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Faith or Fiction

God is a Concept by which we measure our pain John Lennon

Have you ever felt angry or frustrated about something beyond your control? Ever felt like life was not on your side and whatever you have done in the past, you don’t deserve the hand you were dealt? Most of us have felt this way at some point.

Sometimes things happen in life with no rhyme or reason; things that are out of our control, things that feel all wrong.

In these times, it is easy to get angry, to feel lost, or to want to assign blame. When no one else is an obvious scape goat for our problems, we might take it out on the ones we love. We might even curse God, or question our belief in some higher power entirely.

Growing up, God was never really mentioned in my house, with the exception of phrases like “For God’s sake” or “Jesus Christ!” Don’t get me wrong, my parents weren’t bad people, it’s just that they grew up considering their respective religions an obligation, and made a choice, consciously or not, to raise my sister and I in a non-religious way.  They came from different sides of the religious highway. My father practiced strict Judaism right up until his Bar Mitzvah when he renounced his religion until later years; my mother was the granddaughter of an Episcopalian Reverend and attended church as she was told to until she left home. When they met, they saw eye to eye in their staunch agnosticism. I suppose in some way they both identified their relationship with God as forged out of guilt rather than love.

I managed to become aware of God as a child somehow, and of prayer. I remember my first time genuinely praying to God when I was left in the car for several hours one day while my family went on an excursion when I was five. It was the 70’s, when leaving your kid in the car was the norm. I chose to stay in the car while my mother, father and sister visited a local attraction. After some time passed, I began to wonder if my family would ever come back, and I became scared. I brought my hands together, closed my eyes and prayed, “please God, please, bring my family back”.  It felt like an eternity by the time they did come back, and I had worked myself up into a frenzy. I was never sure of whether God was who brought my family back, or whether they came back on their own free will. This question remained with me for decades.

Over the past twenty years, rarely a day has passed when I haven’t questioned who is the doer. How much can I plan for in my life, and how much do I let go and realize the majority of it is out of my hands? My journey on the path of yoga has led me to a deeper awareness of my question, and also led me to understand the nature of relationship with more clarity.

Like many of my generation, I had been indirectly taught to ask for God’s help in times of need. The notion of relationship and reciprocity was never on my radar. Things like gratitude, offering and service were taught as a commandment, rather than as an expression of love.

Through years of questioning and exploration, I have come to understand that God is a word rarely understood. Each person and religious group seems to have a slightly different take on what it means. For me, God has become synonymous with Love. My yoga practice is about remembering that on a daily basis to help realign all aspects of my life with that understanding. Perhaps it comes easier for some than others, but in order to live happily and lovingly, I must refocus many times through the course of a day. You see, I used to let myself get angry with God. I used to assign blame to Him when I believed all was not right in the world. Now I understand that it is up to me, that I am responsible to nourish the Love within myself by loving others, and let the rest go. Movement can be an expression of that love, as can any creative outlet that helps continue to direct our spiritual nature. A spiritual practice cannot truly exist without that Love.

It is easy to question whether there is a God, whether there really is love in today’s world.  It is easy to question our faith in the universe. Suffering is all around us, and it can consume us if we let it.

When I find myself angry, questioning why things in the world are the way they are, I still turn to that old concept I had of God and begin by assigning blame. These days, I am able to quickly (somedays more quickly than others) remember that I can go back to square one, that I can find one person to love. By softening into that, I reconnect with that which exists in the core of each of us: Love. Even though often times we get so self-absorbed that we forget who we are at the core, and what we want, we all ultimately want to give, and receive love. Without it, our life has no bigger purpose, no passion…no heart.

At the end of John Lennon’s song, God, he renounces many things. He renounces religions, spiritual books and practices, magic, even his own music. He is left with the belief in himself. If we all could begin with a faith in our self to be loving and kind, it might make coming to terms with life as it is, just a little bit easier.

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