But I know exactly who would belly up to my kitchen counter right now and dive right into this convo. At 11:30PM. Even though all of our many, many children will be up oh-so-very-soon. A group of Mamas. Among us, a devout Mormon. A searching Catholic. A practicing Catholic. A spiritual explorer. And me. A reform-ish Jewish Mama who has recently been described as, “kind of making up her own thing.” Hmmm
While the above may sound like the set up to an extremely offensive, albeit probably funny joke, it’s not. We met at an ECFE class earlier this year and it was love at first-group-belly-laugh. We went to class for the kids, for sure. But unrelentingly, unabashedly and simply wonderfully: for us. Because when we’re together, we talk, share, soul-search, learn and grow.
A few weeks ago one of the Mamas, Kjersti, sent the group an email entitled, “Meeting About the Quest for Enlightenment.” And those of us who could make it literally jumped at the chance. We knew two things: Kjersti was going to be videotaping (is that still the right word?). And we would be sharing our religious and spiritual histories. She gave us many thoughts to work with. But these words, these words caught my eye and made my heart skip a beat. Or two.
Religion is a set of rules and guidelines encouraging a particular way of life within a community. Spirituality is an individual experience or connection with a greater awareness somtimes called God. This might be experienced through a religious practice like prayer or meditation.
But it could also could be a realization you’ve had in a dream, following a traumatic experience, meeting someone who has transformed you or your view of the world, a feeling of deep peace or inner knowing, a coincidence that is too amazing to dismiss.
I’ve always assumed that these two pieces had to come from the same puzzle. That they had to fit together with perfect edges and curves. But couldn’t stand alone. I’ve solely used the word religion, maybe religiosity. But never, ever, spirituality. Because I wasn’t sure how, or that I was even allowed, to take that piece right on out. Separate it. Examine it. Embrace it.
But through all of our words, experiences, memories, hearts I realized that what I adore, explore, welcome and want to pass onto my children is spirituality. It’s within me. It’s personal. It’s mine. While I crave community, I really hate being told what to do. And push back against anything, and anyone, that tries to box my heart in.
In the very same breath, I love my Judaism for its culture. And it will always (always) be my soul, my being. But the have-tos? The doctrines? The stories-as-facts? The dos-and-then-believes? That isn’t me. And never will be.
I have no mold for your religion, for my kids’ religion and quite frankly for my own religion, because what I believe is personal. And my own. It’s spiritual. There’s a phrase that I can own. Is this right for everyone? Of course not. And is that okay? Indeed.
The morning after we got together, Mary found this article about the dangers of being spiritual without religion’s boundaries, rules, expectations. There was an overwhelming feeling, aura, message of fear from some of the contributors. Fear of what, I’m not exactly sure? Non-comformity? The unknown? Inexplicably (to me), it spoke of selfishness and the inability to learn to do good, to be good without the boxed in lines that religion provides for many.
Embedded in the article (which we all read and responded to. Of course.) was information about SBNR.org. “Spiritual But Not Religious” has its own acronym. And its own Facebook page. You better believe it’s real, baby! It’s real to millions of people. Millions. And here we thought that I was just making things up as I went along, people!
I don’t have all (any?) of the answers. And I’m okay with that. In many ways, it’s freeing. Questioning. Learning. Not knowing. I feel so at peace learning with my children. Never telling them what to believe, how to believe, which path is theirs’. Letting go of that control, that need to know how it all works and turns out and allowing for exploration, learning, being. Sigh. That’s what its all about. For me.
We Mamas were meant to meet. My heart and soul both know that. We’ve affected each others’ parenting, creativity, reading habits and support systems, for sure. We’ve also each found inner strength within the folds of the group. In our own ways, we’re paving our own paths. To approach a difficult conversation. To redeem a sought after dream. To gain confidence. To take risks.
For four of us, one of those risks was being videotaped (again, is that the right word?) baring our souls. And for the other one?
It was putting together this video clip. And entering a contest where if she wins, she’ll dialogue with others about their spiritual quests. With a little help from Oprah. Obviously.
The clip is a teeny tiny fraction of our conversation that night. From motherhood, to Lord of the Rings, to knowing God right-by-your-side, to lighting Shabbat candles (well, red, round, scented candles. But spiritually Shabbat candles, nonetheless.). You get a taste of our dialogue and the quest that we’re all still sharing. Open your heart. Dig deeper. Watch the clip. Click to vote.
Great article. How about instead of videotape, you say record? As in: we recorded the session. Just a thought.
ANOTHER great entry, Galit.
You are so strong, yet gentle with your words. Sensitive, yet not at all apologetic. This topic, SBNR, is close to my heart- and I know so very on the minds of many of my nearest and dearest. Again, feeling so lucky to be able to read your writing… 🙂
We have invented & ignored religious rituals or tweaked ’em & I really feel the spirit is what I’m going for, as in: peace. friendship. compassion.
Reading this article (that is, really a love letter to my high school, a FRIENDS school) made me think again about how much I got from attending a Quaker institution (one of a few I’ve been influenced by): http://www.philly.com/philly/news/homepage/20100610_An_unlikely_baseball_factory_and_its_star.html
The story for me really about how values are so important. Religion per se less so personally but how principles/beliefs/values–however we say them–matter so.
Having friends to explore with, that’s so excellent.
“…it could also could be a realization you’ve had in a dream, following a traumatic experience, meeting someone who has transformed you or your view of the world, a feeling of deep peace or inner knowing, a coincidence that is too amazing to dismiss.”
I’d call any of those a religious experience, because I’d say those are all an encounter with God, and therefore religious. I don’t see religion as a set of rules, but as an access point for people to get closer to God. Obviously, some religions work better for some people than for others.
Some people haven’t found a religion that works for them, and may never find one. I don’t see a problem with people being spiritual without being part of an organized religion. If you find your own way to God, that’s cool. Maybe it’s just semantics, but I’d still say you’re having religious experiences.
My mother raised us from day 1 to be spiritual people and to make all of that “God” stuff personal.
On the other hand, my father’s family tries to keep the religion of it all in tact.
Here is my take.
The analogy that I draw is with parenting.
Some parents feel that the only way to parent properly is by following the book.
This is the way that they feel in control of parenting. They listen to the advice of their pediatrician and follow it to the “T.” They feed and nap their kids at the same time every day. You get the point.
My cousin was a wonderful mom, but she was fearful of trusting her instincts. So she was a religious parent.
On the other side are spiritual parents. We follow our hearts, make parenting very personal, and use our natural innate abilities to parent.
For me, as long as there is love and responsibility, both approaches are fine.
Is my brain quirky or what?
Wise and insightful words as usual, Galit!
I loved it!
A friend of mine sent me a link to this post after I posted this to my blog today http://moxiemomma.com/?p=1621. I do a running column on my blog called “My Life in Letters”. Today was the letter “R”. I chose the word religion, but, in fact the post touches on the very subject you write about – spirituality.
thank you so very much, as always!!
erica– i knew i could count on you to sort that out for me! thanks lady! 🙂
kee– look at you rockin’ the acronym! love it and so very grateful for you!
sarah– i love how you focus on the core of the matter and leave the rest to be what it will. that’s so, so wise. i would expect nothing less of you, though!
susan– thanks so, so much for your input! i love your words about people finding their own paths and ways. thanks much for that!
michelle– hey lady! wow! can we say post-in-the-making?! your words, brain, heart might be quirky (lol) but i’d say BRILLIANT! seriously, write it and then link it up, baby!
lisa– thanks so, so much! your word always mean so very much to me! but you already knew that, soul sista! 🙂
michelle– hi! so much fun to hear from you! i love that we’re on the same wavelength and at the same time, no less! 🙂
A very interesting approach to Spirituality and one I subscribe to 100%. Being a part of a Creative Community where everyone’s dedication is to ‘the work’ and creating the best that you can…This is my “Church” or “Religion”. There is God in seeing a Great Great play…There is God in looking at a Great Great Painting or listening to incredibly inspiring music–hearing Yo Yo Ma play, or Joshua Bell, or having been lucky enough to have seen both Judy Garland and Lena Horne, perform, “in person”, or Oscar Peterson, etc., etc. God is also in my garden. Nature is pure and filled with spirituality…Like you, I am Jewish by birth and was brought up in a reformed Temple. But I haven’t been a part of that or any other Temple for way over 60 years, but I feel a very deep and abiding Spiritual connection to God, and always will. And I feel it in an unspoken way, when I am ‘creating’ myself. This is true and pure Bliss.
Galit, If you don’t mind I think I will respond with my own post. I have much to say about my own (ongoing) experience with religion and spirituality, that I’m afraid that my comment would come in at 500+ words. 🙂
As for the video, I voted! Your friend, Kjersti, not only has mad film-making skills, but I enjoy her speaking voice. Does she speak that way irl, or did she tone it down a bit for the camera? She has a very understanding voice, without being condescending. I loved it.
Great thoughts. So nice you have found a local group of mamas to share your journey with. I am still struggling with that…
ool of the h, hi lady! what beautiful, articulate thoughts, thank you! i am in no way surprised that we see eye-to-eye on this. if we lived closer we would have yummy tea and talk about blissful, spiritual things for hours. for sure.
christine, hi there! *of course* i don’t mind! in fact, i can’t wait to read what you write! link it up here for all of us, okay? and yes, kjersti is just as amazing & fab in irl as you see in the clip! i’m totally passing your comment onto her, btw! 🙂
april, hello! so great to hear from you! yes, i *do* feel really lucky to have found these mamas! and truth be told i’ve been at it for a long time as i moved to mn almost 11 years ago and my oldest is 6! hang in there lady. whatever will be, will be, right?! 🙂
Thank you for commenting on my blog – I thought I’d come and take a look at your ‘home’!
I found this post really interesting. I don’t have children and my BH isn’t Jewish, so I can’t comment at all on the Mama aspects of your thoughts. But getting my (our) heads arouond the religious/spiritual label is an interesting and thought-provoking area which sometimes makes me feel a bit ooky. I was brought up in one of the most secular homes you can imagine so I spent my formative years being given an overdose of ‘religion is bunkum’ on a regular basis. Yet here I am, following my father’s family roots into Judaism, converted and attending shul every week. Every now and again, I still get a bit of a sharp poke from the ‘bunkum stick’ as I like to call it. I’m not sure what to do with this, to be honest. So I take each day as it comes.
Think of life as a jump out of a plane. Stage one is before opening the parachute, like your spirituality without the rules, requirements and rituals. The parachute is your “3 r’s,” as listed in the previous sentence. You need that parachute.
‘Burger King Spirituality’ – LOL! Personally, I find a resistance to personal relationships with God is the strangest thing of all to come from the Protestant-based evangelical faiths. It was their initial break-up with The Church (Roman Catholic) that placed the Bible in the hands of the regular folk and removed the middle man (priest) from the whole equation.
I count myself as a Have it Your Way Spiritual person. No onions, extra pickles.
I loved that clip… Finally a chance to hear your speak. What a lovely group of friends you make! I can only imagine the fascinating conversations you guys have over a cup of coffee.
Anyway, I’ve never confused religion with spirituality. I guess in the ideal state they are connected, but religion can often be mainly cultural or social. In other words, you can be a very religious Jew for reasons that have nothing to do with belief or ‘spirit’ (you were raised that way, all your friends are like that, you love the lifestyle, etc). And you can be drawn to spirituality without the religious structure.
However – I tend to agree with Batya above, that religion is a crucial tool. Spirituality alone seems to me like a vague entity with no form or structure. I guess without a ‘formal’ religion, it’s upon you to find a way to mold your spirituality into something tangible that you can pass along to your children.
rachel, hi! your journey sounds fascinating, i’m really looking forward to learning more about it. and, can i just say, your word choices (ooky, bunkum) are *amazing!* & taking each day as it comes is oh-so-very wise advice that i could use to follow more often!
batya, hello! thanks for the note and the thoughtful analogy. i really respect your point of view and am glad that you voiced it here. food for thought for sure!
julia, hi there! lovin’ you jumping right into the bk bit. i thought that was pure genius as well. i’ll share your burger (i LOVE pickles!) and amen, hooray and all else good to your history bit and use of the word “middle man.” we can all have a personal relationship with our higher being. who would’ve thought *that* would be considered “revolutionary” and debate-worthy?!
& shira, hi lady! i love that you mentioned hearing my voice! isn’t it funny that we know so much of blog-friends’ inner-workings but not what each other’s voices, hand gestures, speaking patterns, etc are?! i hear what you’re saying and i’m glad that you gave those thoughts a voice. that dialogue is what it’s all about, right?! i feel lucky that i’m comfortable with aspects of judaism to pass onto my kids *and* that at the same time, we can create a lot of that meaning together. and last, but not least, we *do* have amazing conversations but i will admit that it’s usually over a glass of wine instead of coffee! 🙂
This is so exciting! I wish we could all sit together over coffee or wine or BK Broilers and discuss this together. Such powerful, thoughtful, deeply soulful women. Not to mention funny!
Julia said, “I find a resistance to personal relationships with God is the strangest thing of all to come from the Protestant-based evangelical faiths.”
YES! I see it as the single most powerful lie ever told that we need to consult with a “middle man” to connect with, listen to, or interpret God. If we accept this, all of our strength, purpose, and ability to evolve is placed in someone else’s hands, outside ourselves, disconnecting us with God. We become obligated. That is amazing power.
But when we claim our connection to God, listening honestly, we find we are warrior samurais capable of learning mad skills from that higher power.
Sometimes we want immediate confirmation from someone else that we are doing the right thing. We can consult with people we respect. But ultimately we have to trust ourselves. Be responsible for what we do. Then consequences become so much more meaningful and personal. That is when evolution, transformation happens.
It has been so exciting to read all the comments. Thank you, Galit for creating this forum!!
Also, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who checked out the video. I noticed a significant increase in votes after this article was published. And thank you so much for those of you who said thoughtful, supportive things about it. I am honored to share this topic with all of you!!
Well, maybe I’ve done something wrong (I know, hard to believe, right?:)…because I sent a trackback to my response, but for some reason it isn’t showing up here.
If you don’t mind, I’ll just post a link here:
I hope that works:)
kjersti & christine, thanks much ladies! must read words from both of you and i’m so so glad that you both shared them! (k, absolutely lovin’ the mad skills we can all learn!!)
I felt the same way you do until I found Jewish Renewal. Although I was born into a Conservative Jewish way of thinking and practicing (the once a year obligatory temple trek), it never really spoke to me. I felt deeply connected to my Judaism on an internal and cultural level but the interpretation of the doctrine never quite fit my personal beliefs. Raising my son in the Jewish Renewal movement connected me with the missing link ~ spirituality and beautiful community. It is open and welcoming, creatively returning to the roots of joyous celebration that were muted and virtually lost after the Shoah. Through music, dance, prayer and complete acceptance of all levels, all religious beliefs, it brings the heart and soul back to Judaism. So, light your red, scented Shabbat candles. It’s all good!
t, you words are nothing short of *amazing!* i love that you found a place of comfort and spirituality that works for you and your family. i so adore that everything fits just so! beautiful and all good, indeed!! thanks so much for your visit and thoughts, both mean a lot to me!