And so it began
Having grown up in an Irish catholic home, spirituality or rather faith as my mam would usually refer to it, was an integral part of our daily activities. After breakfast we would finish getting wash , dressed and ready for school. Next came our morning prayers consisting of an ´Our Father´ a ´Hail Mary´ and a ´Glory Be´. After a quick flick through the hair with the family hairbrush and occasional bit of spittle for the rebellious tufts, came the best bit. Cuddles and kisses and motherly cooing before being sent out the door. My infant and junior school were only minutes away and when my younger brother started school it was my job to take him by the hand, bring him to the school yard and up to his class line-up.
My mam used to often say, "the most important thing you can give your child is faith". Which explained the children´s Mass on Saturdays, Mass on Sunday followed after lunch by Catechism (Sunday School) then Benediction. I was so keen for the smells and bells bit that I ´volunteered´ for Wednesday evening Mass which was sung in latin. Which proved useful years later at university, where I would sing latin in choral societies. All this never really left me. I still love old churches and incense. It´s evocative and I sense the centuries of energies imbued into the very walls.
The secondary Catholic school years, gave us a degree of amnesty, so no obligation to attend Saturday Mass and Sunday Catechism. That was how it started I guess, my spiritual journey. Then came adolescents and independent adult living. To be fair to my parents, they felt they had done their bit and now that I was an adult, I must make my own decisions regarding religious practice. Which I did and which evolved over time, dropping bits and adding others, exploring the vastness of it.
The decades that followed allowed me to study and discover that which resonated most. I am convinced this human experience is just the tip of the iceberg. Whilst it acts as a vehicle and needs to be nurtured and fuelled with care, it is also a reflection of our spiritual self. Or rather, the two are inextricably tied. There are so many interpretations of this but the one I love most that puts it all in a nutshell is the Hindu greeting, "Namaste" . When meeting someone, one bows (or nods) with hands together in the prayer gesture and says "Namaste" which translates as "The divine in me honours the divine in you". How wonderful.
About fifteen years ago, I was introduced to Buddhism. I was having one of my usual long conversations with a friend and about life and the universe kind of thing and offering my views on spirituality when he gave me a book (The Buddha in your mirror) from his Buddhist practice (SGI) saying that he felt I would appreciate it. Appreciate I did! I love it when someone suggest a book as I´m much more inclined to read it. Anyway, to cut a long story short, it all felt so ´right´ and confirmed much of what I had discovered along my own journey so far.
It wasn´t long before I was attending group meetings and learning more. SGI is of Japanese origin and a Lay branch of an older school of ´Nicherin Buddhism´. There´s no hierarchy of priest and monks so you might say it is akin to the Quakers (a Christian fellowship) and also in the way that we met together in people´s homes. The practice is one that chants a spiritual mantra, ´Nam-Myho-Renge-Kyo´, rather than ´meditation´, to connect to and evoke our true buddha nature, or buddha within. A subject to be explored in more detail another time. Anyway, this moment became much more than just a step on my path but rather a massive leap and one I give thanks for, not just to the special friend who handed me the book but the wonderful people I met in my SGI community.
True to form, I needed to explore more. I discovered meditation and added this to my practice. Probably frowned on by some traditionalists in my community but hey, it´s my spiritual journey not theirs ! I attended courses on mindfulness meditation, watched lectures and read books. I still do as it is a never ending journey. What I realised though is that the 13 year boy that would stare out at the clouds from the school bus was in fact meditating all along. So nothing is really new, as my old parish priest, Fr Howlin, used to always say, we are just rediscover things in time. In this section I hope to share thoughts and topics in this area, I hope you enjoy the process of rediscovering with me.
Terrified of not living
I have already posted this video in my blog but it resonates so much with me that I wanted to share it here too.
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