I thought I wanted to talk about God.
I've done my share of Tea Bag Praying - praying only when I'm in hot water - but for the most part God didn't play much of an active role in my life.
And then I got sober, and all the talk about a Higher Power got me thinking: what does God mean to me?
People would talk about their Higher Power, and it didn't scare me or produce any feelings of cynicism. What I mostly felt was curiosity. I would hear people talk about their Higher Power like a good friend or loving parent, and I would wonder how do they DO that? How do they just talk to their Higher Power like he is on the other end of some divine telephone line?
So I tried to let go of any pre-conceived notions I had of God. It only sort of worked, partly because I couldn't lose a ritualistic feeling around prayer. I would kneel to pray and I would spend the whole time wondering if I was doing it right. Was I fervent enough? Was I allowed to do this if I wasn't sure about my feelings about God?
I've been reading a lot of texts about Buddhism, and I'm really drawn to it. Buddhism, to me, revolves around acceptance, compassion and nurturing an ability to live in the moment, to accept what life dishes your way instead of trying to control or alter reality.
What I learn in my program of recovery and through Buddhist teachings helps me understand that what I crave is spirituality, as opposed to religion. I bristle at the dogma of religion, the idea that there is a right way and a wrong way to communicate with God. I've never been comfortable with the notion of Heaven or Hell - to me it has always placed pressure on doing it right, like I won't be allowed entry into the afterlife if I don't follow a certain set of rules.
I heard this expression, which is somewhat tongue-in-cheek but rang true for me: religion is for people who don't want to go to Hell, and spirituality is for people who have been to Hell and are looking for a way out of it.
I pray all the time. I don't worry about who I'm praying to anymore. It doesn't matter, really. I give my will over to a kind of Divine Spirit, having faith that life isn't about a blueprint of right or wrong, that life is about millions of moments, and inside each moment is an opportunity to commune with compassion and love.
And you know what? It works. I focus my energies away from self, away from Ego. When I pray, I don't pray for outcomes as much as energies. I pray for guidance to do the next right thing. I pray for compassion, gratitude and enthusiam. Most importantly, to me, I pray for acceptance. When I'm trying to bend the world to suit my needs, I'm moving away from compassion, away from love, away from the Divine.
Now, I believe this to be true: the world gives you back exactly what you put into it.
If I'm putting negativity, pain and anger into the world, that is what I will receive in return. If I'm putting compassion, light and love into the world, then I'm getting compassion, light and love back.
I may not fully understand how I feel about God, and that's okay. What I do know, now, is that I believe. I believe in the energies that flow around and through us all.
Edited to add: I would really love to hear from you. If you have thoughts about all this, please share. I promise I'm not grubbing for comments -- I'm truly curious to hear other persepectives on this - it helps me to learn more.