My father was a Holocaust survivor and thinking about this experience left me confused about my own spiritual practice. Even though we cannot release ourselves completely from our own heritage, I have come to believe that we have to find our way to the spirituality that resonates with us individually. As I approach my 60th birthday and reflect on this, I see that for me, the act of writing has become my spiritual practice of choice.
Halfway through the last century, my mother and father emigrated from Austria and Germany, respectively. My father arrived in 1947, after enduring five years in Dachau’s concentration camp. He talked about losing his family in the Holocaust, and sometimes talked about God, but in his heart thought that if there was a God, he or she would not have taken his family in such a way.
My mother’s sense of spirituality leaned towards yoga, meditation classes and occasional visits to psychics. It has been said that children typically take on the religious or spiritual beliefs of their mothers; it is true in my case, since I do lean more towards Eastern-style spirituality. However, I do not totally deny by Jewish roots.
When growing up in the 1960s in New York, my father took me to synagogue during major Jewish Holidays, but for him, it was simply a traditional bow to his parents. My father was what one might call a minimalist Jew and taught me that religion separates people; it makes the illusion of bringing them together, but in reality, it is often does just the opposite.
Today, as an avid meditator and working on my doctorate in transpersonal psychology, I realize that spiritual practice comes in many forms. When my grandmother committed suicide when I was ten, my mother bought me a Khalil Gibran journal and told me to chronicle my feelings. She taught me that creativity and self-expression were high forms of spirituality. Gibran’s quotations inspired my own. One passage in particular resonates with me when I teach writing for healing: “Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”