When I first think of the word spiritual and remember adolescence, I think of being at our Presbyterian, church up in the balcony, with my friends and having very inappropriate bouts of laughter.
I'm reflecting on one Sunday in 9th grade when this bad behavior grew so hard to contain that I had to leave the church and go out into the hallway. Unfortunately my mom was there as I made my way to the restroom. I was red in the face and still trying to control my laughter, when we bumped into each other.
She responded quite simply that if this was all I was getting out of going to church, that I didn’t need to come anymore.
Was she serious?
Was she serious?
It was shocking to hear her say this but I felt I had been spared one of the most boring things in my life and was very grateful to be released from my Sunday church obligation.
It is clear to me that my spiritual development in adolescence did not happen inside the church, as nurturing as the community of it was.
Instead, I have very vivid memories of sunsets in my parent’s backyard as I looked northwest from the Niagara River where it met Lake Ontario, across from Toronto.
Big, bold, beautiful sunsets of brilliant oranges, reds, pinks and yellows. Seeing those sunsets was my first experience with the magnificence of nature. When I think of them now, through my mind's eye, I can still feel how my body felt when I experienced their beauty.
I can also still feel my body when I think about sailing in those days, especially with the quiet solitude of my father. My memories of being on the boat with him, sometimes in very choppy waters, as the wind and weather swept and propelled the sailboat forward, were my first glimpses of my body being connected to a rhythm and physicality, outside of my own.
Perhaps the adolescent years were mostly about getting in touch with spirituality through my physical being.
Enter getting stoned on marijuana for the first time in 9th grade...
...and the music and lyrics that we listened to, while getting high and the delicious kissing that ensued. Now there was some yummy, potent, spiritual development.
Also during this time, like two of my brothers before me, I became a competitive swimmer and discovered the capable athlete that I still am.
Perhaps the socialization skills I learned in the first ten years of life, coupled with getting to know my physical being, like I did as an swimmer, prepared me to join together physically with another human being, in the richness of adolescence, a few years later.
And perhaps all those abundant hormones pumping through us, were part of the magic, that made it all happen.