I've changed my faith or religion or spiritual practice a lot over the years. I was born to parents of Jewish ancestry, but they were Unitarians, or Jewnitarians, as their friends joked. I was born to hybrids.
When I was twelve, we moved to Israel, largely because my Dad felt guilty for not teaching us kids about our Jewish history. It seemed to me to be too much too late. It was an alien country and faith to me. I felt terrible about the holocaust, and I understood Nazis would kill me whether or not I felt Jewish, but I still didn't feel like kissing the ground when we landed in Israel.
At thirteen, I went to Quaker boarding school in the mountains of North Carolina. As students, we didn't go to Meeting much, but we spent our days and nights outside in nature. You might say it was in the mountains I found God. I came home to myself and fell in love with the streams, rhododendron, sandy mica paths, and black mountaintops. I loved sliding down rocks in the South Toe river, sliding down mountain sides in the snow, skating and swimming in natural ponds, resting in wild grasses and staring at the stars on windy nights. My house parents had to drag me inside to go to bed at night.
As a young adult, I flirted with Christianity, walking in and out of churches and cathedrals in New York City.
I later followed my partner to an ashram in New York City and meditated for several years.
When I became a mom, I felt the need to find a religious faith with "normal" holidays to celebrate, and since my partner and I both came from Jewish ancestry, we joined a synagogue, went faithfully to Shabbat services, and practiced the Jewish faith for fourteen years--Challah, matzo ball soup, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Passover and all. We still do. It's good for the family.
As my daughter grew older, I searched again and I began meditating with a local Buddhist group.
Each of these religions offers me different ways to understand and deal with the challenges of the human condition--but, above all, what I have come to embrace most deeply in my search for faith, is not an official religion, with a title or building or set of written laws, practices, and rules, but my experience of and with nature.
It turns out that my greatest devotion, commitment, love and joy, outside of parenting, or perhaps integrally linked to it, is connecting with and protecting the earth--soil, rock, water, mountains, oceans, rivers, trees, animals, birds, reptiles, and all living creatures.
My belief in nature makes me understand that if I love this blessed nature so much, then I have a sacred duty to protect her.
Yes, I want to guard and protect our beautiful earth. I want to be sure that clean water, air and soil are here to stay for all future beings, human and nonhuman.
That is my rock solid faith.
This video, made by my friends Doug and Patti Wood, founders of Grassroots Environmental Education, inspired these thoughts. "We were called to be guardians of the earth."