My Winding Spiritual Journey

 

by Rembrandt

When we relate a story about our past, it’s easy to fall into a pattern of viewing that memory through the same lens, with the same high points, low points, and final outcomes. Recently I realized my journey to a deeper spirituality (which was really a story about relating to G-d) had taken on a richer and more vibrant meaning than I’d even realized. That’s what this updated post is about.

At first glance, it probably looks like I couldn’t make up my mind about what I wanted to be when I finally became a serious faith practitioner. I’d grown up in a nearly secular Jewish home, where my parents had little connection to Judaism and made a half-hearted effort to expose me to my roots. I don’t think they had the religious understanding to do more than send me to Hebrew school and Saturday school. I also chose to go to Israel in my junior year to study at Tel Aviv University. I was mainly curious, realizing how little I knew about my heritage or the state of Israel.

Still, my background didn’t stay with me very well; I married a non-Jew, for one. Although in my twenties I experimented in creating my own Jewish practice, I could never figure out how to do so in a meaningful and helpful way. So, I just stopped practicing.

Then I came across Zen Buddhism, which has little doctrine and few demands. Its main focus was on meditation, and although it didn’t include G-d, it did not exclude believing in G-d. I liked a great deal about Zen. Its tenets were practical; it provided extensive one-week meditation retreats (meditating 6-8 hours per day). The irony of practicing Zen is that although it didn’t address G-d, my meditation practice deepened my relationship with G-d. After practicing Zen for 20 years, my belief in G-d was more grounded than ever.

But Zen was not where I was to finally land. In fact, it seemed that, in spite of my intensive involvement with Zen, in a sense, I felt it had kicked me out. I had a falling out with my teacher. I couldn’t find a community in Florida where I felt I could practice. And then it became more and more obvious that Zen had become politicized as a Leftist organization. I saw that coming and for years tried to ignore the obvious, but I couldn’t deny it any longer.

And then you could say, when I left Zen, G-d showed up.

He showed up primarily in the form of friends—Ricochet friends. Those friends not only encouraged me without pressure to re-explore my roots, but showed no judgment toward my uncertainty, floundering, and questions. They shared resources for me to explore and people with whom I could connect. They invited me into their homes to meet their families, to spend sacred time, in a loving, caring environment. I have two Torah study partners and was invited to co-author articles and books (@iwe, I’m looking at you!)

And although I have my life struggles, I know I am never alone.

I know that I’ve found my home.

Published in Group Writing
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  1. Mark Alexander Coolidge
    Mark Alexander
    @MarkAlexander

    “You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore until you decide to be happy.”

    • #1
  2. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Mark Alexander (View Comment):

    “You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore until you decide to be happy.”

    Isn’t she amazing? Especially the timing because my cancer journey is so small compared to hers! And the statement is so very true for me. Thanks, Mark.

    • #2
  3. Mark Alexander Coolidge
    Mark Alexander
    @MarkAlexander

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Mark Alexander (View Comment):

    “You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore until you decide to be happy.”

    Isn’t she amazing? Especially the timing because my cancer journey is so small compared to hers! And the statement is so very true for me. Thanks, Mark.

    “It’s important that everyone knows that I’m so much more than the bad things that happen to me.”

    • #3
  4. Samuel Block Support
    Samuel Block
    @SamuelBlock

    Susan Quinn: And then it became more and more obvious that Zen had become politicized as a Leftist organization. I saw that coming and for years tried to ignore the obvious, but I couldn’t deny it any longer.

    Oooooh. If you’re looking for a subject on a future post, I’d be fascinated to read more about this. 

    I never got too far into it, I like to say I “dabbled.” 

    • #4
  5. Postmodern Hoplite Coolidge
    Postmodern Hoplite
    @PostmodernHoplite

    Wonderful post, @susanquinn – thank you for sharing this. I recommend this post strongly for promotion to the Main Feed, as being a great example of the breadth of Ricochet’s content. (@roblong – Insert shameless plug for membership here…well, maybe not. Perhaps @jameslileks ought to do it?)

    • #5
  6. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Samuel Block (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: And then it became more and more obvious that Zen had become politicized as a Leftist organization. I saw that coming and for years tried to ignore the obvious, but I couldn’t deny it any longer.

    Oooooh. If you’re looking for a subject on a future post, I’d be fascinated to read more about this.

    I never got too far into it, I like to say I “dabbled.”

    What would you like to know, Samuel? How it came politicized? It was probably always Leftist, but wasn’t so blatant. In the community where I practiced, we could carefully talk about our differences (I was the only one on the Right). But then the Buddhist publications were heavy on the Leftist issues–LGBTQ, trans, guns–and I’d had enough. But if there’s something more you’d like to know–unless you’re asking about the Zen practice particularly. My gosh, maybe I should have just let you clarify!

    • #6
  7. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Postmodern Hoplite (View Comment):

    Wonderful post, @ susanquinn – thank you for sharing this. I recommend this post strongly for promotion to the Main Feed, as being a great example of the breadth of Ricochet’s content. (@ roblong – Insert shameless plug for membership here…well, maybe not. Perhaps @cliffordbrown‘s invitation, I thought it would be good to revisit the topic.

    • #7
  8. Samuel Block Support
    Samuel Block
    @SamuelBlock

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Samuel Block (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: And then it became more and more obvious that Zen had become politicized as a Leftist organization. I saw that coming and for years tried to ignore the obvious, but I couldn’t deny it any longer.

    Oooooh. If you’re looking for a subject on a future post, I’d be fascinated to read more about this.

    I never got too far into it, I like to say I “dabbled.”

    What would you like to know, Samuel? How it came politicized? It was probably always Leftist, but wasn’t so blatant. In the community where I practiced, we could carefully talk about our differences (I was the only one on the Right). But then the Buddhist publications were heavy on the Leftist issues–LGBTQ, trans, guns–and I’d had enough. But if there’s something more you’d like to know–unless you’re asking about the Zen practice particularly. My gosh, maybe I should have just let you clarify!

    No, I think you just about got it. (And here I was trying to give you homework ;) 

    It was mostly Alan Watts that I’ve paid attention to. I didn’t really get the sense that he was terribly political, but I suppose whether people like him or not, he was probably one of a kind. 

    • #8
  9. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Remember: no matter where you go… there you are.

    — Buckaroo Banzai 

    • #9
  10. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Samuel Block (View Comment):
    It was mostly Alan Watts that I’ve paid attention to. I didn’t really get the sense that he was terribly political, but I suppose whether people like him or not, he was probably one of a kind. 

    My big issue with Alan Watts (and he was brilliant) was that he didn’t think meditation was all that important. I radically differed with him on that, based on my own experience.

    • #10
  11. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Susan Quinn: I know that I’ve found my home.

    Great!  Our home needs vacuuming . . .

    • #11
  12. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    Spiritual or physical, share your own journey with Ricochet readers. Stop by and sign up now for June’s theme: “Journeys.”

    There are two major monthly Group Writing projects. One is the Quote of the Day project, now managed by @she. This is the other project, in which Ricochet members claim a day of the month to write on a proposed theme. This is an easy way to expose your writing to a general audience, with a bit of accountability and topical guidance to encourage writing for its own sake.

    Interested in Group Writing topics that came before? See the handy compendium of monthly themes. Check out links in the Group Writing Group. You can also join the group to get a notification when a new monthly theme is posted.

    • #12
  13. Rōnin Coolidge
    Rōnin
    @Ronin

    Susan Quinn:

    Then I came across Zen Buddhism, which has little doctrine and few demands. Its main focus was on meditation, and although it didn’t include G-d, it did not exclude believing in G-d. I liked a great deal about Zen. Its tenets were practical; it provided extensive one-week meditation retreats (meditating 6-8 hours per day). The irony of practicing Zen is that although it didn’t address G-d, my meditation practice deepened my relationship with G-d. After practicing Zen for 20 years, my belief in G-d was more grounded than ever.

    But Zen was not where I was to finally land. In fact, it seemed that, in spite of my intensive involvement with Zen, in a sense, I felt it had kicked me out. I had a falling out with my teacher. I couldn’t find a community in Florida where I felt I could practice. And then it became more and more obvious that Zen had become politicized as a Leftist organization. I saw that coming and for years tried to ignore the obvious, but I couldn’t deny it any longer.

    It’s funny, Japanese Zen fit well the way of life of the samurai warrior (confronting death without fear, and acting in a spontaneous and intuitive way).  The left ruins everything they touch.

    • #13
  14. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Thank you for sharing.

    • #14