I remember as a little girl, hearing my Dad’s story about the time he felt God’s presence. He described this incredible sense of joy, peace and trust, and then spent years seeking that feeling again. He tried many different churches, he joined bible study groups, I even remember visiting a church where people were speaking in tongues! But, whilst he did experience deep love and connection through his endeavours, he never quite found the magic again.
Besides my father, there was my Aunty, who attributed her survival through aggressive cancer to God’s intervention, and who, along with my Grandmother, began to take up bible studies to better understand “His word”. I was so cynical of them all! I could not believe that otherwise intelligent people would base their assessment of and interactions with the world around them on words written so many years ago by a bunch of narrow-minded, misogynistic men! I was incredibly judgmental, and proceeded to seek evidence that they were wrong. I knew that there was something greater than us at play in the world, but I had no idea how to explain it. I consumed everything written by the Dalai Lama, I got into Astrology, I “played” with Runes. I never really scratched the itch.
Around 6 months ago, when I wasn’t really searching at all, I stumbled upon the book “Conversations with God”. It is not a title that would ever have attracted me, because, in fact, I was, and still am, resistant to the word “God”; however, a friend had referred to a quote from the book that really resonated with me, and I spend plenty of time driving to and from work each day, so I decided to give it a crack.
Well, that, right there, was a life changer! See, I have always associated the word “God” with this personified, all powerful, mythical being in the sky. There was a big association with guilt, and the rules of the churches I had been in some way connected to made me doubt the existence of a force that stands in judgment of our actions, even to the point of sending someone to eternal hellfire and damnation! What a load of codswallop! As if this being could send my tiny, perfect baby to Hell if he was to die, just because we had chosen not to have him Christened or Baptised! This was one of my Aunty’s fears.
And then I listened to the Audiobook of Conversations with God, and all of the prejudices and frustrations I had ever held against devout Christians suddenly dissolved. I’m still not comfortable with the term “God” because of my early associations, but I will use that term here to keep things simple.
Because simple, it is. Conversations with God confirmed for me everything that I had ever suspected. It painted a new picture that was so much easier to look at than the ones created by organised religions. It describes God as everything. As the life force in all living things, as the miracles of nature, as the grief of loss, as the ugliness of all that is not wanted. It eliminates the dichotomy of “good” versus “evil” – nothing is good or bad, it all just is. God is the source of those lovely little “coincidences”, where you see someone you haven’t seen for years and years but had just entered your mind the day before. It is the unparalleled joy that a mother feels when looking at her baby. It is everything beautiful and everything ugly, and everything in between. There is no “Hell”. What loving being would choose to send another to a fate so terrible?
With my new understanding of “God”, I began to look for signs and messages. I was incredibly skeptical when a friend pulled out a pendulum and encouraged me to give it a go. Way too “woowoo”, but I cleared my mind and opened it up. I got a few true answers to basic yes/no questions, and then tried to trick it. It couldn’t be tricked. Just like those times when a thought comes, unbidden, into my mind about a thing that I really should do (like start my own blog as first steps into my writing career), but I try to ignore it. Then I see more and more signs pushing me towards that thing. I keep trying to ignore it, but as long as my heart is open, it doesn’t go away until I do it. Have you experienced this? It’s God, pushing you to your destiny. That’s all.
One of the habits of thought that I wanted to change in myself was my own judgment over others. I had already begun to dismantle that. I had begun to forgive people for their actions that led to my own pain from childhood, and I was making sound progress. There were a couple of people I just couldn’t quite forgive though. Some people who had done unspeakable acts, and my hatred for them took up some space in my heart that I didn’t want to waste on them anymore. I actually feel a little crazy when I mention this, because I can’t quite believe that I have really come to this place. I have accepted now that we all make our choices based on the knowledge and the tools that we have in this moment, and that everyone, everywhere is doing their best. I even forgive my friend’s murderers. There, I have said it. Their actions have caused so much grief and devastation in my circle of friends, my community and in my family, and yet, they were a bunch of kids who have had to go through life with the knowledge of what they have done to that child, and to all who knew and loved her. Can you imagine carrying that burden? Is there any punishment that could be worse than what they must issue themselves? It is not my place to judge their actions, and my hatred for them won’t make this world any better. My love and forgiveness will, though.
So, after so many years of judging others and their religious beliefs, I am now charged with the responsibility of forgiving myself for my attitudes. I do. I knew no better. I forgive myself for most of the things that I have done that I feel go against the essence of who I want to be, and the things I haven’t overcome, I am still working on them.
I took my new understanding of “God” into my daily life. Through further reading and learning, I came to understand that the crux of it all is just handing over control. In my last post I wrote about how we need to take responsibility for our actions and take control of our reactions, and once we have done this, then we can let go of everything. Once I surrendered my need to have control over parts of my life that really were impossible for me have any influence upon, a peace and a sense of joy like nothing I could ever explain came over me. I used to lie awake for hours, worrying that something was going to happen to my children, worrying that I had a serious and deteriorating health condition hidden inside me that might be slowly killing me, worrying about what other people think! What a waste of my energy! If those things are what God has in store for me, my worrying won’t help me survive them!
Throughout this pandemic, I am absolutely surprised to feel no anxiety. I am sad for the loss that people are experiencing, and I certainly hope that it doesn’t come closer to me and affect my loved ones. I am cautious and mindful, but I am not frightened. God has this under control.
Now I know what Dad was talking about all those years ago. I feel such joy to feel the sun on my body, the breeze on my skin. I trust completely in God’s will, and look for the signs that it sends. God is love. It is just everything, and it is responsible for far more than just what is on our planet or in our universe. There are no limits.
Notice that I don’t refer to “him” or “her”? I don’t have a need to humanise this force, and I think it would be arrogant of me to make those assumptions. I guess it just makes it easier for some people to relate to the human form.
I am working on my association with the word “God”. I am curious about the bible, now that I have changed my perspective. There are so many things across different religions that are consistent, and I am sure that many of the things I thought were meant to be taken literally are just metaphors and cautionary tales. It is human beings who decide that their religion is the right one. They seek power in their churches, and pass judgment over others. They, too, are just doing what they know and understand in this moment to be right.
My experience of God has not been fleeting. I marvel at it every day, and am so happy to have reached this point in my life. I still get angry, still think futile thoughts, and still sit in judgment of others occasionally. What is different is that I quickly identify my mistakes. I say hello to them, I think about the situation, I show myself some compassion, and I jump back on the path I want to be on. I am a work in progress, and I completely accept who I am right now. I feed my heart and soul with wise words from my teachers, most of whom have no idea of how much I am learning, or even that they have me as a student. I meditate in some way every day. I listen to my body and what I want and need. I ask myself whether I am honouring myself by drinking this wine, or watching this TV show. Sometimes the answer is “yes” and sometimes it is “no”. If I am not sure of a choice I have to make, I sit with it, knowing that the answer will come in time if I have faith that it will come.
Really, there aren’t any rules to help you achieve true peace and happiness. You don’t need to pray at a certain time each day, to wear certain clothing, to eat certain foods. Be kind and compassionate towards yourself and others and all living things. That’s all. It’s so enormous, but so simple.
The irony here is that I feel nervous about putting this out there. Like I said, I am on my journey, and have not arrived here as a destination. The more of us that are living with truth and integrity, though, the better this world will be. So, please, if this resonates with you, go ahead and share. Let’s spread this notion of kindness all over the God-damn place!