My History of Disbelief
My family always celebrated Christmas, but we never went to church. We were the kind of Christians who were only in it for the stockings and sugar cookies. Cultural traditions leftover from earlier generations of believers.
Nevertheless, I would occasionally end up in church - mainly when I slept over at a friend's house on a Saturday night. And one Sunday morning in high school, I found myself standing in a circle, holding hands with my friend and all of her Sunday school friends. In the circle, we were each asked to say why we were grateful to God. When they got to me, I was honest and simply said that I did not believe in God. They all bowed their heads and prayed for me. I rolled my eyes.
My atheism only became more dogmatic with age. In college, I read Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins and dedicated my studies to human evolution and laughed at pictures of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and for the most part, I genuinely believed that being religious meant that you must be some form of uninformed or unintelligent.
Meditation changed everything.
But after college, I started meditating, and the moment I started, I was hooked. I sat for twenty minutes every morning. I read Buddhist book after Buddhist book. I felt like I'd finally found a group of people whose beliefs aligned with my own. And as anyone who has studied Buddhism knows, these beliefs can be wholly atheistic.
But the more I meditated, the more agnostic I became. The more I got to know my own mind. I began to understand its arrogance and its ability to convince itself of certainty, and I became increasingly uncertain about everything.
I began simply watching and accepting my experiences without jumping to conclusions one way or the other. I began feeling new sensations - like energy moving through and around me - and I began having visions while I was meditating. I would see things or come to know things, and then they would come true.
And so I began to trust my intuition and sense that there was something happening much larger than myself.
But I've never been a joiner.
I stayed a part of the Buddhist community for a little over a year. I met with them once a week, made many friends, and went on a meditation retreat. But in time, I began seeing the holes in their organized system - in the same way I have seen holes in literally every spiritual community from the southern Churches where I group up to the Buddhist temple in Chelsea and even to the Brooklyn yoga and Reiki community.
Spirituality is like that. Belief is like that. It's easily twisted and exploited because the mind enjoys feeling certain. But in my experience, certainty is the death knell of truth, and certainty is the tool with which humans weaponize belief.
Of that I am still not 100 percent certain. Because kicking my certainty in the ass every time it pops up is maybe my most important part of my spiritual practice.
I left the Buddhist community, and I've never stayed too long at any yoga studio or with any teacher because that's when I start to feel the complacency and the certainty settle in.
But within my allegiance to staying open to various beliefs and explanations, there is one thing I consistently honor, and that is my experience. Not my experience dressed up in interpretation and explanation, but my raw experience. Simply the comings and goings and thoughts and feelings, and within all of that, I have discovered something wholly unexpected. I have discovered gods and mystical creatures and beings from other lands. Or at least, I have seen them. I have felt them. I have been surprised by them.
The story I'm about to tell is simply one of countless experiences I've had through working with Reiki and meditation and tarot and shamanism and psychic channeling.
What it ultimately means, I am not certain, but I am certain that I experienced it.
After a particularly disturbing dream that I simply could not shake, I received Reiki from the lovely Anna Toonk. During my session, I went on a little adventure. I saw it in my mind.:
I was wearing a yellow dress. My hair was halfway up. I stepped through a gate and into a garden with a lioness by my side. We found a large dirt tunnel in the ground. I crawled through it, and on the other side, there was a mansion with a lush green yard and expansive front porch. Tired, I sat down on the front steps. A woman came and sat next to me. She handed me a key to the house and a red ruby (after she did this, Anna placed a rose quartz in my same hand).
The woman told me that there was plenty of time and that I didn’t have to go inside yet. So I sat and relaxed and enjoyed the view from the porch. There was time for play, for singing, and for dancing. I watched the lioness in the yard. The woman sitting next to me felt like a goddess - a guide - so I asked for her name, and she gave it to me. Her name was Cleo.
After the session, I googled Cleo and goddess. That's when I discovered that Clio (with an i) is the Greek muse of history and poetry and like all muses, a goddess of song, music, and dance. In Greek, her name means “to make famous."
I also learned that there is an asteroid named after her - spelled Klio. I looked to see where it fell in my astrology. It aligns with my Part of Fortune - a significant point in everyone's chart denoting fulfillment and abundance - and on the day I saw Anna, Klio was passing through Scorpio, which is, of course, my sign.
I was never aware of the muse Clio before researching her. Yet somehow, while I was on the Reiki table, I saw a woman named Cleo. She told me about the timing of my life (history) and encouraged me to relax and enjoy life through play, dance, and music. As a writer, this inspired me and helped me understand that I didn't have to rush. That my book would come.
And thousands of years ago, there was a civilization of people in Greece. They believed in nine muses - all goddesses of music, song, and dance. One of them was the muse of history and the goddess of poetry. Her name was Clio.
The most real things in this world.
In my visions, I have met gods and goddesses, fairies, titans, mermaids, dragons, griffins, wooly mammoths, dinosaurs, and so much more. I don't claim to know the source of what I've seen. What I know is that I've seen them. They have come to me without my asking and without my believing, and they have opened my mind to the possibility of their existence.
When I was a little girl, I snuck into my parents bedroom a few weeks before Christmas. Tucked beneath my mom's hanging shirts, I found the gifts I had requested from Santa. A few days later, I told my sister what I'd found and told her that I didn't believe in Santa Claus. A few days after that, my parents got me a present: a sleigh bell (like in The Polar Express) and the book Yes, Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus.
The book includes the letter sent to a New York newspaper 120 years ago by eight-year old Virginia O'Hanlon. She lived just eight blocks from where I currently sit, and after her friends told her that Santa Claus wasn't real, she wondered what was true, and she asked, is there a Santa Claus?
What follows is an excerpt from newsman Francis Pharcellus Church's answer to her question:
VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except what they see. They think nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge...The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
And he was right. We can't conceive of everything. We can't be certain, but we, we can keep our wonder.