Wednesday, March 28, 2007

I had an idea.

I've always been bothered by the idea of having to "choose" a doctrine. I think part of the reason Christians are so defensive and close-minded about their religion is it's intrinsic (as it's been interpreted) intolerance for interpretation, as well as error. Christians are taught to believe that the Bible is the true, accurate, unfailing word of God, that it has no mistakes, that everything has magically transferred through translation after translation, edit after edit, century after century. This is simply not true. If this were true, it would contradict another foundation of Christianity: individual spiritual understanding and path. This individual spiritual path has been compromised and demeaned, however, making it a religion of rules and hierarchy, even for those who claim to be "filled with the Spirit." I know, I was one of them.

Eastern religions are more individualistic, more accepting of personal goals and personal spiritual discovery. It's more about co-existence with the spiritual, rather than worship or contrast between spirit and flesh, perfection and mortality. I recently became very interested in Buddhism. I had always thought it was the religion that interested me the least, as, at face value, it disregards the individual. However, Buddhism does not disregard the individual, it disregards the ego. Recently, I've studied Wicca and nature-based religions, which intrigue me because I've always felt much more spiritually connected when I'm in nature than in a structure, which ultimatley only emulates nature anyway. Wicca involves, in no large way, spells, which are really only concentrations and visualizations of desired outcomes and the channelling of personal energy. I find this to be, in motivation and purpose, identical to prayer and identical to some forms of meditation. I also am also learning about Shamanism, which is much like Buddhism and other Eastern religions in it's focus on higher or complete consciousness. Growing up I observed some Jewish holy days and traditions, and when I was 16 I developed a fascination with Islam. However, since unsubscribing myself to Christianity, which really only means in the political sense, I haven't really been tempted to subscribe to any other religion.

It's pretty common to feel that all religions have elements of each other and are all parts of a greater truth. But why do we only choose one to practice and follow? I despise "organized religion", but I understand why it exists. I only hate what it has become. Religion exists to give us a structure and a devotion. It exists to remind us, to keep us focused and aware of what we believe so that we don't forget or lose our connection to it. But the opposite happens. Religion becomes habit, a means of appeasing rather than fulfilling our duty to our spiritual nature. Our practice becomes more important than our introspection and continual discovery because it is easier and more black and white. I think that rituals and traditions serve a purpose, but only if there is conviction behind it. Rituals are meant to connect us to our believes, not become a substitute. However, different ways of practicing spirituality suit different people, regardless of what they ultimately believe. I never felt particularly comfortable in a church or discussing my beliefs or praying with others. As a child, I was told to pray and that meditation was evil, that it would open my mind to demons and the like. I have never prayed and felt anything. I have never been prayed for and felt anything. It was an act, it made me feel even more hollow because I felt that I was missing something that I should have gotten. For some people, it works though. I've found connection to God through meditation. I've found it through fasting, I've found it through hiking and being in nature, through art, through yoga, through elements of Buddhist practice, Christian practice, Shaman practice, Wiccan practice, Hindu practice, Native American practice... but I didnt always connect those practices to those religions consciously. My point is, is everyone is different, if some are more intuitive while some are more structured, if some are more communal while some are more private, how can one religion teach everyone how to find God/goddess/truth/wholeness/energy/light/the Ultimate/spirit?

What I propose to myself is this: I create a book which details my beliefs, create rituals and structure which allows me to re-connect to my spirituality in a way that works for me, establish which holy days or occasions or seasonal celebrations I should observe especially, establish a moral code and include a journal to chronical my experiences and feelings and what I continue to learn. This is very similar to the Wiccan's Book of Shadows, but rather than particular to one belief system, it would be my own personal belief system which is meant only for me. I will self-bind it and illustrate it/decorate it as well. I will make one every five years so that it continues to grow with me and my own spiritual path.

Horray for major life projects!