The jump off

Our holy diver welcomes you to Sacreligious!

Where’s Keleigh? She’s hiding amid members of her Mt. Shasta retreat group.

Where’s Keleigh? She’s hiding amid members of her Mt. Shasta retreat group.

A few summers ago near Yosemite, I stood high on a cliff above a swimming hole. A group of pre-teens had begged me to jump, and as their camp counselor, I had no choice but to follow through. My stomach tilted. Sure, the suspense was worse than the fall itself, but my legs weren’t buying that. One last deep breath. Ready … jump. During those few seconds of free-falling, I felt the weightless awe of surrender.

I feel the same way now as I did perched atop that cliff: Twice a month, I’ll be diving headfirst into the local religious and spirituality scene for this new column, Sacreligious! Sounds easy enough, sure, but that anxiety persists. What will happen when I write about local churches like a critic reviewing the latest movie? How will I convey a spiritual experience? Am I even qualified to impart such expertise?

Needless to say, I’m uneasy. If the world is a stage, I’m hiding in the wings.

Maybe you can relate? In the face of an exciting opportunity—a dream job, a new friend or love interest, a creative project that’s finally gotten off the ground—do you become seized by paroxysms of doubt, your mind crawling with negative thoughts? Terrified of judgment and failure—or success—do you sabotage your own potential?

Of course you do. But, hey, Sacreligious! is about removing the makeup and embracing the raw truth of the spiritual world. This is a spirituality column, not acting class—but if it were, I’d be Serendipity Streaker: cosmic wonder girl, warrior on a “pathless path,” typing profound musings on a levitating laptop in between yoga and meditation sessions. I would be clever and cute, flaunting my encyclopedic knowledge of sages-through-the-ages and sacred texts.

OK, that did the trick. I’m out of my shell—and in five paragraphs, no less. And since we’re at it, why not a bit more about, well, me:

My so-called spiritual awakening occurred on a wilderness retreat a couple years ago. On my third day at Mt. Shasta, I found myself before the great snow-capped volcano repeating two words: I surrender. I knelt until the abrupt sensation of my rib cage cracking open knocked me back, my chest cavity flooded with light. I was all alone, but never felt so connected, so deeply compassionate and so ecstatically open as the sky melted over the valley at sunset.

In literary terms, this is what you call “the moment after which nothing was ever the same.” And, clichés aside, this is exactly what happened: Within weeks, I left behind everything familiar—an entropic relationship, a beloved city, the comfort of emotional addictions—and moved to Sacramento. Here, I’ve discovered a unique spiritual pulse, vibrating just below our radars but steadily beating harder. From organized religion to alternative spirituality, there is a calling toward deeper consciousness, revolutionizing how we experience our world.

And each week I’ll visit local places of worship, spiritual events and perhaps even locations out of the blue. Look below these words and you’ll notice a handy little guide, a preview of where I’ve been so you can consider whether it’s right for you. But don’t worry: I’m doing the jumping, and, in the words of the mystic poet Rumi, “Falling, they’re given wings.”