I wiped the snow off my mittens and shook them one more time before stuffing them in the pockets of my snow coat. A man in a black cloak was hovering above over me, leaning over an old wooden desk. Slowly, and with great care, he handed me a small, red crystal glass. In the middle of the glass was a tiny dancing orange flame and white, dripping wax pooling at the bottom. I took it in both hands and walked into a dark, but warm room in front of me, where a half dozen adults were gathered silently, their silhouettes praying over similar red candles hanging on black frames all around the room. I found my mother against one wall of the room and watched cautiously as she bowed and close her eyes, smiling as if in a pleasant dream. I placed my candle next to hers, and mimicked her movements, not fully understanding what we were doing, but too scared to feel like an outsider in this sacred place.
Everyone around me was lost deep in thought, it seemed. Some kneeled, hands clutched together and eyes pinched shut as if they needed all of their focus on the mysterious task at hand. Others watched their candle-flames solemnly through closed eyelids, lips quietly murmuring prayers on their sleep-like faces.
I followed step and rested my candle on a black iron candelabra protruding from the wall. Cupping my hands over the burning wick to feel it’s warmth, I closed my eyes and murmured my own prayers into the flames. It was only then that I realized why everyone came here. It was this flourishing feeling of release… of finally sharing your feelings, of putting your dreams and ambitions into words. That was the magic of that dark, little chapel room. People came here in peace, and in war, in their darkest times and to share on their happiest moments. I had absolutely no way of knowing what anyone was whispering into their individual flames, but I could see their faces changing in the candlelight. Old women who walked in with faces of stone and sorrow, those cold emotions slowly melting by the fire. Young, shivering men who were probably tossing prayers for wealth or love, walking out of the room with a hop to their step, more confident in themselves after their quiet conversations.
There are countless belief systems in the world, some millions strong and some more acute and community driven. Human Religions catalogs 79 different major religions, not even accounting for the many variations therein.
It’s part of what makes America as special and unique as it is. Every religion has a home here, and everyone is welcome to follow whatever they believe in. Everyone is welcome to carve their own pathway to happiness, or to join the warmth of a new community.
New Directions believes that there are multiple pathways to a higher power, and that the women in our care should feel comfortable and welcomed to follow any path that they desire to reach spiritual fulfillment. We believe that practices such as yoga and journaling, attending 12 Step Meetings both in the community and internally at our facility, and healthy eating and daily exercise, can help you not only feel better about yourself, but also feel more connected with the spiritual being within you.
Every guest of New Directions receives a book of inspiration, and has a prayer kneeler embroidered with an inspirational quote by their bedsite, in part because we believe that everyone deserves to be inspired during their recovery, but that they also deserve to find their own pathway if they so desire. Unlike some programs which focus on a specific religion, New Directions believes that it is best if women are able to cultivate their own pathway to spirituality.