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Q05

Have you had any particularly religious or spiritual experiences this past year?

Yes. Gardening has been fantastically spiritual for me, as well as returning to my home congregation after all the travel I've been doing. Having sex with my new lover has been downright ecstatic.

To me, spirituality isn't seeing the Virgin Mary in a slice of toast; it's being present, feeling the connection between all people and giving love back into that connection. So yes, I have, saying hi to people on the subway, talding with random strangers without fear, meeting people who take up the call serve others and struggling with my own desire to do so. Every moment of surprise, where my ideas of the world are challenged and my perspective broadened, every fresh voice that surprises me... that feeds my spirit, and for every single one, I am thankful.

Kind of. Having been not just an atheist, but a nihilist for years now, I never thought I'd have anything other than a flat "no" to this kind of question. But I went to see Leonard Cohen in concert in Boston this year, and damn if the power of his words didn't make me want to believe in god again. The way he phrases reality really gets to me, and moves me in a way I haven't been moved since I was a kid in church feeling the shared hallucination of the transformative power of Jesus' love. LC was a religious experience for me. I can almost believe in humanity again.

Holding my grandmother's hand while she died. Making a commitment to stick with my boyfriend (my partner, my soulmate) through the tough times and the easy ones. Making a commitment to myself to be the best nurse possible (and the best nursing student). Listening to my conscience more than other people. Worrying less about others' judgments of me. Loving and thanking God as much as possible. Remembering to look up from time to time. Thank you God for all that and all the things I'm forgetting.

There were times this year that I wished I explicitly believed in a divine figure so that I could rail against it. No such luck. This past year, I have concluded that I just don't have a tendency towards religious or spiritual experiences. (People who don't know me well are surprised to hear me say that; I have to explain that while I'm Jewish as all get-out, I'm not traditionally religious about it.) But whenever I go to the beach, I stand and look out over the water, and have a little heart-to-heart with that God I don't quite believe in. It helps me sort out my thoughts and settle my mind for a little bit. I'll take it.

I became a yoga teacher and teach in a juvenile detention facility. We always start the class by asking the girls how they feel. One girl who is in detention week after week, always answers "I feel blessed."

Last summer (2008) I reconnected with G-d while I was at US Marine Corps Officer Candidate School. Through reading prayers, and praying to myself throughout the day, I was able to make it through what was hands-down the hardest experience of my life thus far. Over the past year, due to time constraints and competing priorities for my energy and reflection, I lost touch with G-d. I hope to reconnect with Him over this next year, but I acknowledge that I will have to make an effort to do so.

Not religious. Nothing too spiritual, but i have had some psychedelic experiences that have affected my thinking in a more short-term way. OR being at Grant Park in Chicago on election night when Obama was elected President - that was a beautiful night.

I don't think I've had any spiritual experiences this year. My mind feels like it has been so set in the reality of things that I've not stopped to appreciate anything around me. It's a bit sad to realize. I feel like I've been so single minded for such a long time that I don't enjoy what's going on outside.

many. moments of clarity, grace and gratitude.

Well I'm not Jewish. I was actually raised Catholic, but growing up in that religion didn't allow for open interpretation of God and spiritual beliefs. It's a rigid structure and one that I came to despise. I lost all hope in any kind of faith or religion after a friend was killed in Iraq. I didn't see the point in believing in a higher power anymore, and sometimes I still don't. Then I was asked to be my nephew's godmother and I had to actually give my sister reasons why I should accept and how I would encourage him to grow up in a Catholic church. I came to the conclusion that I would support him no matter what religious path he chooses. I'll encourage him to make his own decisions once he fully understands all that religion and Catholicism encompasses; he may very well learn that he doesn't agree with everything much like I don't. But above all he should know that every kind of religion and faith is important to those who follow, and that they deserve his respect. But most of the time I feel religion is doing our world more harm than good. I'd rather promote peace over God.

Melissa Presti, new york

Yes, I've always been open to lots of different religions, and intrigued with the differences and similiarities. Right now it's Eckankar and the lectures of Marc Gafni

I'm a rational-atheist. No religious experiences for me. But I can consider visiting the Ellis Island Immigration Museum a sort of spiritual experience. A very strong one.

I am neither religious nor spiritual. But this year I found solace and healing in sharing my feelings... with strangers. This is the that of art and literature---and I now switch-hit. Remembrance and re-reading of DFW has certainly been spiritual. And but so I have changed within.

Tomás Lajous, Mexico

Watching families in the Med Center in Memphis was a very spiritual experience for me. I am an agnostic/atheist, but I can appreciate the religious/spiritual lives of others. I found myself wanting the religious certainty people there seemed to have.

Just a few weekends ago, I participated in a weekend of Jewish community and learning with my 3 1/2 year old daughter. Something about sharing the experience with her, seeing her excitement, and realizng that this was going to shape her Jewish memories and identity has stuck with me. Similarly making a point to light candles and say the blessings with my daughters even when it's just us, even when I'm exhausted and we're just eating takeout or leftovers, always leaves me with a little glow.

I have spiritual experiences all the time. When I see a particularly beautiful butterfly, or sunset, or am reminded of the amazing qualities of dolphins to communicate and show compassion, or when I meet someone that feels strongly about G-d in their own way, I am emotionally moved. These experiences confirm my spirituality and appreciation for the universal one-ness that I refer to as G-d.

i wish i did. i would love to have that passion for that spirituality brings on. i have that passion for just one or two parts of my life and i keep them buried.

As my mother ages and moves closer to the end of her life, I have had some deeply moving moments with her that feel very spiritual. I wish I could say I have had religious experiences, but the minimal attendance I put in at our synagogue do not sustain me beyond the moment. I wish I could find a religious community that felt right for me. So far, no such luck!

Yes. It involved music, and it was the strangest thing, I felt it inside me and it somehow it let me know there is something more out there, connecting us all together. It made me see that we are all part of something, this reflecting pool of light, God is within us, he is part of that voice, in some way... unparalleled..

dorothy, vancouver

The burial and sitting of shiva of my mother-in-law was an intense spiritual and religious experience. As I continue to say Kaddish nearly every day I am brought back to the experience of her final days, the period immediately after her death, before her burial and of course these days that have followed. Further, during the first night of shiva at our home, an intense lighting storm darkened our home - and we did minyan under flashlight - in a jammed packed house. It was as if her presence were strong and powerful that very first evening.

mitch, arlington heights, IL

I confronted the 'new atheists' books by Dawkins and Hutchens and did not agree with them .Karen Armstrong's work has recativated my faith.

Tont, Toronto

Hiking the John Muir Trail! So freaking gorgeous, there MUST be a god, right? Or is there...hmmm

Raising my children is a spiritual experience whenever I allow myself to slow down and reflect on it. It involves love and patience and insight that can be the most fullfilling thing in the world if you allow it to be. There is nothing more incredible than raising a child and giving up so much of yourself for another.

I've always talked to God, but I finally hear him/her answering me in the words and actions of my children. My son is still so young (18 months), but his compulsiveness and love of any kind of experience as well as the complexity and will and humor and spirit of my daughter, who is four, convince me of the divine over and over again.

Many smaller moments come to mind, but the big one would certainly be converting to Judaism. It felt like coming home.

Matty S. Los Angeles

I feel G-d in so many ways every day. Sometimes just the way I catch my wife looking at me. How my wife & brother took care of me after the visit w/my mom. That was so holy

In a manner of speaking. When my law firm went out of business, knowing I had to mourn the loss, but having trouble doing so, I went to services for a month during the week and said Kaddish. It was refreshing. And then some time later, I realized that while I attended services regularly, I did not work at the spirituality, and began to change my attitude about services. Though they are naturally spiritual, a great minayn we have, paying attention to the inner world beyond the Amidah has added to the many benefits I always receive each Shabbat morning.

I'm a worrier - about everything. I made a decision to try to stop worrying about things I had no control over - in particular I decided to quit worrying about money- and to let God handle it. It's been amazing. Things have a way of working out sooner or later. God always provides. I still worry, just not quite as much.

I ate 'shrooms for the first time and felt connected with the universe. I felt that whatever I do, I am connected to everyone and everything on a level that transcends us.

More of a deepening of my spiritual nature, my intuition, my consciousness. I am aware of how much the experience of life shifts as I get older. The 50's feel very different than any time before now. Incredibly rich. I believe it is due to this deepening, this accumulation of spirit and thought.

I can't say I know or care much about religion but for the first time in my life I feel like I really have faith in something. My heart was broken to tiny pieces by a boy this year, and when I crumbled, my family's support shook me to my core. My mother, despite our economic situation, bought me a ticket home and she and my sister gave me a gift I can never repay - a week long vacation from heartbreak.

Just over a year ago, I got married- the ceremony and our wedding was an overwhelmingly positive spiritual experience. And, honestly, my most awe-inspiring spiritual moments have been sitting on my surfboard and watching the sun setting. I am just amazed and blissed out at these moments, and feel incredibly connected to the natural environment. I was also surprisingly connected to my religious and spiritual sense of being at Temple recently, during Rosh Hashanah services, at the Amidah. The Rabbi spoke about how the Amidah is both a time for communal prayer and individual prayer or meditation- and I loved this juxtaposition of religion through shared ritual with setting up space and place for individual meditation and contemplation

I started a gratitude journal this year. Each day I write down three things I was thankful for -- or appreciated -- the day before. It's a great exercise -- because it forces you to find the positive even in not so great days. It also begins my day in a positive way. It's been spiritually uplifting.

This year I really came to recognize and acknowledge my flaws, faults, and failings. I had to come to terms with the fact that I am not (yet) the person I want to be. But as a part of this process I have come to know God in a new way: as a constant source of support, forgiveness, and love.

Obama.

my children's laughter

Seeing Jane Austen's writing desk at the British Library was a deeply moving experience for me. I also have these moments I can't really describe very well, where everything seems to go very silent and I feel in touch with something more infinite. They are scary but nice. I had one looking at the sky in Oyster Bay recently. But they can happen almost anywhere.

Moving to New York. Everything about New York City is a (Jewish) religious experience. I visited 770 for the first time, found new meaning through prayer and observance, and discovered that there is a strong statistical correlation between how Orthodox you are and how hot you think I am.

I saw Thich Nhat Hanh speak in Pasadena. He said entering the Kingdom of God is as easy as taking one step. And he means that literally. God is hear, in a flower, in your breath, in you. I like that a lot better than the idea of Heaven. I experienced the Kingdom of God in Elizabeth Lake, camping with a community of friends in Tuolumne Meadows too.

Two. One, from the edge of the Old City, taking pictures of the Mt. of Olives and East Jerusalem. As my friends and I prepared to leave, we suddenly heard the Muslim call to prayer; all four of us froze in a sort of awe. When the call finished, we headed to the Kotel for our own Ma'ariv prayers. The second occurred in Tel Aviv during Shabbat evening services at the port. The sun set just as we closed our eyes for the Shema, creating one of the most powerful spiritual experiences of my life.

Getting pregnant is the most spiritual thing that has ever happened to me. I can't explain why but having and helping develop another life inside of my body makes me feel enormously connected to the larger continuum of humanity. I feel more empathy towards people, more kindness towards others and I am generally happier. I like the world more and think of other people in a more multi-dimensional way.

The morning in Thailand, after I read my stepfather's email about starting hospice and had decided I would call him that evening (morning for him) to talk about me coming home, I went back to our hotel to tell my finace what was going on. He was sitting in the restaurant- an indoor space with an open front. As I sat down at his table and started to tell him the situation, a black butterfly flew in through the open front, flew so close I thought it was going to land on me, then swooped around and back out. As soon as that happened, I had the thought that my stepfather had already died, and the butterfly was him. I quickly dismissed the thought as melodrama- he had only just started hospice, and it would be at least a couple of weeks- enough time for me to call him later that day, and enough time for me to go home and be with him. But hours later, when the time finally rolled around to call, I found out I had been right. And I truly do believe that it was a last burst of his conscious energy that drove the butterfly- his quick and subtle way of saying goodbye.

I wish I could say I did, but it was a pretty terrestrial year.

Unfortunately, I have not. I prayed a lot during Kyle's last few weeks, but mostly for him to be comfortable and understand that he was loved. I think it worked.

I recently started practicing yoga. I am generally put off by religion, but regularly being in a room with other people who are focused together on centering themselves, with the occasional snippet of yogic philosophy put out there by the teacher, has been really good for my head. I feel like my average mood is happier since I started practicing.

I feel that in general I have been more mindful, meditative and spiritual this year. I have also received more opportunities and guidance for religious and spiritual experiences this past year. Probably the most spiritual experience was in the middle of the year, I took a week and a half long retreat into the countryside by myself to cleanse and write. It was the most peaceful and serene existence and I always carry that in my heart.

Occasionally being caught up short by seeing my late father in my son who was born three weeks after he died.

I woke up from a nightmare crying one morning. I looked out my window and saw the sky was aglow with an imminent sunrise streaked with warm pink and orange. I went downstairs and stood in the sand, allowing the waves to wash over my feet as the new day began. I realized how lucky we all are to live in a world of such beauty, and how powerful we are that our actions can preserve or destroy it.

After being married for nearly four years and being together with the man who is my husband for almost five years, I finally met his sister, who is mentally ill. It was a deeply spiritual experience because I'd heard things about her and I had no idea what to expect, but the person I met was - and still is - a fascinating, multi-faceted woman with a wry sense of humor and many interests. It reminded me that the presence of God is manifested in different ways. My sister-in-law and I had a wonderful meeting and are now in the process of forging a relationship between relatives. She doesn't have a lot to say, but when we hear from her it reminds me that she is trying hard to have a relationship with her family -- something my own family is not so good at -- and it makes me feel very loved. Her outreach efforts in light of her emotional difficulties are an incredible blessing and make me thank God that I have had the chance to get to know her.

I'm an atheist and though I do think of myself as having and appreciating the spiritual, I find it surprisingly difficult to answer this question. I guess my best answer would be: working on a play with a major, hugely gifted artist. Creativity and the generosity of sharing it seem like spiritual enterprises to me.

Nope. Finally decided that I've given up on religion entirely, except for the traditions. I'm done with god.

India. Seeing the Dalai Lama for the frst time. I was so elated and peaceful it brought tears to my eyes. He's just an old guy who happens to be an exceptional human being but he can really affect you.

No, but I have recently established that, although I am firmly atheist, death does not necessarily mean the end. We live on in the legacy that we leave, in our family and friends, and the memories they have of us.

Yes, I have seen God directly at work through the many members of AA and NA. This year has been my first experience with these organizations and the faithful people that belong. This way of spiritual living and generosity towards others is a an example to all.

Raised in an ultra orthodox family in a dysfunctional and abusive household, for a very long time I have had negative emotional feelings towards religion (duh). This past year I had the privlage of attending my best friends daughter's bat mitzvah which was held in her conservative temple. For the first time in so many years I felt a stirring during services that felt spiritual. I think that I was able to experience that because the setting was so different to what in my mind I think of as religious. It is sad because I do not know of a way to open this experience to myself again- too much emotional baggage.

giving birth is a spiritual experience. First just getting through the challenging part of the physical natural labor, and then having this beautiful little human being lay on my chest whom I nurtured from within the womb, be crying and clawing on my chest. This is spiritual.

Last year as I led second day Rosh HaShana services, I caught a glimpse of my father siting off-center in the second row with tears glimmering in his eyes as I chanted Unetaneh Tokef.

I had a hummingbird kamakazee into my kayak that was on top of my car. (sadly it died), But I took this as my animal symbol, during a tough time in my life. I read all about the hummingbird symbolism, about its ability to move forwards and backwards (unlike all birds). It represents not getting stuck in darkness and keeping the flexibility to fly in many directions and maintain lightness. I took this in as my motto.

My trip to El Salvador was an incredible experience. I saw in those people hope and tranquility that I never would have expected being that there is so much poverty and violence there. It touched my profoundly.

since my brother died, especially immediately after, there were an overabundance of synchronicities involving him. it forced me to expand my ideas of what it meant to exist and how much the physical really meant to me.

yes. two things. i had a close call. an almost car crash. on the interstate. everything was okay, but i could've died. i drove away practically levitating. i had this rush, like, well, this is it. stop moping and mooning, ya know. just joy. and second, i am training to chant Torah. i,ve been an atheist since the age of eleven. like, a Jewish atheist, so what? that's natural; i,m an intellectual, after all, right? well, now, after several months of chanting haftorah at home and learning 3 styles of trope, uh, i can no longer say i am an atheist. something is happening.

Not one in particular, but I do crave the meditative bliss I feel from a great yoga class or workout. My entire body feels alive and my mind feels clear. However, I haven't really carved out time to do some serious mediation/reflection.

Working on the land at my friend's house, I felt a true sense of belonging like I haven't felt since... maybe since I was a kid. I felt secure, rooted, an integral part of this community and project. As if it were coming from my own desire, will, essence. Sitting in the meditation room, I felt the expanse of shunyata, emptiness, presence. I think to be somewhere where you know you cannot ever be rejected, shunned, abandoned... where you can be yourself, where anything goes (as long as you are respectful of others) ... this is a very valuable and deep feeling I want everyone to have. A key to manifesting / sharing it further is to feel safe to express when I'm feeling insecure, and to allow others to feel insecure as well, to feel safe.

Anytime I am able to get into nature I feel spiritual and connected to the larger world. This doesn't happen as much as I'd like. I think it's easy to lose perspective about what is important in the world, especially in New York, where many things revolve around income, spending, and superficiality.

I have many debilitating and painful health problems - and I'm of the school that you play the hands you are dealt and try to rise above. But it's been hard, as I have no close family left - I live alone, long divorced, with no children. I worry about the future (I'm 66) and will I be able to take care of myself. I find myself meditating and even praying often. While I'm Jewish, and I belong to a reform congregation, I consider myself more spiritual than religious. I have found no real comfort in attending services - except for the beautiful music which does transport me temporarily. I have forsaken many Jewish rituals since my parents died. I somehow believe in fate, Karma if you will -- and my current challenge is to change my seemingly bad Karma to good Karma. A while back I would have felt ridiculous even thinking this - let alone saying it aloud. But chronic and severe pain does crazy things to you. In the end, I truly feel a cosmic connection to SOMETHING.....just don't know what, as yet.

I find myself .... how should I put it.... estranged from God. I don't believe that he is responsible for the death of my son. But I don't feel that he is listening anymore. I really wish I could get back that sense of companionship that I felt before.

A few nights before my grandmother passed away she appeared to me during a meditation session. I was transported back to the sensations I had as a little boy when I'd seek the comfort of her embrace. That vision made her passing much easier. During a long jog around the beach front resort I stayed at during a destination wedding I had a very moving sense of how bless I was. I recently began attending a Unitarian/new age prayer circle. The very first meeting I went to moved my spirit and mind more than 10 years of Catholic mass ever had.

Dimitri, San Antonio

Three come to mind: (1) Frustratingly unspiritual & irreligious: my visit to the Western Wall, something that was important to my wife and me because we were taking our year-old daughter for the first time. The gender-based barriers had only expanded since the last time we were there, and we felt accosted every which way by schnorrers, beggars, and kiruv workers. (2) Spiritually disturbing: my walk along the separation barrier that ploughs through downtown Bethlehem. It felt overwhelming, threatening, and deeply demoralizing. I can't imagine the economic & spiritual damage it causes everyday Palestinian residents of Bethlehem. (3) Finally, some uplift: Kabbalat Shabbat on the Namal in Tel Aviv with Beit Tefila Israeli. What an extraordinary experience to watch the sun set to a beautifully sung/played service, as Israelis out for an evening stroll or bike ride or dinner stopped by to see what was going on and joined in.

No. I wish I had. The whole lack of fairness and feeling the world is balanced makes it hard for me to find God. I try. I try to see God in the beauty of the world, in the way an apple tastes right from the tree. But feeling God's presence? No. I still believe in a higher power, and I don't expect that higher power to be as evident and work in the world the way the Torah says happened 5,000 years ago. But I'd like an inkling that there is something out there monitoring the situation and perhaps giving a push here and there to the things that are right and just and tripping up those that are evil.

My mom's death and being with her at the moment of her passing was profound for me. I had never seen someone die before and it was an honor to be there for her as she moved out of this life and moved on. I am not a particularly religious person,although she was,but it made me question that for myself. Her faith supported her through the difficult days in her last months and I saw the support it gave her. Her death also made me stop and think about the fundamentals of life and how we get so swept away we don't truly "listen" to that inner voice guiding us.We don't really stop and pray enough.

my new relationship with my partner has been an awakening in both spiritual and mental realms for me. he suffers a chemical imbalance, at times he is so in tune with the giving nature of humanity only in another breath to say how vehemently he hates someone. it has made me reflect greatly on doing unto others, etc... it has also made me very grateful and appreciative of all the people who enter, and leave our lives... they all impart wisdom, you sometimes need to slow down and really witness.

Getting over the fear of death. Praying to G-d more and feeling like I'm letting him in more.

dreaming of my father in heaven..right after he passed away...i don't even believe in heaven...i have so many dreams of him..which is so beautiful...like he is still with me.. in this whole new way ..and that his spirit lives on through me... Tiffany shlain, SF

I went to the temple where my wife was at a retreat. I was dropping off my sister. Whenwe got there I saw my wife doing a walking mediation. It brought happy tears to my eyes. It's doing it again now.

This year my girlfriends and I started "Circling." Basically we sit in a circle on or around the Full Moon and through community and expression, support each other in moving through the moments in our lives, whatever they may be. This ritual with my women friends is deeply spiritual and I am energized, nourished and inspired after each one. We don't do them as often as I'd like - we get so busy and it isn't always easy to dig so deep, so these sessions are easy to blow off. But when we come together...oh boy, I feel the earth move.

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