After Atheism

Fumbling Towards a New Spirituality
January 22, 2009, 6:52 pm
Filed under: Atheism, Religion, Spirituality | Tags: ,

New years resolution: stop arguing with atheists.

I dipped my toe into a few blogs, but it kept devolving into arcane philosophical arguments delivered with a disturbing tone of internet righteousness that didn’t seem to be getting anybody anywhere. And I’m as guilty as anyone. Enough already.

Instead, I’d like to share a recent experience that’s yielded, for me, far more fruit.

A couple months ago, I discovered a group of people in my neighborhood who gather together every Sunday morning to dance. For two hours plus, they listen to music and move around the room in whatever way they feel moved to move. There’s no conversation allowed. Beyond that, the rules are few and underlying principles unstated. New arrivals are expected to figure it out for themselves. After two hours, they all form in a circle, say their names, and go home.

I was both intimidated but intrigued. Intimidated because I didn’t know any of these people, suspected unspoken rules, and didn’t want to look foolish. I’m not by nature either a dancer or a particularly free spirit. I incline toward shy and self conscious. But something drew me to this experience. I live in world that is very word driven. My interactions with other people are very word-centric. I spend far too many hours at the computer or on the phone. So the experience of being in a roomful of people, without anybody saying a word, was new and alluring. The experience of moving my body in ways I rarely moved it was refreshing and fun. I played with different moves to see what happened: walking in a tightrope straight line, explored the range of motion of my arms, my feet, my fingers. Slowly, I began to find my dance. And to appreciate the dance of others. I left feeling great. Exercised. Awake. Alive.

The weeks went by, and I kept going. Gradually, I began to connect, to partner in someone else’s dance, to learn from those who had something to teach, to teach new faces who wanted to learn, to discover the experience of just being in the moment, in the clearing outside the thicket of words, outside my head. I developed a sense of belonging to the odd, magical, (dare I say?), spiritual community. All without arguing any philosophy or defending any god. And it brought a calmness and a warmth to my life. It made me feel cared for and wanted and perhaps even loved.

I still barely know these people. Yet I feel a bond with them that transcends rational, scientific explanation. A belief in something that exists only because I believe it. And that was what my life as a skeptical non-believing curmudgeon was missing.