For a long time, following my injury, I decided I didn't believe in God. I use this term, only because I grew up in the Episcopal church and God is what we called the higher power working in our world. I hesitate to over use this name because I now think it doesn't really have to have a hard and fast name. This doesn't mean I don't have faith in anything because I do. I just don't really have a name for it and I don't really think it needs a name. A few years ago, a friend asked if I really define myself as a Christian. I felt a bit offended, but also a bit perplexed because I kind of agreed.
As a young girl, I attended a Catholic elementary school, went to mass one day a week, said the stations of the cross at Lent, and then attended the Episcopal church services on Sundays. I never really questioned the existence of God. I eagerly raised my hand in Sunday school and recited the answers to many of the questions. St. Mary's grade school taught religion very well and I knew the Bible stories inside and out. In the second grade, I organized a prayer group for all of the non-Catholic students who were not receiving the sacrament of First Holy Communion. During my senior year of high school, I gave the youth sermon at my Episcopal church. I assumed my belief system was pretty solid.
However, I experienced a terrible, traumatic accident and this uprooted any foundation of belief I thought I built. I immediately thought this whole church and God thing was a joke and something people just do and believe to make themselves feel better. I couldn't imagine believing in something that caused so much suffering and hardship. Even though I struggled with these thoughts, I continued to volunteer and help out with various groups at the Episcopal church. I just saw the activities as an opportunity to serve and nothing more. When I was at my lowest moments, getting out and helping others always seemed to remedy the situation, until it didn't. I kept volunteering, almost making a full time job out of it. I hoped to find some relief to my pain in the service, but nothing changed. I just kept feeling worse and falling deeper and deeper into depression. My health deteriorated, my relationships crumbled, and I was left feeling utterly hopeless and alone. I opened my eyes to all of the suffering brewing and boiling over in this world and only felt more and more disconnected from God or anything like him.
It was quite some time before I awakened to the possibility of a higher power. All I could see was a sick girl who was ignored and thus forced herself to be heard. I purchased countless books and read until my eyes hurt. I tried anything and everything to heal my body, but soon realized my soul was the one in need of the true healing.
When I say I read everything, I mean everything. A few weeks ago I went to the bookstore to buy a friend a book. I knew what I wanted to purchase, but decided to peruse the shelves anyway. I started in the New Age section, then the Christian, Judaism, and Buddhism sections, and ended in the Self Help shelves. As I looked through all of the authors and their books, I felt a sense of warmth, a sense of connection. I actually thought, my friends, all of my friends. There they were, the entire history of my journey staring back at me. There were many books I still need to read, but the authors all very familiar and close to my heart. These are the people who brought my connection back, these spiritual advisers, these poets, these guides, and these teachers. I don't think one is better than another. All encourage a spiritual practice. All encourage prayer, meditation, and seeking. I read from all different authors and concluded everyone shares the same exact message from Einstein, to Buddha, to Jesus, to Mohammed, to God, to Rumi and Pantanjali. As I left with my gift for my dear friend, I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude to be on this side of my journey, the side that allows me to pass on my friends to my friend. Gratitude for the part of me that sees the seeker in another. Gratitude for the part of me that trusts we are all the same and isn't afraid to share a piece of myself with another.
You see, this is what I have come to believe in, oneness. I don't know what it is called or if it has a particular name. All I know is that we are all one, sharing in one, never ending, always forgiving, loving relationship with each other and ourselves. I am everyone I come in contact with and they are me. We all want the same things and we all deserve the same things. The higher power is the love and the forgiveness that passes all understanding. It is the higher power we all possess and we all feel called to practice. When I feel out of sorts, judgemental, cruel, or unhappy, I am not acting from this true and honest place. I am reacting to my fear, my worry, my hurt, and most of all, my pain. I assume another doesn't feel these deficits I feel and so I want to be heard and do so through attack. But the thing is, we all feel hurt, we all feel pain. Finding this common thread is what heals.
I don't really define myself as anything anymore. I discovered this is limiting to my growth. Some say believing in everything is believing in nothing. I disagree. Believing in everything is believing in everyone. I welcome difference because I see the similarities, not the polarities. Tears are tears. A person's skin color, or sexuality, or name, or hair style, or body art, or body shape, or disability, or strength, or suffering, or income doesn't matter. Everyone cries and everyone laughs and mostly, everyone has the ability to love and begs to be loved. Now, when I struggle to feel a connection, I know it is because I need to forgive or to love, nothing more. Connection isn't found in dutiful service, it is found in seeing oneness. When I see my oneness, the soup I serve or the door I hold takes on an entirely different meaning. I see the person I serve and I see me, I see you, I see all of us. This is what matters to me now. I believe in oneness.