Earlier today, I found myself immersed in a Zoom service for The Interfaith Temple which is staffed by folks, who, like me, graduated (Class of 1999) from The New Seminary, an interfaith program based in New York City. Bless the marvels of modern technology that allow us to stay connected across the miles, particularly in these times. Seeing little faces in tiny boxes, there were two that were familiar to me; Rev. Victor Fuhrman and Rev. Stacy Lee Goforth. I always thought that was a cool name for a minister. He, I have known for a few decades and she, I ‘met’ via Facebook. The others were there from here, there, and everywhere, including a woman from Argentina. The service was a beautiful blending of music and chanting, humor and healing, and edification. Victor serenaded us with ukelele accompaniment with a song co-written with Rev. Samora Smith, for the occasion called Enlightenment.
In some ways, it felt like I was back in the classroom, learning about the teaching of various spiritual traditions and the ways they can be applied to our daily lives. I live by the school’s motto “Never instead of, always in addition to,” as I say that “Love is my religion and God’s too big to fit in a box.” Rabbi Joseph Gelberman was one of the founders and he was what another clergy friend of mine, Rabbi Rami Shapiro refers to as a ‘Holy Rascal’. Although this “Modern Hassidic Rabbi” whose family members were all murdered in the Holocaust died nearly 21 years ago, his legacy lives on.
When I contemplate the concept of enlightenment, I see it as a work in progress. There were various spiritual teachers, such as Jesus and the Buddha who were said to have attained that lofty state. I am not a Buddhist, but I resonate with the explanation of his response when he was asked to describe himself.
When the Buddha started to wander around India shortly after his enlightenment, he encountered several men who recognized him to be a very extraordinary being. They asked him: “Are you a god?” “No,” he replied. “Are you a reincarnation of god?” “No,” he replied.”Are you a wizard, then?” “No.” “Well, are you a man?” “No.” “So what are you?” They asked, being very perplexed. Buddha simply replied: “I am awake.” Buddha means “the awakened one.” How to awaken is all he taught. — Buddhist teachingDon’t like ads? Become a supporter and enjoy The Good Men Project ad free
There was a time when I would sleepwalk through my life, laissez-faire, go with the flow, wave the white flag, not wanting to make waves, or upset the apple cart. I thought that was what it meant to be spiritual. If I didn’t like something someone said or felt disappointed by not getting the result I wanted in my personal or professional life, my attitude was “Oh, well.” My well-meaning father used to respond to my upset about anything that fell through with, “If that’s the worst thing that happens to you, you’ll be alright.” It was spiritual bypass at its finest. While I trust the God of my understanding to have my back, I know that I have to put legs under my intentions. Daily, I have what I call Godversations, where I express gratitude and question what is going on in the world. As a sacred activist, there are some things I can’t let slide. Judaism has a concept called Tikkun Olam that is translated as ‘repair of the world’. If I see a rend in the fabric of the world, it feels incumbent upon me to mend it. What I struggle with is my apparent judgment toward those who shred with gusto, justifying it to meet their personal needs. I see it every day in the political realm. I shake my head in bewilderment that the shortsighted acts of those in power undermine the greater good.
My spiritual journey has taken me from home and synagogue-based Judaism to an exploration of various traditions that led me to enroll in The New Seminary and as a ‘nice Jewish girl,’ become ordained as an interfaith minister. My own spiritual practice includes 24/7 prayer (sometimes consciously, sometimes below the surface) of gratitude and intention. It involves meditation that may occur with eyes closed or gazing at objects or nature. It most definitely is about time with my tiny guru grandson who teaches me about unconditional love, being in the moment, delight, laughter (his is what I call ‘cackle-snort’) trust, and playfulness. It takes the form of speaking and writing the words that come through me and first listening to what I think of as The Voice For God. It has never steered me wrong. It is about being a peace and social justice advocate who shows up, stands up, and speaks truth to power.
Am I ‘woke’ or even awake? The most I can say is that I am awakening. A song that exemplifies the feeling I have is offered by some of my favorite musicians.
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