Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Culture, Religion and Me

My daughter has been dating a young man who is Italian. In the last year she’s been learning about the importance of culture and religion in people’s lives. I was brought up Catholic. Religion was an important part of my life. My parents were devout and practicing Catholics and sent us (my siblings and I) to the convent for our schooling. Until I met my husband who was Protestant I truly believed that everyone had the same kind of religious upbringing that I had. Religion has always been crucial in my life and at the bottom of lots of my life choices. It’s only after literally scrutinizing the details of my life through my early 20’s that I discovered that there was more than Religion for me, there was Spirit. When we had children my husband and I decided that we wouldn’t push any kind of Religion on them. We would educate them about Religion and would encourage a certain Spirituality but we wouldn’t choose for them any kind of religious path. We believed that the less indoctrination they had the more prepared they would be for their own journey.

CT, my son, was called to explore Buddhism even before he was born. My husband and I often went to a Chinese restaurant in Montreal where the owner was Buddhist. When I got pregnant, I craved Chinese food. One day the owner approached us and told us in broken English that the boy that I was carrying was a long time Buddhist. I smiled and tried to be polite; but neither my husband and I believed in reincarnation then. We also couldn’t quite understand how it was possible that we could be giving birth to someone who was so unlike us. I remember walked away that day somewhat embarrassed. The elder Chinese man must have noticed my husband and I were upset because he approached us with an humble apology. He also explained to us that in his world it was quite amazing if you could see the destiny of a child by the aura of the memories he or she carried before or at birth. It was supposedly unusual to see it so clearly and so strongly as the way he saw our child’s aura in his mind’s eye.

“Your son,” he said, “is a friend. He will be soft, peaceful and loved by many. He will live the word of Buddha from the moment he comes into this world.”

We left that day mystified by the man’s comments and open to explore whatever they brought to our life. We weren’t surprised when CT’s favourite toy as a toddler ended up being a Buddha statue. In first grade he learnt about Buddhism and took interest in it. By high school he was quite knowledgeable on the topic and was committed to learn more. Buddhism was something that spoke to him and in many ways shaped him into the man he is today. Like the Chinese man in the Restaurant said: “CT grew up to be soft, peaceful and definitely loved by many.”

What was interesting was how CT liked anything and everything that connected to Spirituality and Religion. Him and I had similar perspectives on life. My daughter on the other hand didn’t like Religion at all. She found it boring. On the other hand she liked traditionalism and anything that was related to medicinal plants, ritual, ceremony etc… In elementary school KT picked up an article on a Mohawk woman who grew a garden of medicinal plants and was initiated by her grand-mother. KT wrote to the woman and eventually became her pen pal for a few years. They spoke about tradition and spirituality. I found it incredible the way the Universe called to CT and KT without any need of a previous or formal religious or spiritual education. All it took for my husband and I is to surrender.

Being of mixed background, my husband and I did the same thing when it came to culture. When you are a mix of French, English, Italian, Irish and First Nation lineage – it’s hard to decide which culture should be dominant in your life. Devoting to a particular culture may give access to community but at the same time it means accepting and devoting to the ways of this particular culture. I know that I often felt lonely in my life because I didn’t feel any kind of ties to any culture or cultural community. At the same time later on in life I started to understand the genius behind my incarnation choices and felt proud of every part of me. I ended up teaching my kids how to be proud of their mix heritage and how to connect to every culture out there. I’ll be honest though we did follow the Universe and where it took us and eventually the First Nation culture and traditions end up dominating in our family life.

What impresses me these days is how we managed to let LIFE bring us to where we needed to be. Rather than following rules, we followed our heart. I think there’s beauty in everything and it’s fantastic to be open to see it. Why let religious and cultural perspectives get in the way of mystery and learning about the unknown? My daughter said to my husband and I last week that she was proud to have been brought up in the way that she was brought up. She said: “I’m different and I can be a bit strange; but I’m open to experience, all kinds of people, and I’m always ready to hear their story. I like the fact that I don’t let myself judge because of religion and culture. I like the fact that I have the freedom to see ME rather than what you made me to be…”

I don’t have to say that her statement touched me and that I’m still sitting with it. It has brought up lots of memories and lots of emotions, thoughts, and welcomed sighs.

6 comments:

louise said...

This blog always brings me back to my own story and it's always amazing to read and reflect upon.

At home I was not brought in any kind of religion. My mother's father was Catholic, her mother was Protestant, but they were not practicant.
I was baptized because it was expected I guess.
I followed Caholicism because I was teached by nuns and I was afraid to go to hell if I did not.
My parents never went to church and I was never pushed to go either.
I also baptized my childre because it was the thing to do.

By the time my children were bord I was not a praticant anymore. I never forced my children to go to church, it was their choice to go or not.
I believe in letting them make their own choices. Like when my 13 year old daughter wanted to go to a party that would last till 2 in the morning. I asked her to change place with me, I'm 13, she's the mother, I want to stay out untill 2am, what would she do? She answered with tears running down her cheeks «I would say no» and she did not go.
There and then I figured I had pretty amazing kids and I still do.
Louise

Anonymous said...

This post is so beautiful Lisa. I just live the stories of hour family and how you choose to raise them.
My lineage is very mixed too. And at one time I felt I had to choose just one. This left me feeling alienated from parts of myself. As I grew older I made the choice to put religion out of my life. Maybe one day I will come back to it. Right now I just want the freedom without boxes and rules to explore ALL sides if me. As I explore ME, I find myself opening up to life, experiences and people.
Thank you Lisa, this story really touches me.
Dallal

Chris said...

Great post like Louise and Dallal it has touched me too. I can really relate to your story and how Michelle and I have been raising our kids. We aren`t pushing them into a religion although they are all drawn to different things. My son found religion boring. My oldest daughter really liked it and kept asking to be baptized. I do like the fact of letting them choose there own path and to be there own person. Great post.

Chris (Hardrock)

Wapeyit Malsom said...

Chris,

Did you get your daughter baptized?
Which religious denomination did she choose? Are you baptized?

Sorry for all of the questions but it's a topic that keep talking to me all week through.......

LISA

Michelle said...

What I found interesting about my own culture is I connected to cooking certain recipes from the irish, norwiegen and sweedish Scotish and aboriginal roots the scotish and irish dancing when I was young, and from my aborigional side learning about traditions, I also looked into different religions like buddism, mormon, jehovh witness, scientology,and Christianity. For Religion growing up my dad was athiest and my mom was a mix of christian and wiccan beliefs so I grew up with different views which I appreciated. I chose to be baptized when I was 14 and attended church and believed in God Christianity not a specific denomination but being a Christian. Having children I did not want to push a religion on them but wanted them to find out and question. I have not baptized my kids I wanted them to make the choice like my parents gave me our oldest daughter does want to be baptized but we are trying to find a pastor who will do this if we are not avid church goers...some want you commited to their church, attending regularily. I do think the more people can be exposed too, you do that natural process of elimination until somthing feels right and not rigid being open to possibilities.

Hardrock said...

Hi Lisa
Yes I am Baptized I was as a baby I can remember them preast putting holy water on my forhead in the shape of a cross and myself crying in my mothers arms. We were brought up Catholic. My daughter was attending Catholic school and I think this was the mane reason she wanted to get baptized. Are kids arn`t baptized and if they do I`m not sure if it will be catholic. hope this answers your Questions.
Chris