I don’t remember much about my childhood. Thankfully, my mother lovingly documented it in a hunter green album. Aside from being crafty, my mother is also a skilled storyteller and throughout my adult life has attached narratives to many of the photos. Which memories are mine and which are hers are unclear, but there are two that stand out that don’t belong to a photo. They are seemingly mundane, not a holiday or a birthday or a beach vacation. I recently understood why these two memories were bookmarked in my consciousness.
The first one took place in a playground on The Upper East Side of Manhattan in the late 1970s. There was an old school flasher who wore a trench coat and hung out in the woods behind the swing set, making bird sounds. One day when this was happening, my babysitter told me to go play in another area near a sandbox. Sometime later she called my name and motioned toward the exit. Almost done with my sandcastle, I answered her in my mind that I would be there soon. She yelled louder, and I mentally repeated myself. Shaking the sand off my clothes, I looked up as she stormed towards me. On the walk home after being reprimanded, I was overwhelmed by the idea that I was alone in my head. Weren’t we all connected in one universal mind? Hello? Is anyone there? I said over and over. Even though I didn’t receive a direct answer that day, something inside me refused to accept that I was alone, I could have sworn there was someone else.
The second memory took place in Mill River, Massachusetts, where we had a weekend home. In the Fall, my father would rake leaves into enormous mounds for us to jump in. After doing a swan dive into one, I burrowed down deeper. Swallowed by the leaves, I was no longer a little girl. I felt small, but not insignificant, like a right-sized puzzle piece, part of a larger whole. The electric blue sky merged with the pile when the wind blew off the top layer. My sense of being part of the leaves expanded into being part of the entire landscape around me. The trees framing the sky, the wind blowing my hair, we were all part of each other.
These two memories were my earliest experiences of being connected to God. This is the reason they have traveled with me. I’ve had many of these moments over the past fifteen years but only recently connected the dots and embraced faith.
Faith used to occur to me like a cop-out or a weakness. Often, I hear it written off as a lack of education or scientific understanding. Our world is richer than ever in knowledge, and technological advancements and simultaneously masses of people are medicated for depression or addicted to substances to get relief from a pain they can’t name.
I believe the world is a magical place full of miracles. I believe there is a source of boundless love and wisdom that I can turn to when I suffer. I believe that suffering is just part of my curriculum. We will all transit dark nights of the soul where no human power will be able to reach us. I’ve been stuck in a few Godless realms of consciousness and never has my agony been more acute. Unconditional human love, even at its best, is limited and an unfair request to make of another.
A great teacher told me once to insert a drop of doubt into any fixed position. Rigid opinions and thoughts are symptoms of fear. We all feel safe being right like pain is avoidable if we circle our wagons and navigate smartly. The most significant shift in the past year for me has been inhabiting my faith as a daily practice. God, Allah, Jehovah, Yahweh, Higher Power, Divine Intelligence, Source, Spiritual Guidance, the name doesn’t matter, nor does the pathway, your intention is the door.
Getting closer to God has reunited me with the little girl in the two memories. She innately knew things that I’ve never been taught in schools or churches or therapist offices. We are born knowing the truth of our divine nature, getting curious is the first step of our homecoming.