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Last Friday I took the April 1998 issue of The Sun to lunch with me and read Rami Shapiro’s “In Search of Zen Judaism.” Though raised a Methodist, I do not practice any faith. In fact, I resigned as a member of the First Unitarian Church this past January. The congregation was nice; the minister was nice; the board on which I served was nice — there was simply no “juice” at the church.
That same month, at the end of a long pilgrimage, it became clear to me that I had found God. For several years I’d been seeking a higher purpose in my life, trying out a smorgasbord of ideas and philosophies, reading countless books, meditating, and generally stumbling down one path after another. What I hadn’t done was ask God for help. Then, in a deep depression over the breakup of a relationship, I cried out to God, and He heard me. He took control of my soul and put me on the path to find Him.
What Shapiro describes mirrors my experience. I often feel God’s presence within. Last weekend, while driving up to Steamboat Springs to see my youngest son, I stopped by the Blue River. As I walked up to the snowy bank, sun sparkling, wind whistling through the tall pines, I asked God what He wanted. My awareness of “me” immediately dropped away, and I was crying from the incredible beauty of it all. For several minutes, I was a vessel for God; God experienced His creation through me. I was His eyes, His ears, His voice.
Shapiro says, “Our separate reality is momentary, transient, and relative.” I know this to be true.
When I was seven, I asked my father about God. He said, “There are two schools of thought. Some people believe God is up in the sky, looking down on us, taking care of us. Others believe God is in everything, every rock and tree and person.” I said, “That’s what I believe — God is everywhere, in everything.” And that’s basically what I’ve believed ever since.
As a teenager I wanted to be worldly, and left behind my New York immigrant Jewish culture as soon as I could. It all seemed hypocritical, shallow, and unsophisticated to me then. For years I lived in a Zen Buddhist community. Now and then I looked to the Jewish tradition for support of my Zen practice, believing that my search for understanding and interconnection must come, at least partially, from my roots.
Rami Shapiro’s essay brought painful, joyful tears to my eyes. Reading it, I felt as if I’d come home.