Whenever I would visit, Paquito’s eyes would shine and exclaim “Así!” as he slipped into reenacting the ritual Holy Week procession in Antigua.

Mirroring the men carrying La Virgen, the platform bearing the Holy Mary, he would hunch over and limp with his right hand bent awkwardly upward. After reliving the yearly penance ritual, he would grin joyfully and say, ¡Así, Benjamín!

Paquito was an adult with Down Syndrome and participated with awe in the world around him. Faith was a powerful organizing force in his life, yet in a more immediate and vivid way than you and I would typically experience.

Lacking Down Syndrome, you and I grew differently. Like Paquito, first we participated in awe and unquestioningly absorbed the culture around us. We were taught things that could not be seen, from germs to atoms and Santa Claus, and we believed. We grew into the religion of our forefathers, and absorbing this cultural mythos was healthy.

You and I continued growing. Teenage rationality kicked in, and we kicked out everything from Santa Claus to our mothers’ wisest wisdom. In my case, I was sitting in the choir loft at church writing poems questioning Jesus!

Yet questioning is not dismissing, and my relationship with Jesus continued. I had to personally explore the dusty mansion inherited from my forefathers to understand its true value. Why and how was it built? How does it compare to other mansions? Was it built on rock or sand? Why is there so much infighting among the residents? Is it for me?

The difference between faith and belief depends on questioning: I have faith in that which survives the gaze of rationality; I believe that which I have not examined closely and rationally.

Take a moment and ask yourself: What do I believe? I believe:

1. __________________________________________

2. __________________________________________

3. __________________________________________

(Seriously, take a moment and think about a few things you believe.)

What would happen if you questioned those beliefs, and opened the possibility of alternatives? It may appear that your whole world will fall apart—but the beauty of faith is that it transcends and depends on your questioning.

And yet, questioning is not the end game. Like so many of you, I hunger for something more than just showing up and being rational.

I long for the fuel of saints: Knowing. I want the Clear Seeing that only comes with direct experience, from the set of Experiences of God and the heavens that led our forefathers to care enough to create religion in the first place. I long for the Innate Compassion derived from feeling utterly connected to the well-being of those around me.

In moments of Grace, I have glimpses, enough to whet the palate and douse my faith in the faint light of Intuition. And yet I intuit that the experiences of Love and Connection that have transformed my faith are but pallid echoes of the Knowing available in the vast repertoire of religion.

And thus the evolution of spiritual awareness:

As a child, I participated in awe and learned to believe.
As a teen, I questioned until the answers inspired faith.
As an adult, I meditated until I sensed the Light.

And yet, I sense there is more:
One day, as a sage, I will participate in awe in this dance of light and will Know.



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