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
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?
GET A LIFE
THE JOY OF A DEPRESSED
OPENING MANY DOORS
THE PATH OF MEDITATION
GIVING UP CONTROL
MARRIAGE AS A CHANGE
STRUCTURES THAT SUPPORT
VERMONT AND NATURE
TO HELL WITH DIGNITY
COMPANIONS ON THE ROAD
WHAT SHAPES LIFE
MAKING FRIENDS WITH GOD