When I was a child I believed in God pretty much pictured as an old white man, sitting in a throne “up there” in heaven. This god was judgmental and punitive, and sometimes I was afraid he was overhearing and judging my thoughts. Some time in adolescence, when I spent a lot of time roaming the woods, I decided that god was not to be found in church, but out in nature. By the time I was majoring in Astronomy at Wellesley I no longer believed in god. I did Buddhist practice for a while, found it very helpful when I was struggling with my first round of severe depression. The universe described by Buddhism was the only one big enough to hold the universe I learned about in Astronomy.
One day, I don’t remember how I framed the question, I was thinking that I didn’t believe in god, I believed in the universe. And what was the universe like? The words that came were “capricious, malicious, and willful.” I was stunned. Did I REALLY believe that of the universe that had created stars and galaxies, daffodils and pine trees, raccoons and human beings? Of course not. So who WAS “capricious, malicious and willful”? A pair of alcoholic parents, that’s who.
So, when the gates of heaven were flung wide by that welcoming god, I was really pleased that my image of God had changed so much. I still can’t say that I “believe in God.” I generally use the word “Spirit” for the being that created and became the universe. I believe spirit penetrates every bit of matter, that we are all spirit. When I pray, I tend to pray to lesser spirits, my own “Guides & Guardians”, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, and Jesus. Or I use the buddhist lovingkindness prayer: May you be safe, may you be happy, may you be healthy, may you live with ease. I do that prayer for my friends, my dancers, and my family, almost every day.