How Dropping Beliefs Has Connected Me More
For many years, I was obsessed with spirituality. And for many years, I was a devoted Buddhist in a Mahayana tradition (on my way to ordination in a ministerial program). This path, and the truly wonderful teachers I was fortunate enough to practice with, taught and grew me tremendously, but I understand only now that it was also deeply entangled with a core belief that there was something fundamentally wrong with myself and the world. I couldn’t see it at the time, but my fixation on spirituality was inextricably linked with developmental trauma and my (anxious) attachment style.
There may be a person or people who grew out of a white, modern, American context and are able to hear the Dharma in a way that is “free from obscurations”, but I am not one of them. I challenged the doctrine of my tradition relentlessly for years (my teacher called my personal holy order a “ministry of doubt”), and over time it became clear that I was simply incapable of mustering up the energy and sustained focus for the practices I was assigned. For years I blamed myself, assuming that I simply lacked the energy and focus of someone who could reach enlightenment in a single lifetime. But energy is limited, and it takes a tremendous amount of it to restrain the chaotic energies of unresolved trauma, anger, and self-doubt every time you sit to meditate. The joke here, which I can understand only after years of study in somatics and trauma healing, is that those “chaotic energies” are essentially good, or at least may be supported in their most wholesome and empowered aspects (which they all have, because… Buddha Nature). For those of us who, à la Glennon Doyle and Untamed, only recently figured out how deeply our inner desires and motivations have taken a back seat to harmful social conditioning and people-pleasing (for some, manifesting as spiritual rigor), there are new and exciting possibilities. Secular life is one of them.
To back up, I have always been a spiritual person, meaning, I was always terribly concerned with the spiritual health of my family and the culture around me as a child. When the people around you are stressed, less than happy, and you live in a post-religious subculture where wholesome stories rich with meaning and tradition are lacking, it makes sense to become a seeker…