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Excerpted from A Woman's Journey to God by Joan Borysenko. Copyright 1999 by Joan Borysenko. Excerpted by permission of Penguin Putnam, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.

"Many of us snapped away at that young Buddhist fellow, hoping to carry some of his peaceful joy home with us."

Joan BorysenkoA Woman's Journey to God, Part 3

The little bird of my faith has multicolored tail feathers. I have been introduced as a Jewish, mystical Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Native American psychoneuroimmunologist. Responding to the call of pilgrimage I have traveled through Eibingen and Bingen in Germany, tracing the life of the twelfth-century mystic, scientist, composer, artist, and physician Hildegard of Bingen. Praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, I sought a link to my ancestors and to the ancient God who was forced to dwell in the human heart when the Holy Temple was razed. 

Living in an ashram in India for several weeks, I tried to deepen the practice of meditation. My husband, Kurt's, Native American roots have led us to sweat lodges and sacred yuwipi ceremonies. During the native journey we encountered the living presence of White Buffalo Calf Woman, who appeared to the Lakota people many hundreds of years ago, and who, like the Virgin Mary, is a form of the ancient Goddess who emerges in every age and culture.

Years of intense traveling for business had interrupted the quiet rhythm of home and family. Holy days and ordinary days filled with the quiet sustenance of friendship and community were too rare. Even the dogs became strangers. Holiday Inns had the queer feel of home. I began to fret and worry, compare and complain. God was nowhere to be found, and as sole director of the play of my life, I became a master of the maudlin. So I declared a time out and, hosting an ecumenical group of forty-nine spiritual seekers, returned to India for the third time in twelve years. My prayer and intention was for a renewal of faith.

January was unseasonably cold in New Delhi, even under sunny skies. I was swaddled in a red fleece sweatshirt borrowed from my husband, wishing fervently for my luggage that had been lost for the two days since our arrival. A wizened old man in a soiled white dhoti and bare feet, topped with a brown wool pullover, was intent on selling me a miniature chess set and a four-foot-long wooden cobra. I couldn't get him to leave me alone. The playful Kurt succeeded by reaching into his pocket and pulling out a piece of string, chanting, "A hundred rupees, just a hundred rupees for this bee-eautiful string."

He kept smiling at the vendor and offering the string, repeating his sales pitch, trying to put the string in the man's hand. The vendor finally smiled back, shook his head, and disappeared into the crowd. Strange Americans.

A hundred Tibetan Buddhist monks filed by, dressed in robes of crimson and yellow, some fingering their prayer beads. They were sent around the world by the Dalai Lama on a pilgrimage for peace. We were all barefoot, in socks or in big, blue paper booties that the tour bus driver provided. Appropriately shoeless, we ascended the immaculate white marble steps of the lotus-shaped Bahai temple. Gleaming in the midafternoon sun, high on a hill, it stood like a shining white icon of religious tolerance. One of the monks turned around and flashed a beatific grin at our group of forty-two women and seven men. He wanted to know if we would like to take a picture of him. Many of us snapped away at that young Buddhist fellow, hoping to carry some of his peaceful joy home with us.

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