I went to Catholic school for twelve years of my childhood and adolescence. The teachings of the religion mostly fell on deaf ears as far as I was concerned. None of it really spoke to me, I doubted most of the stories’ validity and the bearers of this message (my teachers) rarely inspired me to faith.
I developed a rather large chip on my shoulder about what I perceived to be the hypocrisy of religious people and gave all spiritual and religious pursuits a very, very wide berth as often as I possibly could.
Here in Antigua, Guatemala, we have been in the midst of some elaborate religious rituals, and it has been wonderful to witness such a colourful and theatrical display of devotion to the story of Jesus through art, costume and music.
I’ve enjoyed it immensely, mostly as an outsider observing a tradition which is very new and foreign to me, but also on a deeper level.
For the first time, the Easter story is taking on a new meaning to me and the themes of destruction and renewal are making their presence felt in my life.
We have had some great moments here in Guatemala, but for the most part, our time here has been really freaking hard. Our expectations, hopes and plans have all suffered a slow death in order to make way for the reality this journey has brought.
It’s not a bad reality, it’s just not the one I imagined before we set off, and it has been difficult to let go of how I hoped things would go.
Tyrhone’s flying dream has been put on hold indefinitely until new parts arrive from Europe, and it has put a dark cloud of uncertainty and stress over our experiences here. We have under-prepared and overspent and it’s left us with very little enthusiasm for continuing our journey south as we originally intended.
I have tried to reclaim my sanity by getting out and about as often as I can, exploring the city, meeting people, going to yoga and my recovery meetings, but on Friday, Good Friday, it all came to a head within me as I was overcome with doubt and dissatisfaction about the way things were.
I went to a morning yoga class, then made my way into town to peruse the markets. I love the textiles and handicrafts here and have been looking for some lightweight gifts to send to family and friends back home.
After a brunch at one of my favourite local eateries, ‘Dona Luisa,’ I stood alongside the crowds near the central square to observe the processions in honor of good Friday.
Emotions whirled within me as I was at once enjoying the celebrations and wondering what the hell I was doing there in the middle of the day in my yoga clothes. I felt completely out of place.
I sought refuge in the church on the square, simply because everyone else seemed to be doing the same thing. I took a seat on a hard wooden pew because my feet hurt. And I stayed for the entire service in loud, passionate Spanish because I felt comforted by the swarms of worshipers who probably had just as much if not a lot more uncertainty and doubt as me.
I felt at home among those people and even though I couldn’t understand much of the service, it didn’t really matter.
I did catch the words “Borrachera, prostitucion y extorcion!” (Drunkenness, prostitution and extortion), and assumed they were things we were meant to avoid.
Sitting inside that beautiful old church, among my fellow human beings who probably had as little clue about life as me, I felt the suffering within me transform into something I welcome on the odd occasion it finds me – humility. In my internal turmoil, questioning and sadness I found a connection with the story of Jesus’ suffering and that of every living being on the planet.
That evening my turmoil waged a war within me and came erupting out all over Tyrhone. He weathered my storm and gave me space while I continued to emotionally self-destruct in the fetal position on the couch. Everything seemed grim. I feared the future, doubted the path I was on and every other imaginable negative thought came to rest in my psyche.
I was under attack by a mental and emotional storm and sought refuge in future-tripping – things I could do and decisions I could make which would get me out of it – not realizing that none of them were actually my solution.
Then, like all storms, it blew over.
A glimmer of light shone through the dark clouds, and I saw that the clouds were in fact the creation of my warped thinking and not of reality itself.
I wept with the knowledge that somehow, I had been relieved of my fear and doubt.
I was filled with gratitude, yet again, for Tyrhone’s strength and patience through all of my storms he has weathered, standing strong and tall like an ancient Ceiba tree.
A little shame started to creep in, but I took refuge in the peace I felt after walking through the storm. It was different to going through the motions and trying to adopt a positive attitude as I had been trying to do for weeks.
It was real peace. An acceptance of all that is, including my broken thinking and my inability to distinguish self-perpetuating stories from the truth. An acceptance of my need for a loving higher power to guide me rather than my own mind.
That night, Easter Saturday, I already began to feel renewed. While I sometimes wish it didn’t have to happen in such a dramatic fashion, for me, it does.
It always does.
Because growth hurts, and unfortunately, there is no path of least resistance when it comes to transformation. It hurts, but if we hang on, taking refuge in the suffering of our fellow man (or in Jesus’ if it floats your boat) and realise it is a rite of passage of being human, we will be renewed.
Today is Easter Sunday.
Whatever you believe, today is a chance to start anew, to leave behind the past, embrace a new lesson or adopt a new attitude. To ask to be relieved of the bondage of our own limiting thinking.
Every day we are given this chance, but for some reason, I feel that truth more keenly than I have before.
Happy Easter Sunday everyone.