Spirituality is important to us. It always has been, but for a long time, my husband and I avoided religion. We had been personally used and abused by one church that preaches how advanced it is, and we were disgruntled with the churches of our youth. For a while, we were pretty much atheists that yearned for something more, something deep. Something that can make my children have hope and do good deeds, have them know that life is temporary. I wanted to give them a spiritual outlook on life, not a materialistic one.
Right when we had reached this point, I discovered advaita vedanta after reading the book Waking Up. It really hit the nail on the head for me. I have so many questions, and I can’t blindly believe in anything. I then picked up and read Ram Dass’s Be Here Now, which is an interfaith look at spirituality. I discovered the Boston Vedanta society’s podcast ( I can’t recc it enough; even if you are Christian or muslim or atheist) which discusses all aspects of the world’s religions and philosophies and respects all of them.
For some reason, everywhere we moved we were across from a church. In Korea, we were across from the mormon temple and everyday we saw and spoke with the missionaries. At one time in my life I would not have been able to do this, as I was pretty anti religious, but Vedanta opened me up to religion and it’s important. I really loved how important family is in the Mormon faith, although my own beliefs are not limited to same sex marriages. Still, I respect their beliefs and am very thankful for learning about their religion.
In Cortona, we were across from the San Francesco church, founded by Brother Elias, a disciple of Saint Francis. This really challenged me. I was raised Catholic, and the church we went to was horrible, everything was rote and used to condemn people. Jesus’s message of love and acceptance was not preached, only fire and brimstone. I have only negative memories of this faith. But again Vedanta opened me up to seeing the good side, and Saint Francis was not an ordinary man: he was a mystic. He was rogue. I learned so much about the various saints in Italy, including Saint Margaret, who would walk up the hill we lived on everyday ( it is a hill from hell, I swear).
Inspired by all these faiths and vedanta, I decided to work on my doctorate in philosophy, with an emphasis in comparative religion, through the University of Sedona. Faith has reentered my life, not from one path but from many. I see no difference in religion anymore, just the language and prophets who came. To me, all are paths to the same goal.
The particular branch of Vedanta I study is advaita, nondualism. Swami Vivekananda was an incredible man who spread the word of the importance of religion and kindness to many countries around the world. He preached the message of his teacher Ramakrishna, who became muslim as well as christian to show that all paths lead to God. Vivekananda was the first teacher of Hindu philosophy to come to the US and Japan, and had a large audience of scholars listen to his lectures. My favorite of his works is Jnana Yoga, which I highly recc.
I think it is obvious there are great things in the age with which we live, but we are also all aware of the downside: we live in a highly materialistic age. People are disconnected from so many things, from their families, from where their food and clothes come from. At the same time, more sects are popping up, some good and others that take advantage of people while claiming that they are ‘progressive’. Children are gone away from their families more then they are with them. We are consuming nonstop, even if we can’t afford what we buy. Many families can thus benefit greatly from adopting a spirituality that suits them. There are many to choose from, which is a good thing.
I am currently reading 1000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp, and just finished Better Then a Good Bible Study Girl. Both have shown me some radical things I had never understood about Christianity before, instead of the fire and brimstone schpeal I got everyday. These two devoted women live lives inspired by the Divine, and devoted to serving others and Jesus. Some of the upcoming books on my audible and book list are:
The Gospel of Ramakrishna
Forgetting God by Francis Chan
The Power of Purpose by Richard Leider
The Original Self by Thomas Moore
Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris
Contemplative Prayer by Thomas Merton
Emptyness Dancing by Adyashanti
The Perennial Philosophy by Huxley
The Holographic Universe
I have so many more I want to read as well, from various philosophical perspectives. I am also finishing up Finding Sanctuary, by Abbot Christopher Jamison, and highly recc it.
I want a deep faith, I don’t want to be a spiritual shopper, as Jamison mentions in his book. Vedanta caters to my needs and interests and also helps promote respect amongst religions. I am now going to be writing for the monthly Vedantic journal Prabuddha Bharata started by Swami Vivekananda in 1896. It is an incredible honor and challenge that I look forward to. So if you want to check out some of my philosophical musings, you can read me there 🙂
If you are religious or spiritual, or philosophical, or looking to find whatever works for your family, here are some links to help you on your quest:
I really recc watching the doc Deliver Us From Evil There are bad people everywhere, and bad people love power. Protect your family by being incredibly discerning in choosing where you go ( if you choose to go somewhere) for your religion. How many decades has religion been used to harm, kill, and control? This is not the fault of the Divine. It is sick politics and people who use religion, like many other things, to harm. Your Faith should enhance you and your family, and never harm. Avoid churches that demand large sums of money or force you to do things.
Movies I love: