Yesterday was a big day for me. My dear friend, student, and fellow Lightworker, Maria Prado, who runs an incredible women's event, Gema de Dios for Hispanic Women in Milwaukee, asked me to share the story of my spiritual awakening as the opening monologue.
This was the largest audience that I've ever been asked to present to, and no doubt, was the impetus of a weekend-long vulnerability hang-over. However, the Spirit keeps guiding me to tell the truth about my story and my past as a means of helping others to awaken out of their own spiritual struggles, dramas and disillusions. I have made peace with the fact that if doing so helps just one person, it all is worth it. So, here it is: the story of my realization that I, like everyone else here, am a Gem of God. Namaste.
As a former addict who has spent decades struggling with anxiety and depression, I’ve had a long, hard road to finding God. My journey through hell and out again has taught me more about Divine Love, though, than the cookie-cutter, saccharine-sweet life I’ve always dreamed of.
It was through my pain and my angst and my darkness that I’ve learned the truth of God’s unbelievable compassion: that when God looks at me, S/he doesn’t see my faults and mistakes and brokenness as much as S/he sees my gifts, my strengths, and the beauty of the Light S/he created, burning behind me eyes.
But it’s always been hard for me to believe that God could love me so totally and completely. That God, in fact, has never been mad, has never once looked harshly upon me despite my ridiculously selfish and narcissistic behaviors, that God’s love is so big and so wide that it’s always been able to cradle all of my Soul’s parts: both my darkness and my light.
I think it’s so hard to believe because many of us haven’t encountered a love like this in the human realm. No, our broken parents and our broken society and our broken husbands and partners and children don’t often say I love you no matter what; rather, they say, I will love you when…
… when you make me happy
… when you give me what I want
… when you’re skinny
… when you’re successful
… when you’re quiet
… when …
And so we begin to carry around this false belief that God loves us when, too… when we’re perfect, when we’re faultless, when we’re pure.
But God has shown me that S/he never says when; no, S/he says always. I love you, always. I’m with you, always. I see you, always. I hear you, always. Can you believe it? I know I can’t.
But then I remember that God’s love isn’t anything like most of the love that I’ve seen around this place. And this is good news, that God’s love is bigger and better than anything I’ve ever known, that God’s love is more widely vast than any of the rigid, narrow and stifling ways of this broken world.
When I was a little girl, my culture filled my innocent brain with lies -- stories that told me there was such a thing as the lovables and the unlovables: the in crowd and the out crowd, the haves and have nots, and that it was entirely possible to fall out of God’s healing grace. That it was possible to be bad, unworthy, unlovable even to God.
And so I spent the first 28 years of my life desperately copying every damn thing that they told me I needed to do to be one of the lucky, lovable ones. I spent my whole life fighting so desperately for lovable, that I lost thousands of hours of my life contorting my face into one that was pleasant, my body into one that was small, my boisterous Spirit into one that was obedient, and my unique voice into one that was silent.
As I entered my teens, I realized that this game had a focus now: to not only be lovable, but to be loved by a man, to be the princess chosen by the prince, the beauty who turns the heart of the beast.
And so the endless chase for love and attention soon became the endless chase for a man… any man at all because… as they told me… I would be lovable when.
I chased myself into bad relationship after bad relationship, running away from the hands of one toxic man only to fall into the hands of another.
And after all of the chasing, at 28, my steam ran out: I was tired, I was hungry, I was weak. Too weak to get out any more, too weak to keep running. It was easier to settle, to sell my Soul for the companionship of a man just as broken as I was: one who drank and swore and manipulated.
Surely I could never win this game, surely this is what I was worthy of. Surely, it was better to be with him than to be alone.
As the years went on with him by my side, my Soul died a slow death: I fell into a pit of depression and self-loathing, comfortably sinking into this shitty relationship, watching shitty television, eating shitty food and drinking shitty beer: destroying what I thought to be my most unlovable and disgusting self, one bad choice at a time.
One night in this black hole, my drunk boyfriend disappeared; word had it that he'd blacked out somewhere in the streets of Milwaukee and was nowhere to be found. And to be honest, I didn’t know if I wanted to find him or not. After a night of searching high and low into the wee hours of the morning before going to work, I came home to find him obliterated, standing there Soulless and snake-eyed, half alive, stumbling toward me as I walked through the door.
“Where have you been?” he mumbled.
Where have I been?! I wanted to wail… Where have I BEEN?! looking for YOU, taking care of YOU, providing for YOU, cleaning up after YOU, I silently screamed from inside.
But my mouth was duct-taped shut, the words stuck in the back of my throat where I’d learned to keep them as a child. I stood there and listened as he told me how he didn’t love me, how he never really did.
And while my good girl costume stayed mostly in tact, my Soul burned with a raging fire inside: mad and disappointed mostly in myself for believing that this is what I was worthy of, for putting up with such toxicity (despite my Soul's guidance not to) for so, so long.
After he stumbled to bed, I curled up on the couch for the handful of hours I had left to sleep, scared and alone, shaking uncontrollably, wondering if this is what rock bottom felt like. With nothing left to lose, I looked up into the sky and the words *help me* slipped from my tired lips and into the heavens, words that God was so lovingly and patiently waiting to hear.
And do you know what S/he said in response? Enough, baby, this is enough.
I fell into a dreamless sleep and woke up somehow changed. Instinctually, I knew that the quiet calm voice of the night could be trusted, that the God who spoke to me then, would be there speaking to me tomorrow and the next day, that S/he had been quietly speaking all along. I had lost my body, my voice, my life, my Soul, what more did I have to lose?
And so with fiery snake eyes of my own, I packed a bag and listened to the sweet sound of my own voice say “Enough.” I walked through the door and I never looked back.
In hindsight, I can confidently tell you that there was something holy about the darkness, that it was through my long walk to the cross, into my tomb and out again, fully resurrected, that I found my best Self: that there is a part of me who will resurrect from every challenge, time and time again, who is always connected to God, who is loveable simply because she exists. For it was the journey into the darkness and back out again that allowed me to find who I really was: not a disgusting and hopeless addict; not an overweight, imperfect body; not an anxious mind full of thoughts, but a lovable, holy, perfectly imperfect child of God.
Following God from the darkness to the Light was the greatest leap I have ever taken. One that led me to heal my addictions, find a new career and start a new life. Sure, it was scary at first but it got easier and easier once I realized that the Voice that led me out of hell was the Voice of a Loving God, this was the voice of my best Self, this was the voice of my Soul.
From the other side of this nightmare, I can tell you that nothing is too big or too complicated for this quiet, guiding Light. That no matter how lost you may feel or how far away from God you’ve fallen, this Voice waits quietly, to guide you to safety, to peace, and to hope, to the evolution of your Best Self. And this Voice and this Love is not just available to me, but to any and all of us, no matter how lost, no matter how broken, at any time, if only we ask for Its wisdom, if only we’re open to Its guidance.
I’ve also learned that God needs not only my invitation, but my attention: how can I hear the voice of God when I’m thinking and talking and moving all the time? Because every single time that I call out to the heavens, God always responds -- maybe not immediately, maybe not in a loud scream, but in quiet, obvious ways, if I am paying attention.
I believe that God’s loving force is in fact the force that brought you here today, that wants to use this weekend to transform you, to awaken your Best Self. That God Herself is the One who helped you to make all of the arrangements to get here, who brought us together in this moment, who quietly whispers to all of us -- you are worth it.
And so I ask you to keep your eyes wide open for how God wants to touch you in the next few days, how S/he wants to show Herself and Her Love to you personally -- maybe in a kind word from a stranger, the healing touch of a therapist, the nourishment of a meal that you didn’t have to cook, or the moving words of someone who’s made it through hell and back into the Light.
May you slow down, pay attention and be open to the transformation that awaits you here.
Thank you and May God Bless You widely and abundantly.
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Yoga Teacher and Student, Speaker, Writer, Mother, Wife, Friend, Daughter, Sister, Human