I’ve come to spirituality late in life, which is both a blessing and a regret. Maybe you came to it when you were younger? Not me.
Born into a Sicilian-American, Roman Catholic family that was not super-religious, I attended weekly religious instruction, and Mass with my mother. My father limited his church-going to Easter and Christmas. We were cultural Catholics more than anything else.
Faith? What’s that?
Although I know women who feel they were damaged by their Catholic schooling and upbringing and others who are still devout, the faith never touched me at all. I didn’t fall away from the Church, I just never embraced it. Or any kind of faith. I was more an observer than anything else, something that’s been true of many parts of my life.
I came of age in the late 1960s, about half a generation too late to really embrace the spirituality represented by Baba Ram Das and others in that group of Jewish intellectuals who returned from India to start a spiritual movement that has impact still today. Sure, I knew about it. But I was an upper middle-class suburban kid of first generation American parents. Upward mobility was our goal–our parents instilled in us the value of a good education, a strong work ethic and making our own way in the world. The idea of taking off for India on a spiritual journey wouldn’t have occurred to me. Couldn’t have occurred to me. There was nothing in my background that would’ve made me see this as an option.
Still, I was a child of the 60s
I read and loved Ram Das, knew lots about Timothy Leary and watched Andrew Weil make his mark. Not on my radar screen were Krishna Das, Jack Kornfield, Sharon Salzberg and others in that original group who went on to establish themselves in circles that involved Buddhism, loving kindness, meditation, chanting and spirituality in general. I came to these others late.
I regret that I hadn’t engaged with these thinkers and do-ers long ago. That I hadn’t been a lifelong, active devotee of these spiritual principles of love and kindness. Oh, sure, I tried to live by them. Mostly. But it wasn’t my real way of life. Spirituality wasn’t a factor in my life. My career was the big thing and I was good at it. But there was no greater meaning.
How might my life might have been different if I’d embraced a less traditional but more spiritual path?
I don’t regret the things I’ve done, but rather, the things I didn’t do.
I do feel pangs of regret. I’m in one of the last semesters of life with mortality staring me in the face. So much of my life has passed, time that could’ve been spent in true spiritual practice.
And yet, it’s obvious that I wasn’t ready for that kind of spirituality until now. That all things happen as they are meant to. It’s not time until it’s time. We must grow into our spirituality.
Time ripens all things, Francois Rabelais said.
And now? Now I’m hungry for all of it. The books, The retreats. The experiences. Maybe you are, too. Those of us at a certain age have begun to think more about these things. About what’s next. And what it all means.
Spirituality was palpable as I visited beautiful ancient temples to gods and goddesses in Jordan recently. I got chills standing at the site where John the Baptist was said to have baptized Jesus.
Atop Mount Nebo, I surveyed panorama of the Holy Land, the land of milk and honey that God showed Moses and lit a candle. In Egypt I stood in a beautiful old mosque, lit another candle in a Coptic Christian church and wished I’d had more time to examine, to learn, to feel, to reflect. More time in my life –and more time on my trip.
I know other women who feel the same way. Who might not be traditionally “religious” but are moved by or even just curious about ancient spirituality. Who want to connect with their own in a bigger way. Who are looking at life’s big questions and yes, death, and what it all means.
At the Temple of Artemis in the ancient but quite intact ruins of the city of Jerash, I looked up at the columns in awe. I took it all in. I wanted to sit at the stone steps with a journal and capture my feelings. To sketch what I saw, even though I’m no artist. But mostly, to feel and then to sort through what it all meant, what I felt at this beautiful temple that was started in the 2nd century A.D. I wanted to talk to other women about it, right then and right there. I wanted to share and I wanted to hear their thoughts.
Maybe you have an appreciation for the history of all kinds of spirituality. Maybe you, too, would like to stand at the site archeological evidence identifies as Jesus’ baptism site. Maybe you want to sit on ancient temple ruins with a journal and write or draw what you’re feeling.
The Surprise. Or not.
It’s no surprise that I feel called to bring a small group of women to Jordan– with a short visit across the river to Bethlehem–maybe next year, for their own spiritual exploration. A trip that isn’t a rush through all the tourist sites, but a beautiful, contemplative trip where we can see those places and express our creativity, use our minds or just FEEL. I want to create a safe place to talk about those big questions and how we feel about them. To share with one another. And perhaps open the door to new insights, new creative endeavors, new soul satisfaction.
Imagine doing a beautiful ritual at the Temple of Artemis. A meditation atop Mount Nebo. Stargazing with Bedouins in Wadi Rum as we hear about their ancient spirituality. A hike through the amazing Petra siq. Floating in the Dead Sea and feeling its healing properties. Imagine a visit to Bethlehem. Yes, that Bethlehem. Imagine making a spiritual connection at one of these beautiful places.
I’m working on that trip right now and best of all, working on making it as affordable as possible, and still nice. Because if you want to come, I want you to be able to without robbing a bank. That work has begun.
It could be as soon as April 2020, when spring has hit that part of the world and it’s green. It’s going to a beautiful, amazing and impactful trip. It gives me a thrill to think about experiencing this with like-minded women.
If this intrigues you, you might like to be kept updated as plans develop. No obligation, nothing to lose. And so much to gain.
So get on my Jordan trip email update list by contacting me at ccassara (at) gmail.com and I’ll be in touch as plans get firmed up.
Before my trip, I had another retreat in the works for this fall. In the US. But I can’t shake Jordan. So I ran it by my husband:
“Should I put off the other retreat and just start moving ahead on Jordan? Wait on the other one?”
“Jordan has captured you,” he said. “Why don’t you do what makes you super-enthusiastic? The other one could wait.”
He was right. Jordan or bust! Hope you’ll get on my update list.