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Beyond Belief

I’ve been asked by many, “What are you?” And what they mean by this is, what do I believe, be it my religion, denomination affiliation, theology, philosophy, or doctrine. The question attempts to somehow connect my identity, who I am, with what I believe. A few years ago, I had no problem answering this, but after changing my mind about nearly everything I once believed to be true, this has become one of my least favorite questions to answer. To me, the question really doesn’t make sense anymore, and I find it phenomenally restrictive, tremendously confusing, and utterly pointless.

I don’t fit into any one specific belief structure, doctrine, creed, group, or religion. I don’t feel the need to label, categorize, or define myself anymore by what I believe. I think who I am is beyond what I believe. My beliefs are constantly changing and reshaping, especially in recent years. Every time I think I have it all figured out, I end up fooling myself. I’ve given up on the “I’m right, you’re wrong” game (us versus them mentality). I find it completely meaningless and comical now. I’ve come to realize that the space between what I know or what I think I know, compared to everything there is to know, is too large to compare.

So, I’ve decided to embrace mystery and let go of certainty. I’ve decided to prioritize mystical experience over fundamentalist dogma. And surprisingly, I have found more peace in the unknown than any kind of certitude. Lately, instead of spending time in my headspace trying to figure God out and obtain “correct theology,” I’ve been spending time in my heart space in meditation, experiencing states of transcendence: ineffable bliss, peace that surpasses all understanding, and a sense of profound oneness with everything. I think one of the reasons I like meditation so much is because it’s remarkably transformative and experiential, and it requires no particular belief structure or dogma. It’s wide open.

While I currently consider myself to be somewhat rooted in Mystical Christianity, I have gleaned heavily from Advaita Vedanta, Mahayana Buddhism (Zen), Sufism, Taoism, and Kriya Yoga. Jesus is dear to my heart, especially because of my Christian upbringing, and I believe there was no one like him to ever walk the earth, but I’ve also learned a lot from the Buddha, Lao Tzu, Rumi, Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta Maharaj, Neem Karoli Baba, Paramahansa Yogananda, Ram Dass, Thich Nhat Hanh, and many more. I try to read the Upanishads daily, and I keep a copy of the Tao Te Ching on my desk. When I’m having a bad day, I’ll go straight to Rumi’s Big Red Book, and something within me lights up. Other times, I’ll go to a Catholic monastery or a church and allow the magnificent structures, the iconography, the stained glass windows, the bells, and the smells of the experience to bring me into a state of sacred stillness. Here, I find that the attempts to understand the divine mystery cease, and the divine mystery suddenly begins to understand me. It’s hard to describe.

I also love quantum physics, neuroscience, ancient mythology, sacred geometry, and psychology. Carl Jung has had a significant impact on me. His work on the collective unconscious, the shadow, synchronicities, dreams, archetypes, and symbols has given me a profound understanding of the mind, the ego, the persona, and the true self. I like reading and studying Transpersonal psychology and the nature of consciousness. To be honest, consciousness is what fascinates me the most right now. I think it’s everything and far beyond what we’ve imagined. The integral theory from Ken Wilber has changed my life. I find his understanding of consciousness to be fascinating! Wilber often says “transcend and include” concerning spiritual awakening/development and the evolution of consciousness, which I have found to be the theme of my spiritual journey. Through Wilber’s work, I have discovered that the truth of who I am not only transcends what I believe but also my body and my mind. I am what’s aware of my body and mind. Pure awareness, pure consciousness. Formless, infinite, and eternal. One with God.

The works of Joseph Campbell, particularly the book The Power of Myth, have led me to see God not as a distant mega being in the clouds who is a man with white hair. No, I now see God as not a being but the ground of all being. Being itself. Infinite Being. That which gives life, being, and existence to all. And honestly, using the word “God” doesn’t really sit well with me anymore. I’ve learned that the word God is just a metaphor for The Ultimate, The Source of All Life, that which is beyond the conceptualization of the finite mind. Campbell said, “God is a metaphor for that which transcends all levels of intellectual thought. It's as simple as that.” While each tradition has different names, imagery, and symbols for God (Ultimate Reality), none of the names, imagery, and symbols fully grasp that which transcends all things. The names, imagery, and symbols we’ve created are simply “the finger pointing to the moon” (as they say in Zen Buddhism), but not the moon.

I find the Perennial Tradition interesting and intriguing. I think the Ultimate Truth (or God) not only transcends the finite mind but is also within everyone and everything, which would include every tradition. I believe that the Ultimate Truth is love. I believe love is what we are at the core, and I believe it is the divine energy that holds all things together as one. I believe the essence of spirituality is a transformative journey toward a deeper connection with the divine, self-realization, and embracing a universal love that transcends judgment, separateness, and the dividing walls we’ve created in the name of faith.

So, with all of that being said, to attempt to label me under the umbrella of a single and specific religion, doctrine, philosophy, or theology simply doesn’t work. It just gives you the opportunity to label, categorize, and judge me, leading to more division instead of unity.

There’s an old song called “Don’t Fence Me In,” and when I listen to it, it really resonates with my heart's cry. Don’t fence me in. It will be a complete waste of time. I am not what I believe; I am much more! I am what I am, and that’s all I’ll ever be. Nisargadatta Maharaj said, “Love says 'I am everything. ' Wisdom says 'I am nothing. ' Between the two, my life flows.” That’s hits home for me.

If this post offends you or triggers you in any way, and you feel inclined to persuade or convert me to your belief structure or bring me back into some form of Christian fundamentalism, and you feel as though you are doing this “out of love,” consider the following quote by Thomas Merton: “The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”

So, please, don’t fence me in.


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