Saturday, September 25, 2021

Your Spiritual Autobiography

I recently finished a book entitled, Praying with Jane Eyre, by Vanessa Zoltan. It is a reflection on reading as a sacred practice, and each chapter is a thematic discussion and personal reflection as a means to illustrate how the sacred may be found in any reading we decide to examine in this way. The author is a Jewish Atheist, and many of her stories include lessons in her own life related to her experience as a Jewish woman whose parents were both born of holocaust survivors. Many of the other books I've read on sacred reading are from a distinctly monotheist perspective and typically involve a holy book that is sacred simply because it exists. 

As a pagan, I long-ago developed a series of books that I hold as sacred. Tomes of mythology and lore that speak to the heart of the way I view the world. Reading Ms. Zoltan's perspective was familiar in the sense that my studies of Mircea Eliade's work has already instilled in me the idea that WE are the manifestors of the sacred, WE get to decide what is sacred and what is profane (mundane) in our own worlds. However, I have always, in my subconscious overculture conditioning, applied this practice to works that other people would agree are sacred....such as tomes of mythology and lore. Her work has allowed me to consider other works I hold dear, other titles that have shaped and changed my life, as sacred and worthy of more pointed examination. 

One of the items I gleaned from this work was not one I expected to encounter. Once upon a lifetime ago when I was a gigging Christian, we had a practice of developing and sharing our "conversion stories." These were finely-tuned short recountings of the events and feelings that led to our spiritual awakening and full transformation into the god-fearing Christians we had become.  It was, in short, the story of the Aha! moment that led us to believe. It was also a part of our personal ministry and a useful tool in our  witnessing to others. Since polytheism does not have a prescribed belief system--we are an orthopraxic (right action/behavior) rather than orthodoxic (right belief) religion--I had put the practice out of my mind and dismissed it as no longer relevant.  I am grateful to Ms. Zoltan for renewing this within me. Let me explain...

While Ms. Zoltan was in divinity school, her professor asked the class to write their spiritual autobiography. Without a lot of guidance, the students set about mucking their way through self-discovery and self-creation and authoring their own stories of becoming. The power of our own stories lies in our ability to articulate it, and this art of sharing will connect us to ourselves and to others in ways we never thought possible in this venue. 

I am working through writing mine, and I will share it with you when it is complete. I am finding just creating the outline to be useful and powerful for me in identifying points of major growth and developmental milestones in my own becoming who I am. This process is a gift, and I am grateful to the art of reading in a sacred way for allowing me to be changed at the ripe old age of 43 by a seemingly simple 250 pages.