Guess Where I Saw God?

Ultimate Luxuries

“It is a luxury to do something that serves no practical purpose: the luxury of civilization.”
― M.L. Stedman

I walked in and saw God.

He wasn’t wearing a turban or meditating in the shoe department. He wasn’t passing out flyers or chanting om. He didn’t come down the heavens (or escalator) in a grand vision.

So, where did I see him?

In Bergdorf Goodmans.

Now, you may be thinking, Oh, c’mon Tonya! I thought you were a more spiritual person.

So, let me ask you: what makes someone spiritual? Someone who is always perfectly grounded and never indulges in the things of this world?

If that’s the case, you’re right. I’m probably not spiritual, in your opinion.

But, in my opinion, I am deeply spiritual.

Spirituality is defined as a “process of personal transformation; any kind of meaningful activity or blissful experience.”

I think a spiritual person is someone who wants to crawl up inside of God and experience those moments of awe so that she can remember who she really is.  And, you can crawl into many things to have those moments. 

That’s what I experienced in Bergdorfs — in the most stunning flowing skirt of the Oscar de la Renta collection, the red soles of a nude pair of Louboutins, the scent of Tom Ford’s Black Velvet and through a pair of Chanel sunglasses.

I walked out and didn’t buy a thing, but for two hours, I was enraptured in the Divine.

I’ve also had those transcendent moments at hedonistic dinners that lasted for six hours, during sex under the stars and at a Florence and the Machine concert.

Never have I had them during a yoga class. Ever.

I’ve made the mistake of revealing my “holy moments” to the wrong people, those who practice spiritual snobbery.

Perhaps you know these kinds of people, too. She might be a God-fearing Baptist or a swami in a temple. He might even be your yoga teacher or your Crossfit coach. Whoever he/she is, you’ll one because they induce shame and will try to fix you through their spiritual dogma, telling you that their way is the only way.

Oh, yeah, I know these people.

I’ve been called out for putting on lipstick during a meditation class. People have wanted to ‘fix’ my worldly ways through prayer. I was scolded for laughing in church. Doesn’t God laugh? And, someone suggested that if I were truly spiritual, I’d give up the trappings of material possessions. I exited that conversation real quick.

Geesh, when did enlightenment become so dark? <Psst….for a little chuckle, click here to watch a video of moi indulging in a bit of dramatic acting>

Now, don’t get me wrong. I think we can use anything to fill a hole in the soul, including meditation or a Mercedes. It’s always the intention in your heart that matters.

But, this black and white approach to spirituality is exactly what led to me being a nutcase for years. It was the same relationship I had with weight: extreme.

I desperately tried to fit into the “perfect” spiritual box — practiced yoga five times a week; became a raw foodie; green juice devotee and meditation. I was running from one practice to another trying to reach some sort of nirvana.

The only place I reached was misery. By following the spiritual herd, I had forgotten to listen to me. (And, let me tell you: I met some crazies on the way. But, there are crazies in Bergdorfs too!)

One day, I finally stopped. All of it.

Actually, I was forced to stop after tweaking my shoulder trying to get into a pose I had no business trying to contort myself into.

I couldn’t keep up with the madness. What was supposed to bring me peace and joy was creating pain (quite literally). One more piece of tofu, and I thought I’d hit someone.

And, it was all because of one simple thing: I was denying myself of what I truly wanted: luxury.

I didn’t want to be a yogi or a vegan. I wanted to wear fancy clothes and dance the night away in an underground bar in Paris with Champagne in hand.

Spirituality shouldn’t put you in a box; it should set you free. (tweet it)

Just because I don’t choose to meditate daily doesn’t make me some spiritual outcast. Just because I don’t go sit in silence for a week doesn’t make me spiritually weak. Just because I lose my cool and speak my mind doesn’t make me a spiritual failure. And, just because I wear red lipstick doesn’t make me a spiritual whore.

Rumi wrote:

My Lord told me a joke.

And seeing him laugh has done more for me
than any scripture I will
ever read.

I think the joke is:

There’s nothing serious going on.
Go out and have some fun.
Love what you love.
Lighten up.
Chill out.

But, hey, that’s my spiritual practice. I’m also the one that’s pouring a glass of Champagne while my best friend is going off to meditate. As we joke, “We’re both getting to the same place.”

You get to choose how you connect with your Higher Power.

(and mine wears Louboutins, so she’s always a few inches higher).

Here’s my spiritual advice:

Follow what delights your soul with lightness and joy. Meditation or Manolos.
Pursue those things that make you a better human being. Freud or French.
Explore the world and expand your mind. India or Italy.
Eat foods that nourish you. Tofu or a T-bone.
Listen to music that enraptures you. Buddha Bar or Busta Rhymes.
Move your body in ways that strengthens you. Belly Dancing or Bodybuilding.
…and most importantly, love!
Because in love is where you’ll always find God hanging out.

And you can be rest assured that my God will also be found hanging out at Bergdorfs!

Thoughts? What’s your spiritual practice? Do share. (And, if you don’t have one, that’s okay too!)

Spiritually Yours,

tonya-leigh-pink-sig

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51 Responses to Guess Where I Saw God?

  1. I just love this post. Even in the Christian faith, the woman of Proverbs 31 wore fine purple and wove exquisite tapestries for herself. I use her as an example in my own life and see no contradiction at all.

  2. If there was ever a creature that believed in luxury and indulgence, it is God. Why else would he have created not just one type of bird but a numberless variety? Why else would there be not just one type of fruit but hundreds? I have always seen and appreciated this quality of Him in creation, and I firmly believe he did it so we –all of his creations–could enjoy the abundance on earth and the universe, not just because he was bored and he wanted something to do.

    I do think some moderation is important, especially as the world of commerce can be inundating and turn happiness to frustration, but that’s not how God intended it to be, I don’t think. There has to be a reason why humans, in general, appreciate beautiful, luxurious things and why we strive to give our loved ones the best we can. I cannot believe God would’ve spent so much time and energy giving us these wonderful qualities and minds to create beauty just to expect us the exact opposite from his children.

    • Mayra, you raise such a great point, and it’s something I’ll be addressing in our May Soiree. Anything can be used to fill a void and will only increase frustration and dissatisfaction if used for the wrong reasons. Your statement nailed it: “I cannot believe God would’ve spent so much time and energy giving us these wonderful qualities and minds to create beauty just to expect us the exact opposite from his children.”

      Simply beautiful!

  3. GENIUS POST! So well written, I absolutely love what you said about crawling up inside God! Yes!

  4. Thank you Thank you Thank you!!! For giving us confirmation and permission to embrace ALL of our holy moments. I am releasing the shame and judgments…I am starting again fresh…I am going to LOVE what I LOVE.

  5. I have ALL THE FEELS on this post. We’re talking everything from a big juicy deep breath of relief to struggles with the privilege behind it to gratitude for the fact that this message makes luxury + spirituality accessible to anyone.

    I think there’s a certain privilege in any discussion of luxury. For some just the time to think about luxury is, well, a luxury. They’re worried about the lower levels of Mazlow’s hierarchy: food and shelter and safety. I don’t think luxury is bad or discussing it and promiting it is inherently bad; however, I feel equally passionate that its important to recognize some inherent privilege in the conversations.

    All that being said, I also can see your underlying message that luxury and spirituality are what YOU make of it- and for me that’s SO permission giving and accessible. No matter where you are in your life luxury can be possible- maybe its a few deep breaths on the way home from your third job OR its spending two hours looking at beautiful things in Bergdorf Goodmans.

    Ultimately I love that we’re having a more nuanced discussion about spirituality and luxury and think that its a good thing so long as we recognize some unique privileges.

    Like I said – all. the. feels.

    • Kait, I hear you! And, as someone who grew up in a trailer and wasn’t “privileged” I still sought out luxurious things that didn’t cost much (i.e. Vogue magazine). I think taking the judgement out is key for women to allow themselves to love what they love and create their own spiritual practice, whatever that is for you. And, I love the term: all.the.feels. xoxo

  6. As somebody that fought against organized religion, the dogma and the judgement, all I can say is that this post is fan-fucking-tastic.

  7. Wow, Tonya, what a great post and excellent topic in general! As someone with a Masters in Religious studies, I am consistently fascinated by this subject and happy when someone brings it up!

    Personally, I don’t see God as a white haired man, holding a stick and handing out favors to the “Good people” (whatever that is)! I believe that God is the Ultimate source of power and energy in our Universe. I believe that he/she created all of it and all of us, and I firmly believe that God is inside of us.

    So where do we go to find that spirituality? Inside of ourselves and outside in nature. Whatever makes our heart swell, and makes us become better, more compassionate human beings, there is God.

    Often, I have found God at Tiffany’s. Sometimes in a hospital where I see what he has empowered us to learn about life. Sometimes it’s at the Godiva store!

    I believe that judgemental people who really feel like they have all of it figured out, are the ones that least likely do!

    Cheers, Tonya! And thank you for bringing God to so many people.

    Love,
    Donna

    • Donna, I had no idea that you majored in Religious studies. Love what you’ve added to this discussion. As someone who worked as a critical care nurse, I saw so much of God’s grace in the hospital. And, I’ve seen it in Bergdorfs too ;).

      Thank you for being such a beautiful example of a woman who is spiritually luxurious!

  8. Personally, I only see God when I am listening or observing. When I observe beautiful people (inside and out), the beauty of nature, or man-created beauty (because their ability to do so, in my personal faith, is a gift from God), I feel God’s presence. Many times I experience the divine of man’s creation (art, music, fashion, literature, anything incredibly designed and created) and, in awe, thank God for His genius. And, thank you for the pass on yoga. I’d much rather tango or salsa personally. 😉

    • Lady, I am SO with you on tango and salsa over yoga. But, I also high-five those who love their yoga practice.

  9. Tonya you are a real woman who embraces life with the courage to make changes and take changes to create a fabulous life. You are amazing and you inspire others. People who are critical of others are usually more concerned with external valuation rather than actually enjoying a life of quality.

    • Balance in spending, YES, but I believe in extremes when indulging in what lights you up. I can go and walk down Fifth Avenue all day and feel so full and never spend a dime . The beauty fills me up!

  10. THIS ARTICLE is divine.
    And so are you.

    This is one of my new favorites (and so many new favorite lines in this one, too!
    “I think we can use anything to fill a hole in the soul, including meditation or a Mercedes.”
    and,
    “I’m also the one that’s pouring a glass of Champagne while my best friend is going off to meditate. As we joke, “We’re both getting to the same place.”

    You get to choose how you connect with your Higher Power.

    (and mine wears Louboutins, so she’s always a few inches higher).”

    So, so good.

    And I love your firm yet so graciously and genuinely unrighteous stand for the enlightened spirit not being enlightened if it is weighed down with judgment.

    Thanks for such an awesome, honest, enlightening discussion.

    Love,

    Leah

    • Leah, when I think of spirituality and luxury, you are one of the first women that come to mind. Thank you for being such a beautiful role model of someone who finds divinity in the exquisite things of life.

  11. You are a genius Tonya:)
    Mozart would totally agree with you – he had the same definition of genius

  12. What a lovely post. I so appreciate your take on spirituality. I think the disconnect people have around this issue is probably why we deny ourselves the things we really want in life, because so many of us aren’t used to thinking of pleasure, luxury and divinity as belonging in the same sentence.

    • Thank you Carisa! I am such a huge believer in a woman unapologetically loving what she loves. There’s so much freedom in it! And, I did not grow up putting those concepts together. It took a lot of letting go of beliefs that were handed to me and internal exploration. It’s been quite the journey, for sure!

  13. I consider myself spiritual, but certainly not religious. Tonya, you have brought genuine delight into my world and this post captures the joy and feel good aspects that every day spiritual living can involve. Thank you so much for the image of your higher power in Louboutins, just a few inches higher I can do lol!

  14. Tonya,
    As someone who has had many fantastic spiritual experiences, I love this post. I met a nun once who thought she was not the best nun because she loved to garden and would move plants around in the monastery gardens. She told me that God put them in one place and she would move them. I said “I think that God gave you your passion for gardening and put plants where you could move them to make a prettier garden and use the gift He gave you”. She pondered that for a minute, then smiled and agreed. Spirituality is doing things that feed your soul. Being raised catholic, I never missed mass. I married a protestant and he never misses church. As I become closer to God and grow spiritually, I spend less time at church and more time alone, and THAT feeds my soul.

    • Jo, your story of the nun just made me smile so big, especially since you gave her permission to do what “feeds her soul.” Moral of this story? God gave us passions + a brain. Use it to access your joy. Thank you deeply! And, enjoy your alone time ;).

  15. Tonya, this is such a wonderful post!
    I grew up in a very strict Baptist household that did not allow me to partake in many of my generation’s popular culture, such as Harry Potter (I am in my early twenties now). It took me many, many years and removing myself completely from organized religion in order to get over the shame and guilt I have felt from that upbringing. I was terrified of partaking in anything enjoyable, and I lived in shame and fear of my own desires, and heavily judged others for being less inhibited than me.
    Now, after several years of removing myself from religion, I feel free to have a glass of wine with friends and have sex with my wonderful boyfriend of over a year, both things that I greatly enjoy and that I would have felt immense shame over had I stayed in my religion. I hope to buy a nice handbag for myself soon, too. I feel free to “french kiss life” now.
    I hope that your post and your message will reach out to some woman who might feel shame and guilt over enjoying life, and let her see that is okay to be a little self indulgent! Every woman deserves to enjoy herself!
    Thank you so much again, Tonya
    xoxo

    • You too Kate? I grew up in a Pentecostal Holiness church, so I wasn’t allowed to go to movies, dance or anything fun. And, luxury? It was out of the question. So, I completely understand where you’re coming from. Wine + Sex…DIVINE!

      Thank you so much for adding to the conversation.

  16. What an interesting post, thanks for bringing up a relevant topic Tonya.

    I think being spiritual, that is, connecting with God, is being present and indulging in every moment with consciousness. When you are a 100% present, you feel one with the Universe and at Peace. If this is not Godliness, I don’t know what is.

    Hence, you are absolutely spot on that the activities you choose are very important and should make you happy – be it a cocktail party on a yacht, sauntering around the Amalfi coast, sitting on a bench overlooking the bay, kissing your love, cooking something delicious. If you are happy, your senses are heightened, your mind is focused on the now ergo, you are one with God.

    Having said that, we are not taught socially, culturally and even physically to be present – we suffer from erratic thoughts fueled by information overload, mixed messages (especially spiritual) and as someone has already mentioned an overemphasis on materialism.

    I think the purpose of spiritual disciplines like meditation, yoga, tai-chi, fasting and so on, are to TRAIN the body and the mind to be alert and present. They are proven tools really, to allow you to be closer to God – BUT they are not an end in itself. And by no means are they the only tools.

    • Gaya, what a beautiful comment, and I completely agree. Indulging in the present moment always feels luxurious. And, it’s a shame that we aren’t taught this way of being. Most live in the past or future, and it is a training. But, I believe there are so many ways to access it, even through a trip to Bergdorfs.

      Again, thank you for adding to this discussion.

  17. God is extravagant, happy, faithful, fun, and loving. And, he is constant. He wants us to be the same. You captured it perfectly, Tonya! <3

  18. Thank you for this fabulous post Tonya. I’ve always felt bad that I couldn’t be bothered to learn to meditate, but my daily walking around our neighbourhood actually feels quite meditative to me and I really look forward to it. Of course I take my FKL podcasts with me and am always re-inspired when I get back home.

  19. I really like this post. I too believe God desires for us to have those desires. I think my pastor said it best when he said “God doesn’t mind you having nice things as long as they don’t have you.” Things being merely adornments to our existence and not the sole reason for living. There was a time when I wanted and acquired nice things because I felt without them I had nothing to offer socially- that they validated my right to be in the nice restaurant, shop in the boutique, associate with people I deemed better than me. Yet I found myself in a vicious cycle of keeping up with the Jones and having a void no thing could fill. It wasn’t until I stopped that cycle that I actually began to appreciate the craftsmanship of a well made bag, the classic chic of a beautiful watch, ,the power in a pair of fabulous high heels etc. Those things that served as a reminder of my insecurities and inadequacy now serve as beautiful accessories to a well lived and balanced life. Without them I won’t die but having them is a nice touch to the everyday life.

  20. Hi Tonya,love this post,couldn’t agree more with that.To me being spiritual is an individual’ thing.I try my best to listen to my intuition,be grateful ,be loving & kind whenever I can,have fun in life and SMILE..Hope your having a fabulous bank holiday weekend.Im starting mine with a lovely cold glass of Chenin blonc.Tomorrow I may by a new lipstick(red) ha-ha.Take care.xx😉

  21. Hi Tonya!
    Thank you for this post. Such great affirmation! I have practiced worship with the Catholic church I was raised in, then a Baptist church, then a free-evangelical church and then a Lutheran church. I learned from all and appreciate teachings and traditions from each, but have never felt “at home”. So my spiritual practice is simply talking to God as if He is my best friend, living with gratitude for all things good and bad, spiritual and material, and trying my best show love in all I do. I am not perfect in my practice by any means. But I agree, God is everywhere, and within all of us. He is not dark, he is the light in all we experience!

  22. You’ve hit the nail on the head, Tonya. As a New Thought minister, I’m about as unconventional as one can be. My small but mighty congregation of older folks laughs, giggles, chuckles, and even guffaws on occasion. I not only allow it… I encourage it!!! We believe that no one has a monopoly on God/Spirt/All That Is. Truth is everywhere. And we came here to BE human, to delight in what it means to have a physical self, not try to spend our lives bucking for sainthood. Most of all, what I teach is that we came here to live in joy, to serve our fellow human beings, and to put forgiveness way, way ahead of judgment. The other concept that means a great deal to me… God (or whatever name you wish) is NOT a person. We get it all turned around. We are made in the image of the divine, but we instead try to endow the divine with all our human frailties (judgment, anger, revenge, condescension). No. Spirit doesn’t have any favorites, be they religions, cultures, races… or football teams. I believe the divine lives in, through, and as every form of life in the universe. Earth isn’t the be all to end all, just where we happen to have chosen as a place to evolve our souls. And without joy, why bother to be here at all? I’m the worst meditator I know, but that’s okay because there are others who do it very well. As Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself, everyone else is taken.”

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