This post picks up where the previous post, My beliefs 101, left off. Understanding the comprehensive omnipresence of God (or creator, or Great Mystery, or any of a number of other names by which it is called) in all things, from the atomic level to the cosmic level and all things in between, is only the beginning. This is about how that understanding leads to the peace and love and faith concepts quite naturally, without any written commandments being necessary. This is about how I and others like me find the word of God when our faith has no such words pinned down.
One of the tenets of my faith which we all strive to attain and maintain, is to "walk with one foot in each world", often also called "walking in balance". In many ways, this is similar to the concept of "mindfulness" or "awareness" found in many branches of Bhuddism. It is a call to remember that God is in each molecule of the air just as it is in each cell in my body, that each inhalation and exhalation, each heartbeat, joins me with both the creator and with all creation. Not one moment should pass with this being taken for granted. It is also a reminder that we are part of a larger existence than just our families, our careers, our problems and concerns. It is a reminder that our perceptions do not define reality. It is also a reminder that there is a spiritual realm along with this one...not a realm beyond our own but rather a realm within our own. We are not only sisters (or brothers) to each other, as we are all children of the creator, but we are also sisters (or brothers) to all things, from the molecules of water that comprise most of our bodies and most of the planet to the fiery hearts of the stars in the sky, and to all things smaller and all things larger...it is a reminder that we are one.
Of course, that constant mindfulness is difficult at best, and it certainly isn't something that can be jumped right into. It's a lot like learning to ride a bike. It takes a while to develop that sense of balance. It can sometimes take years of trying just to gain that first small sense of connectedness, which often passes like a fleeting glimpse. Very few, I think, ever really attain that state of perfect and constant balance. But just knowing it's there is the first step towards actually consciously feeling it...and that is where the peace, love, and faith part of it all comes in.
To know that God is in all things is a completely different thing from experiencing for yourself consciously the feeling of God being in all things. The part of me that is part of God feels the other parts of God in all the other parts of creation. In this state, one experiences a sensation that is in some ways like a sound, and in some ways like a vibration, and yes, in many ways, it also feels like love, and like peace. Having experienced it, I cannot fail to have faith in it. I believe that it's the song of all the myriad parts of God that are woven throughout creation. It is not a single note but rather a rich and complex symphony. And I become aware, through listening intently, that everything that I do or say or think has some effect on the tiny piece of it that is my own part. And that affects the overall harmony of this incredible masterpiece. That one single note being ever so slightly off will, like the one rotten apple in the barrel, begin to contaminate the rest of the surrounding symphony.
This is how I know right from wrong, without there being a book or other written list to go by. What is right is what restores or strengthens the harmony to the song of creation. What is wrong is what pollutes that glorious song with sour notes of bitterness and discord. No commandments needed. Just that "still, small voice".
This universal connectedness leads directly to the aspect of my faith that is the most often misunderstood concept. This is about the totems. Do I worship animals? Why are animals such an integral part of tribal faith? It's about listening for and looking for the part of the creator that they represent, and learning to recognize the lessons that they have to teach us. Each species is unique, with their own strengths and weaknesses. The lessons we learn from studying the interplay of those strengths and weaknesses, and applying those lessons to our daily lives, is a sacred study. This is part of walking with one foot in each world. Some animals, like the wolf, seem best known for their predatory nature. But a study of the society of the wolf pack reveals much more about their nature, and many are surprised by the discovery that wolves are devoted and nurturing parents, that they adhere quite strictly to a definite social structure, that being "wild" is no free-for-all of anarchy but that there are rules, and they are consistently enforced. Fieldmice, on the other hand, are about as far from ferocious as it's possible to get, but by relying on the strength of their speed and small size they survive in the face of ferocity, thriving in the places of safety that they carve out for themselves. What lessons there are to learn from these things I cannot teach. It may say something quite different to you than it does to me. But I do feel there are lessons, and very deep ones, to be gleaned from studying these things. I feel that everything has similar lessons to teach us, not just the rest of the animals. All of creation whispers to us in God's voice. I believe in learning how to listen.