Now in its second year, our group has branched out to include fiction and the odd movie, all selected for their spiritual themes through a loose consensus. Our talks—alternately skeptical and earnest, occasionally self-revelatory, and never with insistence to believe anything in particular—touch on curiosity: how best to live, what are our obligations to self and others, whether there's a purpose to it all, and, if so, what the heck is it? These are the themes religious misfits like me have few opportunities to explore with others.
Katrine, who blames the strictness of her Lutheran upbringing for her difficulty in enjoying the success of the wine store she owns, found inspiration to enjoy the present moment in Thornton Wilder's Our Town, a play about small-town America that bored her in high school but haunts her as an adult. Clarence has been excited by the teachings of American Buddhists Pema Chödrön and Tara Brach. Soon after reading Brach's Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha, he started meditating and attending discussion groups at a Buddhist temple. He also began returning to his old Baptist church from time to time. The choir, he realized, moves him to tears.
A skeptic by nurture, I've come to accept that it will take something close to a miracle for me to adopt any particular creed. But our group's nondidactic approach to faith has given me a way to break from my heathen past; it allows room for my doubts as well as my curiosity and enthusiasm. I now appreciate the spiritual side of my yoga class, and, after mulling over What the Bleep Do We Know!?, a movie that mixes mysticism with physics, I've even developed a soft spot for that New Age standard, the power of positive thinking. But mostly I can recognize the divine in my daily life, that unexpected shift I sometimes get while listening to music, dancing, chopping vegetables, even walking home from the subway when the light is just right. (In those moments, I feel linked to a stillness so unlike the rat-a-tat of my usual thoughts and worries.) I've come to see that my upbringing was not, after all, completely spiritually barren. Although my family didn't pray together, we did often hike together. And, really, when you're struck dumb by the Rocky Mountains, why quibble about how they got there?
Kendra Hurley is the editor of the anthology Do You Have What It Takes: A Comprehensive Guide to Success After Foster Care (Youth Communication).
We Hear You!