Meditation & Health #4 – From Atheist to Spiritually Religious

Meditation & Health #4 Contents

From Atheist to Spiritually Religious

By Nina Zhou, Connecticut, Ninth Grade

When I was a little kid, there was never mention of religion in my family. Everyone, from my mom to my dad to my grandparents, was atheist. As I grew and learned more about this vibrant world, I became aware of environmental issues, politics, human rights concerns – but never religion. My knowledge of religion remained at the same level as that of a young child: faint, foggy and unclear. To me, religion was a made-up superior god who made people bow at his feet and pray all day long. This image may seem ridiculous, but it’s what I believed.

This idea of a holier-than-thou god grew and twisted in my head, and when my mom took me to ancient sightseeing places in Beijing, I would smirk at the ubiquitous statues of the Buddha. “Only a fool would ever believe in something as fake as that,” I had thought.
When I’d matured a bit, I started to regard religion with more respect. I realized that it is a personal choice whether to be religious or not, and I now understand that it’s better not to be judgmental. Still, I felt that religion was a slightly crazy concept, finding it difficult to believe in something I couldn’t see or touch. Until I moved from China to the West.

When I was around seven, my parents filed for divorce. Both of my parents were in agreement with regard to what was best for me, both thinking it would be better if my mom took me to North America. So an immigration visa was issued, and I moved with my mom across the Pacific Ocean from Beijing, China to Vancouver, Canada. I’ve been an independent child ever since I learned to talk and read, and being young, adjusting to the new environment was fairly easy. But yet something deep inside me hurt, like an old wound not properly healed or a blister stuck deep inside a bruise. It stayed deep down there, pressed back like shaken soda in a bottle, waiting for the cap to be removed. I learned later on that this pain is called “negative spiritual reflection.” The source of this negativity was my mother. I could feel that she wasn’t happy, and that caused pain for me as well. She was still wounded from the divorce and her emotions would swing – everything about her was unstable. The situation stayed like that until one day my mom came across something called Bodhi Meditation.

There was a seven-day workshop being offered that was meant to heal spiritual wounds, and everything practiced in class leaned toward the spiritual side as opposed to Buddhist religious orthodoxy. My mom had already tried several different methods to release her pain: yoga, prayers, physical exercise… But none of it had worked. Even though she was reluctant to try something new, my mom was running out of options. She enrolled in the workshop and the results were miraculous. I still remember her coming home at the end of the seven-day period, and I was ready to see her always tired, angry face. She came through the door and I braced myself. I thought she was going to yell at me for not being in bed. Instead, she embraced me in a tight hug and whispered in my ear, “Nina, I’m sorry.” I cried. Even to this day the memory still brings wet, warm tears to my eyes. From that moment on, my atheism turned into something else. Something I’d never thought of before, something that I’m still not clear on. All I know is that deep down, I began to accept the idea of a superior power that helps those in need.

That doesn’t mean I converted to a religion, though. I accept the idea of being “spiritually religious,” but still don’t believe in the God of Islam, Judaism or Christianity. In my spirituality, the higher power doesn’t have a shape, form, or even a name. It’s something mystical and foreign, an idea that we cannot capture in our hands. It might not even have a mind. It’s just a code of conduct, a law that protects and helps victims of fear, hatred and betrayal. The only name I can think of for this is “spiritually religious.” Religion to me now is not a set of rules or a way of worship. I don’t do yoga to achieve moksha or celebrate the days of Lent. I don’t pray toward Mecca or light the branches of a menorah. I eat both beef and pork, and sometimes say profane things, and have never even tried reading the Bible. I don’t pray to different gods for different things, wait for a messiah to come save humanity, or want to go on a pilgrimage. All I believe in is my own religion, my own spirituality.

I’ve seen it work miracles, heal wounds, and repair my family. I’ve laughed for it, cried for it, and thank it every day. It cured my mother, not through Buddhist religious ritual, but through spiritual healing facilitated by meditation. Because of that, I am grateful.

This is my religion.

Meditation & Health #4 Contents