Sunday, 22 April 2018

Freeing the word God


When I first moved to Donegal I couldn't drive. I had chosen a very rural location right by the roaring Atlantic because I wanted to be as far away from the disappointing Masters degree I had left and the chaos of the city as possible.

Being so rural limited my transportation options considerably, yet a few times a day the Lough Swilly bus passed by my door enabling me to either go to Falcarragh or Dungloe and back again.

I got the bus once a week to do my shopping. It was old and cold, and quite fumey. Inside were the smells of the older people who rode along with me - germolene, sudocreme and tcp. These people were warm and full of craic, and I loved how every single time we passed especially beautiful scenes they would point and say, 'Galanta'. Beautiful.

One phrase I noticed over and over was 'Oh mo Dhia', which I guessed meant Oh my God. I listened and delighted at how many times this was said, my limited Irish language skills keeping exact details of the stories inaccessible. OMG became a wee anchor in a sea of indecipherable chatter.

The tone of how Oh mo Dhia was said was always the same - full of soft compassion and clarity. It actually felt like an invocation, and a relationship with an actual God. It really struck me how healing and genuine it was, and I remember so wanting some of that connection.

Those years of retreat by the sea healed me enormously, and prepared me for the years of intensive meditation retreat that followed. The bus trips have flooded back into my memory recently as I have been exploring my own relationship with the word 'God', and getting more clarity on who or what my God actually is. So much damage has been done to it, and it feels so tainted at times I just want to forget all about it. Yet, it comes back, wanting to be healed, wanting to not produce a reaction in me when I hear 'that' word.

I experienced a very science-based education, in Catholic convent schools, living in a violently divided Christian Protestant/Catholic society. Is it any wonder I have been confused?

The scientific, religious and societal education was as reductionist and divisive as it gets - limiting everything to right and wrong, good or bad, liberation and damnation, smart and stupid.

On the one hand God was a white man with a lightning bolt who punished us for our sins, and the best we could hope for was to eventually 'get it' by being saved. Then He and all the other saved ones would be our best friends and we would be safe.

On the other hand the whole concept of God was a ludicrous fiction created by human machines who were basically just stupid and hadn't 'got it' yet that everything is just a giant machine and essentially meaningless. When we figured all that out intellectually we would have access to a gang of superior smarties to hang out with and then we would be safe.

Add to that the parent I lived with was a communist, who believed that God was actually the devil, and a tool of the rich to oppress the poor and righteous people...

Yes, things were weird. And no one seemed particularly happy.

So here I am today. I meditate and practice yoga every day, and have done for many years. I dedicate myself to compassion and awareness. I want my life to be helpful, and I know that what has helped me heal from all the violence I experienced in childhood is my ability to surrender to a higher intelligence, whatever that may be. 

For a long time it has been unnecessary to name my God, and part of me does still feel that it isn't helpful. What has been clearly helpful though is to release the web of inherited beliefs and opinions that are standing in the way of the only thing that has ever really helped me.

As I release what God is not, everything that's left behind is My God, and I do hope that one day I can reclaim the word as completely as many of my favourite spiritual teachers have.

Right now my God is manifest in my ability to Love my experience, myself and others whether what is happening is pleasant, unpleasant or neutral.

My God is Heaven and Earth - when I am clear and my head is high above the water, and when I am deeply grounded and moving through change.

My God is alive and active all the time, whether I am aware of it or not, and sometimes remembering that brings me back to God... 

My God is Love. My God loves me as I am, and doesn't need me to be saved. I am already perfect. There's just some stuff standing in the way, that I can, through time, remove.

My God is in science, in my biology, and is the function of my calming, insight and healing.

In mindfulness terms, my God is the part of me saying 'everything is ok'. It is when I come out of the fight/flight/freeze mode and into the rest and digest mode. 

My God is the motivation in me to respond compassionately and set myself and any difficult others in my life free from condemnation.

Yes, this is my God. My God takes the words sinner, stupid and evil  into itself and transforms them into beauty, light and wholeness. My God is a force of nature, and therefore genderless - calling my God he or even she limits and reduces the vastness of it all.

My God wants me to be happy, delighted, safe and successful. And by stating all this I am feeling better about the word 'God' already...