Reclaiming God

My disillusionment with the Catholic Church set in as a child and culminated when I stopped going to church as a teen. The Church posed a number of problems in my mind, but I especially developed an aversion to anything "God”. The image of a gray-bearded father figure looking down from up above just didn’t work for me. Despite trying, I could not reconcile the dependency that this separateness evoked. I was a disempowered soul, trapped in a victim state. And I was far from being alone. Speaking to my former Catholic school friends, almost all have given up on the faith they were born into, remaining religious by technicality only. As the Church continues to trot along its traditional path, many are seeking alternatives in this globalized world of religious choice. Between those who have given up on religion and those who attack others for having different religious preferences, religiosity is taking a hit at a time when the world needs more harmony. That harmony can come just from looking at God in a different way.

"I am that I am” (Exodus 3:14-15) God declared to Moses at the burning bush when asked its name. This statement reveals God’s absoluteness — the source of all that exists, the creator and all of creation. Christianity openly talks about the Holy Trinity that consists of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit as one unified whole. Doesn’t look like there should be any separation based on either of those examples. The Holy Spirit is anywhere and everywhere all at once. Yet, Christianity is rarely sold that way. Other monotheistic religions run into similar problems. The Gods have been neatly packaged and marketed like shiny new cars looking out from a showroom window. Buy God, praise the Lord. Allah, Yahweh, Krishna. How difficult the decision can be in the spiritual shopping spree. The focus becomes "God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth” or on one of its many protector names (Jehovah-Jireh — The Lord our Provider, Jehovah-Rohi — The Lord our Shepherd) that continue to propagate the subservient father-son role. It’s no wonder so many people are getting turned off by God and don’t bother practicing religion. Hyper-individualist tendencies dictate westerners’ decision-making and fuel a longing for individual self-determination. Capitalism, the dominant global paradigm, is founded on the belief of this freedom of choice.

One of the things consumerism taught me is that I always have a choice. Lots and lots of them. Post-disillusionment with R.C, years of atheism and spirited searching ensued until I began associating with the Buddhist path, a nontheistic spiritual tradition in which God is not talked about. Finally, a path that made sense to me and didn’t force me to believe in a god. Contemplating the Buddhist concept of "interbeing” nature (similar to interconnectedness or non-duality), I began to see the essence of the One aside from the standard definition that all living beings are made up of all other living beings. We are not just One with the tree in front of us or the apple we’re eating, Oneness contains all that is in the world. That Oneness is God. Since we inter-exist with all life in the universe, we create life just by our very presence. Walking down the street, we breathe life giving air to our neighbours’ plants — we are "creator beings” in everything we do, from conception to writing music. We also are creations ourselves, from our human birth to the feeling of joy we get from a child smiling at us. To truly celebrate our creator spirit and ourselves as wonderful creations, we have to love life. Praise it. Bless it. Value it for all its wonder.

I touched into God’s true meaning recently when a friend re-introduced me to the yogic practice of kirtan (call and response mantra chanting) almost a decade after I was first exposed to it. The first time around I was repelled both by chanting God’s names and the emphasis that the Bhagavad Gita places on God. After only a few sessions, my time doing Bhakti Yoga ended. This time around things were different. Overlooking Boulder, Colorado from its mountaintop perch is the Starhouse, a sacred- geometrically designed building that hosts occasional kirtans. On this particularly starry autumn night I truly felt a communion with God. The six-piece ensemble drummed and thrummed out a solid rhythm that myself and the 80 others in attendance chanted the names of God to for three hours straight. We generated so much spiritual substance (the invisible medium that connects our physical earthly form and our divine identity, acting as a channel for us to experience spirit) by repetitively chanting the names of God over and over again until we were soaked with the collective spirit of Oneness. Amplified by the interchangeable names of God, Krishna and Allah, we seamlessly traversed languages and religions through the constant of Oneness. That night we connected not as human individuals simply coming together at an event, but as divine individuals bonded through a super conscious awareness of who we truly are, not who we think we are or who we portray ourselves as being without knowing who we really are. Falsity simply faded away for those three hours of perfection. In praising God’s name, we realized a complete love of our true Self and all life on Earth. We realized our Oneness. We realized the true nature of God.

By praising God, we are praising ourselves, our life and radiating out love. Even if one sees their religion as being completely inadequate, there is at least this one aspect of God that can be related to without having to be "religious.” God is just a word for the more easily digestible concept of Oneness. The journey of Oneness that we metaphysically travel with our brothers and sisters every time we praise God is what really matters. It allows us to connect. It gives us an opportunity to relate to others by using the word rather than rejecting it or thinking that one religion’s God is better than another. Like shopping in big box megashops, one can get paralyzed with choice in the spiritual shopping mall. That is, if one sees many choices. The other option: just see the One.

Kevin Bottero publishes a journal of engaged living named The Mindful Word.

Published by Kiva Bottero

Kiva Bottero publishes The Mindful Word, a journal of engaged living and mindfulness. Working with a collective of individuals who are committed to creating a culture of engaged living, he also hosts events and engaged-spirituality initiatives.