I started reading the Quran today because a friend who went back to the USA left it behind, and I am curious. Six pages in and it states that Allah is to be feared, he knows all, and can spot the fakers. I will continue to read, but to be honest, these first impressions aren’t great.
I don’t adhere to a defined religion, and for the most part I do not consider myself very spiritual. Yet there have been times when I have felt “something” – a power/force that I cannot explain very well, but it gives me the chills, expands my heart, and causes me to think “I get it – this is what religion/God/the Spirit is.” So far, I have not felt this way at “home”, only when I have traveled. The first time I recall was when I was at the Notre Dame when I was in college. I was surprised by the feeling, because I never really considered myself Christian, even though I was confirmed at a very liberal Protestant Church. But as I wandered through that building, I remembered understanding why people believed in God. That moment didn’t change me really, but it made me understand the feeling of sensing something powerful. Not an evil or domineering power, but one that I feel throughout my body; it overtakes me, but doesn’t last long. It’s a safe feeling, but not really comforting. It’s a time when I know I am not alone.
About this time last year, I went on an overnight boat to Milford Sound on the South Island of New Zealand as part of a ten-day solo road trip. I was at the height of my grappling with my own meaning of spirituality and life. I was meditating a lot, and connecting with various forms of Buddhism. I was coming to the conclusion that my spirituality – my “ life purpose” philosophy – had something to do with connection, people, and compassion. I think I scribbled down a huge epiphany about it somewhere, but I can’t find it. I know I wrote to a friend about it in a long email, and he responded to it thoughtfully, but I can’t find that email anywhere either. But that feeling I had when I was at Notre Dame? I had it here, looking at this.
So, I feel this sensation in both nature and in places of worship. For example, I have felt this strong connection and power at a Buddhist temple in Cheonan, Korea.
And every time I go to the Redwood forest and gaze at the trees that dwarf me.
I’m sure I have had this feeling of connection and power at other times in my life, but these are the most recent ones, the ones that I have had over the past two years, since I have been traveling more. But I haven’t had the feeling since being in Oman. I visited Job’s tomb, but felt nothing. I’ve been inside the Grand Mosque which is beautiful, but did not leave me with a sense of belonging or comfort.
Nor did I experience that sense of awe or connection in Vietnam, despite being in this amazing temple that honored several religions at once – a sentiment I appreciate and resonate with, but for some reason that sense of awe was completely missing. Maybe it was because I was on an official tourist-like tour. Maybe it was because the circus-like colors don’t align with my sense of Spirit.
I also didn’t feel it while on an overnight boat trip staring in Halong Bay. Why did I feel it so strongly in Milford Sound, but not here? Perhaps I wasn’t listening.
Whatever the case, I am looking for that connection again. Many things are weighing heavy on me right now – sick friends, the uncertainty of my next steps, the start of a new and highly disorganized semester at the college. My search for meaning continues. Or perhaps it’s starting over.