Held In The Heart
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COMMUNITY JOURNAL

Sliding Back to Flow Forward

Healing may not be so much about getting better, as about letting go of everything that isn’t you – all of the expectations, all of the beliefs - and becoming who you are.
— Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.

My Google Assistant tells me that there are roughly 4,200 religions in the world today. I spent a decade of my life immersed in what was defined behind the pulpit as a “fundamental Bible-believing, KJV [King James Version] only, Independent Baptist church.” Today, in the view of this church, I am a “backslider” — someone who has turned away from the teachings of Christianity to pursue my own desire.  

Ironically, over the last few years I have found myself becoming more spiritual than I ever was in the church.

I have faith, hope, and incredible amounts of love in my life. Inside my heart I feel the sweetness of peace and my Spirit is filled on a regular basis, often to the point of overflowing. All of this in my life with no involvement with any of the “roughly 4,200 religions” nor have I started attending a traditional church. How could this happen?

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When I walked out of the church for the last time on a bright and sunny Sunday morning, I left all of religion on the church pew as well. I did not leave with the intent to find a new, nicer church or to study religions to find one I liked better. I actually walked out with the intent that I would rather spend eternity in Hell than in any way be associated with what was being spewed from the pulpit that day. 

My frustration with the church had existed from the very start.

Men ran everything — except the nursery. Women seemed to have no value — except in the nursery. There were so many rules, particularly for teenagers. No physical contact ever between boys and girls; girls could only wear skirts, dresses, or culottes; no rock music, not even Christian rock; no attending movies at the theater; only good, clean fun was allowed. I actually had no real problem with “the rules” — they were all easy enough to get around.

So I continued to listen to the preaching, attended high school at the church school for my junior and senior years, went on to study at a college with the exact same belief system, and even continued attending church for the next few years after graduation. Until that day when the preacher stood at his pulpit and started to list off all of the groups of people who would never get into Heaven — for the simple reason that they weren’t “fundamental, Bible-believing, KJV only, independent Baptists.” That’s it folks — the only reason.

He enthusiastically announced that morning a list comprised of several of those other 4,200 religions — from Buddhist to Methodist to Atheist to Catholic to Wesleyan — all of them, going to Hell because they did not believe what the preacher believed. Even all those people who had never heard of Jesus because they lived in remote locations. Sorry, Hellfire for them as well. It was the most disgusting, hateful, and egocentric preaching I had ever heard.

I made the choice that day to walk out and never look back. 

That choice, coupled with my 10 years of experience in the church, culminated in a decision that religion wasn’t for me. I didn’t see love. I didn’t see compassion. I didn’t experience acceptance. All I ever really saw was judgment, fear, and ignorance. I didn’t understand how one man could presume to know all the secrets to eternity when there seemed to be hundreds of different perspectives. I let the concept of spirituality and religion become a void in my life and was fine with it. Until I wasn’t. The fact is, the spirit is such an essential part of the wholeness of a human it wouldn’t let me go. 

And so I did the one thing I truly loved doing, I started reading and studying other religions. I became thirsty to find a religious box that I could fit myself inside. Where is God? Which box is the right box? What I actually discovered was that when I walked out of the church, I may have left religion behind, but the belief system that I had been taught was still with me — attached like a parasite that did not want to let go. Judgment, fear, and ignorance blocked my path in my quest to finding a religion that resonated with me. I found myself judging other religions for not being strict enough. I realized I still had fear about doing the “wrong” thing.

Ignorantly, I had believed that all religions were just like the independent Baptists and when they weren’t, I cast them aside as not religious enough. 

This realization did not come immediately. It took years, hard personal introspection, and a dedication to uncover my authentic self before I connected my rejection of all religions to a belief system that I didn’t know was a part of me. What surprised me the most was that when I decided a few years ago to connect with Spirit, I found it on a mat inside of a yoga studio. I had actually just been looking to stretch, gain some flexibility, and find some relaxation.

What I found was my soul, my heart, my self.

Yoga has resonated with me for years and it was something I kept returning to over and over. My exploration eventually led me to the right space at the right time when I was ready to start listening to my own heart.

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When you enter a space that truly welcomes everyone without judgment, regardless of a personal belief system, different cultural experiences, or what a person looks like, your soul lights up. Not all yoga studios are truly welcoming in this way, but the one I entered those few short years ago was definitely my vibe. From that first time I walked through those doors, I have only continued growing, learning, and fulfilling my life’s destiny. My life has been forever changed spiritually, and I am ever so grateful.

Are you questioning your belief system? If you are, I am here to let you know that it is okay. Be curious. Ask the questions. Explore your intuition. If something doesn’t feel right or doesn’t align with your personal values, then maybe it’s time to open your heart to something new. Exploring is just that — exploring! It doesn’t have to include a yoga studio, unless that speaks to you. 

Your adventure to connect with Spirit will not look like anyone else’s journey.

And that’s kind of the point. Every human is unique. You are the only you there will ever be. What makes your heart sing? Is there something that brings you joy every time you think of it? Walking in nature, playing an instrument, floating in a pool, kickboxing, hanging out in a library… when or where do you feel like “the authentic you”? Take some time to just sit, be still, and ponder the why behind the connection. Open yourself up to listen to your heart rather than the voices of everyone around you. Trust what your heart tells you and take that first step on your journey. Now is your time.

 

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Since leaving the church over 20 years ago, Dawn Adams has been on a pilgrimage to discover her personal spiritual truth. As a former church member, graduate of a Christian high school, and holder of both a Biology & a Bible degree, from the now defunct Tennessee Temple University, Dawn explores the unearthing of spirituality outside the traditional church building. She invites you to explore with her. / Follow Dawn and her travels on Instagram.

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