I recently had a very unexpected spiritual awakening. Just writing those words makes me squirm a little, as I question the validity of that statement, but since I have always so openly shared my struggles, failings, confusion and fear here in what has become a very sacred space for me, I would be remiss to not share about this experience which has been so earth-shatteringly positive.
But first, let’s go back to a few weeks ago.
What it was like:
I felt as though nothing was how I wanted it to be and I might be staring down the barrel of a life with sobriety but not happiness. My thoughts raced, my emotions swirled and a heavy cloud of depression began to hover at the corners of my psyche. It was Tyrhone’s fault, Guatemala’s fault and my fault.
I felt extremely fearful, constantly looking over my shoulder as I walked into town on my own, haunted by the stories of muggings and violent crime which I’d heard about during our stay. Oh, and I was also angry about that. Angry at the corrupt government who oppressed the people into resorting to violence in the first place, and angry that it was now impinging on my freedoms as a visitor.
My overriding emotions were fear, anger and a deep seeded loneliness that I’d always known in one form or another.
I couldn’t concentrate, had no energy, wasn’t productive, was feeling jealous of others’ successes and was quite confused and afraid about all those things.
I know. But it’s the truth.
I turned to where I knew to turn: my recovery program which has meetings all over the world including here in Antigua, where we have been ‘stuck’ awaiting repairs on Tyrhone’s paramotor.
I showed up and was honest. I cried. I asked for help. I received it in the form of a person who had walked the path before me.
We got to work. I had been through a similar process when I first got sober, but somehow I had wandered of the path and got lost. It was difficult finding my way back. It didn’t give me immediate relief, but with the experiences I already had in recovery, I knew the work would do me no harm and only good.
‘The work’ involved painting a picture of my emotional life, starting with my angers and fears. It’s like drawing a ‘road map’ to track where I was at with a spiritual GPS. It wasn’t pretty. I fought the self-loathing which came with the truth of my self-centered fear, and it was quickly replaced with relief that I could finally see it.
Central to the work was starting my day with intentional ‘quiet time’; a few minutes spent connecting with the deepest, truest part of me. This is actually nothing particularly new to me, and is a practice I have done off and on throughout my recovery, but never in a disciplined, committed way before.
Discipline and I have never had much of a relationship, truth be told, and the idea of committing to this time of stillness and connection every single morning for 30 days was extremely daunting. Thankfully I was given a suggestion to attempt to connect with the ‘Divinity’ or ‘God’ within me, ask it for guidance and write down the thoughts that came to me.
I didn’t really think it would work for me. I do attempt to have faith and have definitely experienced a power greater than myself at work in my life, but my faith has waxed and waned like the cycles of the moon.
I thought it was something you had or you didn’t, and I didn’t (even though I wanted it).
But, in my desperate state, I tried it anyway.
To help me along the process, I wrote down what ‘God’ or the ‘Divine’ meant to me. It helped me mine through the ideas and ideologies of other people and get in touch with a loving, wise and forgiving presence which felt true to me.
I began my morning ‘conversations,’ either on a cushion in the bedroom or downstairs on the sofa before Tyrhone got up. If he was up before me, I’d take time on my own before going downstairs.
At first it felt really weird. A bit embarrassing, like I was faking it or something. In some ways I was, but the action itself was what I had committed to, nothing else. I began to ask for guidance for each day, and then ‘listen’ to what the most loving, wise, force in the universe and inside myself had to say.
It was profound in the most unassuming way!
Most of the time, my inner voice of the Divine would say things like, “Take it easy. Be loving toward Tyrhone. Make a nice lunch. Don’t worry about a thing.”
I thought my divine spirit would tell me to go volunteer with orphans or join a holistic yoga community, or…
Make a nice lunch?!
That is my divine purpose????!!!
But deep inside, the reality of those words soothed and comforted me in a way I had never before experienced. You see, I was no longer running the show with my ideas, desires or plans which had been running me into the ground.
I did the things. I made the lunch. And I found that I was actually present for it! A complete revelation was occurring for me while I stirred pumpkin soup.
I have continued this practice for twenty-five days so far, sharing my findings with the person who led me to it. She also suggested I create a vision of the person I believe the divine spirit has in mind for me. This involved taking all of my negative character traits and reversing them.
Since control, fear and selfishness are my flaws which had been causing me trouble, I created a vision of a peace-bringing person who allows my life and everyone else’s to unfold in divine time (i.e not mine), and is giving and loving to all.
This is an ideal to walk toward, not an expectation to inevitably fail at. Perfection plays no part in this practice, but accepting my humanness does. When I walk away from the path (and I do because I’m human), I just ask to be brought back.
What it is like now:
Whilst the above is a slightly abridged version, since this is still quite challenging for me to put into words, I can only say that my inner life, (my thoughts and feelings) is utterly unrecognizable.
As a result, my life has been completely transformed.
The other day, watching TV, I was suddenly filled with the knowledge that We Are One and that the same divine presence in me exists within every living being on the planet. I have heard this and agreed with this for so long, and yet, I never felt it.
Then I did. Another massive revelation, while watching CNN in my PJs on the sofa. I can barely express the profundity of that to me. It came to me that since connecting with the Pure Love of the universe, it is no longer a case of simply trying to tolerate everyone, but it is MY JOB to love and learn from everybody, especially those with different opinions, ideas and attitudes than me.
Even terrorists. Watching a story about the abduction of the Nigerian school girls, I knew I needed to have compassion not only for the victims, but also the scared, hurt and lost men (and boys) who have become their captors.
Love is flowing through me like a river and the concept of ‘Namaste’ (the God within me sees the God within you) has come alive for me in a whole new way.
I have felt more at peace and present in the moment than I ever thought possible, because I realised that the loving, guiding Presence is here, now, not in tomorrow or last year or five minutes from now. Now.
Reading all the Ekhart Tolle books in the world hasn’t gotten me to experience that for myself (but now they make more sense)!
I have been living in the flow of life with no demands on it, and if you knew me you’d know THAT is a miracle.
Since surrendering control of my life and everyone else’s, I have felt more productive than ever. I used to feel that there were never enough hours in the day; I was constantly overwhelmed full of anxiety that I couldn’t achieve what I wanted, switching from task to task and never being fully present for any of them due to thinking about what I should be doing instead.
All of that has been taken away from me and replaced with acceptance, focus and joy for whatever task I happen to be doing, whether it’s watching Tyrhone practice his kiting at a nearby farm, doing the laundry or writing a post. Again, nothing short of a miracle to me.
My whole life I have been looking, here, there and everywhere for the answers, like a small child watching the world through a window hoping to catch clues about how to live.
I’ve sought solutions in other people, work, money, booze, drugs, shopping and real estate; even blogging, traveling, yoga and meditation.
None of those things are bad by any stretch, but I hoped they were the answer to the riddle of being human, when all along, the answers have been inside of me.
I’m not suggesting that ‘my way is the way’ or any such balderdash (don’t you love that word?), because this has simply been my path, and every single stage of the journey – all the looking outside of myself, all the searching and hurting and wanting and striving – has led me right here.
There is no exact recipe for that.
Your path will be different, of that much I am sure, because if there is one thing I have learned through this journey it’s the divinity of life is not something to be convinced of but experienced, and I truly believe we are all having that experience, wherever we are, in whatever we’re doing, right now.