It seems I have an issue with organized faith. I hadn’t noticed it until I moved to Illinois. At the end of last summer, I was in an appalling state of mind and being, and I knew once I left Florida, I wanted to dedicate myself more earnestly to a Buddhist practice. To move away from being only a reader of Buddhist philosophy, and become a practicioner. When I labeled myself anything, I labeled myself buddhist, but I followed no rituals.
Before leaving, I started researching buddhist groups in Springfield, and found a Zen meditation group that met at the local Unitarian church. The Zen group had a link on their website to the Unitarian church, and when I followed it, I found myself intrigued by some of the upcoming sermons. The one I still remember was called, “The Spirituality of Walt Whitman.”
My first Saturday in town, I drove to the church to sit with the Zen group. We meditated for an hour or so, then one of the members read an excerpt from a book about meditation. It was an enjoyable experience, and the people were nice enough, but I haven’t been back (yet). Mostly because I started working jobs that required me to work Saturday mornings. But also because I find whenever I add others to my spiritual practice, it adds a dynamic that I’m not always interested in repeating. I’m not sure how to explain this dynamic–perhaps it’s the idea that when others are around, there is an effort to verbalize and discuss an experience that–for me–is intrinsically nonverbal. When I meditate alone, once I finish, I reenter the dynamics of the household, without any discussion of my meditation. I experience it, then continue on to other things with an effort to keep that calmness with me, and with no compulsion to put words to it.
I’ve been thinking about this because I still haven’t brought myself to attend a sermon at the Unitarian church. Though so many of them sound interesting, the idea of gathering with others to listen to someone preach repels me. Considering a Unitarian church is one that celebrates all faiths, I don’t think their sermons would be like the ones I’ve experienced in the past. I’m sure I’m projecting old baggage on to new possibilities. I must say that whenever I’m out walking Pepper on a Sunday morning, and I see people dressed up and likely heading to church, I think to myself that if there is a god, and he created this whole world, I’d rather be out walking in it, breathing it in, seeing it, experiencing it, than sitting in a church listening to someone lecture me about god.
Of course, for many church is about fellowship. A time to get together with friends who share a common belief. I find myself interested in finding artists to befriend, readers, and writers too, but I stop short at the faith community. It doesn’t connect with me in the same way. However, this may change. What spurred this post was seeing an advertisement for next week’s sermon. It’s called “The Gospel of John, Paul, George, and Ringo.” Now, anyone who knows me knows I love the Beatles, so this may be enough to lure me in for the morning. I also noticed the church has several interesting groups and committees: the Green Sanctuary Committee, the Social Action Committee, the Flute Circle (I’d love to learn the Native American flute!), the Humanist Discussion Group, the News Covenant Group, and a Meditation Group. I’d be interested in checking out any of these groups.
Now it’s just a matter of discarding the baggage that makes me leery of organized faith.