I want to fast forward over the next 25 years to the point where I became an evangelical Christian of sorts. I am yearning to get the part of my journey that might speak to people who resonate with Michael Gungor and Science Mike who share their story here: http://www.theliturgists.com/podcast/2014/10/14/episode-6-lost-and-found-part-1
Soon after my return to San Diego, I met Cliff Mikkelson. We were married within 6 months. He was an ardent follower of Paramahansa Yogananda, and he encouraged me to read The Autobiography of a Yogi. I felt really connected to Yogananda, as well as the kindness, gentleness, intelligence, innocence, and commitment to non-violence and justice that Cliff exhibited. Soon I became a disciple of Yogananda, hoping that by practicing Kriya yoga and other teachings of this Indian guru, I would finally find the peace I was looking for.
Soon after being married, we moved to Arkansas. Cliff and I shared a passion to serve and to dedicate our lives to making the world a better place. We were so idealistic. Both of us had been active in Christian churches growing up, and shared the experience of leaving the church when we were disillusioned. His story was even more dramatic since he was chastised for having a table which protested the Vietnam War. I admired his courage. It was hard for him to leave, but he knew that he did not share the values of the church. Soon he found Yogananda, and to this day considers him his guru.
What I liked best about Yogananda’s teachings was that he wanted to build a bridge between the teachings of Jesus and the teachings of mainly Hinduism. I was still drawn to Jesus, and with his picture included on the altar among the other spiritual teachers connected to Self-Realization Fellowship, I felt a sense of comfort.
When we moved to Arkansas, way out in the country in the Bible belt, our neighbors invited us to attend church with them. We were willing to try it out, and ended up going weekly for the next year. When people did not ask us “are you saved” or “do you believe in the Bible as the word of God” we were relieved, and felt very accepted. I was even asked to lead singing the second time I came to the church. I usually sang, “Swing low, sweet chariot.” People loved the song, and there was something about the melody and words that touched my soul. I didn’t really believe in yearning for the peace of an afterlife. I wanted to be in the here and now. But I realize now that I will never feel totally at home and at peace as long as one person or sentient being is suffering. And that’s okay with me.
There was never any pressure to give our lives to Jesus, and outside of the church service, there was not much interaction with the members. But the weekly meeting fed us in some way. We also had weekly Self Realization meetings with our friends who had invited us to live on their land to help them build their blueberry farm, which has since then become quite famous owned by Rusty and Susan Armstead. We read Yogananda’s lessons, prayed, meditated, and encouraged each other on our common path.
Cliff and I also got involved with The Church Universal and Triumphant. Elizabeth Claire Prophet channeled an every growing number of what she called Ascended Masters who included Jesus, Mother Mary, Paul, and many other people of the Bible including archangels. Once again, I was drawn to the teaching so Jesus and I realize that I have never been able to completely commit to any path that did not include Jesus.
After three years of living a very simple life in Arkansas, experimenting with living without money according to the law of giving and receiving that is taught by Jesus” Give and it shall be given to you, pressed down…” was the scripture we were living by. This is another story of an important aspect of my life—living simply—that I know was influenced by my travels to the east and by Jesus teachings.
When we returned to Southern California, we got involved with both Self Realization and the Church Universal and Triumphant. We were so devoted to spiritual teachings, and yet sadly, my marriage did not reflect the teachings we were trying to live by. The story of my tragic shortcomings must be told another time, and I believe that a community where people were encouraged to express doubts, reveal weaknesses and be authentic could have prevented the various affairs that I got entangled in. I believe with a strong community of people who sincerely were following Jesus teachings, I could have discovered that my life was not about seeking pleasure and “following my heart” as so many of the new age teachers encouraged me.
Only one person in our circle said to me, when I was considering divorcing Cliff, “You promised him that you would be with him for life and you need to keep that promise.” But even those words sounded judgmental. I wish that people could have told me, “God really wants you to be happy in this marriage, and you will be happy if you trust that Jesus is working all things for the good through this experience.”
I could write a book about how I would have liked to have been supported, and how the essence of Jesus teachings could have healed my addiction to sex and excitement, and could have helped Cliff draw healthy boundaries. We did our best, as did those around us. I am overjoyed to say that for a short while we did heal our marriage had a son who is now 26, and lived for a year in great peace and satisfaction. I really want to remember that time of respite. Did God know that I needed to have a baby in order to help me settle down and get my priorities straight? I was torn between wanting to save the world, and wanting to have a relationship with someone who was so detrimental to my well-being.
Okay, so I didn’t fast forward, but now I am going to keep my promise and do just that in Part 6.