Hell if I know. Actually I do. It’s been a really long evolution… over the past 22 years, at least.
The only idea of “spirituality” that I had growing up was of the Christian tradition. I grew up in a loosely “Christian” household where going to church was only a huge deal during Easter and Christmas, and even then it was really just for looks. It wasn’t too important to my parents. As a matter of fact, I wasn’t even sure if Mom believed in God, to be honest. However, I was always fascinated with the Bible and found myself reading it and being inspired by it from time to time. I even let my friends drag me into a bible study group once. I actually tried to be a legitimate Christian.
But after a while I wasn’t really satisfied with Christianity. I always felt like there was something missing in the dogma, but I couldn’t place my finger on it. And most of all, I couldn’t really stand other people who called themselves Christians. So I stopped practicing Christianity.
I remember in college (around 1993) I was going through a spiritual identity crisis and turned towards Islam. I spent a few years studying Islam and went even as far as practicing it. It’s a pretty intense religion, and at the time it kinda suited me. Plus it made me feel different than my friends and family, and that felt cool. But after a while, I started feeling the same sense of dissatisfaction towards Islam and Muslims that I felt towards Christianity and Christians, so I stopped practicing Islam as well.
The only religion left that I was familiar with was Judaism, but at that point, I’ve pretty much had it with the whole Abrahamic idea of spirituality. All three of them (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism) were all the same to me. I respected their ideas but they just weren’t for me.
Oddly enough, I still believed in God (and I still do, but in a much different way, but we’ll get to that some other time).
At various times throughout my early college career I’d pick up random books about Taoism and Confucianism, and the lessons in them seemed really nice, but they wouldn’t stick at all. It all seemed too mystical and mysterious and esoteric, and I didn’t know anyone who could help me with those philosophies. But one day I saw a special on Shaolin martial arts and learned that Shaolin warriors were not only deadly fighters, but were paradoxically peaceful too, rooting their spirits in Chan Buddhism, aka Zen.
Now, the thought of doing that was intriguing… learn how to kill and become enlightened? Count me in, man.
Next thing I knew, I found myself signed up to study martial arts at a Shaolin school. That’s when I learned how to meditate (and fight). Although I had fun with learning the different Shaolin wushu forms, I really enjoyed the spiritual aspect of it. I would meditate at home and have some of the most powerful meditative experiences I ever had, even to this day.
But how did I end up studying Taoism?
Well I did read “The Tao of Pooh.”
But the journey really got a jumpstart when one day in early 2007, I was googling “Chicago Zen” looking for a place to meditate and happened to click on a website called “Chicago Zen Shiatsu.” To make a long story short, I ended up enrolling into Shiatsu school, got my first taste of Eastern healing, and somehow found myself at Midwest College studying for a Masters in Oriental Medicine a year later.
And on the first day of class, my professor said, “Acupuncture theory is based on Taoist philosophy, so lemme introduce you to Taoism…”
And from then on, my studies in Taoism started to evolve dramatically.