What I’ve learned through my spiritual journey and how I hope to guide my kids on their own
Although I was born into a catholic family, my mom never took us to mass. The only time we’d go to mass was when we were in Honduras for the summer and my aunt dragged our asses to church. Even then, we’d either fall asleep on the pew or stare off into space and take cue from those around us to know when we should stand or sit.
I don’t think my mom ever found solace in the repetitiveness and ritual of Catholicism. She found it through musical devotions and free prayer. I remember as a little girl, I’d wake up at night and see her sitting in the dark living room with music on, crying her eyes out, trying to figure out the whole single parent thing. I didn’t understand it then, but it got her through probably the worst years of her life. The music connected with her, it made her feel like she wasn’t alone and that soon, all will be okay.
What I am most grateful for is that my mom maintained an open mind towards religion/spirituality when I chose to try to find God in the darkest years of adolescence dealing with depression—even though her catholic background would creep its head in sometimes (You’re going to hell, etc.). She motivated a culture in our home that allowed us to be curious about other practices and encouraged us to discover God in any way we needed to. It probably stemmed from a desperate need to help me through my rebellious stage. And though she wasn’t strict about ritual, Sunday school, reading the Bible or anything like that, she always wanted us to have a strong spiritual foundation.
I by no means assert myself to be religious or a spiritual guru. I’m not religious AT ALL and I’ve only recently begun to discover what spirituality means to me. The only reason I felt compelled to write this post was because Emma, who will be seven in October, is a never-ending pit of questions, eager to understand anything she can about God. It started when her brother, from her dad’s side, was baptized.
Why was he baptized? Was I baptized? Are you going to baptize Oliver? Who’s God? Is it a man? Do we go to heaven? Does he have magic? Is he mean? Why does he get angry?
I answered as best as I could, but, honestly, I didn’t have the right way to explain any of it and I told her just that. Yet all of her questions helped me figure out how I wanted to help her build this essential foundation. And I use the word “essential” because I don’t want to oversimplify the most important relationship that she will ever have for the sake of controlling behavior we think of as undesirable or because we think she won’t be able to understand.
My job as her mother in this aspect of her life is not to give her the rules and regulations of being a godly person or how to get through the “gates of heaven.” I hope to guide her as best as I can by creating the space she needs to develop her own thoughts and ideas of what being spiritual means and how she chooses to practice it.
Based on this, I gathered my thoughts on what I think are the ideas that can help her build the foundation of her journey as a spiritual being. And I’m sure as I write this post, I will continue making discoveries of what spirituality means to me.
God and Religion
When I was a little girl, I was absolutely terrified of God, Jesus and the Virgin Mary—almost as much as the Devil. If I was alone, I’d imagine that they were standing in a corner, watching everything I did, fearful that they would take me. They were very ominous figures in my life. God was a bearded, burly white elderly man (much like Saruman the White in appearance and temperament), who was always shaking a finger at me because I constantly misbehaved. I lived much of my childhood and adolescence with guilt and shame, always thinking I was going to hell. I look back at that fear, shame and guilt and there’s one thing I know for certain: I never want my children’s relationship with the Source of All Things, with Love, with the Universe and Themselves to be based on such heavy and burdening feelings.
Who is God?
I learned God to be Love. And that Love lives in me and you, in all living things and everything we create (Emma seemed to understand this definition—I was clear that this is what I came to know in my journey. She might learn differently). It’s the energy of the Universe; it is the Source of All Things. For now, I will continue to use the word God. However, the word God does not help justify this expansive and infinite force that lives in all of us and all around us.
God is not angry or judgmental. It’s an unconditional love and all it wants is for you to fulfill your life true to that energy that lives in you, who you really are.
Note: I did not use the word He.
What is Religion?
When Emma asked me this, it was probably the one question I had a clear answer to: Religion is a way or journey you chose to take to find God. Jesus found God and he went on to teach others to do the same. When I mentioned this, I wanted to make sure she knew that just like Jesus, there have been other messengers of God; helping others in their spiritual journey.
There is not a single or right way and it may work for you and it may not. I’ve learned that you can always take bits and pieces from any religion and apply them to your own journey. Spirituality is defined by oneself and I want my children to know they have absolute control over how they connect with what lies within.
In my research, I found that this website offered a clearer definition of both Religion and Spirituality: Click Here
Life After Death
Emma’s curiosity is most intense when it comes to Heaven. I think since the death of Charlie, her American Bulldog that had been around since before her birth, she’s connected her understanding of heaven with a comfortable definitive answer of what happens with life after death.
My response to her questions about Heaven is, “I can’t give you an answer because I have never been there before, but I think that the light that makes us who we are goes back to God. Just like I told you that God is in all of us, Charlie’s light that made him who he was, goes back to God too.” Believing that those we love continue to exist calms her anxiety about death. I explain to her that death is only scary because we don’t know what happens next—-death is not the end, life just changes.
I don’t believe in hell or the Devil. I believe that the existence of evil lies in people’s distance from Love and therefore, God. I don’t ever want to use the ideas of hell or the Devil to control my children’s behaviors. By teaching them about Kindness and Compassion, Acceptance, Gratitude, Living in Truth, etc., my hope is that they will lead their lives according to these beliefs. I not only talk about it; I show them through action. I teach them that through acts of Love, I am sending out prayers into the universe and that everything I put out into the world, it is reflected back into my life.
Open-mindedness and Acceptance
I always reinforce in my attempts to explain these things to Emma that this is my take and my understanding of God, and that it’s okay to have a difference of opinion because everyone’s journey is different. She will have her own journey and will make her own discoveries.
As I was thinking of what to write in this section, I thought to myself, the only time you are wrong in a discussion of religion and spirituality, is when you think that your way is the ONLY way. Just as I teach Emma that we don’t treat people differently for how they look, I teach her to respect and not judge others for their spiritual journey, or at all for that matter. Nor do we think of them as less than ourselves. Spiritual/religious righteousness does not make you any closer to God.
Kindness and compassion
Kindness and compassion have been easy for Emma to understand. Being spiritual does not mean you are pure and free of fault or sin. It’s being able to act with a heart of love and compassion, despite your imperfections as a human being. My mom always set an example for us to follow, extending a hand to those in need as her prayer.
By teaching Emma that the Light that makes us who we are is part of God, I would like her to understand that we are all divine beings despite our journeys as human beings. We embark on our spiritual journeys to connect with that Light once more. Because we are all divine beings, she is beneath no one, and she is also not above anyone. Keeping this in mind, she will overcome feelings of worthlessness—should she ever encounter them—and she will learn to recognize the Light in others.
Namaste: “The divine light in me bows to the divine light within you”
I think the most powerful and valuable lesson within Kindness and Compassion is that you have every right to establish boundaries. Boundaries do not make you cruel and heartless. Boundaries are set from the kindness and compassion you feel for yourself—which is the first and foremost relationship you need to tend to in your spiritual journey.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in my spiritual journey is that of Gratitude. How can we truly exalt the Light that exists in the world and within us when we are selective about the occurrences in our lives for which we are grateful? I am guilty of this and I’ve only recently come to recognize how much so I am living with scarcity mentality.
Scarcity is the mentality of not enough.
Not enough sleep, not enough money, not thin enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough, not enough exercise, not enough time…you get the gist. My automatic thought when I wake up is that I didn’t get enough sleep and when I go to sleep, I’m plagued with thoughts of all the shit I couldn’t get done. We are so burdened by thoughts of lack that it’s impossible to feel that we are living a fulfilled life. We are also creating an arena where inadequacy and unworthiness rule; where the thought “I am not enough” blinds you to the Light that you carry inside.
Gratitude does not stem from circumstances of abundance. Gratitude is born through the intention of enjoying and appreciating ordinary moments, ordinary things; declaring that there is enough and that YOU are ENOUGH. This thought process has helped me to truly be present as a mother. It has also helped me recognize with joy the Light that surrounds me and lives within me, my kids and my husband.
Living in Truth
Love cannot exist when you are not living in truth. Love cannot be recognized if you’ve built and defend a life based on lies or deceitfulness. The farther you live from the truth, the greater the distance you create from the Light that lives within.
Our paths to God can be found in the vulnerability that is born when you shed a life of appearances. There is no shame in admitting your faults. On the contrary, it frees you. I want Emma and Oliver to understand that when they live in Truth, their path is cleared of shame and guilt, the anchors that drag you down to darkness.
Everything You Need is Within
I hope Emma’s curiosity never fades. Her never ending who’s and why’s and what’s have helped me recognize the essence of introducing and practicing these ideas throughout her childhood.
Who could I have been if I was taught that God is within me? If I knew that I am enough? If I understood that the path to Love is one forged with Truth and Vulnerability? What hardships of my life would I have escaped if I had known that everything I needed was within me?
This path that I’ve chosen to discover God/the Universe/Love/Light—whatever you want to call it—is helping me become the mother my kids need to live a fulfilled life, free of shame and guilt, always knowing they are worthy of Love and always knowing they are enough. Every journey is different and I hope that I am able to help build the foundation they need to create a life that is true to the Light they discover within themselves.