“You, estranged from yourself,
Short-sighted turtle looking for home,
Be home to yourself.” – Norita Dittberner-Jay
Growing up as a child, I was at home in the faith tradition of orthodox Hinduism followed by my parents. Every time I remember my childhood home, I can hear the tinkling bells from the prayer room accompanied by the voice of my father chanting sacred Vedic texts, wafts of incense perfume filling the home along with mum’s cooking smells. I also hear the regular chanting of groups of people gathered to celebrate various religious occasions – one in particular, Maha Shivrathri – worshiping of Lord Shiva, a tradition that still continues among my brothers.
These rituals gave me a sense of belonging to a tribe, and the security that a tribal belonging gives is vital for healthy development. I did not know then whether that faith tradition fitted me well, nor did I know that would be even a question to raise at all. It was a trusting acceptance of what was offered which created a very external relationship with God.
At the same time I was growing up with friends who belonged to other faith traditions. As I had a firm sense of belonging, I was able to readily accept the others’ faith as equal to mine and never would even think of questioning the different practices. My faith at that point was that of blind acceptance and obedience, which did not estrange me from myself but then I didn’t know who I am either or where and what true home is.
As an adult settling into life, one can get estranged from faith completely forming allegiances to different tribes like sporting clubs, academics, work related, consumerist traditions or even the extremes of belonging to tribes that support addiction of all sorts from alcohol to drugs. This is an attempt to find a home, a sense of belonging.
Conversely, one can become more blindly steeped in faith, driven by the desire to meet and allay the fears of living, whether it be health, money or children and family. Faith becomes a bargaining tool – “ I will offer You X, if You grant me Y” – kind of a transaction based relationship with God.
My faith was in this latter category for a long time after I left my childhood home. Whilst there was faith in my own capabilities to make a living, there was no sense of who I was or where I belonged, particularly after leaving the comforting and familiar sounds, sights and smells of where you come from originally and attempt to settle in a land that is different right down to the color of my skin let alone habits, culture and traditions.
Faith can and will take a major turn along with the changing circumstances and crucial mile stones of life – either one becomes fanatically fundamental, fearfully religious or abandon every known aspect of their own faith and attempt to adapt to the borrowed popular culture. This only removes one further and further away from oneself.
At this point it is vital to embrace Faith as a verb of Trust – a trust not just in the capabilities and skills that one has to make a living but a trust in oneself as a limb of the universe along with all the branches that emerge from one solid trunk rooted firmly into the ground.
How is that trust possible without developing an individual relationship with faith and deeply examine own beliefs grown out of the tribal culture? How can we develop a relationship with ourselves so we have a better fit with our inner self and soul?
These became the questions for me as I was actively seeking to understand faith and my belonging. Fortunately for me, I found a trustworthy place for my soul – mind you, it initially started as belonging to a tribe that does familiar things like devotional singing and chanting. I still continue those practices but as I progress with the teachings, I understand that Faith is nothing but ‘Love in Action’.
Love in Action includes extending love and acceptance to myself as much as I would to others, knowing that I am but a branch of a tree rooted to the ground or that I am one of the many stars hanging from the same sky. This knowledge helped me grow my sense of belonging with my inner self which is but the piece of the sky or the trunk of the tree.
I can totally relate to Poet Hafiz’s beautiful poem ‘No More Leaving’
Become like this
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
God will climb into
You will simply just take
When I simply just take myself along with God in my pocket, Faith becomes an act of surrender to the greater knowing within, a trust in the universe that gives a sense of belonging, being at home with myself or as Sharon Salzberg says – A Homing Instinct.
What or where is your Faith?
Until next time
With Love and Respect