Maria is a writer who lives in Grey Lynn with a husband, cat and three children.
1. What are your spiritual beliefs?
My mother was raised in a rigidly Methodist household and so determined not to force any sort of religion onto us, I had to ask one day what the whole god and jesus thing was about. I don’t remember her answer, but it must have been pretty intriguing because I started Sunday school soon after that.
I liked the dressing up part. I used to wear my best dress and mum would give me fifty cents to put in my handbag for the plate. I would have been about five. They told us stories and gave us a card so each time we attended we got to stick another sticker on the card. I went for a whole term just to see what the picture on the card was going to be. I remember being bored a lot of the time and thinking this really wasn’t going to be my thing. The picture turned out to be a stained glass window of Jesus. I took up ballet instead.
Around seven or eight I went through a phase of being terrified of dying. This was probably triggered by a film I’d seen where a girl was kidnapped and buried alive in a coffin. I imagined that’s what death would be like – trapped and alone in the dark forever. I had nightmares and sometimes couldn’t sleep worrying about it. One night my mother came in to see why I was still awake and told me this story:
At sixteen she had clinically died on the operating table when a doctor botched the partial removal of her lung. Describing the incredible relief of leaving her body and all the pain behind, she floated up and looked down on everyone fighting to revive her. The feeling of euphoria was extraordinary and there was a sense of utter freedom. She could literally go anywhere she wanted. Thinking about her parents, she drifted down the hall to where they were waiting and listened to them talking.
Till that point there had been an overwhelming urge to let go and drift away, but seeing her distraught parents changed her mind. She returned to her body, even though it was horrible and painful. Days later she repeated word for word the conversation her parents had had in the waiting room during the time she’d been clinically dead.
After my brush with Sunday school I had no interest in organised religion and still don’t, however I grew up knowing that mysterious, unexplainable things do happen in everyday life. Like the way my mother had died, yet a part of her had remained. This always seemed to me an irrefutable and comforting fact. I have since had various experiences of my own which reinforced this view.
2. How sure are you that those beliefs are true?
We each have a unique perspective and because we construct our own private little thought-universe, I’m not sure we can be 100 percent sure of anything much. There will always be doubt and others to challenge our views. I guess there is an instinctual element to it – a deep knowing about certain things, a feeling that rings true for us.
3. How did you come to have these beliefs?
They are pretty much empirical. Though she never would have called herself psychic, my mother used to astonish my brothers and me with her prescience. We used to try and work out how she could have known certain things, which were often remarkably specific and difficult to explain any other way. To me they occurred far too often to be considered coincidence. Many years later she admitted to me that sometimes she just knew things. Apparently this ability surfaced shortly after her near death experience at sixteen.
4. What do you wish you could believe in?
The idea of a karmic universe is very satisfying and would make sense of a lot of the terrible injustice in the world.
I wish the random, pointless experiences of prescience I have could be more useful or insightful instead of just odd and bemusing.
5. What do you think it means to believe in something?
I think believing in something can give a real sense of inner peace and comfort. Personally I get an enormous amount of contentment and enrichment from music. Music is a faith worth having.
6. Does this stuff matter to you? Do you think about it much?
Yes it does. I think some people are more open and sensitive to metaphysical possibilities and this awareness encourages inter-connectedness between people. I love the idea that there are mysterious, unexplainable things in the world. How dull is it to dissect, pin out and explain everything to death? I prefer the liberation of believing there may be things out there we can’t see, control or rationalise. Without mystery, the sea is just salted water. I think about it each time I have a strange little premonition or meet someone who insists there is no such thing.