The quest for understanding what lies beyond or in us in the spiritual realm has always been something I have sought. The problem I have had with the journey is that seeking has brought forth the full spectrum of experiences to learn about it.
I would love to say with scientific proof and certainty that there is a soul, conscience and something far larger than us with the grand cosmic universe, but I have enough struggle simply with faith and trying to get through each day learning to love beyond my “self” to a place of “selfless” inside a very selfish world.
As a kid, when I asked about the Holy Spirit I read about in the bible, I was met with people telling me to be quiet and not to talk about it. As I worked through college and the interest in technology and how it could be applied to improving human performance on the athletic field, I came into the world of the john lilies of the planet. If memory serves me correctly, when I was on the road, I was usually so tired that I bought a set of LED synch glasses that actually would give one the impression of a long nap in 20 minutes.
I studied Buddhism, neurology, psychology, the human body and even the strange world of new age to try to understand how to take my body past a place of complete stillness to a place beyond. (You can laugh if you want, because some of the ideas were pretty odd)
Then there is the world of the idea of good and evil. Divine punishment, eternal damnation and/or unexplainable eternal love with the creator of the universe.
I don’t know how mischievous of a kid you were, but I think life changed for me when I did something wrong and god didn’t send a lightning bolt down to smite me on the spot. I thought, “is all this religious stuff real?”
Fast forward to a life of prodigal son meets doubting Thomas and throw in a series of experiences and way of life that showed me the unconventional side of “normal” and you soon find yourself filled with the passions that become habitual and have an amazing way to blind you to yourself. As I look back on my life, there are times I hurt others, didn’t have time to help others asking, or ignore or pretended not to see those I could have helped. For those moments, I am truly sorry.
I think it was 2001 when I was at the peak of what is possible technologically with manipulation of human beings in a show forum, en masse that there was a most painful Damascus road experience where a taste of what eternal damnation is like was given for three days. I don’t know how you explain pain that won’t stop. But that is my best description of this event. Perhaps the place of eternal damnation is simply a place where pain never stops?
There was a group of people in Nashville, TN and various different church groups and denominations I went to. You have to understand I grew up in probably the most conservative of all the Christian denominations, but my time was spent seeking god and Nashville is a very odd breeding ground of all denominations, shapes, flavors and colors of Christianity, even preachers who say “awesome” at the pulpit and make me groan and think, “where is awesome in the freaking bible?”
But remember, I was seeking more than the rules of religion. I believed and felt there was spirituality that existed beyond the bible, but also the Old Testament, Koran, sacred scrolls and elements of every religion. I think the simplistic analysis of a universe that is a few trillion stars, billion galaxies and is so vast combined with that there are more atoms in a grain of sand than all the stars; you get a hunch that man is not god, nor the creator of the universe. We happen to be a species on a tiny blue marble inside a vast massive space.
So, I found this place in Nashville were it was a very different church, it was called a spirit filled on. Many of the people were living more like any I had ever seen in a church. People were allowed to come in and just pray together. There were study groups and people opening their houses for people to come and learn, grow, share.
If I did have any gifts, I had enough crap with evil in my heart and soul that I was the perfect blend of good and evil inside – yet, I couldn’t see it. So more dumb mistakes, errors and things I look back and go, “how on earth could you think, say or do such things?”
Then one day, I was led to some old monks from mt athos that made their way to the dessert in Arizona. I was seeking god, and the more I did, the more people and events in the world seemed to do everything they could to destroy, judge, label, and make life miserable. (In hindsight - it is a funny thing about a spiritual journey, the more crap you face, odds are, and you are on the right path)
So I go to this place in the dessert and came upon the gatekeeper who asked me a bunch of questions while looking me in the eyes. I felt like he didn’t trust me, but I think he was simply looking inside me to see what mess I was bringing into the place from the outside world.
“I just want to go pray, if that is ok?”
As I walked through this monastery, I was amazed at the craftsmanship and plant and landscaping that existed in the middle of nowhere, in a dessert. Over time, I met another monk who I looked in his eyes and basically all I could do was tear up and have a conversation about science and life. This man had a soul so good. I had never been near one.
It was becoming apparent that the things I read about in the bible, the spirit and how it resides in each was alive at a much different level or purity here, than in the churches of the normal world where we have to live in the world. These people made a choice to get out of the world so they could dedicate their lives to serving god.
“What is your job here?” i asked.
In a still and quiet voice, so soft, came, “my job is to pray for the world. In the holy books it says if someone is praying, god will always have grace upon the earth.”
Then I walked into a room and a man motioned me to sit down on a chair. This was new; I figured it would be like in church where you had to bow, kneel.
Then I looked into this mans eyes for maybe a second and was terrified that a man could look inside my eyes, and he didn’t need to ask any questions, he saw all of the good and bad inside me. It was like he could see my soul.
I still think back at the fear that went through me that day. It was really as if a light was being shone into the darkness that I had allowed to grow and accumulate inside me walking along on the planet.
Then he just talked
What I miss most about the time I lived in the train wreck that was Arizona and a the thought I had found love with another is that I did find love from a different place, the one I was seeking all my life with god. I miss going and spending time with the monks and learning. Many times I would ask, “Why is this not taught in church” the answer was, “how many really want to learn about it? How many are ignorant of it?”
What I did learn in the dessert seems to be two main things. The first was how to forgive another and have to wage a horrific battle inside myself that lasted weeks where the worst of evil inside myself battled the best of good inside my own heart. The second was that the balance between trying to live in a spiritual manner inside a world that is a carnally skewed life. Both are equally difficult.
Today, I realize I am sort of like one of the specks called an atom inside a grain of sand that is inside an ocean of sand. I used to think I was something special, but not anymore. With the time left on this planet, I will simply continue and try each day to overcome the passions in myself that don’t want me to grow past “self” and live in a place of “selflessness”
I will probably die trying, as I don’t know if it is really possible to attain that level of peace living in the world.
To all the people that helped along the journey. Thank you. To all the people I have hurt along the journey. I am truly sorry.
Now i go back to that challenge of changing myself to who I was, to who I want to be. It’s a daily struggle. i had to type this up so tomorrow story might make a bit more sense when you read it.