I was angsty as a teenager, prone to fluctuating moods, crying, and emotional outbursts. I pity my parents, but it's standard teenage stuff for some. If Emo had been a thing in the 90’s, I'd have been the poster child. All I needed were chin length bangs to hide my tears behind and a black section at Wet Seal.
I'd grown up Catholic, but after years of catechism and mostly consistent church going, it still didn't resonate. It was the judgment thing for me. And the burn in fiery hell thing.
I started reading books on spirituality when I was 19. That's when my mind, effectively, got blown open, and those books have shaped my life and thought processes. Forever.
I could go into the nitty gritty of my spiritual beliefs, but that's not the important part of my mental transformation. What happens after we die doesn't have a whole hell of a lot of impact on how we live today, no pun intended. It's intriguing and esoteric, to say the least, and it's safe to say that it's the greatest mystery of our species, but laboring over those metaphysical "what ifs" can take away from the importance of how we operate in the now.
There were things that happened to me, during that period in time, that spoke to my soul. Sounds cheesy, but I can think of no better way to say it. I felt like the Universe had laid a path out before me, and as long as I kept on it, new steps would always appear in front of me just as I became ready, in the form of books. Each that I read referenced the last somewhere within its pages. It was a spiritual puzzle, tailor made for me. I began having peak experiences (ethereal, transcendent, out of body moments), on the regular, another cue that I was heading in the right direction. Guidance seemed to float into my lap. One time, when still testing the whole thing out, I asked for the meaning of the word zeitgeist. The following day, three professors wrote it on the board and defined it. What the? I couldn't deny the synchronicities. The framework had been laid for my world, and that intricate web of thoughts, ideas, and beliefs saved me from the victim mentality that many of us masquerade behind for the duration of our lives. Life wasn't just happening to me, it was happening FOR me.
Every experience and perceived wronging is an opportunity for growth, a chance to remember that I'm responsible for how I react to each moment. I got my power back, I no longer had to lay the blame on an elusive “other”.
This shift in ideology took some getting used to. Culpability requires personal action. It's effortless to roll with “everything happens for a reason,” and just let it end there, helplessly accepting your fate, which I did for several years, post "spiritual awakening", in the name of the “greater plan” at work. My ideas were growing, but I wasn't.
The moment I absorbed that my experiences are calls to action is when the true expansion of self began.
I seek out the lesson, but more importantly, I search my emotions for my ego’s reaction to my feelings. If I'm having negative mental responses to someone or something, it’s on me to explore what fear or inadequacy they are triggering within me. Same fight with your husband all the time? Never seem to get ahead at work? Always have friends with drama? Do you always have drama? Always broke? Are your kids disrespectful? You. You. You. That's all on you. You may not be able to directly change any of those situations, but you have one hundred percent of the control when it comes to morphing how you experience them, and it's inevitable that when you do that, change occurs. The Universe places people and situations into our lives who will mirror back to us all of our ineffective ways of being, in an effort to remind us that we’ve got work to do. It starts as a gentle knocking, but you'll eventually get your door pounded in if you don't take heed.
When your friend says she can't help you because she’s too busy, you can call her a selfish bitch and reminisce on everything you've ever done for her when you just didn't have time, slowly building judgment and resentment, or you can dig a little deeper, and ask yourself what's really making you feel like shit in this situation. Did a wound reopen, a feeling of not being good enough? A fear of rejection, or that you aren't loveable? Same thing when your husband doesn't notice your new hair or the clean house. It all comes back to the reflection you're desperately trying not to see in that mirror we talked about earlier.
A steady diet of fear and judgment isn't going to feed your soul, but shame isn't going to provide sustenance either. Responsibility. That's the ticket. When you remember the power that you wield, that's when you take the reins. When you find the gift in each annoyance, each challenge, that's when your life becomes your own, no longer subjugated to a fate driven, anger laced experience.
I don't really care how you get there. It's your path, and whatever speaks to you will also lay the steps of progress before you, but you have to be willing to look for them, sometimes in very uncomfortable places.
In case you're interested or still searching for a path that feels right, I'll include some of the books that have transcended my experience of this world.
“The Seat of The Soul” Gary Zukav
“Through Time into Healing” Brian L. Weiss
“The Four Agreements” Don Miguel Ruiz
“The Happiness Project” Gretchen Rubin
“Conversations with God” Neale Donald Walsch
“The Code of the Extraordinary Mind” Vishen Lakhiani
“Ego is the Enemy” Ryan Holiday
“The Obstacle is the Way” Ryan Holiday