As I write this, I’ve spent more than a quarter century seeking out the meaning of my life, among them as a bereaved parent, and how the things I’ve learned from the greatest windstorms and anguish are ironically also the times of greatest catalyst of blessing for my personal growth and peace. By working issues through into forgiveness and meaning, I find a spiritual peace far beyond anything previously known to me. A friend recently asked me why I thought I’d had a life filled with, what she felt, was more than my share of heartache. For me, it all comes down to that spiritual question, which is all about the evolution of soul, at least in my understanding.
I’ve long since learned that we all have a journey in this life, and that it is not up to me to judge anyone else’s dedication to the depth or breadth or length of that process. It is a personal hunger that burns in me, however, and yet I know we all have our own time line of things to learn and overcome on our way to reaching spiritual peace.
The award winning television program, Intervention, shows us clearly the devastating influences of substance abuse in our world today, and I am always struck by the fact that there is always a loss of significant proportion that occurred in these addicts’ past: parental divorce or death, a suicide, a deceased child, sexual abuse, parental physical or emotional abandonment or addiction that led to another generation of it. And then there are our brave armed forces who serve in war torn countries, often returning home with physical wounds that don’t hold a candle to the emotional scars that hide beneath a thin veneer of coping skills, effectively masking or hiding unspeakable horror and grief.
I see all this as the glitch or interruption in the Love story between God and human; a war within each of us until we learn that we are valuable and loved by our Creator, no matter what happens to us on our life journey on this earth. I do believe we are spirits having a human experience, rather than the reverse. Love creates harmony of peace, and fear creates the chaos of anything but this. Hence the problem or the opportunity to heal; it’s all a matter of perspective, I suppose. With time, I’ve come to recognize a pattern: that those who suffer tremendous loss and grief in their lives have also by these same events become people of depth, sincerity and compassion towards others. They seem to innately realize that their deepest sorrow, by their hearts being broken open, have also brought them a conscious awareness of the remarkable tenacity of their strength of spirit.
My mentor, the late Dr Elisabeth Kubler Ross often shared that our interest in death, grief and its fallout was not morbid, but rather as Kahlil Gibran wrote, something we seek in the heart of life. It is true that only by examination and challenge of death pounding at our door, do we realize with passion how much we appreciate the gift of life.
As a nurse, grief therapist and seeker of peace, I often pray that all people would be dedicated to understanding that unresolved grief is at the core of what keeps humanity in an insane imbalance from embracing spiritual peace. I firmly believe that we have the opportunity for aspiration of far greater and profound good from the places of most intense pain, rather than to leave it like an abscess to fester in our body of life. Like a pendulum, we can choose not only which side, but also how far we allow our choices to swing out from the core center of what gives our lives meaning. However, we must realize that our pain, in all likelihood, goes all the way back to our conception or birth, and it is there that the healing often needs to begin.
So many times in this life, we aren’t even conscious that we are in emotional pain; we simply react without deliberation to assuage the grief we carry. More often than not, we “self medicate” as a method of coping, in my way of thinking, rather than clearly identify what lurks behind the symptoms of reactive rather than responsive behaviour. We haven’t ever learned how to heal in any other way, and so we cope without even realizing that we are in rote without option. And when our life experience has exposed us to only these methods of learned behaviour and none other, how can we expect another outcome?
Only until we step on that path inward, as we educate ourselves through time and life experience and spiritual search for meaning, do we begin to see the astounding radiance of the much bigger picture; the picture that emerges from spiritual vision rather than cerebral, logical perception. Only when we recognize with honesty and candor that we do have issues that need healing (and that they can indeed be healed), and what these issues really are (as in our spirit’s vision) versus what we think they are (as in cerebral perception) can we ever begin to truly live fully, with integrity and passion in our own skin. With this process comes that word that we must apply to the least of our brothers and sisters in life who is our self. That word is forgiveness…
All of us live with pain on some level, whether physical or emotional in nature, and whether we are aware of it or not. Here is where consciousness is imperative to personal growth and spiritual peace. By steadfast exercise each day in the pioneered therapy work of my practice, as well as diligently working through issues in my own life, I am constantly being challenged to grow. I get my buttons pushed every day, and I must respond if I am to remain successful in both my personal and professional life. It is a challenge, without a doubt, yet I have chosen to dedicate much of my time and energy into this process, since I see it as a relevant contribution to my vision that is at the epicenter of what I have most come to value in my life: to evolve spiritually so I might better come to know my true self.
It took a few years for me to recognize how blessed I am. In my view, every good therapist is in therapy of some sort, constantly working to achieve higher levels of meaning and spiritual awakening within ourselves so that we might continue to pass that gift on, giving others encouragement with legitimacy, integrity and meaning. We can’t offer peace to someone if we have none ourselves, after all…And so my incentive to grow is constant, for my own well being first, and so I might share it with others desirous of the same peace journey within.