I don’t attend church on Sunday and I don’t consider myself a religious person.Â I grew up Catholic and worshiped God because I feared if I didn’t, I would be condemned to a fiery existence in the after life.Â It didn’t make sense to me that a being who created and allowed everything would judge and condemn me for experiencing it.
I learned in 8th grade private school that these questions, and most natural, human thoughts, were sinful and was sentenced to confession for having them.Â The idea that God was a jealous God seemed ludicrous and moreover, how did humans know this?Â I didn’t know why we had to give money to a being who didn’t need it, but I learned to observe instead of question.
As a child of that church, I was continually surprised by the people who proclaimed to be Catholic, but who were unkind, unfair and judged their neighbors behind their backs.
When I married a Lutheran, I taught Sunday school, read the bible, and considered religious structure an integral part of my life.Â But if I’m honest, I never felt a connection to the great spirit.
Following my divorce, I went searching for God.Â I researched religions and learned to meditate and pray differently.Â What I learned and how it applies to my life fills a book, but the most compelling piece of my research was that of the Hindi salutation, Namaste, that was transmitted from Ancient India to the countries of South-east Asia and virtually all over the globe.
In the United States, Namaste is typically repeated at the end of a yoga class to honor the participants and instructor.Â Namaste is a humbling gesture and spoken as a recognition that we are all on equal standings, we are of divinity.
Loosely translated from Sanskrit, Namaste means,Â “I honor the place in you which is of love, integrity, of wisdom and of peace. When you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me, we are one.”
On this early Sunday morning, I found God in the magic and miracles at Willow River State Park.Â Â I was breaking in my new running shoes and enjoying the spectacular colors of Autumn along the trail.Â The rich colors of the trees danced off the glassy water like a mirror reflecting great beauty.
Families were out for hikes, and fathers and sons fished and laughed out loud.Â Their joy echoed throughout the park.Â Photographers captured the splendor; and sisters supported each other on half marathon training runs.Â Dogs and children splashed in the water and watched geese and ducks swim and play.
When I reached the waterfall, groups had gathered to witness a blue heron patiently wait for a breakfast trout.Â OthersÂ watched in awe as one skilled rock climber reached the pinnacle and hollered out a victory cry.Â Several women were standing near and we applauded and cheered as the climber lowered himself to the ground.
The magic of that moment and the camaraderie that was created in an instant stayed with me long after we parted and prompted me to run the 167 (or so) stairs that took me to an eagle’s eye view of the park.Â Â From that spot, I took in the sunrise and glory of the morning. I felt connected to something beyond myself and silently gave thanks for having participated in the grandeur.
It wasn’t church, but it was a spectacular way to spend a Sunday morning.Â As I see it, God is not outside ourselves, but instead dwells within our hearts and souls.Â Â Yes, I believe there is good in every church and every faith.Â Spiritual leaders and fellow humans help guide the lost and lonely. They do wonderful work.Â But peace and acceptance are not found inside a building or a doctrine; they are found within.
God experiences life through our eyes, ears and mind and that to love our lives and love ourselves is to love God.