Coming Out of the (Religious) Closet

One thing that plagues the hearts of most individuals more than anything else is living a lifestyle that is different. As human beings we strive to be accepted and loved. When we have a trait that is different than what is “normal”, we experience stress, anxieties, and suffering as we try to hide our true nature. Many people spend years in denial of who they really are, just to be accepted. This could be anything from an eclectic taste in music, to someone with a different sexual preference than the norm, to even a religious preference that doesn’t fit into social standards.

For me it was my choice in religion that brought about my suffering.

I was blessed with very understanding parents. From a young age religion was never forced on me and was never an issue. My family was predominantly Christian, so I was raised with the common beliefs of heaven and hell, Jesus dying for our sins and the like. I was given two different views of the Christian faith, as my mother’s family is Catholic and my father’s Baptist.

In high school I began to rebel, as we all do. I lived in a conservative East Texas community, where everyone went to church on Sunday and it was common practice to have prayer before the Friday night football game. To stand out I grew my hair long, listened to heavy metal music, and tried to make those around me uncomfortable. I realized then that I had a hard time conforming to the “Christian” way that my classmates were so enamored with, but did not know how to express it. I turned to Anton LeVay’s “Satanism” as a means to express my discord with my core beliefs.

Moving from high school to college, I realized that pure rebellion of this type was not what I really wanted. I felt like there was a gap for me in the traditional Christian viewpoint, but I struggled to figure out what that meant for me. It was during this time that I first found Taoism through none other than a beloved children’s character.

The Tao of Pooh, written by Benjamin Hoff, was an eye opener for me. It laid out the basis for an Eastern religious thought in terms that my conditioned Western mind could comprehend. It brought me peace of mind that I had never experienced before, and made me feel for the first time that I was starting down the right path. From the Tao I branched off into Zen Buddhism and through study of both I found contentment…for a while.

Still very young and easily influenced, my roommate at the time introduced me to the Kabbalah. He was studying through one of the “secret societies” and felt that his life was gaining positive momentum from his studies. I felt envious of this, even though I had found my own path.

Since I was showing interest in his studies my roommate set up a phone meeting with one of the people from his temple, so that he could answer any questions I had before I took the plunge.

I will always remember that phone call. The first topic that was discussed, before anything else, was my practice of Taoism. He referred to it as “spiritual suicide”, and asked why I would want to do such a thing to myself. He then described all the benefits of joining their group and tried to get me to confirm when I would be sending in my membership fee.

After the phone call it just didn’t feel right, but my roommate was a good person and I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself. I wanted to fit in.

Maybe it was the hard sell, maybe it was a lack of money, maybe it was just destiny, but I never officially joined their group. I was, however, inundating myself in Hebrew Scriptures, strange magical circles, and trying to invoke all manner of angels with odd sounding names as I read book after book on the subject.

I tried desperately to merge this Kabbalistic thinking with my Buddhist and Taoist practices. For many years I continued down this path, finding links between these and other different religions, until I lost the ability to classify myself by any one belief.

I knew to my core that all these different religious beliefs were all trying for the same thing: enlightenment, inner peace, and a secure place for their “souls” in the next life or afterlife. Many times I said “we are all trying to walk up the same mountain, the difference is what path we take to get to the top”. But instead of seeing the beauty in the interconnectedness that I found, I instead let my desire for belonging take over. I tried to walk every path at once, and began referring to myself as a “deity whore”. If all the paths were equal, then why did I have to choose? Why couldn’t I be accepted by every faith?

This, of course, was a fool’s gambit. My ego overtook my beliefs, and I let myself fall into its traps.

I was the religious “jack of all trades”, able to speak just enough about any religion to sound educated, while completely missing the true nature of them all. I tried to show other people the merit in my way, and led them down my same path, thinking I was doing the right thing. It is true what they say…the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

It wasn’t until one of my “students” called me out on my warped world view that I realized how far off the path I had traveled.

My world crumbled. Once again I began challenging all of the beliefs that I held so dear, and realized that in trying to be accepted I had lost my true self.

As with all destruction in our lives, once the dust settles we begin to rebuild.

Now understanding some of the traps and pitfalls I dedicated myself to the one constant that I held since early adulthood: Eastern thought, specifically Buddhism. I focused my practice and my mind on one goal, but found yet another trap…

Internally I have become a much better person. I have had my setbacks and frustrations, my ego has driven me to do things that I know I shouldn’t, but through it all I have stayed my course. Along the way I have found yoga as a partner to my meditation, and felt my body, mind, and spirit connect as one.

Externally I’ve hidden this change, which I know now is due to clinging to that basic principle: acceptance. I’ve created a rift between what I feel and what I show, what I believe and what I say. I’ve hidden my true self away in the hope that I could avoid feeling like an outsider.

This is my coming out.

Through this blog I will be detailing my journey along the path. Hopefully along the way I can provide a positive message to anyone reading, maybe some humor and light-heartedness when available, and above all love to you, my reader, and myself.

For the first time since high school I am not afraid of who I am inside. With this I let go of my clinging to acceptance, my want to fit in.

I am a Buddhist.

I am a Yogi.

No matter if you hit me, abuse me, curse me, spit on me, shun me, or deny me I will return to you no anger and will provide only love.

I hope my journey helps you in some way as you walk your path, whatever that path may be.



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