Stories from Your Spiritual Life

Discussion in 'Religion and Ethics' started by Sky Dancer, Mar 12, 2011.

  1. Sky Dancer
    Offline

    Sky Dancer BANNED

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2009
    Messages:
    19,307
    Thanks Received:
    1,158
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Ratings:
    +1,164
    My personal outlook on life has been informed by Buddhist teachings. I got into Buddhism about a year after my father committed suicide. Life hasn't been easy. I have had many traumas, losing my father was one of them that occurred in my young adulthood. I was spiritually unprepared to meet the trauma of that loss. My early Catholic training as a child to adolesence did not leave me with a way to put my father's death in some perpective peacefully. According to the RCC, my dad was bound for eternal damnation and ex-communicated from the RCC for committing suicide. There was no ceremony. My father hadn't practiced as a Catholic for most of his life and when he died it was very sad.

    I was bereft of a way to help myself and help him. For a year, I was in shock. I wasn't able to cry or grieve him. I headed to the Theosophical Library and started to investigate other spiritual paths.

    I attended my first Buddhist teaching on the Four Noble Truths.

    The First Noble Truth is that life is suffering. There is suffering in birth, suffering in childhood, suffering in adolescence and young adulthood, suffering in sickness and suffering in death. I could relate to that. The year before my father died I had a life threatening illness and nearly died myself. I could see that this teaching was true for my father too.

    The next Noble Truth is cause of suffering is not seeing that everything we cling to, our bodies, our lives, our loved ones, is impermanent. I knew from my loss the truth of impermanence.

    The Third Noble Truth is the truth of the cessation of suffering. Here I was raised in a system that emphasized eternalism--either eternal hell or eternal heaven, and it intrigued me that there was a possibility of an end to suffering as I knew it then. That enlightenment is possible, even in this very life, and that a man named Prince Gautama Siddhartha, the Shakyamuni Buddha had realized this 2500 years ago.

    The Fourth Noble Truth is the Truth of the Path that leads to the cessation of suffering. The is the truth of the path of meditation.

    I attended my first Buddhist meditation retreat. It was very strict. Ten days of silence. Sitting meditation for one hour, watching the breath and body sensations, walking for one hour, noticing the touch of the foot on the ground, sounds, smells, sights and thoughts passing through. No eye contact with anyone there. I didn't know a soul. A hundred of us sat together in this hall overlooking the rushing river in a deep forest green.

    I was going out of my mind. I couldn't sit still for a second. During the sitting meditation my mind wandered continuously. I'd be stuck on some popular song or running every movie I had ever seen or being completely distracted by the pain in my knees, in my back, in my neck, in my shoulders. I hated it. I felt like I was in boot camp. Even the meals were no source of entertainment. They were held in silence. There was even an eating meditation, this kind of microscopically slow eating of noticing, the smell of the food, the colors of the food, lifting the fork to the mouth, tasting, chewing, swallowing. Intending to take another bite, lifting, placing the food in the mouth, etc etc etc.

    What I wanted to do was what I customarily did, which was check out, space out, talk. Anything but notice what was going on inside of me.

    Then something really intense happened. The teacher announced that two people on the staff at the retreat land had just been killed in an auto accident. The community was in turmoil and could not support our retreat. The community was going to burn the bodies of the dead and their belongings on the retreat land. The structure of the retreat had to go on without the teachers so that they could attend to the funeral. We were all on our own to sit, walk, eat, sleep and not look at or talk to each other. The final instruction was to notice the breath, since we never know when we will have our last.

    I broke like a dam. All the grief I hadn't felt for my father's death flooded me. I cried and cried and cried. I could not help myself. My eyes were closed, snot was running down my face, and when I was finally able to open my swollen eyes when the bell rang there was a pile of kleenex in front of me and I had no way of knowing who had done me the kindness of offering the tissues.

    For three days, the funeral went on. I sat, and walked, and ate in silence, all the time returning my mind to the breath. Across the river the community sat in meditation, over a huge bonfire. I smelled human flesh burning for the first time. Something was happening to me but I wasn't fully aware of it. My heart had opened and my mind was at peace. I sat from five am to nine pm alternately sitting and walking, eyes to the ground, internal, and when I got back to my tent at night I sat longer. Sometimes till 12 or 1, I think. I had dreams of Anandamayima visiting me. (At the time, I didn't know Anandamayima was real. She actually lived and taught in India at the river Ganges. She appeared to me in a dream and I asked what is your name and what does it mean? She told me her name meant 'mother of great bliss'. Many years later I was to go on a pilgrimage to India and sit in the place where she taught. Anandamayima died the year of my first retreat. She was a woman in her sixties. In my dream she appeared in a youthful form. It was many years later that I would see her picture in a book on Hindu saints and recognize her as my dream image.)


    At the end of the tenth day, we broke silence, and I felt as though I was so open that I didn't even have any skin.

    What had become clear to me during the retreat was the truth of the cause of suffering, impermanence, and the peace that comes from not clinging, not wishing things to be other than how they are.

    At that point, I met my wife. learned that in Buddhism, not even hell is permanent. It was a great relief to me that there was something I could do to help my father. I learned practices that I engage in that would help my father in the afterlife. I sponsored yogi's in long term retreats to do those practices until I could learn them myself.

    I had a touch of an experience of the Third Noble Truth of the cessation of suffering and it had come to me from the path of meditation--the Fourth Noble Truth. It was 1982.

    That's the first story of how I started to study Buddhist meditation. I did not consider myself a Buddhist until five years later.

    Please tell your story. How has your life been touched by your path of spiritual or religious practice? If you don't follow a religion, then how has your life experience taught you a way to manage life events in a way that helps you find peace and happiness?
     
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2011
  2. eots
    Offline

    eots no fly list

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2007
    Messages:
    28,995
    Thanks Received:
    2,034
    Trophy Points:
    205
    Location:
    IN TH HEARTS AND MINDS OF FREE MEN
    Ratings:
    +2,606
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 18, 2014
  3. Sky Dancer
    Offline

    Sky Dancer BANNED

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2009
    Messages:
    19,307
    Thanks Received:
    1,158
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Ratings:
    +1,164
    For three years after that first retreat I practiced meditation alone. I didn't want to join anything or consider myself any religion.

    I attended my second silent retreat in 1985, at the same retreat land, where I met my wife. In our new romance we went to Buddhist teachings and attended silent retreats.

    In 1987, we did a two month silent retreat in New Mexico, just she and I.
     
  4. Mini 14
    Offline

    Mini 14 Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2010
    Messages:
    3,947
    Thanks Received:
    570
    Trophy Points:
    48
    Ratings:
    +570
    I talked to God.

    You mocked me.

    True Story.
     
  5. Sky Dancer
    Offline

    Sky Dancer BANNED

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2009
    Messages:
    19,307
    Thanks Received:
    1,158
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Ratings:
    +1,164
    That was wrong of me. I was insensitive to your story and hurt your feelings. I'm deeply sorry for that. I'm not a generally unkind or insensitive person. Please show me the words I wrote. I'm sometimes more careless when I post than I should be.

    I don't doubt your sincerity. When I questioned you about praying to God you were persistent and I recognize that praying to God is an essential practice for you. I shouldn't have been so callous. There is nothing worse than having someone question your faith.

    All I can say is I am no buddha. If my Buddha nature was evident I would have no need to practice. I have many flaws, including some habits to respond off the cuff, without thinking. Sometimes I'm in a hurry and I don't read the post very carefully. These are bad habits that I am working on.

    Everyday I make positive aspirations, sometimes, I don't make to breakfast without breaking a vow. Other days, I get all the way to lunch time. Some days, I even make to dinner.

    I do examine my mind every night, regret when I've blown it, vow to improve, and rejoice when I've been virtuous and skillful.
     
    • Thank You! Thank You! x 1
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2011
  6. Sky Dancer
    Offline

    Sky Dancer BANNED

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2009
    Messages:
    19,307
    Thanks Received:
    1,158
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Ratings:
    +1,164
    At the end of the two month retreat, we headed home. When we arrived we heard about a woman from Brooklyn who had been recognized as a tulku and we determined to go to her teachings in Ashland. An eight hour drive from home we drove through a forest fire to get there in order to meet Gyaltrul Rinpoche and Jetsumma Akhon Lamo.
     
  7. Sky Dancer
    Offline

    Sky Dancer BANNED

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2009
    Messages:
    19,307
    Thanks Received:
    1,158
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Ratings:
    +1,164
    Does anyone have a conversion story? Again 'born again' experiences? What's your story as a Christian?

    When I was growing up being a Christian meant being Catholic, which I was taught, is the ONE, TRUE, HOLY and APOSTOLIC CHURCH. I grew up in a Catholic neighborhood. Not a lot of diversity of Christians.

    I knew about Lutherans, (reject them, they don't believe in the Virgin Mary), Methodists, Presbyterians, Assembly of God, Episcopalians, and a few others.

    Now, there are SO many different kinds of Christians I can't keep track of them all. It's hard to know who's a friend and who's a foe.

    The RCC taught me to be suspicious of any Christian group that was NOT Catholic. It was an early prejudice that I haven't completely licked.

    On a one to one basis, I work with many Christians and find them to be good people.

    As political organizing blocks, I find evangelicals and mega church groups frightening.

    Interestingly enough, people get mad when I express my fear. I don't know if that is helpful to someone who's afraid. Kindness works better for me.
     
  8. Sky Dancer
    Offline

    Sky Dancer BANNED

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2009
    Messages:
    19,307
    Thanks Received:
    1,158
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Ratings:
    +1,164
    Marie-

    I love your story about how Christianity informs your life.

    sky
     
  9. Avatar4321
    Offline

    Avatar4321 Diamond Member Gold Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2004
    Messages:
    70,568
    Thanks Received:
    8,170
    Trophy Points:
    2,070
    Location:
    Minnesota
    Ratings:
    +12,200
    I usually don't share my experiences unless prompted to. I consider many of them sacred.

    However, I can tell you I've had many experiences. I've seen miracles. I've been healed by the Spirit. The greatest miracles Ive witnessed is watching the hearts of people change. Many of them being good friends now.

    It's only because of my spiritual experiences that I know there is a God. If I had not learned for myself I'd still be questioning whether He was there or not. It's only through the testimony I've recieved from the Spirit that I learned that Jesus is the Christ. That He atoned and died for my sins. That the Bible and Book of Mormon are true. I'd be ignorant of these facts if not for the grace of God.

    The Lord really has blessed me alot. I only wish I was a more faithful servant.
     
  10. Anachronism
    Offline

    Anachronism BANNED

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2011
    Messages:
    2,655
    Thanks Received:
    231
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Location:
    New England
    Ratings:
    +231
    Sky,

    Here's my story. It's gonna be a little long, so please bear with me.....

    I grew up in a devoutly Lutheran home. For those not familiar with the Lutheran Churcn, it's jokingly referred to as "the back door of the Catholic Church". It's based on the teachings of Martin Luther, a 16th century German monk who felt the Catholic Church was doing some things the wrong way. He posted 95 articles that he felt were wrong with the RCC on the door of the church in Whittenburg Germany. The RCC excommunicated him and hunted him down for a number of years.

    For many years my own faith was exceptionally strong. I had the opportunity to see the Holy Spirit work in many ways in my life and in the lives of those around me and those that I saw beyond my immediate world. However, something still never really added up for me. There were too many questions. Too many things that couldn't be answered. Too many seeming inconsistancies.

    When I went away to college I started taking a much broader look at religion and spirituality in general. I met up with a number of people from a wide diversity of faiths, including many non-traditional faiths. Having taken a "Comparative Religions" class in high school I was already somewhat aware of many of these faiths, but less so about the non-traditional ones. There was a lot there that intrigued me. Espeically when you consider some of the things that I had experienced earlier in life that the church couldn't explain....

    Over the course of my life I've had any number of odd and unusual experiences. I have seen ghosts. I have see fae and other "little folk". I have had many, many mental/psychic occurances throughout my life. The church not only couldn't explain these things, but refused to even accept that they had happened. These new, non-traditional, spiritual groups had some answers for some of those things, and they actually made some sense.

    After college, I moved back home and returned to a much more active membership in the Lutheran Church. To the point where, at age 23, I was an elected officer of the church. However, those ideas and things from the other religious/spiritual paths never really left my mind.

    In 1998 I moved to Massachusetts and in with a pair of roommates who were/are ecclectic pagans. Due to some issues in the church I had been attending, I really didn't go out of my way to find a new church here in Mass. I would occasionally attend services, but mostly on Easter, Christmas, and odd times inbetween.

    That fall my father, the most truly good and faithful person I've ever known, contracted Skin Cancer. Despite his faith, and the prayers of more people than I can count, he passed away on August, 22, 2001; his 54th Birthday. That threw my entire religious/spiritual world into a tailspin. Here was the most decent person I'd ever met, struck down just as his life was starting to come together, despite all of his good works, his Faith, and the prayers of at least 6 different congregations and more individuals than I could count.

    That event sent me on a two year journey of discovery. I walked into churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, and just about every other sort of religious place of worship I could find. I spoke in person, on the phone, and via the internet with dozens of ministers, holy men, and other religious leaders from a wide variety of organized faiths. At the end of those two years I was still no closer to an answer than I was as I carried that coffin out of Grace Lutheran Church on the Saturday after my father's death.

    It was after that point in time that I started to expand my search beyond the organized religious/spiritual groups; and only after that did I come to the "realizations" that I live with as my spirituality today. I can't say that I follow a particular path. I would consider myself a "solitary, ecclectic, pagan." My viewpoint is that every different religious path out there is both Completely Right and Completely Wrong at the same time. Do I believe in God, Jesus, Buddha, Allah, Thor, Zeus, Aphrodite, The Goddes, or The Great Spirit? YES and NO at the same time. I believe they all exist; but I don't believe that any ONE of them is the ONLY path.

    In fact, I have come to believe that each and every one of us has to find our own path. A path that we can walk ourselves. It may be next to someone else's path, but it is not the same path. It doesn't necessarily come from the same place and may not go to the same place either.

    I'm sure that is absolutely no help to anyone, and that most of you think I need to be institutionalized right now; but that's my story and I'm sticking to it.
     
    • Thank You! Thank You! x 1

Share This Page