In a lot of ways, my spiritual story starts like so many of yours. I remember walking to church with my older sister sitting on the red velvet cushions of the United Methodist Church in Memphis, Tennessee. We sat in the same pew all the time; I had books tucked under the seat to keep me occupied during the sermon.
Then things changed in our family dynamics and we stopped going to church regularly. My younger sister – who had a lot of very special needs – was born, and we moved to a small town in Arkansas. For many years (from about the age of four or five to my teen years), I had no official religious education, although even at a young age, I considered myself a believer. I read bible stories and memorized the Charlie Brown Christmas Story parts about the birth of Jesus. I also talked to God as I wandered around the woods around my house. It’s as though God was my imaginary friend!
At the beginning of my sophomore year in high school, I started going to the youth group of the local Methodist Church. It was a group of instant friends, and that proved vital just a few months later; my younger sister died suddenly. That was a horrible time, as you might imagine, and the group was very supportive. The fact that I had my own community, my own support system, that I didn’t have to share with the rest of my family is one of the reasons that I was able to deal with her death in a healthy way. For whatever other feelings I’ve had about my experienced with organized religion, I love this part of it.
My sister’s severe disabilities and her death the age of 12 stirred up a lot of spiritual stuff for me. From the time I was aware of her differences, I was fascinated with understanding WHY. I remember my mother telling me that God knew that Evelyn needed a very special family to accept, love and support her in life. I eventually decided that my sister actually came to us, to teach us about love and compassion. Eventually, I saw her as almost a bodhisattva. Rather than putting off entering paradise to help others obtain enlightenment, she came to specifically help our family members move in that direction.
When Evie died, I had to deal with my thoughts about death and the afterlife. This was the first significant death it my life, so it was the first one that really stirred up this stuff. I invested a lot of time and energy in trying to understand what happens when – and after – a person dies.
This was the official beginning of my spiritual journey.
I was involved with the Methodist Church for several years – all through high school and a couple of years of college. During those years, I tried to be a good Christian. I really did. I wanted to have the personal relationship with Jesus that I heard others talking about. The relationship that I had with God when I was a child. I prayed about it. I begged to be blessed with it. I tried to “fake it till you make it.” And I prayed some more.
It wasn’t until I changed my prayer to “If not this, then what?” that my spiritual life really began to open up and make sense for me. I was led away from my participation in the Methodist Church. I started to ask questions that I couldn’t find answers to within the church. And I started to slowly be exposed to other philosophies and religious traditions.
Not everything I read or experienced resonated with me, but some of it made a lot of sense. And it all led to more questions.
Eventually, my minister at the time – who was fielding my hard questions – told me he didn’t know what I was, but I wasn’t a Christian. That sounds harsh, but he said it with a lot of love. I was not at all offended; in fact, I was set free!
Over the years – that was in about 1984 – I’ve studied Judaism, A Course in Miracles, Buddhism and Hinduism. I’ve read the Tao te Ch’ing. I’ve connected with the spiritual aspects of my Native American heritage (I’m part Cherokee). I’ve looked into some of the common New Age tenets and metaphysics. I’ve meditated and done yoga. I’ve balanced my chakras and set up an intentional sacred space in my office. I love the new science – the stuff coming out of the cell biology world and quantum physics. (That’s very spiritual stuff to me.) I’ve read tarot cards professionally and I’m a Reiki Master and an EFT practitioner. I’ve seen Abraham-Hicks in person, and I love a lot of the Law of Attraction teachings.
I have developed a very personal spiritual path that is eclectic – and it works for me. It’s supportive of my goals and dreams – and my life experiences. When my mother died a few years ago, my spiritual beliefs about death supported me in dealing with all the expected emotions in a very healthy way. The idea of “she’s in a better place” wasn’t just lip service. I could almost visualize her letting go of the resistance that had plagued her through life; I could almost feel her reemergence with the Divine.
My path requires thought, practice, and integrity. It also requires that I accept that people who have different experiences than I have, also walk a different path. There is no one in the world like me. And no spiritual path just like mine. And that a good thing.
As I’ve started working with my path in a deliberate way, I find I’ve become a kinder person. More compassionate. Not only am I a better person, but my life is better, too.