Since I moved to Portland, I’ve felt a disconnect with God. Perhaps because I don’t have a church home, despite my best efforts to find one. I had a great church home back in Pittsburgh. A church home – filled with a wonderful church family – that fed my soul regularly and allowed me to grow and flourish in my faith each and every day. I felt undeniably part of the “body of Christ” and undeniably connected to Christ and His teachings. But now, now I am apart from the body, from the life-sustaining vine. And as a result, I lack a sense of spiritual groundedness. Like I’m free floating, with no direction.
I’ve tried to go to a church I don’t really vibe well with (for one reason or another), just for the sake of going. Because Christians are called to be together. But I don’t like going to church out of obligation or routine. On occasion I may hear a decent sermon, or meet cool people, or identify with a ministry that is doing work in the community that interests me, but usually there isn’t a strong enough attraction that welcomes me to attach myself and find refuge. I get nothing from it.
As I’ve mentioned in recent posts I’ve been going through growing pains. Emotionally and mentally. I’ve been trying to seek God for spiritual healing and renewal. I believe my faith is restorative. When I’m spiritually in tune, I’m at my best. Yet, there have been many times where I haven’t felt I’m at my best. I was in search of God’s answers and comfort, but unable to get what I needed.
Was I not praying the right way? Asking for too much? Asking for the wrong things? Ignoring an answer that was already given? Not studying the Word enough, or in the right way? Too distracted? Too deep in my own problems to hear God? Was I really devoting myself to my faith?
For a long while it seemed my attempts to get closer to God were useless. Nothing I was doing seemed to bring me clarity or hope or understanding. I was just confused and disappointed and unable to heal. And while therapy helped manage a lot of the mental and emotional stress I was experiencing, it didn’t really fill the spiritual void. I fully attribute meeting the right therapist on the first try (truly a Godsend) and my journey to mental wellness to answered prayer, but it wasn’t bringing me closer to God.
Around the same time I started therapy, I started Oprah and Deepak’s 21-day meditation experience, “Manifesting Grace Through Gratitude“. Now, I had done 2 of these 21-day meditations before, earlier in the year. I really enjoyed them and found them to be helpful in calming my mind a bit. I shared the meditations with friends and urged them to join me in the practice. But after the 21-days were over, I’d mostly forgotten about all the mindful practices I’d cultivated during the meditations.
But there was something different about this last experience on grace and gratitude that… changed my life. That might sound dramatic or cliche but it’s so very true. Perhaps my life circumstances were in the right (wrong?) place at the right (wrong?) time and I was able to receive the meditation benefits in a different way than I had before. The experience moved me so much, giving new perspective on the meaning of grace and gratitude. I felt my mind and soul changing, aligning, expanding. I was evolving. I was becoming aware of myself, my very being, in a way I had never known before. I was being fulfilled. I was connecting to God.
As I was doing these guided meditations, I was also reading devotional bible messages. I starting to understand biblical scripture in a new way, becoming more assessible and applicable to my life. I could hear God more clearly through these meditations. He was speaking very clearly to me and I was actually able to receive the messages. It was a spiritual awakening like none I’ve ever had. I never expected my western religion would be enhanced by eastern philosophy. Is that a thing? I certainly never knew of anyone who practiced both. But I wanted to know more, I had to know more.
I remember going into a local bookstore, in search of books on Buddhism/meditation/mindfulness, but unsure where to start or what to look for. I walked the Eastern Philosophy aisle, hoping that the book I was in need of (whatever that was!) would stand out and beckon me. And just as I hoped it would, this sleek red bookcover with yellow text drew my attention (marked as a “Staff Pick”). I picked up Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hanh, a well known Vietnamese Buddhist monk.
Buddha and Christ, perhaps the two most pivotal figures in the history of humankind, each left behind a legacy of teachings and practices that have shaped the lives of billions of people over two millennia. If they were to meet on the road today, what would each think of the other’s spiritual views and practices? In this classic text for spiritual seekers, Thich Nhat Hanh explores the crossroads of compassion and holiness at which the two traditions meet, and he reawakens our understanding of both.
This was the book I was looking for, the book I needed!
I wish I could accurately describe the feeling of calm that I had reading Hanh’s prose. He’s a beautiful, deliberate writer. It’s like he held the key to my transformation in those pages. Guiding me to peace, to my true self, to God. Guiding me to a better understanding of faith, and how to be empowered through faith. It’s exciting!
I’m still learning. About Buddhist practices and what that means to me (especially regarding suffering), to my Christian faith. I’m still searching for spiritual fulfilment, enlightenment. All while I’m finding God anew, and feeling His steady presence more closely. And for this new connection I am extremely grateful.
The next O&D 21-day meditation series, “Become What You Believe,” starts Nov 2. I’m registered – care to join me?