Last Sunday my good friend from Colorado, whom I hadn’t seen for over two years, visited with me briefly following a 10-day workshop here in Tucson, on the subject of Evolutionary Enlightenment/Spirituality, given by Andrew Cohen. She gave me a newly published book entitled Evolutionaries, written by a relatively young writer who was a presenter at the workshop.
We have known each other since 1998 when we both lived in Denver, the initiation of our friendship taking place concerning the creation of a community building workshop based on M. Scott Peck’s model described in his book The Different Drum. We had both attended workshops presented by the Foundation for Community Encouragement, she in Denver and I in Virginia and Connecticut. Over the years we have grown and experienced our own personal spiritual evolutions, which we have shared with each other.
As I review my own growth, I find that my understanding about God has evolved to the point that I no longer have a ‘personal’ god. Instead, if one needs to be ‘labeled’ I currently would be classified as a panentheist; one who perceives god as the life in everything – Native Americans view it as the Great Mystery or the Great Spirit. I no longer carry the Christian beliefs that I was brought up with, and have discarded them over time.
These days when people are asked about their religion, more and more are responding that they are ‘spiritual’, not religious. This ‘spiritual’ group is growing larger throughout the United States, and is being included in the general category of Religion: NONE. And they are also being included under the umbrella of atheism, secular humanism, agnosticism, etc. Many are members of the Unitarian Universalist Church, where they can feel free with their non-belief, and connect with others of like mind. (I have an aversion to this group being labeled a ‘church’, however.)
Recently I have begun to explore the Religion: NONE groups in Tucson through meetups that take place on a regular basis. So far I’ve attended three such meetups, one purely social and the other two with discussion formats. I’ve been looking for a place where I can be myself, without judgment, and I feel that these groups have been a good place to start. I’m still exploring, and learning, and reading – educating myself to become more articulate about my ‘place’ in the world.
When I was in Deming, NM over Christmas our RV club had a very nice dinner that was preceded by an ordained club member giving the ‘blessing’. I found myself annoyed with the Christian focus, and noticed that a couple of my friends and a guest also were disturbed by the words spoken. In such a diverse group of people, Christian expression is not necessarily appropriate. Yes, it was Christmas, but the gathering was for fellowship with other travelers who were not necessarily of the Christian faith, but who desired to be with others for the companionship of the day.
So now I find myself feeling less alienated from ‘the world’ by being with the other NONEs I’ve met with. For most of my life I have felt that I am really very different, not just unique as we all are in own ways, but really very different, to the point of becoming isolated, and not wanting to engage with the general population. While there may be those who would say that I’m the one separating myself from others, I would reply that I have the right to choose the place where I feel comfortable and accepted as I am, with non-traditional and unconventional thoughts and behaviors. And I honestly feel that I am finally realizing who I really am.