While I am a spiritual person, I haven’t joined an organized religion for decades. Listening to others, some are dogmatically committed to one and only one belief system — declaring their way is right and the only way. It may be right for them, I agree, but it doesn’t mean it is right for me.
The Cherokee name is based on the meaning “people of different speech.” Could that include thought and opinion as well?
Hearing a close friend express her strong opinions (without knowing they opposed mine) stung. But, for one moment only. Because in valuing the qualities of our friendship more than opinions, I felt love for my friend, not anger or resentment.
The same holds true when I hear discourse among various religious groups.
To me, the identic message is simply presented in varying ways and on varying paths all leading to a preferred destination — call it Heaven, enlightenment, living consciously, or a spiritual awakening per se’…even if it’s just a belief system or developing faith. Even if the path chosen changes tomorrow, the message is basically the same.
Be inclusive. Find the shared good.
People connect with God, the Universe, Buddha, the Tao, or other powers greater than themselves. One size doesn’t fit all, and I find value in each. I hear the common themes yet also see invidious power and exclusivity when one is proclaimed as right or the better way…different somehow.
I grew up in an era of healthy debates. Where one could find mutual ground. Today I question “where do I wish to focus — on differences or commonalities? What feels better — emotionally, mentally, physically? If being inclusive and finding common good should feel better, why is mankind’s history peppered with discord? Does the world tip its scales in feeding one wolf more than the other? Do we choose to see thorns or roses? Is agreeing to disagree now passe’?”
Wandering through Christianity, Buddhism, and Unity to my current interest of studying the Tao, I long ago exchanged organized religion for a more profoundspirituality. Structured religion gave me a moral and ethical compass for living life. Eastern philosophies expanded my understanding. But, my spirituality deepened after a life altering illness, decades of consciously working in the garden, and a burgeoning sense of gratitude.
“Religion…shall mean for us the feelings, acts, and experiences of individual men in their solitude…in relation to whatever they may consider the divine.”
“…In order to usefully interpret the realm of common, shared experience and history, we must each make certain “over-beliefs” in things which, while they cannot be proven on the basis of experience, help us to live fuller and better lives.” — William James
Discovering this naturally created pulpit and pews on my visit to Scotland this summer was a curious surprise.
Scotland Outdoor Pulpit and Pews
View from an outdoor church in Scotland with natural made pulpit and pews
View of sky, mountains and water from natural outdoor church in Scotland grass in Scotland
I imagined listening to a sermon among these bluest of skies, lush green mountains and clear waters. The pastor wouldn’t have to speak a word.
Blessed with three good weather seasons, I’m most often in the garden — seeding, nurturing, harvesting — plants, but also my thoughts and spirit.
For me, attending church is gliding over morning dew glistened grass to the vegetable patch or flower garden…feeling the warming sun on my skin and a serene sky’s embrace. Hearing “the quiet.” At first. And then the hum of bees, chirping birds, and steady rhythm of high-pitched crickets uniting in choir. Sweet nature gloriously sings a sermon to my soul.
Lucky Three or Not Things come in threes beleaguers my thoughts. A month ago, I received word that my beloved border collie, Bess, passed away while I traveled in Scotland. Last week I received word that my best male friend from college passed away. Memories flash of the three close friends I lost a few years ago — all within nine months (3 x 3) time. Murmurings below the surface question if a third heartbreak will follow.
Contrary aphorisms abound for this popular number. Three’s a charm predicts success after two failures. Or a third misfortune can follow two others. A third soldier lighting a cigarette from the same source was considered unlucky on the WWI battlefield since a sniper could see the first light, aim on the second, and fire on the third.
Similar “superstitions” like don’t walk under a ladder or don’t open an umbrella in the house, I consider more as practical warnings. After all, anything can be dropped from working high above, and an umbrella’s cuspate spokes can be dangerous and obstructive indoors.
That Timeless Number Three My search for a deeper understanding of the number three revealed its timeless phenomenon. Pythagoreans, for instance, believed the number three to be the first triangular number. Besides its strength in triangles, tripods, and pyramids, the notorious number three prevails throughout history and cultures worldwide:
Ancient Symbolism: – A trident appears beside Neptune, Shiva, and farmers. – The Celtic triskele’s three spirals symbolize the Present World-where we live and exist, the Other World-home of our ancestors, spirit guides and deities, and the Celestial World. – The three-petaled French fleur-de-lis originally represented the commoners, nobility, and clergy. In other cultures it’s also symbolized life, perfection, and light.
Mythology: – Greek Cronus fathered three sons – Zeus, Poseidon and Hades; Norse Borr also fathered three sons – Odin, Vili, and Vé. – Mayans believed mankind was created in three attempts (flood destroyed the first man made of clay; a storm washed away the second man made of wood; but the third man made from maize was from whom all are descended). – Celtic gods and goddesses often appear in groups of three.
Religion: – Besides the Trinity, the number three winds throughout Christianity as when it was reported that three wise men presented three gifts (gold, frankincense and myrrh), and Jesus’ ministry lasted three years. – Buddhism’s Three Jewels are The Buddha, The Dharma, and The Sangha. – The Torah uses the number three for Jews to mediate between two opposing or contradictory values. – Universal chi, human plane chi, and earth chi compose Taoism’s Three Pure Ones. – Zoroastrianism’s three virtues are Humata (good thoughts), Hukhta (good words) and Hvarshta (good deeds). – Hindu’s Trimūrtitriple deity is Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Shiva the destroyer.
– Islam’s triple talaq is a Muslim divorce where a husband pronounces three times talaq (Arabic word for divorce). – The Bahá’í faith’s three principles are the unity of God, the unity of religion, and the unity of humanity. – Neopagan religions revere the Triple Goddess deity of maiden, mother and crone.
Fairy Tales and Nursery Rhymes: Remember The Three Little Pigs, Three Blind Mice, or Goldie Locks and the Three Bears?
The Count of Three: – Arithmetic, reading, and writing are academic basics. – “You’re out!” after three strikes in baseball, and three outs end an inning. – Actions requiring synchrony often count to three like one-two-three “Say cheese!”
Music: – Music expresses feelings, ideas and moods. – A chord consists of three notes. – Music’s three main elements are melody, rhythm, and harmony.
Art: – Composition is based on the Rule of Thirds. – Artists create with three primary colors of red, yellow and blue. – Writers have a beginning, middle and end.
Nature and the Environment: – Physics, chemistry, and biology are the three types of natural laws. – The physical environment consists of land, sea, and sky. – Folklore and religions describe life in heaven, hell, and on earth.
Medicine and Science: – India’s Ayurvedic medicine revolves around three doshas — vata, pitta and kapha. – Variation, heredity, and selection are the three principles of evolution. – Personality theory is based on the id, the ego and the superego.
The Unity of Three Three can be an expression of unity as in father, mother and child or how one can become three as in me, myself and I. Of course, we’ve been told three’s a crowd but three is also a tie-breaker. Perhaps one is too solitary, and two is too black and white final. It is three that offers possibility like a shade of grey as in this, that, other, or door 1-2-or 3.
The number three appears almost everywhere. What do you think of the number three? Has it played any significance in your life?
Three Deep What is it that makes three so powerful and for years on end? Yogis access intuition through their third eye. Some may deem consideration of three as linear thinking or apophenia — a universal human tendency to seek patterns in random information. For me, observing patterns is a trait I developed in my youth to manage an unpredictable home life. Even if erroneous, considering the next possibility eliminated the shock when voices escalated and doors slammed.
My Adult View of Three… As a gardener, I understand plants need earth, water, and air. Three-leaf clovers make me smile, and I’m cautious near three-leaved poison ivy or oak. My red-white-and blue spirit cherishes life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
I’ve learned that the number three can represent past, present and future, or body, soul and spirit. As the number of completion, I recognize that Bess and my college buddy have lived their cycles of birth, life and death — something that every living creature will experience. It just is. The way of life.
The calendar indicates today is “Palm Sunday.“ Being a religious holiday, I often wondered in my youth why it wasn’t called “Psalm Sunday” but as a gardener I’m just as happy to see green palms after a long, grey winter.
And while it’s (sadly) becoming increasingly unpopular and even dangerous to identify with any religious affiliation, I will say organized religion is not the source of my spirituality. Yes, I was baptized and confirmed a Christian, but I also practiced Buddhism in my teens, then investigated Catholicism, Judaism,Unity New ThoughtandA Course in Miraclesdoctrines. I have friends of all faiths and of no faith. I pass no judgment if someone chooses to be religious or not, or the path they have taken to their own spirituality. What I do have a problem with, though, are acts of cruelty, hate, torture or killing — evil, in the name of religion or God. So contrary and senseless to me.
Thankfully, I was not raised to believe in a condemning and punishing God but instead one as loving protector. Studying Taoism and working in nature have deepened my understanding of life and some of the religious teachings of my youth. To me, all of these sources are akin to tendrils of a plant, offering various meanings and interpretations of life, expanding with my maturity.
As a variety of flowers constitute my garden, and a variety of races and ethnicities constitute the world, I am open to a variety of religions in life. I do not believe that one religion has all the answers, or that only one particular religion has the only true God. I believe there are as many spiritual roads to God as there are in the names we choose to call Him or Her or whatever is meaningful to the particular person in that particular part of the world. Opening my mind opens my heart.
And so, today is“Psalm” Sunday for me — spiritual being synonymous with psalm, and psalm being a sacred song. I acknowledge this day not in blasphemy but in honor of the sacred songs each of us carries in our hearts. As a gardener, I view this day as the triumphant arrival of Spring, a fresh start after a long winter, the Pre-Easter beginning of infinite life, and with gratitude for the richness Mother Nature offers. I believe God is everywhere as in nature, but also in our hearts. And in the end, isn’t that all that really matters — what is in our hearts?