I received a thought provoking email a few days ago from someone I don’t know personally. First is her comment, followed by my response: ” Dear Rev. Weinstein: It sounds as if you are of Jewish ancestry. If so, I feel it is sad that you possibly felt the need to give up on your own rich religious tradition where you might have found what you are looking for if you tried harder. Another BuJew?”
My answer: “No, I haven’t given anything up. I was raised Jewish with parents who encouraged learning about other traditions. I went to Hebrew school until I was 16, became a Bat Mitzvah at 13, studied various faiths in college. I was ordained as an interfaith minister via The New Seminary in NYC in 1999, which was founded by a ‘modern Hassidic rabbi’ named Joseph Gelberman, as well as a minister, a priest and imam. The motto of the school is “Never instead of, always in addition to.” When I told my parents I was enrolling, my mother said “I have one question for you. Are you converting?” I told her “No, I’m expanding.” She said “Ok.” and she and my father flew up from Florida for my ordination. When my parents celebrated their 50th anniversary, I officiated at a vow renewal ceremony for them and when they each died, I officiated at their funerals, with their full consent. My mother would jokingly call me her “Reverend Daughter”. I say that Love is my religion and God is too big to put in a box.” Hopefully that answers your thoughts. Judaism is a rich culture and so are the others in which I immerse myself. I don’t have the right to tell anyone what to believe spritually.”
I posted this interchange on my facebook page and was overwhelmed by how many people responded-52 at this point and it generated some amazing conversation about the nature of people’s spiritual beliefs. I have never received so many thumbs up ‘likes’ on anything else I have posted-nearly 100 at last count. What that tells me is that this aspect of existence looms large in the lives of so many. We may go about our day to day, not really thinking about our Divine nature and connection to our Source, whatever we might believe it to be. If you are like me, it is nearly all you ponder. Having said that, please know that I’m not walking around with my head in the clouds all day. Like one of my favorite transformational teachers, Ram Dass was quoted as saying “You still have to remember your zip code.”…and I do, along with a gazillion other life details.
Some of the answers explained their own religious beliefs and others were of a protective nature of my belief system. Here is a random sampling:
“I look at religious-based spirituality as a room with glass walls. Some feel they benefit from focusing on a specific tradition, while others may not. But it doesn’t have to mean you think yours is the only way, or that you can’t expand your boundaries with knowledge of other paths. I’ve found equal spiritual awareness in folks in and out of the traditions — also equal bigotry towards those making other choices.”
“Labels are so dividing. I wonder if she is willing to see that the very hatred that has caused so much suffering for the Jewish people came from exactly the same thinking? I feel the same way about being an “American”. I prefer to identify as an Earthling.”
“Good for you responding to an ignorant person with love.”
“All Humans would benefit from this “expanded” view and would stop killing each other over whose “view” is “better” or “correct”. I know God, The Creator, Higher Power, Buddha, etc, does not say “kill all others that do not believe I am the only way” – this is a human construct. And this EGO CENTERED HUMAN CONSTRUCT is killing off a large number of us in the name of RELIGION. How about acceptance and tolerance, y’all!!”
“I especially appreciate the idea of expanding rather than converting. Even though I was raised Episcopalian, I never had anything against the church. When I started studying/creating my own nature-focused spirituality I felt like I was expanding more than I felt like I was converting. I never denounced God or Jesus, and have no desire to. Maybe that’s why it was so easy to stand as my nephew’s godmother in the Catholic church even as a “pagan”
“People ask me the same thing as a Unitarian..I also tell them I did not give up being Jewish but added to my religious identity..I am a JewUU.”
“I refer to myself as “spiritually eclectic”.
“Beautiful answer, Edie and I admire your willingness to address what many of us today, may be questioned about. One of the joys of being with like-minded members of a univeral humanity is the ability to accept and embrace the value of all cultures and religions.”
“Love your response. As I rabbi, I feel that religion continues to divide us. How can we ever have world peace when we have the “mine’s better than yours” mentality. In the spiritual world, where we recognize that we are all ONE, all created with the breath of God, all co-creators with the Divine – then we can gather in global peace. I was ordained by Joseph Gelberman who truly taught inclusion — Never Instead of, Always in Addition To. I love my Jewishness but I practice now as an interfaith Trauma Chaplain where we all connect with One God, One World, One Community.”
I thank this woman who I may never meet face to face, but if I do, I will ask to hug her in gratitude for starting this Divine dialogue.
One of my favorite songs by Michael Franti has this lovely line “God’s too big for just one religion.”
http://youtu.be/xb-VN88MHL8 East To The West-Michael Franti
Lately the line has been ringing off the hook with calls from the Universe that send tingles down my spine, buzzing in my ears, rattling in my bones (in a good way), hair standing on end, and goosebumps on my arms which I refer to as my ‘truth barometer’. I laugh when I wonder why I should be surprised since I asked for the calls to come in. When we issue an invitation to the Universe, why would we not expect a response? They arrive at all hours of the day and night which is why sleep has been sketchy and sporadic and dreams have been vivid and profound. Once upon a time, these cosmic coincidences would have been accompanied by the theme song from The Twilight Zone and now they are just an ‘of course’.
The spirit calls have come in the form of invitations to travel and teach about life, the universe and everything, lessons in loving and letting go, in surrendering expectation for outcome, and being comfortable in my own skin, no matter what skin I’m in. These days I am making choices, not by default, but with conviction of the heart that all is well. Today I was filling my role as a therapist facilitating a group for folks who are in recovery from addiction. The concensus was that in order to maintain sobriety, they needed to KNOW that they are totally supported by the God of their understanding and that they have survived every challenge, trauma, issue and dark night of the soul through which they have trudged. Some thrive on chaos, some require fastidious order. In 12 step program, we speak of GOD as Good Orderly Direction that guides us through the muck and mire.
How will you respond to the Cosmic Call? Will you answer or tell it ‘no one’s home’?
http://youtu.be/9qdKZBXMX5E My Sweet Lord by George Harrison
“Renew, release, let go. Yesterday’s gone. There’s nothing you can do to bring it back. You can’t “should’ve” done something. You can only DO something. Renew yourself. Release that attachment. Today is a new day!” Steve Maraboli Life, the Truth and Being Free
What are you holding onto that’s holding on to you? In my case, ghosts from the past; decisions for which I wish I could have do-overs, relationship dynamics that I would like to change, job choices, health choices, conversations…. All of these experiences call out for a re-wind button, and yet, as sure as tomorrow is Tuesday, there is not thing one that I can do to alter what happened. Heck, even if I could, I wouldn’t want to mess with the space-time continuum. Who knows what havoc that could wreak?
I have often considered that if the me that I was had made different choices, the me that I am, might not exist. Had I selected another educational/career path, I might have lived in another part of the country, not met my husband, not adopted our son, not created Visions Magazine, not been with Michael as as he passed, not become a free lance journalist and speaker, not become an interfaith minister. I might not be writing this column, might not have the people in my life now that I so treasure. I say ‘might’, because there is some aspect of the soul contract idea that appeals to me, that tells me that certain relationships are ‘beshert’, which is Hebrew for ‘meant to be’. Perhaps the events are in some form, mapped out too, as they seemed to be in one of my favorite movies: Forrest Gump. He always appeared to be at the right place and the right time. I use that affirmation as well, declaring that I am always at the right place at the right time for whatever I most need to learn and grow.
I have discovered that whatever I hold with a closed hand (like sand or water), will run through my fingers and whatever I hold with an open hand and heart, I can, paradoxically, keep with me longer or allow to blow away into the wind. That includes my past and the people in it with whom I would preferred to have danced differently or perhaps not at all. Sometimes it is better to leave them back there, rather than carrying them with me into a future in which they have no place. Maybe they needed to let go of me as I released them into their new lives.
Here’s to open hands!
www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcrEqIpi6sg Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell
Thank you, Arielle Ford…this picture connected to one of your posts was the perfect writing prompt for this entry.
“Having made the decision to love, had I chosen life instead of death?” -Richard Bach
Those who have been reading the Bliss Blog for awhile, may know that one of my favorite authors is Richard Bach; he of the vivid imagination and relationships with characters that are, in essence, at times, writing the stories and he sits back and watches where they are going to lead him. He is wide open to adventure and taking his devoted readers along for the ride. I jumped on board the wings of Jonathan Livingston Seagull in the early 1980’s when my friend Albert Borris gave me a copy of the book about daring to live outside the box (or the flock) and about the importance of honoring our connections with each other. He had highlighted this quote which proved to be true, since although we don’t see each other more than once or twice every year or so, we remain friends.
“If our friendship depends on things like space and time, then when we finally overcome space and time, we’ve destroyed our own brotherhood! But overcome space, and all we have left is Here. Overcome time, and all we have left is Now. And in the middle of Here and Now, don’t you think that we might see each other once or twice?” I’ll bet you have people in your life who fit into that category. I’m blessed to have many.
In my role as a journalist, I had the joy of interviewing this prolific wordsmith who penned Illusions, The Bridge Across Forever, One, Running From Safety and many others that beckon the reader to suspend judgment and open to the possibility that life is infinitely fascinating and that things are not always as they appear to be. I was delighted to discover that his writing and speaking styles are similar. Back then I was in the process of writing a book with slice of life stories that eventually evolved into the Bliss Mistress book. He had asked me this profound question: “Do you love this book?” It sent tingles through me and I responded with an emphatic “Oh yes!” and he told me that I needed to get it out there in the world. At the time, I wasn’t ready to publish it, but a decade or so later, I was. Some things take awhile to cook thoroughly.
I have recommended his books to anyone wanting to become a spiritual explorer. Illusions inspired me to give out feathers at my workshops and Running From Safety brought into my life an exercise in which my current day self has a conversation with my 22 year old self with the title “What I Wish I Knew When I Was You”. I discovered that he has an interactive blog on his website and a facebook page on which I jumped eagerly, like a trampoline with kindred spirits who hold hands and leap and tumble. A few days ago, Richard posted a world wide invitation for folks to gather on an undecided date, to commune about the ideas we hold dear. A family ‘reunion’ of sorts. I eagerly gave the idea a thumbs up and knew I needed to be there. I waited for an indication of when that would be.
Yesterday, a totally unexpected message came through, as my friend Jacob Nordby sent an email with a blog about Richard (an avid and experienced pilot) and his plane that he dubbed Puff that had made a crash landing and that he had sustained injuries and was in a hospital. My immediate thoughts ran to “He knows this is perfect.” “What a great story he’ll have to tell folks.” “All is well.” Those were the sentiments echoed on his pages and in a phone call today that was organized by someone close to Richard; coach, writer and speaker Dixie Gillaspie. It was the cross continental version of what he had proposed, with soul friends who are family of choice sharing their prayers and intention for his wellbeing. I was moved by how many who called in, affirmed the influence Richard had on their lives. I gladly joined the orchestra, singing out my thoughts that he was a big reason I became a professional writer.
In this moment, I hold him in light, love and complete and total healing and ask that you do as well.
It’s just how the Universe works.
http://youtu.be/mgkk0Hdwmo8 Be by Neil Diamond