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Posts Tagged ‘spiritual transformation’

I have been gone for a long time. However, there is a good reason: I have been writing a book on the broader topic of spirituality that includes personal details that I have not revealed on Soulbank. The following is a chapter from that book–I hope you enjoy reading it and will be looking forward to more ‘teaser’ chapters.

I read a book one night: The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael A. Singer. Mr. Singer believes that anyone can achieve enlightenment at any point by simply allowing reality to exist and flow through us without the mediation of our emotions, thoughts, and judgments. A quote that nicely sums up the main thrust of his book is this one: “Deep inner release is a spiritual path in and of itself. It is the path of nonresistance, the path of acceptance, the path of surrender. It’s about not resisting energies as they pass through you.” (250) I decided that if that is ‘all’ that it took to become enlightened, that I could do it. And so I decided to put into practice everything that Mr. Singer suggested.

The first night after I made this decision, I lay on the floor and cried. Emotions needed to flow through me in order to not control and dominate my life and my decisions. I released the pain of my daughter moving to England and taking away the security blanket for my life, exposing my fears and vulnerabilities. I writhed in anger over the mass shootings of recent weeks, the tragic situation at the Southern border, the fact of the hottest July in recorded history, and the deep, painful divisions that our country is living through. I felt like a bottomless pit of pain, but after awhile, the intensity of what I was feeling subsided, and there was a measure of peace.

The next day, I decided that my emotions, judgments, preferences, desires, and fears would ‘pass through me’ without affecting my clear view of reality: the present moment. I downed a theanine gummy (an amino acid present in green tea that is supposed to help with anxiety and lack of focus) and drank a mug of English Breakfast tea while playing Scrabble with my husband. About 30 minutes later, I started to feel very, very strange. The room lightened and colors intensified, and I experienced the bizarre sensation of my head opening up and allowing my consciousness to expand into the room. I seemed to be losing myself as a body and became more of an awareness. The instant reaction was fear. I didn’t want to ‘go’ where this bizarre process was taking me, because I had not intended to experience cosmic unity today. I wanted to hold on to the everyday, mundane reality that I love so dearly, which included taking my turn at Scrabble; but the Universe was not allowing it.

Panic sets in for me when I cannot find a ‘reason’ for a sensation or an experience, and when I cannot control the sensation or experience. I was not directing this expansion of my mind, nor could I stop it from happening. One hundred milligrams of a theanine gummy intended for children could not possibly be the causative agent for what felt like the beginning of a full-blown psychedelic trip. Instead of allowing panic to take over and determine the course of the next hour or so, I lay down on the sofa and decided not to fight the process, even if it made no sense to my terrified mind.

I cried and shook as waves of emotion and energy passed through me. I do not know what had to be released, for any sense of myself as an independent entity vanished, and I was simply a being experiencing something that I was unable to name, comprehend, or describe. “I” was not there to perform those functions. My job was to stay on the couch and not fight it. Indeed, I doubt there was any way to fight the experience, for ‘it’ was far too powerful to be managed.

After about an hour or so, I was able to sit up. I was woozy and confused by what had transpired, but I felt clear, in the way one feels after crying hard for a long time. I was even able to continue playing Scrabble, losing for the second time that weekend. I would love to say that my experience on the sofa cleansed me of my ego and took me straight to Enlightenment, but I found myself angry and resentful about losing the Scrabble game and realized, yet again, that I had not achieved the goal of life ‘passing through me’, even though I had just experienced life passing through me while pressed into the couch! What happened?

I have written before that I do not believe in a ‘path’ or that such a thing as “Enlightenment” truly exists. In fact, I view the concept as an ideal that can easily turn into a spiritual trap where the ego involves itself and starts charging money for the experience at a nice resort where people can smoke toad venom and enlighten themselves instantly. The idea that anyone could ever become–in Mr. Singer’s words–that “open, that complete, and that whole” seemed impossible, idealistic, and in a sense, a denial of human nature at its most fundamental level. We are material beings safeguarding our survival, and to think that we could ever simply allow reality to pass through us without creating meaning around it is something of a pipe dream. After all, do any of us KNOW anyone who does this? Can any of us say that we have met an Enlightened being? And how do we KNOW that someone has achieved such a state?

Stories about gurus who devolve into licentious and criminal behavior are everywhere. I had friends I respected as spiritual seekers who took the content of their cosmic experiences and used that to open psychedelic retreats and charge significant amounts of money to be ‘guides’ for others’ transformative experiences. So many people I know are trying to earn a living selling Enlightenment to lost and desperate souls looking to be happy. I am deeply wary of anyone who profits from spirituality. I watch myself carefully when I write for an audience, even if that audience is very small. I do not know what Enlightenment is, and I do not preach anything to anyone.

And yet, how do I explain experiences that force me to ‘give up’ and allow emotions and strange energies to run through me? How do I explain the psychedelic or spiritually transformative experience? I do not explain it, because I have come to the conclusion that explaining those moments is fundamentally impossible. The force behind such cosmic connections is so mysterious and ineffable that words, even lots and lots of words, do very little to transmit the meaning of the experience. I do not know if these tsunamis of spiritual openings have anything to do with what we think of as Enlightenment. After all, right afterwards, I experienced anger and fear, irritation and resentment, and I did not get the sense that I was ‘liberated’ from any of those emotions.

I think about the basic teachings of Jesus, and they are pretty basic, indeed: Love one another. Easy to say, very hard to do. I think that, in the end, if you can manage to love yourself and others enough that you don’t cause any damage and can perhaps sow the seeds of compassion for the human situation, then you have accomplished as much as can be expected of yourself and others. I am someone who reacts, holds on, rages, refuses to accept a great many situations I find unjust, and is generally quite emotional. I do not think that I am capable of allowing my emotions, thoughts, and judgments to flow through me without any identification with them.

I am willing to admit that I could be wrong about Enlightenment. Perhaps it is achievable by some people; maybe I know someone who fits the criteria, and I am not aware of it, because that is how unenlightened I actually am. When Mr. Singer states, “You truly can reach a state in which you never have any more stress, tension, or problems for the rest of your life”, I want to throw the book across the room. I do not know if I WANT a life without stress, tension, or problems, because all those undesirable states and situations propel me to take action and figure things out. Without resistance, there is no pushing through to the other side of your limitations. The chick must peck her way out of the egg in order to build the muscles to survive. If she passively accepted her state of being in the egg, she would die.

The struggle for survival shapes and creates us. Of course, sometimes we must give up the fight. Nobody wants to die flailing and screaming, although I suspect I might be one of those who do not ‘go gently into that good night’. I will probably resist until the last moment, when I surrender myself to God with a completely open heart. And perhaps, we are supposed to surrender to God on a regular basis, just to remind ourselves who is in charge. Resistance might be futile, but it is so very human. I am here to be human; I am not God, nor do I aspire to be a spiritual leader.

There is something liberating about stating that you do not have a clue how something works. I do not understand the overall design of the Universe, how consciousness works, what God is, or whether or not enlightenment is possible. What I love is the process, the ‘seeing through a glass darkly’. I suppose I adore the mystery, the fight, the illumination, and the falling into humanity and ignorance, only to climb back up and start the process all over again.

May you enjoy the journey as well, and if you find yourself enlightened along the way, send me an email explaining how you got there and what it feels like. I’m guessing not like I’m feeling now. I want iced cream and a nap.

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I decided to read some old diaries, from years back. I had expectations: I would see how much I had evolved over the last year, how truly different I had become after all of my spiritual experiences, and I would feel compassion for the Kirsten of yesterday, pre-Spiritual Awakening. Perhaps, I pondered, I could hold a ceremony for that poor woman shredded by anxiety and beaten down by depression; a ‘soul healing’ for who I used to be.

I read avidly, looking for all the signs that I had, indeed, achieved Enlightenment. The more I read, the more my spirits fell. Something’s wrong. I did not see much difference. I poured over diary after diary, hoping that I would see how much I had transformed. I didn’t see it. Instead, I saw that I was the same. THE SAME. After a year of dazzling and shocking revelations, wild visions, intense talks with God and the Universe, countless hours of meditation, regular experiences in states of altered consciousness, a total spiritual breakdown, trance states, taking to the dead, reading people’s minds, channeling, you freakin’ name it, nothing fundamental was different about me.

I read back through Soulbank, hoping that I would see evidence of my progress there. Nope. What I wrote in 2009 followed the same–or similar– themes as now. I poured over everything I wrote over the last year, looking for huge shifts in my Ascension Process. Nope. I had revelations, forgot about them, had them again; I would swear something was new and shocking, but actually it was an understanding I had arrived at years prior. This was something similar to my Nine Churches in Six Years journey, which led me from the Catholic Church to the Episcopal Church to community churches to something called New Thought. I arrived at the end where I had started out: confused. Angry. “Why,” I thought, “am I not getting anywhere?”

I ask the same question now: “WHY am I not getting anywhere?” The answer is quite plain and simple: there is nowhere to go. There is no final, spiritual destination. There is no correct path, no best way to Get There. There is, actually, no path at all. I always thought that a moment would come when you knew that you had arrived: you were happy, almost all the time, and everything–all the Big Mysteries–would be solved. You would have found peace and radiate love. Children and animals would naturally gravitate towards you, because they sensed that you contained a Buddha or Jesus-like radiance. Dammit. I was gonna be HOLY.

I started reading about monks who had spent 20 years meditating and found that they were still angry, judgmental, fearful, and confused. Sometimes they were happy and calm; sometimes they hated everything and everybody. That made no sense to me–isn’t the point of all these experiences that we come to peace with ourselves and our God? And isn’t that peace that ‘surpasses all understanding’ supposed to be permanent? What’s going on here?

I myself was very judgmental for quite some time regarding paranormal investigating. It was a pseudo science, it was pointless, it was providing no solid evidence for life after death, and so on. At some point over the last year, it hit me: just as there is no right way to figure out reality and God and the Universe and the nature of consciousness, there is no WRONG way to figure it all out, either. If the Ghost Radar and weird audio are leading you somewhere you want and need to go, then that is just as valid as attending Mass, meditating for hours, praying, chanting, spinning, or eating strange berries that make you see serpents in the clouds. Who was I, or anyone, to judge what method was best for finding yourself or discovering the secrets of the Cosmos?

Last January, I went through hell. I had traumatic memories surface, I had odd and scary thoughts that I couldn’t control, I experienced emotions that terrified me and made no sense. I truly thought that I was losing my mind. I felt energy run through my body like I was some kind of live wire or mega-charged battery. I couldn’t sleep, I felt dizzy and spacey, and I was sure that I was losing my grip on reality. I dutifully trundled off to therapy, meditated, prayed, and attended support groups for such things as Spiritual Emergencies, Kundalini rising, Spiritual Awakenings, Ascension, Light Workers, and so on and so forth. I howled at the moon and found my spirit animal. I took classes on mediumship. I pondered becoming a shaman (HA! Nobody should want to be a shaman) or at least, a spiritual guide for the nether worlds of the soul. I meditated until I entered trances and had visions. It faded away after school started in February and used up all my energy.

But my research had just begun. What had I gone through? I read thousands of pages on Kundalini openings, yoga, and other spiritual practices that scared the crap out of me–they had dire warnings about Kundalini energy making people insane or suicidal. That, of course, kicked off my anxiety. Then, I found out that menopause has the SAME SYMPTOM LIST. Yup. Perhaps everything that I experienced and labeled as deep, spiritual transformations was simply the result of hormones dropping and rising precipitously and messing with my neurotransmitters. That realization was quite sobering and more than a tad depressing. Was any of what I experienced real in any sense at all?

There are many articles that link menopause to spiritual enlightenment or Kundalini rising. For those of you who don’t know, Kundalini energy is supposedly stored at the base of your spine and rises up through the seven chakras. At least, I THINK that there are seven chakras. If you block the rising energy, it will negatively affect one of your chakras and cause physical symptoms. It is often experienced as heat spreading up the torso. If you have ever had a hot flash, assuming you’re a woman of a certain age, that’s EXACTLY what Kundalini energy is supposed to feel like. “Menopause is Enlightenment,” one website affirms. If this is Enlightenment, it kind of sucks.

I couldn’t, of course, figure out whether or not menopause was the Ultimate Cause of the difficult emotions and upsetting thoughts that plagued me for several weeks. In fact, nothing really explained it to my satisfaction: too many life situations could have caused it, and the explanations ran the gamut from psychological issues to hormonal imbalance to spiritual emergence. In the end, there was no way to define or pigeon hole it; it was weird, it was unexpected, it was inexplicable. However, I did learn one thing: the thoughts, feelings, and crazy energies were NOT the problem. My reaction to them was the problem. I panicked; I freaked out; I spent endless hours online trying to figure out what was ‘wrong’ with me.

As usual, anxiety was the villain in my story. It always is. It always has been. I could have chosen to simply let it go, observe it all, find it curious but pay it no undue attention. My need to label it, to find a box to stick it in, created pain and confusion. It has taken me a very long time to figure this out, but here it is: you don’t need to label every experience or rank it as desirable or terrible. Spirituality is a very vague concept, indeed. Everything we do and are is ‘spiritual’, if you believe that there is more to us than meat. All roads lead to Rome, if you have a sincere desire to learn and commit yourself to loving yourself and others as part of your search. Stay off the Internet. Trust me, it leads nowhere. Even therapy was mostly unhelpful, as every individual has her own take on what it is you are experiencing, and that could end up confusing or upsetting you. Don’t let other people define the experiences you are having–and don’t worry that you don’t know if your lightheadedness is the start of an Out of Body Experience or just PMS. Any experience can be interpreted as spiritual, physical, or psychological. You can convince yourself that you are going crazy in a thousand ways–that’s how anxiety works.

There is no Path. There is no destination. There is nowhere that you are supposed to end up, spiritually speaking. You are already where you need to be. You are already spiritually developed and have been since birth. The mere fact of your existence and your conscious experience is enough to prove that you ARE the mystery and the answer to the mystery. There is nothing you are missing, need to find, or have to track down. Sometimes, we remember who we really are and think that we’ll never lose that revelation. Then we forget. Life is a cycle of remembering our divinity and falling back asleep. There is no achievement, just an awareness.

I don’t even call any of this a Spiritual Awakening anymore. It’s more like a Remembering and a Forgetting. The fact that I remembered some extraordinary events from another lifetime does not mean anything in and of itself. What mattered is how I reacted and responded to the memories flooding back into my consciousness from past lives and this life. The physical effects of this old reality coming back online were quite real and often astounding–I was frequently distracted by my visions and new perceptions. But  it was simply my body adjusting to the realignment of energies flowing through me. That energy might be called Kundalini or perhaps simply Spirit; in any case, we all experience this to one degree or another during transformative moments.

Spirit doesn’t change who you are. It reminds you who you are. Spirit wakes you up; it doesn’t ‘choose’ you, or confer special powers to you. You might change your circumstances, but you’re still who you always were. That’s the moment of realization: the search leads you back to yourself. The Path goes from Point A to Point A. It’s both liberating and depressing: liberating because you can engage in any spiritual practice you choose without worrying that it’s not the ‘right’ one, and depressing if you were hoping that you would be a different person after all the Experiences die down. Nope. You are always you. Always have been, always will be.

Understanding that the Universe loves you for who you are right now, is cause for celebration. That is the true spiritual epiphany.

 

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I’ve given up. Completely. Paranormal investigations might be many things, but one thing they are not: a way to prove that dead people can communicate with the living.

I still go out with my team. I love the ladies with all my heart; but I don’t believe that we are finding proof or even evidence of life after death. I’ve spent years writing about all the possible explanations for our EVP and weird photos, odd shadows and lights on video, anomalous Ghost Radar word strings, and so on. All this data we collected led us to no conclusions and no ‘proof’ that would satisfy anyone who wasn’t there. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: what we do is not ‘scientific,’ not verifiable, not convincing to a die-hard materialist or even an agnostic. There will always be an alternative explanation, the suspicion of fraud (even though we’ve never attempted to mislead anyone in the entire eight years we’ve been together), the “I wasn’t there” attitude, and the general questions regarding our methods, motives, and procedures. Mostly, though, people just don’t care about the paranormal like they used to. There was a heyday for investigations when Hollywood sniffed out money-making opportunities and came calling, causing so many of us to fall in the Industry’s snares. Yup. I was opportunistic and fame-hungry too. I admit it. I cloaked those all-too-human desires with the idea that I could ‘share’ our discoveries with the world, and we would Make Them Believe.

The general public is no longer interested in our cool sound bites or our shadows that could be ghosts. I doubt that we will experience any kind of Renaissance in the field of the paranormal that involves iPhones or hacked AM radios ever again. That’s probably for the best. We never really knew what we were looking for, anyway, beyond the idea that souls might hang out at creepy places and want to talk into our recorders; the weird data we collected over the years was always inconclusive and misleading, subject to interpretation and doubt.

So why do I claim that we will never prove life after death? First of all, because there is no spiritual death–just the death of our flesh casing–and I simply don’t believe that our regenerated consciousness is going to choose to float around a dank, nasty hallway in an old asylum. Also, because whatever God you believe in–no matter what you call it–has placed an absolute prohibition on such proof. Not because ‘proof’ negates faith, but because if such a thing as scientific proof for the afterlife ever presented itself, it would terminate the individual’s spiritual path. Seeking and striving would end, and there would be complacency and pointlessness in our material lives.

I think that we found bits and pieces of consciousness out there that might well have been just enough to keep us searching and pushing forward on our spiritual quests, but never enough to answer our questions. Every spiritual quest eventually comes to an end, when we realize that we have hit the proverbial dead end. I hit the wall with paranormal investigations years ago, but I loved hanging out with my dear ones in scary places, and I still do. I probably always will; but I have adjusted my expectations and no longer expect to learn anything new or life changing with my trusty ghost tools. That part of my search is over.

Each individual is on the Earth in their particular incarnation to figure out the nature of life, change, death, consciousness, God, the spirit world, reality, karma, and how to manage other people and the planet itself. Our job is to figure all this out; it might take forever, but that’s what we’re assigned to do. This is the problem, then, with what we as paranormal investigators attempted to do: hijack others’ spiritual paths with information that would render the individual’s search for meaning unnecessary. By ‘proving’ the continuity of our eternal selves–our stated goal–all someone had to do was accept the truth of our findings and carry on, knowing that there was no spiritual work to do because we had done that for them.

Humans, however, resist like crazy anyone else’s attempt to define reality. We all instinctively know that we are on our own when it comes to the Big Questions. We can join esoteric communities, profess certain faiths, ghost hunt, meditate, wander the desert with our possessions in a small bag, chew on magic plants, or spin in circles until we leave our bodies. The point is, we do this alone even if we are part of a faith community. Every, single one of us has to figure this out in one way or the other: are we eternal? Are we a manifestation of God? Do we come back again and again to work on these existential issues until, one day, we fade into Oneness? Are we ghosts at some point? Are we, perhaps, always a form of ghost? No matter how hard we try to supply these answers for others, we simply cannot. This is hard, painful, frustrating, and intense work that we do in the process of our transformation.

I no longer look for answers in the outside world. I look within and stare into the darkness as well as the light. The outside world changes as I change; there are strange messages and astounding signs that point me in new directions and confirm some of my tentative beliefs about the nature of true reality. But I don’t share these deeply personal revelations easily, if at all; I don’t need someone ‘debunking’ my path or sneering at my methods.

The only thing I ‘hunt’ for these days is myself and God. Sometimes I find neither; sometimes both appear to be one; other days I simply wander, lost, wondering if would be easier to just open up my Ghost Radar and stare at the dots.

Much love to all,

Kirsten

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Sometimes, it feels like I have joined a secret organization of spiritual adventurers and knowledge seekers, but the club never meets. The members stick to the Internet and keep out of sight. There seems to be nobody to talk to about spiritual issues who are not intimately involved with the Christian faith, and I suspect that those pastors, vicars, and priests would not approve of where my spiritual seeking has taken me. So I remain alone in a culture that does not support or even understand profound spiritual experiences that occur outside of church. I could be wrong. I hope I am wrong. If anybody out there knows of any group accepting of ‘alternative spirituality’–whatever that means–please let me know. I don’t mean New Age, Topanga-style, rich white hippy stuff. I just mean, where are the people who have had a massive breakdown in their concept of self, of religion, of God, of reality, and of all creation? Where are the people who have felt that they are finally on the path to understanding a tiny portion of what and who God is, but that understanding is not what they’ve been taught?

I failed at Christianity the way it was presented to me, as something I was supposed to figure out. I was supposed to understand the Bible as mainly allegorical, but sometimes I was instructed to take it literally; the convoluted doctrines pertaining to sexuality and morality made little sense to me, and the Old Testament seems like the story of God on a power trip, all ego and little compassion. Jesus makes more sense, but even He is wrapped up in doctrine that probably had more to do with Church fathers and ancient cultural norms and beliefs. I think Jesus probably both understood and believed in the concept of reincarnation, for example, but the passages where that issue is referenced are always explained and circumvented by those who have the power to interpret God’s word. I thought that was us. I thought that could be me. Jesus says that ‘Ye are gods,’ but that is explained away as meaning ‘judges,’ even though the judge reference makes no sense in context. There is no point in continuing. It’s an endless battle of interpretation that has no definitive answer outside of an authority figure telling you what it means.

I have found out part of the answer to my biggest, most pressing and often painful questions regarding God, the nature of reality and identity, and what ‘spirituality’ means. I got there through a spiritual crisis that involved vivid memories of a past life–more specifically, of a past death–but that was only the beginning. After that, the process of illumination sped up and left me in a state of shock and awe. How I got there is less important that the fact that it happened; and once you arrive at this knowledge, there is no going back. That might also mean, no going back to church.

Briefly, this is where I am right now. And, this is probably where many human beings end up at some point, some very young, and some old, and others like me, at the midway point. All of the following is probably blindingly obvious to the many people who are farther along their spiritual path than I am. However, I just figured out that I’m a spiritual novice and that I basically know nothing. Well, I know a little. This is what I know:

  • I have lived many times. The purpose of past lives, no matter how objectively painful they may be, is to present us with a spiritual challenge that we must learn to overcome. If we don’t, we come back and re-experience the same challenge in a new guise. Since there is no time in the world of God, it doesn’t matter how often we return to work things out. Once one challenge is met, there are many others. Why don’t we all remember our multiple lives? Simply put, our conscious mind can’t handle that much trauma and pain in addition to whatever we are working out now. Our previous lives are stored as patterns of behavior and emotional/instinctual responses to our environment. Our subconscious mind knows  who we were and what existential dramas we are working through. We would be flooded with overwhelming spiritual chaos if we were aware of all our lives.
  • My stories, my trauma, my past life trauma, my status as a victim of people and circumstances, are all unimportant in the final analysis. There is a purpose to remembering emotional upheaval and unfortunate circumstances, but those terrible events do not define me, they don’t explain me, and they don’t control me. During a unique moment of insight while I was babbling on and on to my husband about how my past life trauma fed into my current life issues, I realized that none of those stories were necessary to my spiritual development or my sense of self. Bad things happened to me. Those bad things did not destroy me; I survived them all. Here I am.
  • When I wonder where God is, why He allows me to freak out about everything on a regular basis and won’t simply remove my panic and anxiety problems, I realize that God is with me constantly. He is with me when my husband looks at me with tears in his eyes as I pour out my soul to him. He is with me when my husband wraps his arms around me in the middle of the night when I’m consumed with terror. He is with me when my kitty sits on my chest and purrs at 3:00 AM when I can’t sleep. He is with me when my kid tells me how much she loves me. He is with me every second of every day for all eternity. He is the love in everyone I know. He is everywhere, always, trying to make me see that I am cherished. God doesn’t want to punish me, He doesn’t want to send me to Hell, he doesn’t want to hurt me, He doesn’t wish any harm to me at all. He wants me to heal, to evolve, to understand, to transform, to see and feel the truth of Eternity and the kind of love that radiates throughout all of creation.
  • Panic and anxiety are, in a sense, defense mechanisms against God and love. I can’t imagine that there is a force that loves me that much; I cling to the idea that I have to protect myself from a scary world where I can control the outcome if I worry enough. Anxiety reflects a lack of faith in a loving God. It’s also an expression and representation of the ego self, the little Kirsten who is terrified and defines herself by being in control in a world that is chaotic and confusing. There is evil in the world, and I can’t stop it. I don’t understand how this works, but God uses evil to arrive at the good and the holy. It’s pointless to be angry about dying from a heroin overdose or suffering abuse at the hands of those who were supposed to protect me. I can recount stories all day about how unfair one’s circumstances can be; but in the end, I do not know the purpose, the plan, the design, the Big Picture that is working throughout the multiple universes, dimensions, and realities that we inhabit. I don’t know the mind of God. But as someone who is, on occasion, invited to be directly in God’s presence, I can know that I am loved, no matter what the outcome of this life or what stories will play out in the coming decades.

That’s all I can say for the moment. This process is exhausting and frequently challenging. I don’t know if anything here resonates or makes sense to anyone, but whatever is happening to me, I can only hope that it leads to a better version of me that loves more, helps more, and can do her part to lend a hand to those standing on the precipice, wondering if it’s worth it to keep pushing forward. It is. It’s not easy, not at all, but it’s always worth it.

–Kirsten A. Thorne

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Praying hands

Praying hands

2015 ended poorly. In fact, without going into great detail, the year left me in a state of near constant anxiety, insecurity, sadness and confusion. When I have fallen into a state of spiritual disrepair, I pray; but I am not satisfied with the way I am praying. Prayer, I should add, has nothing to do with one’s religious affiliation. Prayer is universal and cosmic in nature.

What do I not like about the way I have connected–or not connected–with God? I wasn’t sure until this morning. Sometimes, what you THINK is bothering you is simply a screen or a deflection from what is ACTUALLY bothering you. Praying for a particular outcome does not work. For me, there is no point praying that I won’t die or get sick, because it is our peculiar human destiny–along with everything in the natural, material world–to get sick and die. I might hate that, find it unfair, repugnant, crazy, terrible, and so on, but I can’t change it, and I’m not going to pray for the impossible. When I was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness 18 years ago, I did not pray that God would spare my life. I asked only that the result of the process leave me more spiritually evolved and more healed as a broken human than I was before.

I didn’t die. Once again, I survived. I did grow a tremendous amount in the direction of God, but what really upset me was the reality of what that means. Following God can be terribly painful. It means letting go of the people who have hurt you, giving up homes, family, friends and sometimes, your very life. Most of all, following a universal principle means losing your fear. You are forced to lose your fear to follow God, even the biggest fear of all: your physical death. Did I succeed in losing my fear? HELL NO. However, I did learn a huge lesson: as long as you try to control what happens to you and to other people, you will be miserable and afraid. I can’t control someone else’s path in life, even if that path horrifies me, upsets me or confuses me. I can’t even control what happens to me, much less other people! My job is not to micromanage change, but to accept it and attempt to understand it. Of course, I can take productive and proactive steps to change my circumstances, and one should always move forward on a path towards a goal; but if the path floods or you get lost along the way, what matters is your resilience, your faith and you ability to see God through the obstacles.

I have discovered that it is far better to pray for someone’s continued, spiritual evolution and healing. I can’t know what form that will take. If I pray for one’s spirit instead of one’s body, I have allowed God to decide the form that the healing will take. That is what I am attempting to do for everyone I love: I won’t pray that Uncle Todd stop smoking, but I will pray that he is spiritually transformed to such an extent that he will no longer wish to harm his body, the temple for his soul. This is all we can do, pray for enlightenment, for progress, for deep understanding. The particular way this progress will manifest itself is not our concern or within our power to determine.

When I thought I had only a few years left of life back in my early thirties, I understood it was useless to ask God to spare my life. If I needed to die to evolve in the next life, then so be it. If I was supposed to lose my life at that time in my development, then my job was to accept it as gracefully as possible and find a way to make that time mean something. For in truth, we are ALL on borrowed time and we ALL have to learn this lesson, whether we have only a few months to figure it our, or a few decades. In the end, we have the same task; some of us have to learn it faster than others. None of us escape suffering, and it is now my belief that most of us don’t learn anything at all unless we’re in pain and we figure out how to relieve that pain through considered and thoughtful prayer and meditation.

My particular case is odd, since I was dying at age five from kidney problems. I truly was not expected to survive, and I knew it then. What has been the strangest experience for me in this life is to have survived at all. I think that is why I am often confused about my path, about what I am supposed to do with myself. That is why every year I make resolutions to figure out what my mission is as Kirsten in this life. Death seems oddly more familiar to me, and what I mean by that is not annihilation of consciousness, but that state one is in between lives. I came into the world very strongly connected to my previous life (I have written about this before in previous posts on this site) and remembering a great deal of who I used to be. As a child, I felt that I was ‘going back’ to a place I had been before that was much more familiar than the hospital and my family. I couldn’t explain where that place was or what my role was in it, but I KNEW it. Now, halfway through my life, I still feel that I am not entirely HERE. On a purely animal level, death terrifies me. The physical self is hard wired not to die. On the level of consciousness and identity, death means very little. It’s a gateway to a more understandable world. I was there before, I’ll be there again.

I do believe with all my heart and soul that prayer works and is effective, but not if the prayer is directed towards specific, concrete, ego-driven goals or desires. The prayer must not be grounded in fear of loss. The only prayers that work are those that ask for love and light to do their work in and through us. We must heal our fractured, fearful minds before the real work of transformation can begin.

Many blessings to you and yours in 2016.

–Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD/PHW

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