To Believe or Not To Believe
Are you considering religion? Here are a few things to think about
I grew up as an atheist. It wasn’t really a choice, religion just wasn’t something that was talked about in my family. Apparently we’re Protestant, though I couldn’t tell you why or how.
Church on Sundays? Not once in my life.
Saying grace before a meal? Nope, never happened.
Praying by the bedside? Zilch amount of times.
Atheistic family structure. But it wasn’t drilled into us as to why there is no God or anything like that. It was just simply a non-issue.
It’s pretty horrible, but when I was a teenager, my cousin and I used to shake our fists at the sky and say “Fuck God!”. We did this to tempt fate and illustrate how we weren’t getting struck down by lightning or the plague or whatever terrible thing might happen when you oppose the Almighty. We would laugh and I’d feel this exciting sense of danger. I could tell it was something I shouldn’t do, and being a teenager, that was exactly why I did it.
Around this time I was a bus boy at a local restaurant and one of the waitresses chatted with me over a period of time and finally said, “You should try meditating.” My answer was quite profound:
I’ll always remember this exchange for multiple reasons. I’m struck now by how she knew it was something that would help me with my depression and stress. My general teenage angst. My palpable hatred for the world as I awkwardly transitioned into adulthood. It was also powerful how she didn’t even react at all. She just dropped it and never mentioned it again. The wisdom of that approach was powerful.
She knew that something like that can’t be forced upon someone who isn’t receptive to it. People either come to those conclusions on their own or they hear the message when it’s time in their life.
Although I was suffering, I simply hadn’t suffered enough to want to make a huge change in my life. For years I spun in circles following what others were doing while also feeling like everyone was idiotic in their words and actions. I couldn’t tell why, I just knew I saw things differently than most people. I struggled with the same issues as normal-cigarettes, drugs, girls, friends, jobs, self esteem and so on, with very little guidance.
My family wasn’t bad and I had a good home, but I didn’t really have much advice and solid foundation on which to settle my life upon. Mostly it was my peers that influenced me. This is probably quite common.
The advantage to this, I think, is that I was free to come to my own conclusions on the big picture stuff.
Where did we come from?
Why are we here?
What am I?
What’s the point of all this?
These questions swirled in my head and I didn’t even realize they were there. I just passed the blunt to the right and kicked freestyles about gangsta shit that I hardly knew anything about. Sitting around wasting away my youth feeling so dull and grey about life in general. We would all sit on the porch, then we’d get bored and go sit on the wall, then get bored and go out into the woods, then come back to the porch.
So lame and ridiculous but this was my teenage years.
Through it all, no mention of anything truly deep and engaging was brought up. It was all gossip and jokes and drama and head-changes.
Until I began to grow up.
Suddenly I started to care about my health and what I focused my time and energy on. I started giving a shit about all the things my parents were telling me over the years. The moment when it all changed is burned in my memory forever:
I swept all the leaves off the back porch and my brother was flicking his cigarette ashes all over it. “Dude I just swept this off!” I said.
My dad said to me, “You sound like a grown-up.”
That moment really struck me because it may have been the first mature thing I said or did in my life. I was about 20.
I started college when I was 22. Things were changing in my life. I cared about what happened to me and a future was slowly starting to take shape in my mind. A friend of mine asked me one day if I wanted him to show me how to meditate.
I said yes.
That summer night as he sat on the roof of his beat up car, he explained to me the thing that would alter my perception forever:
“You sit somewhere quiet with your eyes closed, focus on your breathing, and try not to think.”
That was it!
Nothing more to it. It was so simple and easy to execute. So, like a week later, while I was sitting out on the same back porch that I became an adult on, I gave it a shot.
Basking in the sun, shirtless with a pair of shorts on, I closed my eyes and felt the heat on my face and chest. I steadied my breathing and tried not to think. This reminded me of an old trick I used when I tried to get to sleep as a 12 year old:
When a thought came into my mind, I pictured it like a framed painting entering onto a stage. Then I would imagine a cartoon boot on a pendulum kicking that image off the stage. I hadn’t thought of that since then, but it worked.
I could see the dazzling, shifting light moving across the red of my inner eyelids as the sun shone in my face. My slow, steady breathing was relaxing and it was a relief not to obsess over all the circular thoughts I was so accustomed to. For the first time, I was at ease.
After about 20 minutes of this, I slowly opened my eyes and was struck by how vivid the colors of reality were. The sounds of all the birds singing to each other was like music. The shadows moving and the wind sliding across my skin was all so much more intense than I was used to. It was noteworthy to say the least.
I got up and went about my day and forgot about it for at least a month.
Then for some reason I can’t remember, I picked it back up again. Around this time I was working out regularly and things were really going well in my life. I was meditating every night for at least a half hour, sometimes longer. I kept this up for about a month.
One day, in Advanced Anatomy class, we were all sitting and waiting for the teacher to arrive. The room had a wall of windows behind us with trees just outside. The trees were moving in the wind and sunlight was filtering through the leaves, casting beautiful speckles of shifting light and shadows across the entire room.
I was sitting there alone, quietly, watching this ballet of light and dark when it happened:
My awareness altered in a way that I can’t exactly describe, but it seemed like I was in a lucid dream. I was completely centered and content. My interactions with people were entirely devoid of anxiety or fear. How they thought of me was no longer a consideration.
I was free of my mind.
All the colors and forms and textures of reality were endlessly fascinating to me. Everywhere I looked was magical. Honestly, it was like I entered another dimension where it was all good, all the time.
Buddhism became my religion.
I discovered that my mother had a whole collection of self development books that included a lot of Buddhism-related stuff.
I read them all.
I learned everything I could about it. I was happy, and I slowly realized that I wasn’t afraid of dying, which was an interesting revelation in itself. Then I began to notice that I actually did believe in God because I was communicating to the infinite through focusing within. I became aware of myself as the little g connected to the Big G.
People say funny things like, “God, if you can hear me…”
This is inaccurate as far as I can tell. God is within you, and seeing through your eyes, hearing through your ears. If you can hear it, God can too. This may seem strange to the non-believer, but it seems pretty logical to me.
Here’s a strange phenomenon that everyone can relate to: You stare at a person from a distance, even for an instant. They turn and instantly look at you. How is this possible? Pretty weird huh? Do you have any theories as to why this happens? I do.
It’s because you’re staring at yourself.
I’ve said this before a couple times to people and they either say that it makes no sense or it clicks in their mind and they totally get it. It’s oneness. We are all one consciousness connected to the infinite one mind that created all things in existence.
Had enough? Ok fine I’ll let you be. You may be like I was as a teenager being advised to meditate. If you’re not ready for this kind of message, then it isn’t for you. If you can relate, tell me about your spiritual journey.
Brian Relay is a digital artist with ten years of random work experience that loosely relates to his field of study. He lives in New Hampshire with his Batman figurines and his collection of partially worked-through traumas. Together with his un-imaginary friend, they’ve successfully completed their very first comic book. Also, he recently picked up the novel that was collecting digi-dust for an embarrassing amount of time. He’ll let you know when it’s done.