Have you ever taken time to reflect on all the changes you’ve gone through in your spiritual journey, since your earliest view of God as a White-Haired Old Man in the Sky? Did a time come when the faith passed down from your family no longer worked for you? If that time never came and you were able to sail through life without anything shattering your faith or bringing your beliefs into question, you are what William James, in his classic work, The Varieties of Religious Experience, called “Once-Born“. You may see God as a loving, heavenly parent, who is there to hear your prayers and answer them, who showers the “Good” with blessings, like his promises of lands and wealth to Abraham.
Or, you may have hit a rocky place where you didn’t feel that God kept you safe or answered your prayers. You may have seen hypocrisy that disgusted you. Maybe your young, pure, innocent child died of a brain tumor despite the earnest prayers of your entire church congregation, and now, rather than seeing a world flooded with sunshine like you used to and the once-born, you see a world where the sun takes way long too come out after the storm. The world is more uncertain and what seemed to work in the past no longer does. You’ve seen too much tragedy befall “good” people. You no longer see God as the protective parent who keeps you “safe and dry.” So, James would say you were a “Twice-Born”, (Rabbi Kushner, Who Needs God, p. 35-36).
Many young people looked to India and the East for answers in the 60’s and now Buddhism has grown to be one of the religions in America with the most adherents. The concept of “mindfulness” is now practically mainstream.
What new paths have you taken? What pitfalls and road blocks did you encounter? What teachers came into your life when you were at a crossroads?
Actually taking crayons or markers and mapping out the whole journey is a foundational piece of my Spiritual Companionship sessions with clients or in workshops, but you can do it at home yourself. Take time to reflect and go way back in your imagination, charting the ups and downs, catastrophes, forks in the road, challenging enemies to your progress, and the appearance of spiritual teachers. Was there a dark time when you found the need to self-medicate to numb the pain? Did you find ways to connect with a higher power or guide, or tune into your own intuition or deep wisdom more clearly?
It’s a very powerful experience to go through and reflect on, but you can also use it as a springboard in your current meditation practice to explore the next steps in your journey. What I found fascinating as I redid the mapping through the years for myself, is that each time that I looked back, since by then I was in a new place along the way, different events gained significance. It’s always a fresh look at what brought us to where we are today, so leads to an even deeper appreciation for life’s journey.