Thursday, June 7, 2012

Spiritual ADD

So, about the title of this blog - Shiny Thoughts...

What medical science refers to as ADD is not just a designation - it's something I seem to be imbued with, from the inside-out and back again. Sometimes I take exception though, to the words, "Attention Deficit Disorder". First, I don't think it's a disorder... it's too much in the norm, too prevalent, to be something, "wrong"; and really, speaking for myself (the only person I truly can speak for), I don't have a deficit of attention... I have a bounty of it, and it reaches out in multiple directions, sometimes all at once. This does not seem to me to be a lack of focus, but rather an abundance of it... the (ability? Impulse? compulsion?) to send it forth in many directions simultaneously. Meanwhile, the fact that I have it - and that it is evident in my spiritual as well as mental makeup - is undeniable. Indisputable as well is that, argue against it though I may, sometimes this overabundance of focus makes it difficult to attend to only one thing at a time. Read: I'm not good at being single-minded.


Sri Ramakrishna, a Hindu saint (or teacher, monk, divine incarnation - it depends upon whom you ask and, well, what path they're on), said, "as many faiths, so many paths". He described the spiritual goal as the summit of a mountain, pointing out that there are many paths that lead up a mountain and each will take you to the summit. Another way he put it, was...

“God has made different religions to suit different aspirants, times, and countries.  All doctrines are only so many paths; but a path is by no means God Himself.  Indeed, one can reach God if one follows any of the paths with wholehearted devotion. One may eat a cake with icing either straight or sidewise. It will taste sweet either way.” 

My particular challenge has been devotion to a single path. As I've said before, I have tried several of them, some more than once. The common thread has been that I started up the mountain when I was young, and I'm still hiking. There's Someone at the top, and I'm being called to come closer, to keep walking, to reach upward.

I believe I do have "wholehearted devotion" to God - that has been inherent in me since I can remember, irregardless of what name I was calling Him by. But there is another piece to that phrase, another facet or a qualifier, if you will, that I hadn't truly understood: "if one follows any of the paths with wholehearted devotion...". Not ALL the paths, or even some of the paths, and not with only part of your devotion: one path, with all your devotion on that one path, brings you closer to the goal.

My father tried to impart this to me many years ago; he was concerned that I was trying to follow too many paths, or wandering from one to another, and getting distracted away from the goal. I argued that no, it was ALL part of the same path, the Path to God... but I had missed the point. I do believe firmly that many paths are valid... each trail does lead up the mountain... but if you keep shifting from one path to another, THAT becomes your journey - the Exploration of Paths. It is perhaps not a bad journey in and of itself, and to be enjoyed - If you keep walking, and your end goal is to reach the summit, you're likely to get there eventually - but at some point, I realized that I needed to choose one path that feels best, and stay on it!

Aha! Epiphany.

In being baptized, I have chosen the path that I feel is best suited to me (or I to it), and that I am most likely to stay on, in my quest for God.  And it's working. This past year has brought me closer to God than I've ever felt. Embracing the church community has also enriched me in ways hoped for but not expected. Having a single focus has somehow expanded my life.

So if I seem hyper-focused or preoccupied with my life as a Christian, and if everything I do seems to lead back to that as the central aspect of my life, I'm OK with that; perhaps it's just my DAA, my Directed Abundance of Attention, finally kicking in! /6/7/12

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Welcomed Into Baptism

So, this is where the Journey has brought me thus far: tonight I will be Baptized into the Episcopal Church. Given all the divergent expressions of Christian faith, why this specific path? I can sum it up in five words - the five words on the banner I have noticed lately in every town or city I've passed through where a representative of this denomination resides: The Episcopal Church Welcomes You.

A simple collection of words, easily seen perhaps as a marketing catchphrase (and they do like putting it in red)... what I learned from my first foray into this a year ago, and see every time I come in contact with them, is that for Episcopalians - at least those I have encountered - this is a statement of Faith-in-practice. I have found this to be true when I went to services recently in Las Vegas, last summer in the little town of Gunnison, Colorado and in the Episcopal churches I have visited here in Berkeley... most especially, of course, at All Souls Parish which has become our home congregation. I have spoken a bit about why I came to the practice of (admittedly liberal) Christianity... this practice of welcome is why I chose Episcopalianism, and All Souls in particular.

When I first looked into Episcopal worship in our area, I saw the Welcome banners and wondered whether they meant what they said. When I sat for a small weekday service in All Souls, I wasn't sure how or whether it would differ from churches of other faiths I'd been to here and there in my life.  I first went in to look at the church itself, and then sat in the little downstairs chapel where a small noon service was going to be held, looking through a Book of Common Prayer. This is from my journal that day, March 31, 2011: