Pride (In the name of love) of Lions

Another hangover from ‘church’ and ‘religion’ was my (limited) exposure to churchgoers who struck me as, how can I put this politely? Well, not quite ‘present’. I can’t lay that all at the feet of the church though, as I’ve had plenty of exposure to new-age spiritualists who would spend so much time looking at and chatting with angels and spirit guides to the left and right of my aura, I’d constantly look over my shoulder to see who else was behind me when we had a conversation.

While it seemed quite appropriate for spiritualists to have their ‘head in the clouds’, when it came to Christians it made me think about cults. Blame Karl Marx. All that opiate for the masses stuff. Think of the stereotypes: if you’re sitting in a pew each Sunday, you’ve left your brain out in the glovebox of your car. If you’re a Christian, it’s like you’re believing in Santa and the Tooth Fairy.  But if you’re a wiccan, or enamoured with Gaia, that’s perfectly acceptable.

Thrown to the lions

I’ve noticed on this journey than non-believers seem to think it’s perfectly OK to challenge Christians on their ‘magical thinking’, yet the same amount of bias rarely appears to be thrown at believers in other faiths, be they historical or new. rc-camera-buggy-meets-a-pride-of-lions-008

Since setting off on this pursuit, I’ve had both funny and hurtful conversations. Been on the receiving end of 2UE style rants. Jawdropping, goldfish gasping silence when I casually mention I’m off to church. Surprised friends giving me books such as Dawkins’ ‘The God Delusion‘ – to try and balance my mind, perhaps? They would be apoplectic if I lent them The Bible. Why? Because if a Christian suggests someone read The Bible, the non-believer typically assumes the Christian sees them as somehow ‘less’. The immediate response is, “I don’t f-ing need saving.” I’ve done the same myself: “How dare you? I don’t need you to pray for me!” Yet meditating on and sending love & light to friends has been acceptable in the past. Figure that out…

Forget opiate for the masses. This is not a journey for the faint-hearted. Particularly at 40 (something) years of age! I’d quite enjoy a shot of something to take the edge off because, wow, Christianity digs into my pride. images-4Particularly given how much stock I have put into yoga and non-attachment over the years. I hadn’t packed that pride down quite as effectively as I liked to think! I know how things should be done, I can make my own decisions over what is right and wrong, and I can damn well do it on my own, thanks very much.

I did not want this. I did not seek it. Some of the time, I’ve been bloody annoyed about it. The SAP has been told to go himself and fornicate under carnal knowledge as I’ve pulled this apart. But I couldn’t ignore it.

I’d already read plenty of books against. But it makes me a pretty woeful journalist if I didn’t spend some time exploring the ‘for‘. I’d never bothered with the other side of the argument before, intellectually or emotionally. You reckon’ my aethist friends are surprised? How about me?! In the early weeks this agnostic veered between horrified and, well, more horrified.

As for pride? It came round and bit me. As one of the things I take the greatest pride in is being ruthlessly honest with myself. I have a near-sadistical bent for shining the light on my darkest corners.

Accepting does not mean abdication.

My brain is firmly engaged. Because to do this, really do this, means excavating pride. To turn the other cheek. To love. There are far, far easier choices I could make. Crucifixion, anybody?

So why keep going? Well, I like the person I’m evolving into. It may be mystical thinking to some. Yet I cannot deny the ease, joy and trust that has welled up. Do I find myself shaking my head? Each and every day. But more often now in amazement rather than disbelief. It’s precious and surprising.

For the lions, both gentle and rough, I’m not blogging to change minds. Nor am I blogging to convince anyone that this is a journey they ought to be on.

I started this because I communicate best when writing, and it gave me a spot to ponder and process. I share it publicly because if there’s one reader seeking something spiritual beyond Dan Murphy’s, and has failed to find solace in new age, I wanted to give an insight into a choice that, I now realise, has suffered from some woeful misconceptions.

Please notice the word choice. You may not seek solace, you may be just dandy with the selection at Dan’s. And that’s absolutely fine too.

Evangelical stereotyping is a blog post for another day 🙂

If I’m thinking magnificent thoughts, how come I feel so terrible?

I love self-belief. Achieved healthily (being given independence as a child, resilience building, measured risk taking), self-belief stems from a healthy self-esteem. Not confidence. Anyone can bung on the confidence. True self-esteem, I think, takes it root in humility. Where you have strength enough within to realise that it is not the external world of ‘stuff’ that feeds your soul.

These blogs begin as I face up to my misconceptions about Christianity. Prior, I was firmly in a spiritual, new age mindset which began around 2000. My life had spun out of control (booming business, failing relationship) and I was seeking answers from the great beyond. I stomped the self-development trail for years. I’ve aligned my chakras, reframed my language, read ‘The Secret’, been to manifestation seminars, viewed ‘What The Beep’, and trained to become a kundalini yoga teacher whilst pregnant with child number 2.

I learnt a lot about the self-development industry and myself. Specifically, you can go broke fixing yourself. No energy? Try a colonic irrigation. No money? Do a course on manifesting wealth in your life. Fancy marrying Brad Pitt? Read ‘The Secret‘ and then focus your wonderful spiritual energy on that outcome and, yes, you too can be Angelina Jolie.

I also met some amazing human beings who are doing wonderful work. It’s just that first and foremost I’m a cynic and one of the cornerstones of new age spirituality – ‘Thought Creates’ – feeds the economic circle. You don’t like the way your life is? Change your thinking. You have? Oh, then you’re not doing it well enough. Book in for another course or treatment. I recall being pressured to sign up for one course and when I said I thought I had my mindset and issues pretty much under control, the salesperson told me, “Well, it’s the issues that you are blind to that you need to work on.”

When self-belief fails

After years of business boom, I was due for a bust (ah, no, I didn’t manifest it, there’s a universal law about ups and downs). The down happened spectacularly when the GFC wiped out many of our US clients’ Australian offices. I watched $300k in revenue disappear from our agency in less than two months. Time to get out there and do some fast business building. Just prior to the GFC I had been in Vegas on a course – all about mindset. Thought Creates. Law of Attraction. Law of Action. Time now to put it all into practise.

Except nothing worked. I was ‘putting it out there’ that I wanted to manifest profitable new clients (as well as actually doing the work: pitching, marketing, networking etc), meditating like a ninja and creating vision boards. The inevitable conclusion, if you follow new age thinking, is that I was responsible for my current financial reality (not the Lehman Brothers) as new age spiritualism says there is abundance for all of us to tap into – I just wasn’t doing it well enough.

For a smart woman, my internal resources failed me. I spent a lot of time blaming myself for my business failure. Yep, I’d built up a half a million dollar business in 6 months, kept it profitable for a decade, employed people, but rather than focus on all those successes, I was focused on the failure. And struggling not to focus on the failure because, well, thought attracts, and if I keep focusing on the failure then more will follow. I was exhausted. Utterly and totally.

Of course I became sick. A series of dodgy blood results had the Doctor wondering about leukaemia and ordering more tests. I recall standing in the shower after the appointment and the thought crossed my mind that I may not see my children grow up. “Oh well” was my brain’s listless reply. Luckily, I had enough insight left to recognise this was not an appropriate response and took myself back to the Doctor for a Depression Anxiety Stress (DAS) test.

When the Doctor told me I was suffering from severe depression it was a Homer Simson moment: “Doh!” – that explains it! Chinese medicine has a saying: ‘tears close to the surface’ – I had felt like that for months. Numerous factors contributed to my depression, not least the impact of the GFC on the business, two major, concurrent sicknesses in my closest family, plus I was trying to be superwoman, juggling preschool age children with a business in recession.

As for manifesting my reality? My brain chemistry was so out of whack I could have been Anthony Robbins and nothing would have changed.  It’s hard to manifest anything positive in your life when your serotonin is through the floor. Depression isn’t simply a case of  ‘pulling yourself together’ or thinking the right thoughts. There’s a physiology to depression as well as a psychology.

Beating depression, for me, came through tryptophan-building, a great GP, a wonderful naturopath and a psychologist. And – I think this is the crux – letting go. Letting go that I could of my own self do anything. But letting go and letting the universe step in hadn’t worked that well for me either, all I’d gotten was depressed!

So what if I let go and let God? Really stopped prevaricating? If I could hand over my spirit to crystals, yoga, theta-healing, the light, the dark and all the aura spectrums of the rainbow, what about if I tried New Testament rather than new age?

Again, God displayed a sense of humour. Prior to calling the SAP, I had consulted another psychic. Who kept telling me she was receiving the image of Christ the Redeemer – the Art Deco statue of Jesus Christ in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. cristo_redentor

I do now wonder if Jesus spent many months walking next to me, slapping his forehead and yelling, “For Dad’s sake, are you ever going to cop on?”

What I have loved about unpacking Christianity, in the context of my new age work, is learning how God and Jesus take us just as we are. Broken and crying on the floor. For me, utterly depleted and exhausted by my new age wanderings. And all I have to do is trust that they’ve got my back. As the SAP recently reminded me:

‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’ (Matthew, 11:28-9)

Looking for answers from the great beyond

I have cuddled my inner child, mediated on crystals, dealt tarot, read runes, even attended a spiritual church once where the speaker channelled an alien (now that was weird). Getting a psychic reading was no big deal. And makes my step towards Christianity today somewhat tame, all things considered.  Unknown

The first year after a loved one’s death is rough. Birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas. All those ‘first’ markers. As I approached the anniversary of Mum’s death I became acutely aware of needing to mark the journey. That I was still here. That life goes on. That grief is something to be celebrated not feared.

Which turned into this blog. Yet, spiritually, I needed a marker too. Like the movie Truly, Madly Deeply (or Ghost, if you must), I wanted to know that Mom was OK.

If I was expecting some message from beyond the urn, it wasn’t to be. Yet the psychic had insights that not even the heaviest amount of Facebook stalking could have uncovered, particularly given I was a walk in without any prior booking. So it was satisfying in an oddly cathartic way to persuade myself that there was more to this earthly realm and Mum was at peace.

There is a reason why people like John Edwards sell so many books. There is something within us, that I defy the most hardened sceptic to ignore, that seeks connection. Courses abound on how to live your life purpose. Uncover your sacred contracts. Talk to aliens.

Looking back, I could have avoided all the soul searching, crystal gazing and psychics. But that would have meant unpacking a religious hangover I wasn’t yet aware I carried. Mum was at peace and the psychic had given me just enough to let me exhale and dissolve the remaining grief in my heart. Now I could just get on with life. But God (or the Universe, or Spirit) had other plans.