Years ago, my faith was influenced by my hippie lifestyle: Eastern religions spoke to me, the easy way they addressed the journey of the spirit. But it was the main philosophies, not the practice of the faith that interested me. Christianity, distilled down to its essence spoke to me as well. The general theme of all this was the denial of the body and the nourishing of the spirit. Giving away possessions, asceticism, nonviolence. But as you said, I didn't follow one faith, and I agree that that can feel like being adrift. I think there is value with following the path of one faith, dedicating yourself to the rituals that bring you to the..... ?????..... source.
Then, after some crisis of identity, I came down the earth. At first I felt like a sellout. I stopped roaming, settled down, set aside the conversations that held spiritual meaning for me. Along the way I picked up Aikido, not expecting it to bring me back to the spiritual path. But this was different. This path was clearer, and it grounded me.
My Aikido teacher wrote a passage in his book:
"You are not here to develop the spirit/ Your spirit is already developed/ Address the needs and health of the body with exercise and good nutrition/ You are an embodied soul/ If you deny the body you stifle the soul/ The lessons you need are in the physical plane" (From "Moving Toward Harmony" by Eric Oberg)
This, along with that great guru of Ganja, Bob Marley: "Some people say/ 'Great God will come from the sky/ Take away everything/ And make everybody feel high'/ But if you know what life is worth/ You will look for yours on Earth/ So now you see the light/ Stand up for your right"
Thank you, Bob, for helping me out!
I started yoga as well, and this was just like an extension of Aikido but one I practiced with my own body instead of in tandem with others. Connecting my body to the spiritual path actually lead me to a calmer, less confusing place. I anchored myself in my body, in the earth, and have lead a very mundane existence ever since. Now, away from the Dojo and limited to yoga videos and walks, my main source of growth has been raising my girls. And so this continues. My "place" is to continue working with the mundane troubles of the world. There is something quite profound in something so simple. I'm sure there is a name, a "yoga", for this kind of path. It suits me very well. I have stopped worrying about the results....mostly. There is still doubt and confusion sometimes.
My husband's mother has bazillions of friends through her church. I still wish I had a place, a church, whatever, to talk about this to people, but in some ways I think that is a diversion, preventing me from immersing myself entirely into daily rhythms of life, forgetting myself and finding peace within that. Even this thread could be considered a distraction. Loneliness, boredom, confusion, all seem to me to be the Fire before the gates of the Great Mystery.
"Chop wood, carry water". Our 21st century version might be "Boil water, cook spaghetti, pay the power bills". I remember an excellent passage from Trungpa's "Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism" (about as deep into Buddhism as I ever got.) He made the point that the Japanese Tea Ceremonies, which Westerners found so fascinating, were actually based on the dull rituals of a dull, everyday task. The point was to bring the practitioner to the point of profound boredom, and Westerners were missing that point because the ceremony looks so exotic. That was his take on it, anyhow. (Maybe a spaghetti-making ritual for Americans?)
I find the ancient stories of myth endlessly fascinating, but I think that is a sideline. It's fun to contemplate the cosmic meaning of Medusa or Kali, or the Hero's journey, but it is merely brain candy. Rituals were meant to dull the mind and ground the spirit, like a trance, to be forgotten along with Ego, not to feed the Ego with Profound Ideas to share and make us look Wise and Holy.
Am I making sense?
I found that by teaching Aikido, I was learning it more deeply than I ever could have. So, when you begin teaching you can truly begin learning. Let your students teach you.