In undergrad school years ago I chose to follow the path of feminism, and focus on women’s experience of faith and psychology. There’s a great interplay between the two and this theme would grow in graduate school as I learned more about epistemology.
I learned much from Nelle Morton, the author of the book ‘The Journey is Home’, and I suspect that she would be pleased with how I’ve used the book title to view my life. She was described on a Wiki page:
Morton’s full life of over eight decades never ceased to be a journey. It ended on July 14, 1987. In her view, the journey does not arrive eventually at a final destination called “home.” Rather, “home is a movement, a quality of relationship, a state where people seek to be ‘their own,’ and increasingly responsible for the world.” In this sense, “the journey is home.”
My tattoo, fresh from the artists den, on September 11th 2011. I thought that if I could get the angst and internalized terror of my experience out from internal darkness into the light, I might find some peace. It did some good for me, but I continued to wrestle for several more years.
Abandoned emotionally by my family as a child, left to manage my life on my own with no guidance, my journey to find home began early. The sense of well being, feeling of ‘all is well in the world’ warmth, accepted and loved, challenged and respected that many people find. Perhaps more in movies and tv, but I do believe that it’s something many of us seek. Safety emotionally and physically.
The heart attack in a metaphorical perspective was a physical manifestation of brokenness. Spiritually and emotionally. As I look back over the years of journeying through multiple states, countries, jobs and relationships…I can see a confused child trying to make sense of the world around her.
How does one live a life seeking truth? Is truth stable or fluid? Do we choose our own truth or does it reveal itself to us? How does this shit work? I don’t have any answers…except that for me, I continue to walk the journey. I read, and listen to others ideas and experiences. And I go inward, learning how to be silent again. I lost that ability with PTSD from 9/11. The heart attack has given me this gift…the ability to be still(er).
Kristen Tippet has a show that I love to catch on NPR. Here’s an article written by her on Oprah.com
In our time, many essential human issues and institutions are up for grabs—definitions of the beginning and end of life, of marriage and family, of love and community. From my conversations with people across the world’s traditions, I am convinced that religious wisdom is as much about contemplating questions as it is about closing in on answers. Start to think of your spiritual dilemmas, and not just their answers, as blessed and sacred. Chew on them, and share them with others.
Pose a large spiritual question that you’d like to explore or be more knowledgeable about: Who is this God I believe in? How do I make sense of evil in the world and live with that? What is prayer? Respond by reflecting, meditating, or writing in your journal, and answer it through the story of your life. If you’re considering prayer, for example, call up the prayers of your childhood, those you said and what they meant to you, the periods when you stopped praying and why, the different forms your prayer has taken in joyous, fearful, or heartbreaking moments. You will gain a clarity about your beliefs that you did not have before, and you may face further ways in which you need to explore those beliefs.
The ancient Celts spoke of “thin places” and “thin times”—when the veil between heaven and earth is worn thin, where the temporal and the transcendent seem to touch. We’ve all experienced these instances when we’re surrounded by natural beauty, in moments of friendship or love, in a place of quiet, at a hospital bedside. Recall those times when you experienced a fleeting moment of mystery. Revisit the memories and feel how they’ve imprinted you.
Take an issue that religious passions have inflamed, and humanize it. For example, have a discussion with someone in your family or community on the opposite side of a hot-button issue, like the gay marriage debate. But don’t start with the predictable arguments or positions. Instead, ask yourselves and each other, When did I start to care about this? Why do I care now? What are the hopes and fears I bring to this issue? This won’t make the debate less complicated or hasten its resolution, but it can transform the way we treat each other along the way. It can engender compassion, a core virtue in every spiritual tradition. It can help us identify the questions we share in common as well as the answers that divide us. And it can make a new kind of conversation possible.
Revisit words that are important in your religious practice for the richness your own experiences might give them. Toss them around in your mind, outside the context in which you learned them, and look at them in the light of real life. For example, many of us grew up thinking of God as “Father.” This is a metaphor, an approximation. But that Father-God of my childhood was all too literal, all-powerful, and remote. I’ve found the actual experience of being a parent to be much more about vulnerability and a loving, excruciating lack of control. Reflecting on this has given me fresh ways to think about the nature of God and the power and frailty of the freedom that marks human experience.
Build silence into your life, and into your family’s life. Silence is an essential element, in virtually every religious tradition, of spiritual health, knowledge, and growth. But it’s a rare commodity in our culture. We have to reacquaint ourselves with silence and tend and treasure it in activities that are already part of our routine—prayer or meditation, walking or gardening, time with our children when the television is off and hearts and minds are still and open.