In His Own Words: A Teen’s Life-changing Experience »

I will keep my eyes open and find peace in the knowing that I may never have proof of a God. What I do have is the power to create my own reality and find the God within myself.

By Lincoln Rogers, Bodhi Spiritual Center in Chicago, Illinois

My experiences with the CSL teen camps have had a profound effect on me. In fact, I am applying to colleges with the following essay, entitled “Is God Real?” These insights are a direct result of the time I’ve spent in the Bodhi teen group, and why I continue to be engaged with the group. My time with the Bodhi teens and my trips to camp in particular help me get emotionally rebalanced. I’m especially looking forward to the 2018 Winter Camp because it will be my last year to attend. I want to reconnect with friends that I’ve made the last three years and solidify meaningful relationships that will continue into college.

In addition to growing personally and spiritually, I believe that my time at camp allows me to bring the values of spiritual practice to the cadets I lead through JROTC. I find that I can incorporate higher ideals when I’m counseling and mentoring cadets.

I would like to be considered for financial assistance this year because this is a particularly stressful period. I have many costs associated with college applications, plus, my growing independence means that I have to pay for a lot more things while, at the same time, I’m doing a lot of extracurricular activities and fitting a lot into my schedule, giving me less time to work and earn money. Thank you for inspiring this essay.

Is God Real?

I opened my eyes to furtively glance at the people around me. We were seated under a canopy of trees on top of a mountain in southern California, at a camp for the Centers for Spiritual Living Teen Program. As my eyes darted around before closing again, I couldn’t help feeling removed from the activity at hand. We were being led through a visualization in which we were asked to envision our higher selves, and I was once again feeling an instinctive reaction of boredom and slight restlessness. The source of my reaction was the age-old argument: Is there a higher power? Is God real?

I have always felt that there is something more than the material world, something that connects us to each other in ways that we cannot explain. Some attribute this to an all-knowing deity who pulls the strings behind the scenes. Some reject the notion that there is anything more than the human mind and scientific rules governing the behavior of the world. Some find a balance between religion and science. I can’t bring myself to accept that there is a sentient being making decisions for me, but I do believe there is an intangible driving force inside of me, something that I share with others, that I have influence over.

Though I share this mysterious force with others, looking outside myself for evidence of it leads to confusion rather than clarity. My father is an agnostic; my mother spends an hour every morning in spiritual practice. God is described as being loving and accepting by some, and others use it as a justification for violence.

How then, in the midst of contradiction, can we prove the existence of God? Those who thoughtfully debate a higher power must realize that forgoing religion for science still comes from a place of faith. Their belief simply lies in the scientific method rather than in the spiritual realm. The unknown is the origin of both God and science. Albert Einstein said that there is beauty in the unknown. He also said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as if nothing is a miracle. The other is as if everything is a miracle.”

This way of viewing life sounds beautiful. I would love to live in hopeful wonder and endless possibility. But I’m ruled by a rational mind, and I want concrete explanations. Stephen Hawking believes that “there is no aspect of reality beyond the reach of the human mind.” That is to say, there cannot exist what we cannot know. So if all that exists is bound by our reality, are we not gods in our own right?

My search for God has to begin with the knowledge that I am always creating my own reality. My thoughts, conscious or subconscious, determine the way that I experience my life. I find solace in this when I am struggling with doubts and fears, but the truth is that my need for a belief dictates the content of my belief. One could argue that we create our own perception of God based on what we need, whether we worship spirit or science. Those who need to find comfort in a higher power will create for themselves a deity.

God is a part of us; not a person, but the curious and creative impulse that pushes us to learn, to expand in the universe. To thoughtfully discuss this, there has to be a common ground. There are those who stand by science, and those who insist on a higher power, but there is one thread that unites them: faith. There must be faith in the unknown. Religion is built on faith through personification, and science inspires faith through experimentation. In order to truly discuss what can never be proven, the unknown has to be recognized. One has to open his eyes to his doubts. When it comes to religion, the first thoughtful discussion needs to be with oneself.

I ask myself, if I were to imagine a perfect God, what would it look like? It would be a rational God. It would be an understanding God. I believe that if there is a God, it is comprised of a loving heart and a scientific mind.

I will keep my eyes open, and find peace in the knowing that I may never have proof of a God. What I do have is the power to create my own reality and find the God within myself.

Bodhi Spiritual Center’s “Love to Gather” community retreat is just one example of how the center is changing lives in the greater Chicago area.