I’ve long felt that God is where the sea meets the land. I was born and raised submerged in a Pacific Northwest marine layer, always aware of the omnipresence of the powerful Pacific Ocean. Without questions, without doubt, I found myself throughout my young adult years drawn to the water. I haven’t always had the words for why, but I just knew it was where I needed to be. When I would get to a dark gray, sandy shore, I’d drop my shoes at first sight of the ocean and run until I was taken up to my knees by the chilly saltwater. I’d stand gazing at the horizon, at the force of the ocean. When I would hike trails along oceanside cliffs, I’d seek out the best view and climb my way down rocks until I’d be standing tall, as close as I could get without falling in, basking in the glory of the endless, mysterious ocean. I’ve always been both drawn to and afraid of the ocean’s presence. It is something bigger than myself. It is something of natural, unshakeable beauty. It is a church. It is a temple. I’ve come to understand the Pacific Ocean as a manifestation of my God.
In a previous blog, I mentioned that I am an All Believer—I believe in everything. More recently, I’ve found myself drawn further into my faith, pulling light from a variety of religions, studying practices across a diverse array of belief systems, and ultimately finding that they each hold great value. Yes, religion has also messed up a lot of this world. It has wrongfully and painfully bred hate in hearts and isolation between peoples. However, if one stops to take some of the lessons from these many religions and truly distill them down to their core essence, what is left is pure light, deep connection to what it truly means to be human. It is a shame that religion has come to cast itself in such a dreadful light because it means that often we also lose these lessons in the shuffle and in the fight. The bitterness and anger that encapsulate much of religion today makes it so that if you were to say to someone, “Hey, it’s ok. I know life is hard right now, but try this—let go, and let God,” —well, they’d probably look at you like some religious freak and automatically disregard the intention those words actually hold. Let go, and let God. What is the core essence of that statement? And can we transcend our distaste of religion enough to be able to appreciate what those words actually hold?
“Let go, and let God” is an emotional state every person has reached at some point in his or her life. The first of Buddhism’s Four Noble Truths is the understanding that life is suffering. Whether we’ve experienced that suffering through loss, stress, anxiety, fear, hunger, poor health, or any variety of difficult circumstances experienced throughout a life, the reality is that the suffering is present. In the modern age, this suffering can be dealt with in a variety of ways—medicine, therapy, friendships, art. However, at some point in everyone’s life, I’d argue that they will meet a moment that seems to turn the world on its side. Fretting about it does nothing. Worrying just increases the anguish. Doing nothing leaves one feeling hopeless. When medicine and therapy fail, when one can no longer think something through on his or her own, that’s when you, in essence, let go, and let God. You fall to your knees (literally, metaphorically, whatever). You surrender to something greater. You ask for forgiveness and peace, for healing. You let the power of prayer, the ability to unleash positive intention into the cosmos, the omnipresence of the Universe help lift the weight of whatever burden it is that you carry.
We can’t foster forgiveness and healing between people without being able to first forgive and heal ourselves, and yet seeking this absolution can feel unwieldy. But our God can do that—whatever this “God” may be to the individual.
I returned home recently to the California coast that is forever imprinted upon my heart and soul. I returned home strung out on city life, bruised by love, and worn from well-entrenched facets of reality; the weight was heavy upon my shoulders. Finally one night, I thought I’d go park and watch the sunset over the ocean. But as I neared closer, a calling in my heart drew me down another path. Within moments, I was dancing through a familiar scene. As my bare feet took off racing across a sandy shore, I was being pulled closer and closer to my God. I ran laughing and with an open heart until the chilly waves of the Pacific Ocean were splashing up my calves, grabbing onto my knees, and washing up and down my thighs.
The Pacific Ocean took me as I am. My California beckoned to me, “Come as you are.”
I felt the weight lift. My heart calmed. My head cleared. My soul opened. I looked out at my God, I let go of it all, and I could better see myself. I thought about my pull to do these “baptismal cleansings” in the sea and likened it to the draw of the
human heart to enter a church in time of crisis, fall to one’s knees, and let go, and let God. There are moments in my life when only the Pacific Ocean can fully heal me. Only the frigid waves of the Pacific Ocean can wash away the sins of my pride, melancholy, anger, gluttony. Only those waves can lift the burden with me. And it’s a miraculous feeling.
It is my hope that our world’s religious and spiritual separatism does not keep us from the healing power held within these practices—that we allow ourselves moments where we can let go, and let God.
Standing chest open, facing the glory of my God, I took in the colors of the sunset. And I felt as if I was seeing it through the eyes of love again. As if I was there with close friends, staying up all night. As if I was there holding the hand of the love of my life, or at least the love of that moment. It was all present inside of my own being already. I was absolved.
And then I began the search in the dim light of dusk for where I had left my shoes.