Think. Think Think. That’s what Winnie The Pooh would do when pondering important things at his Thoughtful Spot (though I believe he spelled it “Thotful”). As toddlers, my two daughters were so enamored of that philosophical bear that we anointed one of the couches in our living room, a simple daybed smushed against a large picture window, as our own pondering spot. However, we adapted the concept to our own inclinations. It wasn’t a place to be alone. We made that small perch a place to come together, a place for one to turn to another and talk about any concern, ask for any help, seek any comfort. That spot was a great comfort to us all for many years.
It didn’t fade. We didn’t stop coming together. But, life and children and sometimes couches and even time itself keep changing, getting bigger, growing and evolving. So, we sublimated our sacred spot into a more generalized, but no less sacred, attentiveness. Where we come together has become more fluid in our typically modern, often busy and increasingly independent lives, but we stay committed to coming together in whatever ways we all need. You could say that we are religious about it.
We are a family that does not adhere to one religious tradition. There are apparently a lot of families like us now. According to a 2009 Newsweek poll, 30% of Americans now identify as “spiritual but not religious,” and other polls targeting those between the ages of 19 and 28 find over 70% declaring the same. Individual spiritual beliefs are morphing at an astonishing rate. In America and beyond, all sorts of souls are creating their own spiritual identities outside of established religions, blending aspects of different faiths with other transcendent practices. A teacher refers to himself as a Catholic Daoist. A filmmaker calls herself a HinJew. An esteemed Hispanic writer declares herself a Buddhalupist, infusing her newfound Eastern spirituality with her continued devotion to the Virgin Of Guadalupe. I freely declare that I personally love this unfolding spiritual foment. While I call myself a Buddhist, I probably should more properly declare myself a mildly neo-Pagan one. Taking a winding spiritual path has led me to a deeper, and sustaining, sense of the divine. As a parent, I don’t want to make my kids walk my path. Nevertheless, I do want to encourage path-iness in them.
So, my now teen and tween girls and I are coming together in a new way this year. To support them (and nudge them a bit) in their own spiritual unfolding, I am offering to them a year of exploring all the religious traditions on this earth. Nothing too academic, and with the only true intention being to identify what fundamental questions most resonate with them, rather than identify any particular answers. To ponder things, together. To encourage them to think. Think Think. And, more than anything, to help them understand that all of the feelings they feel, and fears they fear, and thoughts they think, and loves they love, have been and will be felt and feared and thought and loved by every other being in this universe. That all of these feelings and fears and thoughts and loves are the wellspring of all religious impulse. And, that to flower fully, they will need to both understand and nurture their own wellspring in their own hearts. Inquiring about how lots of other souls do this seems a thotful place to start.