||[Feb. 19th, 2006|01:25 pm]
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.