Being brought up in the west of Scotland in the 70’s and 80’s, religion was about one thing, were you Catholic or Protestant? It was the question that generally got asked when meeting any newcomer. For my part, it was one area my parents had no opinion on, for which I will be forever grateful. I was afforded greater freedom in my thoughts than many of my schoolmates.
As I grew up and we did ‘religious studies’ they felt largely a disappointment as they didn’t explore the wider contrast of the world’s religions. I did contemplate the broader question “why are we here?” often, and recall dad and I writing back and forth about it when I worked in Spain in my late teens. Later I took philosophy as a subject at university to help me contemplate, but that turned out to just be more of a historical view on world’s philosophers.
So I embarked instead on my own studies, fed up of those who turned up at the door trying to persuade me to their view. What I found was, at the essence of all the world’s religions, were common themes and beliefs. It led to me to a conclusion that there was no one that was ‘right’, that most seem to revere the teacher than what they were teaching, and had created many of the limiting ‘rules’ through their interpretation of the teachings and the doctrines they were contained in.
At that point I proclaimed myself an atheist, and continued to be repelled by anything that sounded remotely religious. In my thirties I started exploring more of my inner nature, the sense that deep within there is some sort of life force remote from my physical being. I was introduced to meditative practices that involved stilling the chatter in my head, the emotion attached to them, and beneath found a sense of utter peace.
Growing up I had shied away from any kind of drugs, or even large volumes of alcohol, other than the few short years leading up to when I had panic attacks in my early 20’s, a hugely rich experience that taught me firsthand the potent power of our thoughts. However, hearing others describe their experiences of these substances, the feeling in meditation is similar to the high, except it has the benefit of no ‘down’, in that state you are unhindered by the chatter of your subconscious mind.
The results of meditative practices speak to themselves, the undeniable sense of wellbeing and clarity that arises. I once heard someone very articulately refer to us as all as part of one energy, all connected, that resonated. At that point I became willing to acknowledge the deeper spiritual part of me, and became comfortable describing myself as spiritual.
That then seemed to attract all sorts of New Age type ideas and constructs, again I was repelled by any talk of Christ Consciousness or Archangels and so on. I always felt that people had created constructs as a way of understanding, from our limited capacity in the human body, something that couldn’t really be explained from the perspective of our time and space reality.
There have been a series of things in the last few years, talks I’ve heard, books I’ve read and so on that have made sense of many of the themes I’d heard previously. In August 2014 I had my ‘ah ha’ moment with a very deep sense of things falling into place. It was a turning point that some would refer to as an ‘awakening’; though it is better to say that, while still not buying into any constructs, at that point I could open myself and listen fully without being repelled by words such as ‘God’.
It is fair to say, for my part, I think we are all talking about the same thing, we are just coming to it with different thoughts, beliefs and bias. It’s not important to expound my beliefs beyond that.
Of course there is the alternative view that there is just this life and that is it. That it doesn’t have to be or mean any more than that. When you look at the miracle that is us, the literally trillions of cells that have individual consciousness that make up what you see in the mirror, the exquisite miracle of creating new life, the variety and majesty of the world around us, the stars and the universe that we are part of, the worlds that exist and the multiple universes in the cosmos, on an on, it just makes more logical sense to me to believe in something more.
Whatever that is for you, the benefits of exploring these questions for yourself, reexamining your context for life, are tremendous. I write a lot about being who you are – that person at birth who came with traits, talents and perhaps even purpose, before you were obscured by all that well meaning guidance from family and community – and about getting what you want out of life. All of it written from a context of a broader perspective.
Contemplating this broader perspective of your life is one of the richest activities you can embark on. When you have a deep sense of the ‘big picture’, one that really resonates with you rather than one that was drummed in, the day to day challenges you face seem much less dramatic, life becomes much more fun.
This article was originally posted on LinkedIn and Medium.
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