As the nice Sikh man taught me, “Put your hands together, palm to palm. Now place before your nose. Then bow your head saying, “The light in me greets the light in thee.””
The early 2000s were a driving achieving time of university and programs. A whirlwind of religiosity and esoteric studies that often clashed between a diversity of scriptures and the interpretation thereof, between faith and loyalty. It was a quickening of a few years that only happens a few times in one’s life.
My youth was gone, I was married again and had two young boys under my care. My life was full of a husband, school days for my sons and myself. I learned to drive the 10 freeway at night from Topanga Canyon to the San Fernando Valley.
I studied on the Mount Saint Mary’s campus in Los Angeles. A beautiful campus filled with a type of religiosity, culture, and history. I had dived into religious studies deeply. I learned to reflect and discern religious commentary and diversity. I had goals to get somewhere foy myself and my family.
Yet I got stuck in the spider’s web of a type of religious fundamentalism that I naturally repelled.
Ecumenical Christianity led me down the broader path of interfaith and this is where I found Religions for Peace. I enrolled for this summer program and was accepted.
A United Nations program bringing religions together from all over the world. I met with the current chaplain of the United Nations who was very balanced in her faith. I was considering becoming a chaplain myself.
I applied at Childrens Hospital of Los Angeles. Yet was not accepted due to my belief in reincarnation and other broader interfaith views.
The Religions for Peace was a vacation away from my family for two weeks.
It was in Kansas City, Kansas. We stayed in an old church with bedrooms, cafeteria, and large rooms for presentations. We visited a variety of churches, temples, and synagogues. We were served cultural traditional meals that were amazing.
As a representative for the United Nations, it was an overwhelming honor, more than I deserved.
Remarkably at one gathering we were served Indian food. Large tables were set up for over five hundred people. Dancers on stage performed for us. Large tall containers of warm milk and tea were in site. The two were blended to make the most delicious cup I have ever had. A type of Chi-Tea.
In contrast the poverty around the building where we stayed was sadly overlooked. I took a walk to a local Mexican restaurant a couple times to see where I was, since I had never been there before.
The plane ride there and back was like a dream.
I missed my family so much. I had long nights of fever and wild dreams.
One of the young ladies who was representing the Jewish Tradition was wearing a owl shirt. To be friendly I tried talking to her,
“Oh, this I got it at Target,” she said quickly and turned away.
That night after a large group talk presentation about diversity, religion and how some faiths or race religions suffered. I remember the Chief who came to talk about diversity of his faith enter one of my dreams with some wise words later that night.
I saw him outside my window calling me to come fly away with him and owl.
“Holly come to the window,” the Chief said.
I saw him yet could not respond in deep sleep.
It was the most challenging time of my life. These people were so serious and professional. I learned something new. Which was the Sikh religion. It was the only real gem I took home with me.
“Sikhism advocates equality, social justice, service to humanity, and tolerance for other religions. The essential message of Sikhism is spiritual devotion and reverence of God at all times while practicing the ideals of honesty, compassion, humility, and generosity in everyday life.”
I left early because I could no longer endure the pressure and rudeness that I found there. Which I did not understand?
I had a sad feeling that this was not a place for me. I needed to fly away with owl. I came home a few days early.
Looking back, I cherish the friends I did make there! I wish I could have documented the experience better. More pictures, places, and dates. When I got back to university, I was shunned for taking a step away from my program.
This was around the time when the local Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles child abuse cases had just broken in the news. So, I left the Masters Program. It became unbearable.