For many years I was a devout spiritual seeker, mainly through the written word. Name the book, I’ve read it. I’ve got literally hundreds of spiritual texts and so-called self help books sitting on my bookcases at home. I used to buy books like I bought my weekly shopping and love applying the latest knowledge/truths/wisdom to my life. In fact for a long time my books and the ideas they contain were nearly all that kept me going.
This ended around a year and a half to two years ago. At the beginning of that time my father died, which had been expected, but was difficult nonetheless. I could cope with his death in the sense I understood it to be part of the natural cycle of life, and although I miss him, I have always accepted his death and been grateful he is free from suffering. I did not call upon any spiritual book or particular belief system or source of knowledge to help me with my grieving because all I had within me felt enough.This was, quite simply, acceptance.
However, some months after his death I found myself in desperate need of spiritual connection due to a sense of having lost it. I returned to my spiritual books but alas they no longer did anything for me. The joy I used to feel upon devouring them was gone. I even found myself distrusting what I read. I couldn’t understand it. Not long afterwards I went on a spiritual retreat believing the spiritual connection that eluded me could be found in the peace and quiet of a spirtual haven. But it wasn’t there either.
It seems so obvious now but at the time it felt devastating and triggered some months of what seemed like a low grade existential depression whereby I wondered where my spirituality had gone and how on earth I could get it back. I struggled to understand why I couldn’t connect with the spiritual beliefs that had, at one time, been the life and soul of my painful existence. I have had spiritual experiences in the past too, but none of them were forthcoming; it was as if they had happened to someone else.
I can’t remember exactly when or how the lightbulb came on; it was a gradual process over the last few months or so. But at some time or other I began to realise that I haven’t lost my spirituality at all. In fact, this ‘stripping away’ of books and texts and things that once directed my life, is calling me to awaken more deeply to the truth that exists within me. Books are like the fingers that point to the moon, but I am the moon itself. I could only ever get so far by reading someone else’s words. Even my own words are inadequate to convey a personal truth.
Perhaps my father’s death was the catylist for this process because until one has experienced the death of someone close and literally sat with them until they die, no one can really know what it is like and how it changes you, how it alters your feelings and perspective on life. It is something one has to experience for oneself. Although beliefs in spirits and the afterlife can of course be comforting during this time, I felt greater comfort in being at peace with my experience of what was happening and trusting in the cycle of nature of which I am part.
Spiritual books, films, and other tools are enormously valuable in any spiritual journey. I believe they brought me to this point. Equally, in the past I have found great value in both religion and psychotherapy. I can see how my journey has brought me from leaning on the ideas and knowledge of others to greater trust in the knowledge that lies within me, namely that truth is beyond thought.
On this deeper level, there is the stillness of conscious awareness and the experience of being intrinsically connected to all life. Therein lies the peace of God, Spirit, Life itself.