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The Shift
Mary L. Barry

Have you noticed it? You know what I�m talking about� the shift. We�re no longer whispering about it or pretending that it doesn�t exist. Now, we talk about it openly�in the media, in boardrooms, and who knows�maybe next in public classrooms. We�re publicly exploring a subject that in recent years was as taboo as discussing the benefits of our bathroom habits in polite company. I�m talking about acknowledging the presence of an all-knowing, all-seeing, all-encompassing being. You know�God, the universal intelligence, Krishna, Allah�or what ever you choose to call IT. We can talk about it now�or hadn�t you heard?

I realized the shift had occurred when my coolest friend recently confided in me that she wanted to explore her spirituality. What? Did she really mean sexuality? After a moment�s consideration, I realized no. She had explored her sexuality to the hilt while living the good life on the Boston-New York party-scene in the 1980�s. My friend has been backstage at more rock concerts than any woman I personally know and has been to all ends of the earth�just to say that she�s been there, done that. It wouldn�t surprise me to learn that the �Sex-in-the-City Girls� were modeled after Natalie. Now this worldly woman is looking to join others to explore something that they�ve spent most of their adulthood ignoring�that nagging sense that there has to be more to one�s life than� THIS.

So, Natalie�what do you plan on doing? Are you intending to attend church services or join an Ashram?

No�I�m not sure what to do about it. I�d like to look into the whole idea of spiritual growth and what it can do for me.

Okay�so a meditation group or maybe a tai chi group, but definitely not a 12-step group.

Yeah�more like that. Something that would allow me to experience enlightenment on my own terms.

Okay�so what�s gotten Natalie and us to this shift? It can�t be because the atheists no longer have a national spokeswoman the same caliber as Madeline O�Hare (you-know-who should rest her soul). Maybe it�s because we�ve spent the last two decades listening to cultural-coaches expounding the glories of over-achievement. Now that most of us have arrived at some form of material-nirvana, we�ve found it truly lacking.

You know, maybe it�s because I�ve accomplished most everything that I�ve wanted to accomplish. And, let me tell you it�s not all that. Sitting on the lap of a Rolling Stone is a lot less exciting than you think.

So, you�re new goal is to sit on the lap of a guru or visionary?

Yeah, maybe. But I don�t think it has much to do with accomplishment�it�s something intangible that can add to my life. Maybe working with a visionary who can teach me about the enjoyment of life or how to get the most out of my personal journey?

It was clear that Natalie wasn�t drawn by traditional religion. She had avoided using the �G�-word in our conversation, and didn�t talk about forgoing her social-habits in favor of secular ones. Because religion had been too restrictive to fit with the hedonism of the 80�s or the greed of the 90�s, it�s transformed itself for the new Millennium�an entity or philosophy that is adaptable to each person.

So, Natalie�are you going to create your own cult?

Yeah�and it�ll only have one member. Me. I want to create something for me.

Religion isn�t bound by outdated rituals. It is evolving to be much more expressive and creative. People contemplate the universal good or embrace the natural within themselves by doing tai chi. Places of worship offer classes in prosperity�how to get it, enjoy it and share it�rather than teaching that prosperity and wealth is to be eschewed in favor of poverty. Churches now embrace alternative lifestyles and support the concept of love expressed in any form as being a universal good. It is the intent behind the individual choice rather than the choice itself that is important. Religion has become something to personalize�like stationery or a web-site�and we get to worship in anyway that feels comfortable and meaningful to us as individuals.

So, what�s next Natalie?

I dunno. I think I�ll take a walk and think about the implications of this shift. Maybe it�ll be a passing fad.

Maybe�maybe not.

@2001 Mary L. Barry