Every so often, I find the courage to take time off frombusiness. This summer I spent three weeks exploring the Kootenays, going barefoot, swimming in Kootenay Lake and visiting with friends. I also spent time at an Ashram, which reminded me of going to Bible Camp when I was twelve years old.
My Grandad was a devoted Catholic and my Mom enjoyed the local nuns’ company, so the four of them came out often to visit our homestead in Rosswood. These wonderfully spiritual ladies loved to go fishing and they were eager to give just about anything a try, even a little target practice, as you can see on this month’s cover photo. I remember their good-hearted belly laughs and how deftly they appeared to get around in those long skirts despite their dangling rosaries, even on a hot summer day.
One Sunday, the parish Father joined the nuns and performed outdoor Mass. I watched in amazement, as I thought God could only be prayed to in Church or kneeling at your bed. I remember asking the priest how he could say Mass without being under a roof; he told me that anywhere was appropriate as long as he had his prayer cloth and chalice.
When I was three years old I chatted with an angel, who read my thoughts and sprinkled a little snow on me as a farewell gift. This image is still clear in my mind and I often wonder why. When I was four years old my Mom took me to a speech therapist, for I still hadn’t learned to speak properly. A voice spoke in my head, said “Give up Angele: they have won.” I can still see the therapist’s mouth showing me how to enunciate my first consonants. Soon after I could speak properly, but that’s another story for another time. When I was eight years old and in the process of drowning, the same voice spoke again saying, “sink to the bottom and when you touch it, push.” I did this six or eight times and finally an older girlfriend noticed my dilemma and rescued me. Many times throughout my life, I have heard a voice speak clearly in my head, offering sound advice when I needed it. I knew even as a child that I wasn’t thinking the words myself but I never associated the voice with “God”: I just figured everybody had such a voice, even animals. I have come to realize that the voice in my head is my higher self and helps me feel connected to God.
Today, I also realize that going to church, as do Christians is only one of many ways to know God. During my summer holidays I joined in some Pagan Rituals, experienced Native Indian Ceremonies and stayed at an Ashram, a school for Eastern spiritual practices. I loved all these forms of worship and I enjoyed discovering the different ways each group said “Thank you” to the Creator. I noted many similarities between the Nuns of my childhood and the Swamis at the Ashram, for whom renunciation, commitment, celibacy and strict obedience make God-realization possible. The Pagan and Native Indian Celebrations had a more relaxed and earthly connectedness to them but were also very spiritual.
The summer gave me time to reflect on how I relate to the Divine and I discovered that certain programming has been instilled in me by my upbringing. As a child, I saw God as a faraway person who granted wishes to the good and punished the sinners in purgatory or hell. Every Sunday I was supposed to go to confession before Mass, standing in line at the little black box to tell the priest what evil deed I had committed during the week. He would tell me to say so many Hail Mary’s or The Lord’s Prayers and all would be forgiven. Sometimes I had trouble figuring out what I had done during the week that was bad … maybe it was an accumulation of little things, like sneaking cookies. I didn’t understand the rules but I wanted to be sure so I covered all the bases, as purgatory didn’t sound like a place I wanted to go when I died.
As a teenager, I went to Mass only on special occasions because it pleased Grandad and it seemed important to Mom. By then the Church had switched Mass from Latin to English, so I could understand what was being said but I found it boring.
When I had children of my own I figured it would be good for them to learn about God, so I sent them to Sunday School though I never went to Church Services myself. We chose the closest church and they seemed to enjoy going, but after a few years they refused and I didn’t understand why. I went to Church till I was twelve and what was good for me surely must be good for my boys! After some discussion on how they were feeling, we agreed they didn’t have to go. I felt satisfied that I had done the right thing and that the boys would choose later in life to go to church, if it meant anything to them.
Today, loving God is being at peace with myself and ultimately with everyone else. I think most people realize that their way is not the one and only way to experience feeling connected to the Divine. It just happens to be the one they have chosen. Many thanks to all of you who shared with me your sacred ceremonies this summer: for your inspiration will encourage me to seek openness and strength in all of my endeavors.
So think as if your every thought
were to be etched in fire
upon the sky for all to see.
For so, in truth it is.
So speak as if the world entire
were but a single ear,
intent on hearing what you say.
And so, in truth, it is.
So do as if your every deed
were to recoil upon your head.
And so, in truth, it does.
So wish as if you were the wish.
And so, in truth you are.
So live as if God Himself has
need of you, His life to live.
And so, in truth, He does.