How many New Age books did you give or receive this Christmas? How many sit on your bookshelves right now? Can you force a spiritual awakening?
PEOPLE talk of epic journeys starting with a single step, but I’m not too sure about this. The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that the most epic of journeys are rarely planned, rather they evolve over weeks, months, years and decades. Perhaps even over the course of a lifetime. Apple founder Steve Jobs said it best when he described life as a ‘join the dots’ exercise. The journey and the course that it takes is obvious in retrospect, but when you are standing amidst the dotty chaos that is life, you must trust that as you jump, skip or struggle from dot to dot, they will indeed connect in a meaningful way at the end. It all comes down to trust.
But trust is a funny concept. We trust organisations more than the people within them – think banks and bankers; we trust brands more than the products that carry their mark – think CocaCola and Coke. We trust advisers and counsellors we appoint more than ourselves. Why do you think that is?
Trust in a higher power (your God, Spirit, the Universe) is inevitably given too easily or not at all. This is probably true for the trust and faith we place in ourselves. We place it too easily or not at all.
What would it be like to be able to fully trust ourselves, the world around us and our place within it? No self doubts or imposter syndrome. What would that even look like? I have no insight greater than yours but I believe that it would look like Peace; personal peace. And if such trust caught on in this viral age, how far could this personal peace expand? To our families perhaps, to our communities, throughout our country or maybe even globally. Is this too simplistic? Perhaps, perhaps not. But I am reminded of the icon who is Malala and I am reminded of the power of one.
Power. How comfortable are you reading that word? Power – what does this mean to you; what does the word trigger in your mind; corruption, wealth, evil or good? Personally, I accept power to be that internal spark that ignites from my spirit whenever I take the action I am guided to take. When this power kicks in, I can feel it as a palpable, chest-expanding explosion that makes my entire body tingle until my fingers feel like they are shaking. The physical feeling and energy is so strong that I feel sparks coming from my fingertips, like I could start a fire by touch alone. Twice in my adult life I forgot my own power. I now understand and accept that that is easily done.
I believe that we are all born shining, but the challenges of life wear us down and make us forget our innate, personal power. Life can dull our light and when that happens, it can be difficult to see clearly. We need the light. The world needs my light and it needs yours. Part of our role in this lifetime must surely be to protect our inner light and to keep that internal spark from going out altogether.
The first time it happened, my life went into a state of triage with lots of people interfering, trying to help. Talking about me to never to me. Problems that were not urgent were ignored; urgent problems were attended to in the way of patches and sticky tape but nothing was healed. How could it have been? Nothing was healed, and frustratingly, nothing was learned. This huge crisis point brought my life crashing down around me but I resisted change and healing and help that was offered. By struggling to hold firm to my broken life, I denied myself the opportunity of a new, simpler, better life. Gone was all that beautiful potential for learning lessons and releasing destructive patterns. I got back up and limped through another few years. It was almost decade before the opportunity came around again.
The second time, like before, did not feel like an opportunity. It felt like my world collapsing again only this time I did not have enough strength left to even try to cling on. I was tired, my soul felt achy with tiredness. If I am to be truly honest, I felt broken. There are so many ways to describe this time; it was more than a bad patch, this was rock bottom. I was living through my dark night of the soul.
For the first time in my life, I knew that there was simply no fight left in me. And while I did not realise it at the time, this was to be my saving grace. The value of rock bottom is that there is nowhere left to fall to. Therefore, there was no mask to be maintained this time, no denial, no running away from reality. Nowhere is more real than rock bottom and that very certainty, at a time of swirling uncertainty, became my saviour. Adversity can be a powerful launch pad. Gone is the pride that refuses help; gone is the fear of failing, gone is the ego-protecting, face-saving nonsense that we humans are so fond of (and which I was particularly adept at).
It was all gone. And in its place, most unexpectedly, I found a kind of peace, but it was peace by explosion. It reminded me that not every awakening is gentle. By surrendering to any help or consolation on offer, I experienced love in a way that makes me question whether I had ever been feeling it up to this point.
I understood the importance of compassion, for myself and for others. Through all of this – and it did take a period of months – came clarity and that changed everything.
Any readers of self-help books and New Age spiritual teachings will know that forgiveness, compassion, empathy and love are the ways to release negative thoughts and feelings of blame, guilt or victimhood that hold us back. But sometimes that doesn’t come easily. It can be difficult to imagine or visualise sending waves of love to people when the feeling is not real. What I have learned on my journey so far (and it has not been very far at all yet) is that it all begins with love.
With love, all healing can happen as compassion is a merely a by-product or symptom of that love. And with compassion, blame fades. Without blame, the need for forgiveness simply floats away. I wish I could pinpoint the moment I started to feel love on my journey. I do know within a day or two of it happening as I had the strongest sensation of light-headedness, and explosive happiness, and peacefulness and something that I can only describe as chest-expanding. None of these were familiar feelings in the six months prior so I knew that transformational change was in the offing. While I was surprised, I should not have been. This is what I had asked for, what I had sought out and what I had meditated about.
Why are we surprised when we get what we ask for?
I felt like I was vibrating and not just on an energy level but physically. My hands were making sweeping gestures as if to push this feeling outwards. I wanted everyone to feel it. I don’t know where or when my spiritual journey started, but I remember buying anger-releasing CDs more than a decade ago. In recent years I had started meditating and listening to sleep-hypnosis programmes for overcoming blocks, dealing with resentment, learning forgiveness, understanding compassion and so on. If only I had known then what I know now. The other stuff is important but it is not the answer. Love is the answer. And this I know with the deepest sense of conviction.
So, while I learn, if I can teach you anything, let it be love. Love first yourself, and everyone else, then everything else will follow.