A few weeks ago I came to a startling awareness that has since impacted another major decision in my daily life.
I was circling the outdoor walking track at the local college with a new friend and walking partner. The day’s discussion was mostly about our attempts to maintain balance in life – physical, emotional, time commitments, and relationships – as well as being respectful and inclusive of other people’s ideas and beliefs.
The conversation centered around my interest in Interfaith communities. I’ve long been open to the world’s religions and delight in recognizing the commonalities most share with one another. In recent months, I’ve been part of a religious community that welcomes people from all faiths, yet professes no set creed or holy text. According to the history of this religion, its creed was once based on the Bible, but religions evolve and this one has mostly moved away from such teachings.
Instead, the philosophy of this community is based on principles (values, virtues) that guide its messages and how the members interact with one another. Members are free to pursue their religion of choice independently, and then they come together each week for a mostly secular message, one that usually does not mention God or Spirit. Sadly, I have not heard members share openly about what belief systems they follow in their lives. Thus, the Interfaith aspect, an opportunity to learn, is also missing.
When I first started attending this “church,” I thought Sunday services with worldly lessons would be enough to satisfy my desire for a spiritual community. I was wrong. They are a lovely bunch of folks, practicing their common principles as they’ve done for decades… yet I want more than this from a spiritual community.
I had already reached the point where I greatly missed the New Thought music and messages and uplifting meditations I’d been surrounded by for almost 30 years. Listening to them privately at home brought some solace, but after two years of mostly pandemic isolation, I was ready to engage with a religious community in-person. However, without the Interfaith discussions I hoped for as a substitute for New Thought, I felt like I was opening a door, but no one was willing to come in. I couldn’t force what didn’t exist.
My walking partner listened quietly until I stopped talking. Then she shared a wisdom that a friend of hers had provided to her years before. “Don’t be so open-minded that your brain falls out,” she said.
Don’t be so open-minded that your brain falls out.
She went on to explain that we can become so open, so willing to understand and learn other points of view, so eager to be part of something that almost fits, so able to compromise… that we give away too much of ourselves – our beliefs, our time, our energy. We dilute our very beliefs, ideals, and principles for living. And while I had been speaking about religion, this idea applies just as much to our thoughts about politics, parenting, communication in relationships, work ethics, etc. And she was right! Boundaries are important for both sides of the equation.
For the past few years, my focus has been directed toward Interfaith teachings and exploration. My mind has been open to other ways of doing religion. So much so, that I’ve neglected regular study of my own faith’s texts. Nor have I consistently dedicated time to deepen the core beliefs I hold dear, beliefs that include certain principles, also found in other religions. I thought that, if I attended this “open” church community and became involved in supporting its lay-led leadership, perhaps the spiritual support they professed to offer for each one’s journey would be enough. It wasn’t. Not for me. I simply didn’t fit. It was time to make a change.
The first thing I had to do with this newfound wisdom was to decide what my beliefs were. What’s important to me now in the religious realm? What values and principles are key to me? What kind of spiritual community would support that kind of thinking? Is there such a group nearby?
I’m no longer interested in starting a church from scratch, but, if necessary, would consider initiating a study group. Fortunately, there is a New Thought church in the community… a slightly different version than what I’ve been teaching or ministering… yet one with a history of New Thought founders similar to that of my own religion’s… and close enough in its writings and teachings to feel spiritually fed and connected.
I decided to attend a special mid-week prayer service and met the senior minister. These folks were openly talking about Spirit, God, Divine Mind. The music! The meditation! The familiar readings! Even the building – a real church – with an expansive New Thought library! I felt welcomed and comfortable. There was an inner Joy, a knowing Light, in the midst of each gathering. We spoke the same language! This, and a few other “test” visits and conversations with the minister, convinced my husband and me that a significant change had to be made regarding our choice of church.
I provided ample notice to the board president of the “open” church so that my volunteer tasks could be covered by others in the future. I hope she and I remain friends. And as difficult a decision as it was to reach, to leave their small group, my heart is now happy. I’m looking forward to once again being part of a New Thought community. It’s where I belong.
It is an important lesson in setting boundaries, of not giving away so much of myself – time, energy, spiritual desires… too much open-mindedness… too much compromise – that my soul becomes heavy and sad. Once again I realize the value and sense of peace in establishing, in having, in honoring spiritual beliefs that bring me comfort, while also exploring different viewpoints. I can be open-minded and still keep my brain (and heart) where it belongs.
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