By: Dionne Witter

An Open Mind

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Recently I received a call from someone letting me know that while she enjoys reading my blogs, she finds that there is too much mention of God, and that I sound too much like a Christian.  She explains that while she doesn’t mind it, it could be a turn off for many, especially those of a different religious background. I thanked her sincerely for the call, as I know it is not easy to call someone and share an objective criticism.

I wondered as I ended the call what my religious background was.   Am I a Christian?  I have never labelled myself.   I was raised in a Christian home.  Going to church was where I learned that I had a passion for writing.  I would often dose off, and to stay awake I would pretend to be taking notes, but would be writing a poem or doing some sort of creative writing.  I was often bored in church and never connected well with the structure and conformity of it.    I became defiant and stopped attending church.  It did not matter what my devoted grandmother would do, she could not get me to attend.

Though I stopped attending church, and I thought I barely paid attention, some of the teaching resonated with me.   To this day, I remember a lot of the Psalms and still quite often hear myself quoting them.  I do recall a lot of bible verses that we had to memorize.   I came to realize as a young person I had taken from the experience what I needed.

A person’s belief system, especially one’s belief about God or religion can be such a hotly debated topic, and as such, I normally do not have these debates.  I am a fan of people being exactly who they are.  I simply respect others’ views and often have a desire to want to learn what it is that keeps them deeply grounded in their belief system.

I remember one day speaking with a friend who practices Hinduism.  She explains that her family for years wakes up for an hour between 3am to 4am daily.  They use this hour to pray or meditate.  Her very young daughter also gets up and studies at this time.  They believe that at this time of the day, we are most auspicious, and we can listen to, and hear God better.  Our thoughts tend to stay with us better during this time of day.  While she explains it’s not necessarily a Hindu tradition where everyone does it, it is derived from Hinduism.  I found it so fascinating that I have attempted numerous times to get up at that time.  My best time remains 5am, and as such I have convinced myself that God hears me best at 5am.  I may not know much about her belief system, but I learned something that stayed with me.

A few years ago, I was invited to a breakfast prayer event at a church.  There I met an amazing lady who continues to be such an influence in my life.   This church is filled with no more than twenty to thirty people.   The singing and dancing creates a vibrant atmosphere that makes me feel more spiritually awake.  When the sermon is delivered, it is done in a common sense sort of way, without judgement or pretense.  Whenever I can, I make sure I step back inside this church as the experience is always deeply fulfilling.  Today I attended this church, and once again her topic resonated with me.  She speaks that we are all designed differently, and we need to come into alignment with who we are, and submit to God’s design of us.  Though of the church, she explains that we should not allow the church to entrap us, beguile us, or imprison us.  If my initial experience with the church was similar to this, I probably would continue going.

These are just one of many experiences to show that the more I remain open, the more I find God.  For me it’s all very simple.   There are many different religious passages to God ranging from Christianity, Judaism, Muslim, and Hinduism to Zen Buddhism.  While most of these are of a structured belief system, Zen Buddhism is an active practice of compassion.  I pull from everyone and everywhere.  I learn that spiritual experiences can happen in different places and different experiences, ranging from the church, a mosque, a traffic jam, sickness or a conversation with a homeless person.

I do refer to God frequently, and unapologetically will continue to do so.  Making references to God is a reminder to me that there is a much more supreme power than I.  I do use the word God on purpose.  I could substitute the word God with other words such as “the universe” or “energy”, but I choose not to.  To me, God is love, and I am nothing without this belief.

I learn that no matter what I do, some people will always find a reason to dislike me, or my point of view.  It could be for the colour of my skin, being female or in this case, using the word God.  That said, for all the reasons that one may not like me, another person will like me for all these very same reasons.  I must remain true to who I am.  This way I will attract the right people.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this issue.  What are your belief systems?  You have the option to remain anonymous.