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Slow down. Take a deep breath. What’s the hurry? Why wear yourself out? Just what are you after anyway? Jeremiah 2:25 (The Message)

So I signed up for a 21-day meditation course online featuring two esteemed gurus of our culture to whom I refer collectively as “Oprah Chopra.” Got myself all ready to be decompressed, un-stressed and boldly blessed. Stoked and psyched, I was certain I was on my way to Serenity Now!

Cut to: the alternate ending. I made it all the way through… Day One. There was just too much to get done! I couldn’t justify sitting there, actively doing absolutely nothing for twenty-one days in a row. C’mon, people! Only so many hours in a day and oh so many obligations.

Did I mention that the meditation course required a commitment of only fifteen minutes per day?

Maybe it’s because I’m from New Jersey, but by default, my general tendency for most of my life has been to be in a hurry. As I’ve gotten older (and due to health issues) I have slowed down somewhat, but I see it all around me here in my home state. We walk quickly. We talk over each other in conversation. We get in the car, get on the road, and get where we’re going.

Some other cultures have figured out that life should not be on fast-forward, and they’ve slowed things down.

In Spain, businesses shut down in the middle of the afternoon to accommodate the traditional siesta, and although this practice is on the decline as modern, multi-tasking life encroaches, many still swear by that mid-day nap.

The French have made the leisurely meal into an art form. The “slow food” movement has gained a substantial following. Dinner is savored, friendships are nurtured. A glass of wine (or deux) is enjoyed. La vie est belle!

Native cultures speak of finding God in nature, of waiting for his guidance out in the woods or by the river. Time seems slower. Life seems simpler.

Why is it so hard for us to stop and smell the roses? Has it simply become the American way of doing things?

Maybe we should schedule a half hour of repose every day no matter what else is vying for our attention. It will serve to make us more productive and help us to find our center, but more important, it’s a chance to connect with God and be open to His leading. It may become a habit you won’t want to break. 

Years ago, there was an ad campaign directed at teenagers.  On the screen there was an image of an egg.  A somber voice said, “This is your brain.”  Then a pair of hands cracked the egg into a sizzling frying pan, and the voice intoned, “This is your brain on drugs.”

I think there’s a change as profound as this that happens when you find faith.  This is your soul.  This is your soul on God.  Only instead of feeling like you’re a scrambled egg in a frying pan, you feel like you’ve been put back together.  Your soul feels whole.

The thing is, there are so many people who claim to speak for God.  As we’ve seen throughout history, faith can be used as an instrument of healing, but also as a weapon of warfare.

So, how do you know which “way” is the right way?  Is there only one true religion?

On a more day-to-day level, how do you discern “God’s leading?”  For example, I’m waiting for God’s leading in terms of finding a church home, but what He seems to be saying in this case (as in so many others) is that I need to use my own best judgment.

If I’d grown up in a church (like Lori, who’s Catholic) and as I got older, found I disagreed with some of its tenets, it would be possible to find a way to change the church from within and voice my disagreements respectfully but firmly, the way Lori does.

But since I’m an adult (most of the time, anyway), I can’t bring myself to join a religion that I don’t fully agree with.  For a time, I attended Unitarian Universalist services but realized that having no creed is a problem as well.

Ideally, I’d like to create a church of my own.   As I said in a previous post, my beliefs are a hodge-podge of “the Zen Buddhist idea that we are all connected, the Native American focus on nature, and the notion that all prayer, in any tongue, reaches God,” so that’s what my church would focus on.  I’d also make it an inclusive faith that doesn’t just “tolerate” gays (and women, for that matter) and one that doesn’t regard science as the opposite of faith.

So even though I haven’t found my faith home yet, I do find spiritual sustenance in great books and prayer blogs (like this one) and my virtual network of fellow believers populate the pews in my mind.  Until then, I’ll keep my brain on positive things (so it doesn’t feel fried up and dried up) and I’ll keep my soul on God (so I’m still and serene even in the eye of a storm.)

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