A grateful heart is a beginning of greatness. It is an expression of humility. It is a foundation for the development of such virtues as prayer, faith, courage, contentment, happiness, love, and well-being.
James E. Faust
I just wanted to start with saying that writing this post was hard. I started writing about one topic and then switched to another and somehow I ended up with religion. I had a general idea of my state, feelings and emotions surrounding this topic but it was hard to put it in the organized way. As a side note, I am so happy I started my blog, I wrote only a couple of posts but it has helped me tremendously, in an emotional and spiritual way.
I consider myself belonging to Russian Orthodox Church. Not to a particular church as a community/building but as a religion. As most people, I went through a journey of finding God in my life. Even though we follow Russian Orthodox traditions, have saints icons at home and talk about God from time to time, my family is not religious, my dad is agnostic. My grandmother started going to church on a regular basis when I was in middle school and she wanted me to go with her. I hated it. I had to wear a skirt and scarf on my head. It was unbearable to stand the whole time for 1.5 hr service and keep a good posture. It was always hot in the building and I couldn’t understand any of the singings. The priest looked very serious and was a little scary. There were many ready to scold you babushkas if you were not following the rules, like standing where you were supposed to stand, or putting the candles on during the time you were not supposed to put them and so on. When I grew older and was in college, I would join my grandmother for church from time to time.
Then there was a time I considered myself agnostic. It happened right around the time I met my husband who is an atheist.
Right around the time we got married, about 6 years ago, I had the most severe depression in my life. I couldn’t sleep, eat, sit still, or function as a normal person. It lasted for about a year. It was horrible. Nothing and no one could help – therapists, pills, herbal stuff, friends, family, self help books. Depression was eating me alive. It is so true that people turn to God/church when they have issues or something bad happens. That’s what I did, I was praying, I was going to church, I confessed, I talked to priests. It definitely helped me to get through dark times but the thing is that I don’t think that I was a true believer yet, in a spiritual sense of it. I was believing with my mind, not my soul. Eventually, I recovered from depression.
Only recently, I experienced that feeling Eckhart Tolle describes in his book “Power of Now”, feeling of stillness and connectedness. This feeling didn’t come to me the same way it came to him, all of a sudden during the night. I experienced that feeling back then during my depression when I started meditating but I couldn’t understand it and didn’t stick to it.
I only meditate when I start having depression and anxieties which happen about once a year. When I had my last anxiety attack in the beginning of this summer, I went back to listening to my favorite meditation site. https://www.fragrantheart.com/cms/free-audio-meditations. It was hard to recognize that feeling he was describing – quiet mind, inner piece, no outside noice. Oh, I did not trust that weird feeling of stillness at all. It was very new – how can I just not keep thinking about my problems, worry about stuff, be anxious? It is not normal not to have to think. I had to make myself embrace the feeling. Reading “Power of Now” made me believe in this feeling and trust it more.
Now, I seek it. I am more aware of my anxieties. I don’t judge my negative thoughts and I don’t let them eat me up. I go back to my personal safe space when I find myself in my negative states. I follow Ten Commandments more closely, I am working on becoming a better person every day. I want to earn having this feeling of peace and gratitude and I am learning not to sweat the small stuff.
Now I go to church to church once in a while – on major holidays or when I need to get Holy Water. There’s only one Russian Orphodox Church where I live. But when I do go, I love being there during service: the singing, the atmosphere, the candles, the smell captivate me, bring me peace and make me feel closer to God. But I always know that I can find that peace in my soul.