Encountering different religions is an experience just as is traveling to different countries. There is a beauty in the mysteries of ourselves as human beings having a religion or no religion at all, because with or without religion, we share an identity, as well as a story.
Religion permeates all aspects of our daily lives, and even though one might be atheist, it is nearly a wrongdoing to ignore their place in our world. To know and respect them is truly beautiful and enlightening.
Think about what the word religion means to you. Does it answer purpose? Does it answer one’s role in life? Maybe both. My truth is different to the truth of the individual across the street buying a Subway sandwich. Nevertheless, I have had in-depth conversations with individuals who have a whole opposite perspective than me, and I find our respectful conversations intriguing. One of my friends from college is an atheist and believes science is the answer to how life came to exist. I enjoy hearing her thoughts and strong beliefs, and she respects and listens to mine.
In addition to conversations with others, I also enjoy seeing the diversity of religion in art and culture. Religion is either obviously or secretly displayed over and over again in all aspects of life! I think of the unique forms in the sky in the Egyptian artwork, and of the crosses within the glass and paintings of the medieval times creations. Therefore, what I am implying is the sharing and interpretation of art did, in part, contribute to religion. I am certain so did the understanding and contemplation of space, philosophy, connection, social groupings, and a plethora of other factors. Religion, faith, and passionate beliefs are everywhere; the question is, do we care to notice?
Major religions I became familiar with while growing up were Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Judaism. The familiarization of Christianity came at a very young age because the majority of my family, if not all, is Catholic. I was taught a little on the faith of Islam in school, and of the faith of Judaism at my church. Buddhism I sought after because I was curious in learning more about the beliefs, and I found them stimulating. Because a close friend of mine, in college, spent months in India, I was able to learn about Hinduism. Three summers ago my family got together with Greek friends to celebrate at the Greek festival in Rochester hosted by an Orthodox church. It is a wonderful and lively experience, filled with music, food, and conversations. I am grateful to have had all these different experiences; it made me aware of others’ practices, and the uniqueness and beauty of each one and my own Catholic faith.
Though I am dedicated to my faith, I practice mindfulness and meditation and read into the messages of Buddhism. I find noble truths, personal growth, and a certain kind of dignity behind this faith. These different practices “work” for me, as in they have helped me overcome struggles of anxiety, panic attacks, feelings of hopelessness and sadness, and the idea of not being enough. It is in making it through challenges and obstacles that one finds one’s own worth and reconsiders values and relationships, not just with others, but most essentially, with oneself. I find one must embrace oneself with genuine love and genuine self-care, before offering real love and real care to anyone else.
I am not saying that faith, mindfulness, and meditation will be the only way to overcome adversity. What works for me does not work for my sister, or some of my friends. Everyone has their modes of making it through this mysterious life. One of mine is following these seven guidelines I developed with time, because when I visualize them written or read them over, they make me feel worthy to live a life.
Uplift others, in many ways (emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually, etc), but only when you feel the desire and genuine need to do so, especially to the poor and those going through unfortunate events
Focus on the present
Aim for achievements, not money
Interact with the community
Take responsibility for your actions
Know yourself (make up your own mind and be confident about it)
Embrace differences across different spectrums (humans, plants, animals, places, and so forth)
Please feel free to take one or all for yourself, my guidelines are not exclusive. Coming up with these took time, understanding myself and others, reaching out, and appreciating me for me and the good moments as well as the bad. It also took courage, because if it was not for the difficulties I mentioned previously, which I strive to overcome and come to peace with these guidelines would not be what they are.
“For me, the different religions are beautiful flowers from the same garden, or they are branches of the same majestic tree. Therefore, they are equally true, though being received and interpreted through human instruments equally imperfect.” ~Mahatma Gandhi
This quote by Mahatma Gandhi makes me ponder. It doesn't matter if an individual is an atheist, loyal devotee of a faith, an agnostic, or anywhere in between—there is certainly wisdom to be learned from the religions and diverse beliefs of the world. Of course, there is mystery within all religions and faith beliefs, but we humans were not meant to know everything. Doubt and searching are all part of the process of not only faith, but life itself. That is why it is great to share with others and not limit oneself.
“…We should collaborate and learn from one another. But we should do so in a way that shows honor and dignity to other’s beliefs and doesn’t merely pretend that we have no differences and that we do not have a unique contribution to make through our religious tradition.”
~Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz
Whether a conversation of religion is brought up with someone of opposite viewpoints or read in a captivating message, one thing is certain: wanting to know and understand more about others and different viewpoints also helps us learn more about ourselves.
If you are wondering what you can do to learn more about different religious groups, there is a wonderful opportunity coming up. The Diversity Council and Christ United Methodist Church are arranging the very first Community in Motion faith, culture, and connection event. It is family-friendly celebration, where there will be diverse food, music, and the encouragement of dialogue and thoughts. Look out for more information on our Facebook page and for flyers coming out soon!