By Shannon Everest
RELIGION AT SCHOOL
For all of my schooling life I attended a Catholic school. It was the same school that my mum went to and also the same school that her mother attended.
Religion was a subject taught in different ways over the years as I made my way from Infant School to Primary, and then to High School. It was a compulsory part of the curriculum, the same as Maths, English and Science. We also attended a mass in church once a week, and when we had events like assemblies or graduations, we would do this in the church. We also celebrated all of the normal religious events in church, like Easter and Christmas.
GOING TO CHURCH
Sitting in the church was never a pleasant experience for me. It felt like time stood still and all I could think about was how long it would be before we could leave. It felt dark and cold in there and devoid of the natural lightness of being and joy I otherwise felt. I would sit and yawn over and over again, and I would look for opportunities to find relief by asking the teacher to go to the toilet as often as was feasible.
Why was it such an uncomfortable and unpleasant experience? Why did I dread going to church so much?
The most interesting part was getting up to receive the communion – a symbolic piece of wafer – only because you got to get up and move your body around and meet eyes with other kids… have a chat and some giggles. Like all children, I loved to sing but the hymns felt tiring, heavy and burdensome.
In High School, we had the opportunity to study all religions – Judaism, Protestantism, Ba’hai, Buddhism, Hinduism and so on. I approached it with eagerness – here was my opportunity to look further afield to find truth and something that resonated with me – but still I found nothing in my studies that made sense.
After leaving school I moved on in my life, with no real focus on religion. It wasn’t until my sister’s Year 12 Graduation 4 years later that I walked back into a church. I was shocked and gobsmacked to sit in the church for this ceremony; to now become aware, as an adult, of what I had learned to tolerate over all those years. In returning, I could now feel the cursing and imprisonment I was under as a student in a Catholic School. My rejection of religion grew stronger.
All that I took in over those years left me feeling like I didn’t want to know about God or Jesus. What I had heard didn’t all add up and make sense with what I felt in my body and in my heart. So the easiest solution at the time was to reject it all.
I would question myself too – who was I to question all of this history and ceremony? I was just a child…
After spending all of those years in Catholic School and going to Church, I had come to reject religion and its concepts of God because:
- The way God was presented felt harsh and very separate to me.
- I was told that God was judgmental, and that you would go to heaven if you were good, or go to hell if you were bad. It gave a sense that God was someone to be feared. But how could a True and Heavenly Father be judgmental? – This didn’t make sense.
- I was told that Jesus was God’s only Son… and that Jesus died for our sins. This felt very intense and dark to me as a child, and left me with scarring that needed to be healed. If Jesus was God’s only son, that would mean that there was only one in the whole world who was special and worthy of God’s love, rather than ALL of us.
- I was taught that Jesus was a martyr: that he died for the sins of humanity. This is symbolism for someone who takes on other people’s issues. It glorifies the taking on, absorbing of and feeling responsible for the choices of another. As a person who has spent a lifetime taking on other people’s issues, I know the end result and devastation that results from this in my own body, so this can’t be a true way of being. I have learnt through trusting myself and feeling what is true based on the body I inhabit that the best thing for all is to not take on the issues of others, or try to fix anything with band-aid solutions, but call others to take full responsibility for themselves.
- The reason for Jesus being put to death, I was told, was to clear humanity’s sins or wrongdoings, but his death didn’t really change any of that… it all still continues. What I can feel now is that he was a speaker of truth and I have experienced that when I speak the full and whole truth, I can get persecuted for it. This feels more in line with why he died. Through time, there have always been those that fear the truth being exposed and therefore seek to silence that truth being delivered.
- I was presented a way of ritual, ceremony and devotion that wasn’t in line with the natural way I felt to celebrate. The true essence of celebrating always felt to me to be from a lightness of being – but my being never did feel ‘light’ in church. The light felt crushed.
- I had rejected many ‘religious’ words such as holy and glory because the way these words were used didn’t translate to the meanings I knew deep within me.
There was always something very wrong with my religious education; it conflicted with what I felt from within. My body would say “no, that just doesn’t sit well with what I feel”. My mind would say “but you must be wrong because this religion has been building its momentum for a couple of thousand years – with so many followers and so much history behind it”.
When I came across a religion called The Way of The Livingness, there was a sad realisation that I had rejected religion and my connection to God because of all that had been imposed on me that didn’t feel true. When I had rejected that version of Religion and God, I had also rejected the possibility of it being a living truth – and in doing so, I had rejected a part of myself.
THE WAY OF THE LIVINGNESS – RETURNING TO WHOLENESS
At presentations of The Way of the Livingness I have been able to re-claim back all that I know in my heart and soul to be true – because finally I am hearing the words that make sense. But not just that, the words are spoken in the quality that goes hand in hand with the sacredness and essence of Religion – a returning to the Glory we come from.
I no longer feel fragmented – like religion and God are separate to me: now we are one and the same.
The Way of the Livingness – the very name captures the truth for me, because it is about living the love in our hearts.
It represents the living truth that is now active again in me – that we all have within us the same and equal opportunity to live in the Glory of Love. There is not a chosen one or few, but there is a spark waiting to be re-ignited in each of us.
Those days in church always felt like I was hearing empty words. Yet in the presentations on The Way of the Livingness I can feel the energy of equal-ness, brotherhood, love and divinity – as the words are being spoken and in the very room where I am sitting. I can feel it in me, in the presenters, in everyone in the room, and in those outside the building too – it is Unifying.
In these presentations, I don’t find myself yawning, or bored or watching the clock, waiting for it to be over. I don’t feel like I am being cursed for being who I am, or imprisoned by being there. I can laugh out loud and have tears of joy in my eyes. I feel free to express the truth and the love in my body, heart and soul as an equal Son of God.
These feelings are not ones that remain in a building and that I can’t take out into my life and apply practically to all I do. I have come to feel a Holy Reverence at work and at home, washing my car, or shopping at the supermarket, talking to my children’s school teachers and paying my bills: and the feelings don’t stay the same, they keep increasing, strengthening and building over time.
So I have finally found the truth I knew was possible in my heart as a child in The Way of the Livingness, because it confirms what I always knew – that the Kingdom of God is inside me. Living this fact in a world that has accepted far less is not always easy, but it is a truth that lives within and I will now never forget.