Leaving Mormonism left a sour taste in my mouth, spiritually. Because I had been so inundated with religious nonsense during my college years, I graduated from BYU-Idaho on the verge of atheism.
Some time following my exodus from the Church, I found myself talking to a fellow ex-Mormon about spirituality. Leaving the Church had left this particular friend a spiritual husk, completely adverse to anything within the hue of religion. Driving down the street on a beautiful summer day, I found myself telling him, “I believe in a God. Not because I ‘know’ there’s a God [a term Mormons are really fond of using] but because… I just like the idea. And that’s enough for me.”
That idea, just wanting there to be a God, choosing to believe it for no other reason than that, restarted my spiritual engine.
When I felt ready, I attended a couple basic Christian services. But they weren’t… right, not for me. I found too many things in common with the LDS God, and I knew I really didn’t like that guy. It felt like leaving one abusive relationship for another.
Of course, “my” God could not have the same face as the Mormon God, or basically anything resembling it. That’s the thing about leaving the Mormon Church. It scars you like that.
My true spiritual quest started small and accidentally, like most good things. It started with yoga. Looking to get in shape in a kind of lazy way, I joined fitness-focused yoga studio. If you’ve ever attended a few yoga classes, you know how teachers vary. I found myself intensely drawn to the more spiritual teachers, who led their class with intention and poetry.
Then my personal reading choices shifted. First was Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. Something in it touched me. Then I read Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, which left me literary satisfied and spiritually hungry. I read a series of spiritual texts, including the Bhagavad Gita. I started regularly visiting a Stupa, a Buddhist temple, several hours drive outside of my city. The stupa, called Shambahla, quickly became a sort of “happy place.” There, I felt free to calm my heart and mind. I began to explore spiritual matters in a way that was deeply personal, in an environment where I felt no pressure or judgement (two things I felt heavily during my time as a Mormon).
I began to practice meditation, I learned what mindfulness meant. I bought several strings of malas and said “Om” out loud during personal meditation. I burned incense. I found myself in yoga classes with lots of arm pit and leg hair and body odor and natural light.
Mostly, I explored and I wondered.
I began to seek my own God. Screw trying to find the “right” answer, what did I want in a spiritual higher being? I drew on concepts from all my experiences and I named it:
The closest defined thing I could compare the Universe to would be the Collective Unconscious. The Universe doesn’t have a face. It has no judgement, no demands, no hate. It is love. The Universe is an energy that runs through and connects all of us, and it nestles and thrives deep within us. It is a divine within and without. The Universe is energy at its most pure and beautiful. It strives for peace, carefully nudging our lives this way and that to get us closer to our own and others’ happiness. It’s the reason behind “coincidences.” The Universe is the force creating the great tapestry we call life, and it surrounds us and lives within us.
I think that the Universe will continue to adapt in my mind, as I grow spiritually and as I encounter various challenges. I also think that the Universe manifests itself differently to different people. What a human concept, to put a single face on so great an entity. I think all religions (even Mormonism) are venerating different masks of the same universal truths, and none have a cornered market on it.
There’s no special club for the Universe. No secret words, no requirements. It is inside of us. To seek it is to seek ourselves and our fellow man, to quiet our mind and to be. The Universe is the sound underneath all the silence.
And that is more than enough for me.