Religion is everywhere here. All of India really, but especially here in Rishikesh. The river is holy, the cows are holy, there is a different God for every day of the week. People are fanatically devoted, visiting their deities and temples, ceremonies happening everywhere, everyday, without fail. Prayers, pujas, mantras, shrines, statues, temples... I cant even begin to describe the mass amounts of iconic religion all around. The biggest souvenir is the prayer beads, available anywhere you turn your head. I attended the 5am morning prayer session at my ashram a few days ago. It was a packed house! So, as you can imagine, my own faith has been scooted up to the top of my current thinking-a-lot-about-this list.
What is my faith? Hmmm... it’s ambivalent. My childhood was very much Christian. We went to church, we prayed over our food, we didn’t say the lords name in vain, there was never a drop of alcohol in our house till we girls started sneaking it in as teenagers. I was in Sunday school, and missionettes, and always involved in the church plays. I can vaguely remember one time having a really intense experience w/ God, where I was just overcome w/ ..somethinggg. I dont remember much (that I was on the left side of the pews) but I recall it was wonderful. I was never devout though, I know that for sure. I fully remember these two girls named Breanne Chapman and Joy Ringman (wow, i remember their last names even!), and I was jealous of their faith. They just seemed so sure of it, where as I knew I didn’t have that. I suppose kind of like a third stringer. Watching all the action before me, technically on the team but never really off the bench. Time passed and boys and alcohol and rebellion happened. Then (and now) I always did still have God (more my mom as time went by) in the back of my head, keeping me in check. College came and more craziness ensued. One thing about Miami I dearly love is the diversity... not only in ethnicity but religiously. Over the years I made lots of friends... Jewish, Muslim, Atheist. I’m not sure when, somewhere in the last five years, I realized that I wasn’t a big fan of having my own specific religion. All these great friends I have, and they are all supposed to go to hell if they don’t accept JC into their hearts? Heyyy noowww.... that’s just not right.
So, I’ve been very content to explain myself as a spiritual person, believing in God, but not needing to claim a religion to do so. I talk to the big man on occasion, but most of the time I just make wishes. All day long I make wishes actually. Wishes on stars, on 11:11, on dandelions, on pennies on the ground, on yellow lights, on necklace clasps in the front.... all of these are prayers if you’re religious, or simply wishes if you’re not. Then I had this revelation about the movie ”the Secret”. Switch up the terminology, and in reality, the whole premise and millions of dollars spent and made... and it is simply about a prayer with the God factor removed. Wow! You ‘send a thought out to the universe’, or you ‘send a prayer out to God’ or you ‘make a wish”. Same Same but different (a popular Indian saying:)! Wow.. I wish to have an idea like that!!!
|I make wishes, prayers, or thoughts to the universe everyday. Same same. |
Always colorful and bright for you and me and everyone alive :)
Yesterday I attended the Puja ceremony that celebrated and gives offerings to the Holy River Ganges. It was a beautiful event, Singing, praying, fire traditions. I always like to fully delve into whatever I’m involved in, so I was praying and smiling and really having happy, shanti shanti moments. I had my eyes closed a lot, but open a lot too, watching soooo many people fully just worshipping and intensely praying along. I feel a bit like I’m 10 again, sitting on the bench, watching all the action and wishing I was getting in on it. Maruti was there, explaining to me some of the songs and traditions. I love hearing about them and try to copy along when people raise their hands or bow or offer a namaste. I only knew Namaste as a hello, catch-all type greeting, but Maruti tells me it means “I bow to the soul within you”. Wow, I love that. Right after we went into, by accident, a question and answer session with the main guru here, Swamiji. We quietly sat in the back and listened to a beautiful answer about being one drop of water while at the same time being the ocean. Then all these people were bowing to him and giving gifts and asking for blessings on their prayer beads. It was all fun to play along but when i got up close and personal with it I really felt ‘unprepared’. I was to meet with him this night because I trying to do some architectural work for them. The volunteer coordinator takes me to him. He’s sitting there and I touch my head to the floor like she does and then we sit around him. He’s looking at me and asks how long I will stay and there’s some translation going on and I’m on the verge of sweat, nervous I’m going to say the wrong thing or talk too loud or stare too long. I felt sooooo.... out of place. My mind started tripping here and Im like, he’s just a guy. Thank goodness for Maruti. He, Swamiji, is just a guy... but a really good guy who people look up to.... thanking “the soul within him” moreso than the body that we see. That helps.
We leave, and I have to admit I was SO happy to have Maruti with me. He’s got this peaceful nature, and like the girls from church 20 years ago, seems so happy and secure in his faith. Only one full day of hanging together but I feel comfy to divulge my present state. I express that I feel either lost or uncomfortable, not sure which. We talk about religion some and then he’s asks what I want. I say, hmm, tell me a story. He says (more/less) “there once was a girl named becky, who became an architect, and one day was beside the creek and found peace.”
Amen! Such an incredibly simple tale (I think he was even teasing)... but I think he’s totally right. I don’t need to search for anything or fit in here just because I'm here. Soon I’ll be in Buddha country and won’t know what to do there either. I felt strange for a while because everything around me was new and I like to fit in and be good at things and I didn’t know what to do and it didn't feel natural. What I do know is that I believe in a God for sure (my late Great Grandpa Chuck I have to thank for that). Whatever name or form that takes on for me or anyone is irrelevant. Jesus Christ, Buddha, Lord Shiva, or just the majesty of mother earth. I love to be surrounded by people that are true and honest. Swamiji wasn’t making me uncomfortable, I was (kindof like how I become shy when in front of a video camera). What’s true and honest for me is that I'm not sure and that’s okay cuz I dont need to be sure about everything, just being happy is my thang! I believe that whatever you think makes you happy is good, regardless of the norm or if you think it should or shouldn't ... so if having or not having religion makes you happy then thats fantastic and I’m more than happy to feel and be around your happiness wherever it comes from ;) haha. To each their own.
If one day I have some intense (or maybe minor) experience that makes me want to became a hindu or a jew or an agnostic... I’ll embrace it as need be. Going with the flow! For now, I’m content with feeling like my God lives in the mountains and waterfalls and creeks... and I for sure need more of that!! It’s time for some Himalayas folks!!!