Believing Everything

November 13, 2009

A woman called the other day and lost no time in asking me if I believed in God.  Grieving people get right to the point.  Loss strips us of trivial concerns and exposes what really matters.

This is a person who has spent her entire adult life advocating for the poor, fighting for water rights in the high desert of rural New Mexico, a dedicated activist, an unsentimental realist.  She grew up Catholic, and frankly considered religion to be “silly.”

But the love of her life died of a brain aneurism a few weeks ago and suddenly she is thinking about the world of Spirit.  She desperately wants her beloved to still exist somewhere.  She wants to know that she will see him again someday.

I had to answer honestly.  I do and I do not believe in God.  I have trouble affirming the existence of a personified deity who manipulates the strings of our lives, doling out punishments and rewards, blessing certain people with happy relationships while others languish in loneliness, taking the lives of beloved teenagers in car crashes and quickening unwanted pregnancies in others.

But I believe in the Sacred.  I believe because I am a pragmatist and I have experienced the Sacred permeating my own life, the beauty of the natural world, and every one of my relationships, for as long as I can remember.  I know holiness as a fact in every cell of my body, in the deep quiet I have experienced in meditation, in the rush of ecstasy that comes when I chant the names of God, in the Light that has inexplicably poured into my shattered heart.  I believe in the Mystery.

That is what I told the woman on the phone.

“What do you think happens to our loved ones when they die?”  This is what she really wanted to know.

I could only share with her what came to me when Jenny died (and has remained with me since).  I took turns believing everything I had ever heard or imagined about life after death.

1)    That our loved ones cease to exist.  I rejected this.  I had been too drenched in spirit to buy into cynicism in the wake of tragedy.

2)    That their spirit merges with the infinite source, like a drop of water returning to the boundless sea from which it came.  This felt right to me: a liberation from the prison of the individual self, a dissolving into all that is, which I intuit to be Pure Love.

3)     That something of the essence of the being remains, and we have access to it, that the spirit of our loved one is available to guide us.  I began to experience the paradox that my child had become my ancestor.  As many wondrous and successful things began to unfold in my life after my daughter’s death, I couldn’t help but see her hand in them, and I still do.

4)     That the spirit lingers for a while in an in-between realm, and then reincarnates, to continue the journey of the soul toward full awakening.  I could easily imagine Jenny reborn as a yet another colorful, juicy character with a new bag of tricks with which to charm the world.

We are conditioned to believe one thing in favor of another.  Especially in Western culture, with our Aristotelian legacy that insists on the Law of the Excluded Middle, we feel that we do not have a right to hold two seemingly contradictory propositions at the same time: she has merged with all that is; she is my guardian angel.

But in shattering our hearts, grief also expands our entire being, including our minds, and makes room for everything: unbearable sorrow and profound exaltation; unshakable doubt and crippling faith; a letting go of the physical particularity of the person we loved and an embracing of a new metaphysical relationship that is dynamic and – yes — very much alive.

2 Responses to “Believing Everything”

  1. Mirabai,
    your writings open my heart.
    I feel blessed to have you as my dear friend
    treasure yourself

    • Thank you, O. Your words are a refuge in the dark. It’s good to be heard. & I know you know the breath of the Mystery on your own face. Thinking of you with gratitude during this season of giving thanks.

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