“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”Teilhard de Chardin
My personal journey has led me to understand that religion and spirituality are not necessarily the same thing. There were two paths I travelled simultaneously.
One path saw me raised in organized religion beginning with the Anglican Church of Canada in which I was baptized, followed by confirmation classes as a teenager with the full confirmation ceremony. My family moved to the United Church of Canada in my young adulthood, I was married in this church, my daughter was baptized there, and I worked in this church as a lay minister.
The other path began with a childhood encounter that convinced me deep in my core that I was and am loved by and connected to a Source paradoxically both inside and outside myself. I distinctly remember at age twelve sitting outside of my family home, escaping the family noise and confusion, feeling the gentle breeze on my cheek, and knowing in the truest part of myself that I was not alone. I felt connected to something larger than myself, to every living thing, to the birds and the insects, to the very rays of the sun.
This sense of spiritual communion is a cornerstone of my identity. I have been exploring spirituality and immersing myself in different faith systems ever since. I have come to believe that the only way we will ever come together on this planet is to see each other’s spirit first.
I didn’t connect these two paths, the religious and the spiritual, until I:
- studied overlaps in global religions, centering prayer and Christian mysticism at the Vancouver School of Theology
- received Reiki training at Victoria’s Queenswood monastery
- participated in silent retreats at Benedictine and Trappist monasteries
- encountered Rumi and Taoism, and
- began integrating principles of worldwide Eastern and Western religions.
The two paths – the religious and the spiritual – do not converge for everyone, nor should they.
However, the result of this convergence for me was like being given a key to a Source of strength that has sustained me in my darkest hours.
Truth, Goddess, God, Chi, mana, prana, Spirit, Energy – there are many names for this Source that is at once both inside and outside.
The convergence of my pathways has also given me a deep and profound respect for the human longing for connection – to each other, to nature, to community, to the cosmos, to Source – and how this connection is expressed historically across cultures.
I now consider myself a syncretist, someone who searches for and finds commonalities across all faith traditions, respecting each as one expression of this longing for connection.
And my journey continues . . .