In July 2004, I was ordained as an Interfaith Minister and Spiritual Counsellor. As mentioned in Part 1, up until that point, I had spent what felt like a lifetime on a variety of paths, searching for that ‘thing’ or ‘someone’ that I had felt would make me feel whole again. In my imagination, life was always better elsewhere, if I could only just get there. In 2002, my search had led me down the Spiritual Path. In my naivety, I had been expecting this path to be different – at the end of this journey, I thought, I will finally find what I had been looking for all along.
The two years’ at the Seminary was everything that I expected it to be and much more. It was the first time that I had really delved fully into my life story, with a view to understand myself more. It was the first time that I had explored the various faith and religious traditions, with a view to understand the essence behind their day-to-day interpretations. It was the first time that I had really dived into the pain that I had carried, as a result of feeling shame for being same gender loving.
In exploring what I wanted to cover in this OutTale, I came across one of the reflections I had written at the end of my first year at the Seminary. The question was, “To what degree do you feel your spirituality translates into love, compassion, acceptance, honesty and authenticity with other people? What might help deepen this?”. I had written –
I see spirituality as a way of expressing the fullness of my humanity and divinity– this means accepting myself completely, warts and all.
In terms of love, I endeavour to embrace this when I engage with my friends, family, classmates, work colleagues and strangers. This means that I endeavour to be open-minded, non-judgmental, a good listener and engaging with integrity. It is about not engaging in gossip – no matter how innocent (one which I still struggle with). I also monitor my intentions to ensure that I am not allowing my ego come from a place of fear. It means coming from a place of love when things are going according to plan, also when things are not turning out the way I hoped. It means forgiving myself when I miss the mark, by allowing my ego to have the first say.
In terms of compassion I endeavour to embrace this in each moment – from reading about a sad story in the newspapers, to sending loving kindness to specific people that I might know who are going through a challenging life situation. It means being open and non-judgemental, remembering that I do not have all the information and sometimes all I can do is pray.
In terms of acceptance I endeavour to embrace this by not clinging to moments, to life. I embrace the fact that life is transient and everything comes and goes and that this is neither good nor bad – it just is. To me acceptance means being open and letting it go. I see myself as a conscious observer – accepting that the seasons come and go, and that all is well.
I am discovering that honesty is not just about how I express myself to others – emotionally and factually, but how I express my feelings to myself. How honest I am being with myself. It is about knowing that I cannot run away from myself.
My spirituality translates into authenticity through embracing certain core values through which I live my life – some of which include love, compassion, honesty, forgiveness, grace, kindness, integrity and service. It means walking my talk by living these values.
In terms of deepening these even further, I feel this can be done through awareness and attention – i.e. being conscious and living in the moment, so that I can catch myself – before I fall from the hands of grace, in that moment.
The reflection, even though written over 8 years ago, still hold relevant for me – I am also aware that I fall short of it, on so many occasions. Nonetheless, I am now more capable of forgiving myself when I don’t measure to those guiding principles. I am also much more open to life and all that is brings – the ups, the downs and everything in between.
At the end of my journey at the Seminary, I came to know that honouring my essence did not for me mean being part of an organised religion. I did not want to simply study about The Divine, I wanted the direct experience. I came to understand that it was all about how I showed up in my life and how I respond to whomever or whatever shows up in my life. I stopped looking for God ‘out there’ and came to understand that there was no thing out there to look for, and that I had to go within to rediscover the treasure – The Divine – that I already am. This is an ongoing theme for me – rediscovering and unfolding – for in my darkest moments, I certainly forget this truth and yet, through it all I have come to trust that all is well, and that ‘this too shall pass’.
I quit my job shortly after ordination, everything felt meaningless and unsatisfying. The moments of clarity that I had imagined at the beginning of my journey were nowhere in sight; yet, there was a deep awareness of peace and contentment. I went back into the corporate world less than a year later, after a period of exploring ‘what to do next’. At the end of 2009, I left the corporate world again and spent last year exploring, traveling and attending a variety of professional and personal development courses.
So where am I now? Well, I stopped looking for that thing outside myself to make me whole. I stopped looking for meaning out there. I came to understand that meaning was not something ‘out there’, and that I brought meaning to things. I stopped trying to live the life that I felt others wanted me to live and became a ‘recovering people pleaser’. I set up my own Coaching & Consulting Practice (walkwithyou.me), giving me the opportunity to bring my whole self into the work that I do. And I started to cultivate the courage and commitment to live my own life. Its an ongoing process and each day I continue to be open to possibility; falling, getting up and continuing along the pathless path.
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