Faith No More (Religion, Part IV)

the_crystal_ballSo.  My “Fuck You, God” phase did not end with a bang, but with a whimper.  It’s difficult to maintain that level of rage for any sustained amount of time.  Besides, I had pretty much done all the experimenting I wanted to do at that point–and there was still an emptiness inside me.  What to do?

I started taking a tai chi class.  It was taught by my friend, and I was intrigued.  It’s where I met Natasha, who I started calling Sis.  Our mutual friend, let’s call him Glen, was an excellent teacher.  Unfortunately, the class only lasted six weeks, and then I had to move on to the main teacher.  Let’s call him Robert, because that’s his name.

He set off  my creepy meter from the start.  The first time I met him, I knew there was something very off about him.  He had the typical predator/con man vibe, but I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt for Glen’s sake.  Robert was very New-Agey, and he exuded the smarmy smugness of an snake-oil salesman.  I stayed with it for over a year, despite my misgivings, until I just couldn’t shake the heebie-jeebies any longer.  Every time I went, I had to erect mental barriers so I wouldn’t be bothered by Robert’s energy.  He liked to claim that he and his teachers knew when not to touch someone during practice, but they certainly didn’t know that with me.  In addition, Robert had no concept of personal space.  In other words, major creep.

Still, I liked the tai chi itself, so I tucked that knowledge into the back of my mind for further examination.  

One religion that has always been attractive to me is Wiccan.  I read more about it, and I liked elements of it, but it felt too artificial to me.  In addition, I tried the goddess thing, but that felt awkward as well.  I liked goddess better than god, but that wasn’t saying much.  I tried to pray to the goddess, to the goddesses, to Kuan Yin, to Kali, but it was all to no avail.

I have to interject that my semester abroad was to study Buddhism in different Asian countries.  We went to Hong Kong for a few days, Japan for a week, China for a week, Taiwan for three weeks, then two months in Thailand.  In was amazing to see the magnificent Buddhist temples and to study the differences in the practice of Buddhism in the different countries.  In addition, it was interesting to note the way that many people practiced folk Buddhism, much as many Christians in this country adhere to the rituals, but not the philosophies of their faith.

I grappled with Buddhism because I felt as if it should be in my spiritual blood.  I mean, my ancestors were Buddhists, and my dad’s sister is very devout.  Which makes for much awkwardness between my mother and her sister-in-law.  I didn’t connect to Buddhism, though.  I liked some tenets of it (such as being present in every moment and detaching from the situation), but I couldn’t embrace it as a whole.

So.  Back in the States, I began dabbling in the occults.  I started reading tarot cards.  I have tried many decks over the years, but the Crowley-Thoth deck was the one that felt the best.  Yes, it’s the standard and very traditional, but it fit me.  I have many other decks that are pretty or meaningful in other ways, but the Crowley Toth deck is my reading deck.  A funny anecdote:  The ex-friend from California gave me a deck for my birthday.  When I tried to use it, a sense of evil emanated from it.  I tried a few times, but I could never use it.  It should have been a warning, but I paid no attention.

Anyway, I also started reading runes.  Still later yet, I began to scry.  What is scrying?  Well, you know about crystal balls, right?  That’s scrying.  It’s reading a smooth surface for hints of the future.  Here is a quick primer of the basics to scrying.  I found out that I have the best results with scrying black mirrors.  Crystals work in a pinch, but crystal balls aren’t that conducive for me.  I picked up scrying rather quickly.  I can now do it without a medium.  Sometimes, it happens now during my current tai chi practice.  

What is remarkable to me about my occult practices is how mundane they are.  I only do the basics, and I rarely perform a ritual ahead of time.  I’m more of a practical practitioner, and I don’t like frills.  I find myself tapping into something bigger, something collective when I scry, or read tarot cards/runes.  Time is very fluid when I scry.  I have let it lapse lately, but I would like to pick it up again.  It centers me, and it actually soothes my agitated mind.  I think this is what most people want from religion, anyway–to be free of agitation.

I started noticing how beautiful the world was.  Not the people, necessarily, but the scenery.  I noticed how heartbreakingly breathtaking a magnificent sunset could be.  The juice of a sweet strawberry running down my chin brought me joy.  These moments were far and few between, but they were real.  They made me realize that there is something bigger than me.  Is it God with a capital G?  Is it Allah?  Yahweh?  Siva?  Kali?  Kuan Yin?  Any or all of the above?  

I don’t know.  I am taking tai chi again, with Julie from 7 Stars T’ai Chi Ch’uan Studio.  She doesn’t emphasize the spiritual aspect of tai chi, but I feel it, anyway.  When I practice tai chi, I feel that same connection–even if it’s only for a brief second.  Even with the thoughts whizzing through my head, I manage to find snatches of calm and/or intense awareness.  I fully expect that this will happen more often and for longer durations the more I study tai chi.

I call myself an agnostic deist, and I’ve had people ask me what that means.  Some people think an agnostic is a polite atheist in that an agnostic doesn’t really believe in God, but doesn’t want to offend people by saying so.  Maybe for other agnostics, but not for me.  I know there is something bigger than me.  That is where the deist part comes in.  I acknowledge there is a god-like entity/ies in the ethos.  I just don’t know what form that takes.  That’s where the agnostic part comes in.  I don’t know, and you know what?  That’s fine with me.  I expect I will wrestle more with the issue of god/spirituality in the future, but for now, I am comfortable sitting with the unknown.

Ok.  That was waaay too fucking long.  Tomorrow, I tackle the political aspect of religion.

2 Responses to Faith No More (Religion, Part IV)

  1. Thanks for linking! No need talk about the spiritual aspect of T’ai Chi all the time. It’s just there, and everyone gets their own thing from it anyway. BTW – was that super-creepy, patronizing, hippie-crystal-gripping-bullshit photo on Robert’s web page when you studied with him? A classmate mentioned that she’d stumbled across that page, and it gave her the heebie-jeebies. She didn’t know about your story!

    It’s cool that you get the scrying sometimes in your T’ai Chi practice. You didn’t tell me that.

  2. Choolie, I much prefer my spiritual felt and not heard. I have no idea about Robert’s pic because I haven’t seen his website. Shudder.

    I did tell you I scried in class once. It’s really…interesting. The semi-altered/hyper-focused state of tai chi is similar to the state I fall into when scrying. Interesting….