A Mixed Lineage


This past weekend I meditated with Susan Piver as I participated in her Open Heart Project Virtual Retreat (susanpiver.com). Susan is a terrific meditation teacher, and I have been using her beautifully-voiced instructions in my own practice.

One suggestion she makes is to imagine ourselves as part of a lineage, whether that is a specific religious lineage, or the lineage of mothers, writers, painters, etc. We can then literally picture those who have come before us being in the room as we meditate.

While listening to Susan, I realized, not for the first time certainly, how much I can sometimes miss having a specific religious or spiritual lineage to turn to. So this morning I opted to picture ancestors. I first pictured my maternal grandmother, Edith Rathbun, who read Guideposts daily and actively participated in a Methodist church throughout her life.  (She even helped serve the elderly there when she was in her late 80s!)

I pictured Grandma behind me then thought it might also be nice to bring in a recent ancestor from my father’s Jewish family. My paternal grandfather Harry Baier appeared first. He was an Orthodox Jew, but the stories I heard about him did not reveal a lot of kindness. I did not spend much time with him as a child or adult. I didn’t know if his faith was real or not. The idea popped into my head that instead of Harry I would picture his second wife Molly. (My father’s mother had died when he was 12 and Molly was his stepmother.) What I most remembered about Molly was her smiling face, white aprons over flowered dresses, and amazingly delicious  butter-rich spritz cookies.

So two female figure stood behind me as I prepared to meditate: one a devout Christian and one an Orthodox Jew. I felt a surprising and most welcome sense of wholeness, in a brand new way.

As many friends of I Tiferet know, the split I have always felt between my parents’ different religions prevented me from putting both feet in either camp. As much as I might sometimes have wanted to, I could become neither a whole-hearted Christian nor whole-hearted Jew.

And in some ways this saddened me.

But in this Saturday’s meditation, imagining two grandmothers of very different faiths behind me, I felt, in my heart, a solidifying of my own unnameable faith in a very wonderful way.

This was indeed my lineage: standing with one foot in Christianity and one in Judaism, and from that stance, forging my own path.