the universe was the way to learn about God. We learned the story of creation and the fifteen billion years of unfolding that led to our capacity to create and appreciate the symphonies of Beethoven. And all the “coincidences” or synchronicities which allowed life to go on and not perish in the face of an evolving planet. It was heady stuff, and suited us well. Our religious edge, at that time, was seeing God in nature.

By 1973, I was involved in “getting a life”, and had started a meditative practice, which began a search for God within rather than just in nature. Eastern philosophy, especially Zen, focussed on going inside to experience the fullness of the creation. Another path that opened then was the books of Carlos Casteneda about the world of his sorcerer friend Don Juan. This was my first encounter with the notion of other, or alternate, realities. Don Juan’s world was both full of fascination and strangely convincing.

It got worse. At that time I joined a psychic exploration group, learned to see auras- a manifestation of our energy bodies. I also saw some convincing demonstrations of mind reading, and found out that a minister friend of mine regularly spent time out of his body visiting friends. These experiences were surely loosening my grip on the solidity of my ordinary belief system. I got even looser when I read “Journeys out of the Body” by Robert Monroe. He wrote convincingly of his experiments with out of body travel, “astral projection”, and also other realities encountered in such journeys. All this served to focus my awareness on the idea that our normal perceptions were only one familiar way of understanding reality. I became fascinated with exploring alternatives.

In short, I was looking everywhere in my eagerness to understand the mystery. In my ninth year of meditation, I had an experience that has shaped me ever since. As I wrote earlier, I was sitting in my office imagining that I was cradling a tiny buddha in my arms, holding it in my love. Quickly I had the sensation that I also was being held and loved in the same manner. Although I didn’t hear the words, I knew that God was saying He loved me. That had such force that it has become a lasting internal reality. Since then I have felt held and protected by God. It has changed my life. I feel safe and befriended by the universe, not alone.

At that point, I experienced God as a Universal Kindness, loving, but impersonal. God waters all His plants but doesn’t talk to us. Some years after I figured out He loved me, it got very personal. Linda and I went to bed, and Linda began telling me about her newly developed interest in spirit. She followed by lamenting that she had married someone who was not spiritual. That really got me going. I must have spewed out my outrage to her for five minutes about my years of reading, meditating, my relationship with God: I was MUCH more spiritual than her. In fact, I was a Very Spiritual Fellow. Finally we got to sleep. I woke at 3 AM to find I had created a well formed, large poop in the bed. It had never happened before (or since). I laughed out loud, because I knew immediately that God had reminded me I was full of shit.

This one incident has pointed out another important aspect of our relationship with God: He does notice, and will intervene in very personal ways, at times. Although this particular noticing was in the form of rebuke, generally God appears in the form of small kindnesses delivered from the hands of strangers: someone handing me my keys that I dropped, or helping me with a flat tire. So I feel surrounded, protected, loved, and bathed in God.

This emersion in God is a gradual, ongoing process. I have a friend who has had such vivid, and frequent, experiences of God’s perfect love and light that she would prefer to vacate her “real” life and die now. She might, except for her husband and children who anchor her in this place. By contrast, I am still in love with this life with only occasional glimpses of the paradise that awaits.

My work is to experience God as best I can. For me, this means quieting my mind, going deep within and opening to the peace that I find there. The more deeply I can experience this peace, the closer I am to God Consciousness. In Siddha Yoga there is a saying, “God dwells inside you as you”. I believe that that inner Presence is always available if only we can leave the drama and chatter behind. Buddhism has many examples of “enlightened ones” who always lived in God Consciousness. And Jesus, in recognizing himself as the Son of God, is the main example in the western tradition. However unattainable, His example is a fine goal for a lifetime.

1) What role does God play in your life?
2) What helps you to feel closer to your God?
3) What gets in the way of your feeling closer to God?

 

CHAPTERS

GET A LIFE
THE JOY OF A DEPRESSED MOTHER
OPENING MANY DOORS
GETTING COMFORTABLE WITH ANGER
THE PATH OF MEDITATION
GIVING UP CONTROL
MARRIAGE AS A CHANGE AGENT
STRUCTURES THAT SUPPORT LIFE
VERMONT AND NATURE
TO HELL WITH DIGNITY
COMPANIONS ON THE ROAD
DOUBLE VISION
WHAT SHAPES LIFE
DISMANTLING SELF
TOLERATING GOD’S LOVE
MAKING FRIENDS WITH GOD

 

 

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