A few weeks ago, I attended my very first “energy workshop.” It’s taken years of deconstruction and healing from religious trauma for me to open up and allow myself to explore the energy work of more Buddhist traditions.
My former beliefs taught me that, at best, it was too “woo-woo,” too “new age” or too “out there,” and at worst, that you were opening yourself up to demonic powers and/or participating in “devil worship.” The reality was, I knew nothing about Buddhist teachings. Everything was based on hearsay and, let’s face it, fear.
Growing up, I lived in a world of binaries. As a Focus on the Family home-schooled kid living in the epicenter of Christian ministries in Colorado Springs, my world was very white, straight and evangelical Christian. There was us (those who had the right answers and knew how to follow God correctly) and there was them (every other person, of every other religion, belief system or lack of belief system in the world who were deemed heathenistic and dependent on us to tell them about our God and therefore save their souls). We were right, they were wrong. We had faith, they did not. It was as clear as black and white.
If this comes off as arrogant and elitist, it’s because it was. We believed we were God’s chosen ones and that it was our duty to inform every other person in the world of how they, too, could join this elitist God-club. I knew nothing of diversity, nothing of respect for other people’s cultures or beliefs, nothing about the true core tenants of other faiths like Hinduism or Buddhism. We proclaimed that our God was “mighty to save” yet the door for salvation was so narrow that only a few could find it and squeeze through. Yes, our world was very small, very certain, and very safe. And we liked it that way.
I’ve been deconstructing those harmful binaries of belief and healing from religious trauma, purity culture and a borderline cult-like environment for more than a decade now. While the process has at times felt messy and confusing, it continues to make me more and more free. However, letting yourself explore new ideas, ask hard questions and admit doubts and uncertainties can feel daunting for one whose certainty was everything.
“Growing up, I lived in a world of binaries.”
Over the last couple years, especially with my diagnosis of late-stage Lyme Disease, multiple people and doctors have encouraged me to engage in meditation and energy work as part of my healing journey. As I’ve begun to shed the dogma of my past and open my mind to new ways of being, I’ve actually found a great amount of peace and healing there.
What I’ve found isn’t at all what I’d been taught or thought I knew about chanting, meditation and similar practices. They aren’t scary, they aren’t dark. In fact, they are quite the opposite. I found that they focus on light, on healing, on gratitude and thankfulness, thereby actually helping us release the dark feelings we experience. Who among us couldn’t benefit from more of that in our lives?
Attending this energy workshop recently was a big step for me. As much as I wanted to go, there was still a part of me that easily could have talked myself out of it. I felt quite accomplished and proud when my full self showed up and was present for the entire five-hour experience.
Learning about the different chakras in our body and how energy works and flows illuminated my understanding of this previously taboo practice. It tore down myths and preconceived ideas and gave me an opportunity to expand my understanding. I was unaware how much simply focusing on energy and vibrations in the body can heal us from the inside out.
Understanding these invisible but essential parts of who we are and how our bodies live and move through the world is as vital to our health as water, food and air. Like wind, denying its existence doesn’t make it any less powerful or real. But acknowledging it opens us up to a whole new way of viewing ourselves, each other and the forces around us. I walked away feeling hopeful and enlightened. It left me wanting more: more peace, more understanding, more awareness of both my body and of the world around me. It left me feeling alive and free.
“What if, instead of seeing something as being part of yet another binary that is either full of God or void of God, we simply see it as another pathway to God?”
So how, then, do we tie this back to faith? Or is that even necessary? Is something void of meaning simply because it isn’t deemed “Christian”? Is something that isn’t inherently Christian void of God?
What if, instead of seeing something as being part of yet another binary that is either full of God or void of God, we simply see it as another pathway to God? Shifting our viewpoint allows us additional ways to experience the vastness and ever-expansive beauty and diversity of God. It’s a way to discover and unearth deeper elements and facets of God that we have not yet experienced or known.
If we open our minds and our hearts to discovering God outside our religious box, might we find that God is in everything, everywhere, all around us? We don’t have to be in a church to discover God. We can discover God simply by sitting in the forest, or listening to a song on the radio, or having a meaningful conversation with a friend … and yes, even in meditation and Buddhist energy work.
Meditation is meant to quiet the busy world around us and calm our souls — to help us find our center. I don’t know about you, but it is in those quiet moments of recentering and re-grounding myself that I hear God the most.
Perhaps other practices, and even other religions, lend us wisdom from ages past that can draw us just as close to God as our own. Perhaps opening our minds is not breaking the boundaries of our faith, but merely expanding them. Perhaps opening our hearts to love creates opportunities for growth that we wouldn’t otherwise encounter.
For it is in the center of love and faith and stillness that we find Breath and Life that sustains us and makes us whole.
Amber Cantorna grew up in the deeply conservative evangelical culture of Focus on the Family and now lives with her wife in Denver, where she advocates for equality everywhere. She is a national speaker, the author of Refocusing My Family and Unashamed: A Coming Out Guide for LGBTQ Christians, and host of the Unashamed Book Club. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and learn more about her work at AmberCantorna.com.
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