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Converts United

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Introduction [Feb. 19th, 2006|01:25 pm]
Converts United
converts_r_us
[enchantedescape]
Hajimemashite, dozou yoroushiku.
My name is Umeka, a name I chose when I converted to Shinto, though I keep my birthname for professional reasons (I'm a dentist and the paper trail is extremely vicious).

I was raised Catholic, but went through a series of crises of faith, starting when I was 21. When I was a child, going to church was a spiritual experience for me. As I got older, it stopped. I would go and not feel anything. It upset me greatly, having always been a spiritual person, and once having considered convent life.
The final straw, though I would not admit it for another 2 years, was the day I went to church, and in the middle of mass, during the silent prayer segment, heard a voice tell me, "You are still my child, but you must find another way to get to me." I once confided this in someone else, and was told it was Satan, trying to seduce me. This only further crumbled my faith as I had always believed that evil could not set foot on sacred ground, that it had no hold.
I still tried to maintain I was Catholic, even as I left myself open for other answers. Buddhism seemed to be a possible answer, but I was never able to feel comfortable with the idea of no higher power.
When my partner and I went to Japan, I knew Shinto was a possible path with its spiritualism, but I kept hearing that one couldn't be Shinto without being Japanese. Yet, when I set foot on shrine grounds in Japan, when I cleansed myself before entering, I felt the difference. I "converted" in name. As Shinto doesn't require an initiatory rite, that was all it was as I began to grow into my new religion, and it grew into me.
Over a year ago, now, I had accepted Shinto in to my heart and life and we celebrated our first Oshogatsu. Each slow step was another towards full immersion, but I didn't realize it at the time. Aiko and I decided to have our ceremony and planned our wedding at the only shrine in the US. When we went there in December to have our wedding, I was transformed. The conversion was complete as I felt, finally, at home, something I hadn't felt for ten years.
We spent a week at the shrine, volunteering and spending time with our priest and his wife. It was the most amazing week I've ever had, including the retreats I spent while being devoutly Catholic.


I'm very happy to find this community and to find you all so open. Thank you.
Umeka
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: chaucergrrl
2006-02-19 09:29 pm (UTC)
Wow! That's a interesting story. I have to admit, I don't know much about Shintoism.
What does Oshogatsu mean?
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From: enchantedescape
2006-02-19 10:15 pm (UTC)
Oshogatsu is the Japanese New Year. It is our biggest celebration of the year and lasts about seven days.

Thank you. I hadn't ever really put words to my conversion before today, so I guess I never realized how interesting it is.
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[User Picture]From: dehaywardati
2006-02-19 11:59 pm (UTC)
I'm embarrassed to admit I know nothing about Shintoism. Could you perhaps post what you consider to be the basic elements of this religion/faith tradition/philosophy/I don't know the appropriate other term for Shintoism...

Thank you.
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From: enchantedescape
2006-02-20 01:01 am (UTC)
Oh, please, do not be embarrassed. It is not a highly publicised religion. There are some who consider it more philosophy than religion, but to me it is all.
Shinto is a "natural spontaneous recognition of the divine." Essentially, the kami (spiritual beings) are all around us and are our ancestors. Therefore, we all have divine light in us. Though there is no dogma, there is the desire to live without impurity, which brings us closer to Great Nature and our own divine nature.
It is a religion of practice, rather than doctrine. There is a conscious thanksgiving in everything we do. It is a desire to live harmoniously not only with our ancestors, but also our community.
To me, this means to release my own divinity, I must connect with the kami and shine that light into the world through my actions of harmony.
Thank you for the welcome! :-)
Umeka
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From: (Anonymous)
2006-03-10 06:20 pm (UTC)
Ummm...do you live in Japan? Not to sound rude or anything, but Shintoism is almost completely dead in Japan. It's a PATRIOTIC religion. Japan is center of the world, nothing exists outside of Japan. etc. etc. It's pretty dead.

What made you decide this is the religion you had to follow? Maybe you don't live in Japan but you're Japanese?

I'm interested to learn.
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From: enchantedescape
2006-03-15 01:18 am (UTC)
No, I do not live in Japan. I live in the United States.
Shinto is not dead in Japan. It is the indigenous religion of Japan and while state Shinto does have patriotic components, it is only one form of Shinto. In fact, there is a shrine in Hawaii that is dedicated to Christopher Columbus!
I find Shinto no more ethnocentric than some other religions, and I have felt welcomed since I began practicing.

Actually, I'm not Japanese either. My heart found Shinto and the kami welcomed me into their arms. I have felt more positive changes in my life since converting than prior.

Shinto is, for me, an amazing path and one that has allowed me to find the peace of mind and soul I'd been missing for a very long time.

Pardon my question, I don't mean to be rude, but is there a reason you posted anonymously?
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