I love my little worn copy of my Thich Nhat Hanh book, Living Buddha, Living Christ. I keep it by my nightstand and it's the perfect book to reach for to get spiritual sips of wisdom and insight. I picked it up this morning when I had a quick 5 minutes for a personal moment of devotion. I flipped to a passage and smiled at the synchronicity in what I picked to read.
It was about connecting with ancestors as a grounding spiritual practice. This passage sparked me:
"If we can find ways to cherish and develop our spiritual heritage, we will avoid the kind of alienation that is destroying society, and we will become whole again. We must encourage others, especially young people, to go back to their traditions and rediscover the jewels that are there. Learning to touch deeply the jewels of our own tradition will allow us to understand and appreciate the values of other traditions, and this will benefit everyone."
My roots and traditions? I'm raising my hand as a Mormon pioneer! I grew up in the Mormon faith and have since left the traditions and everyday practice of being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was a painful separation. I could write many, many more words about this very personal and private decision to walk away from my childhood faith. It was not easy and I did not do it lightly.
But you know what? I didn't actually walk away. I discovered, for me, it was impossible for me to completely walk away.
Around the same time I was having this crisis of faith, I also did a deep dive into the lives of my ancestors. Specifically, my pioneer ancestors who joined the Mormon church back the mid 1800s and crossed to ocean, then the plains to live with the gathering Saints in Utah.
It was an unexpected balm. The more research I did and the more I sat in reverent meditation about their lives and experiences, the more at peace I felt with my own spiritual decision. I felt grounded in my relationship with God. I felt connected to the path of courage and sacrifice in following what they knew was right for them.
By finding ways to cherish and develop our spiritual heritage, Hanh says, "We will become whole again." I am witness that this happened to me. Because I was intensely broken when my faith crumbled from under me. But instead of completely abandoning all that I knew, I leaned into my roots and who I am. I found peace. I found clarity. Pioneer stock is in my DNA. Being a Mormon isn't just a religion to check on a from, it is part of my identity. Even now.
Even as I can also say I am a spiritualist oracle who uses crystals and cards and sage and meditation and astrology, I am also a Mormon. I know that other Mormons (and also, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) will probably disagree with me and find offense in my still claiming this title, I am okay with that.
Because another truth I have picked up on this journey of finding my spiritual path and identity is that your personal path to God and connection to Source is just that: personal. I have no qualms in claiming my Mormon heritage while also stepping away from it. I know it's confusing to some, but not to me.
I am more sure than I have ever been about who I am and where I came from. I am more sure than I have ever been that these ancestors are near me, always. Helping me on my path and protecting me and my family.
I've been turning all that research and study about my roots into a book the past several years. It's still forming and in the process of being born, but I can't wait until it is out in the world to share.
We all have a story. We all have roots. Whether you're from pioneers or a pioneer yourself or maybe both, claiming your roots can bring a sort of wholeness and peace. It doesn't mean you have to copy or mirror them, but knowing the story seems like a huge piece of this puzzle of life.
What are your spiritual roots? Who are your people? Which ancestors hang out with you, cheering you on and guiding your life?