Artist: Paris Wyatt Llanson
By now you probably think I'm some kind of spiritual nut! But, quite
honestly, it's just a part of who I am. Not in a religious kind of way - in
I stopped going to church immediately after getting confirmed,
which I think was around 14.
I'd rather find my own way (with lots of mistakes to show for it!) by
studying all the spiritual paths. Whether it's Buddhism, Christianity,
Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Taoism, New Age or Ancient Mystery Schools -
I select a little
from one and then a little from another. And voila, that's my religion.
Thinking I'm a bit less focused than desirable? Well, I believe minds are
like parachutes - they work better when open! And you can be plenty
open in any kind of a religious community or perfectly closed
in the midst of the most determined beliefs.
Of course, I still like going to a church when the going gets tough. I
sometimes feel like God might be hearing me better in a sacred
Wrong, I'm sure. I know He listens when I shout or when I whisper,
when I'm desperately unhappy or when I'm genuinely thrilled,
when I'm bitter or when I'm grateful, when I'm sick or when I'm feeling
just fine...whether I think I'm talking to Him or not.
It took me a long time to trust enough to realize that God is with each of
all of the time. Might not feel that way during the lowest times and
certainly not in our most fearful moments.
Sometimes it feels like He's deserted the entire world! But I believe
that goes back to the fact that we have free will on this planet
and the problem isn't Him; the problem is us! As one expression goes:
"God will move the mountain, but I better bring a shovel."
I became convinced long ago that we are spiritual beings having a human
experience. Recently, I heard it said another way, which I might even
like better...we are not only human, we're divine. Frankly, I wish I
had a little more of the divine and a lot less of the human.
Now, some of the most spiritual people I know are agnostic or atheist.
They may be skeptical or even believe there is no God helping to guide
them, but what difference does THAT make? I don't care and I'm sure
God doesn't either!
I choose to believe that He's "running the show" for all of us no matter
we think. And He definitely has a wicked sense of humor!
A favorite Robin Williams line is:
"Do you think God gets stoned? I think so...look at the platypus."
In the beginning of my studies, I fantasized that with a serious spiritual
practice or faith, I could be immune to the vagaries of life. Wrong!
On a self-pitying day, I can recount the litany of things that have not
gone right in my life or have not materialized the way they should have.
Woe is me!
How about this, Kathy? --
"Get off the cross, we need the wood!"
But what if everything is perfect just the way it is? A hard concept to
wrap our heads around. For example, I've suffered with a mental illness
during my adult life. Depression really knows how to bring a fellow down
In my case, I'm beginning to think that those times when I have suffered
the most, in retrospect, I have probably really had the ear of God.
And most of those times, I have felt like God has deserted me. When you
care about these things as much as I do, it's a double whammy...
I feel like shit and then I lose my faith!
One of my spiritual teachers said to me once: "Kathleen, depression
is part of your spiritual path." Get the hook! These were
not the comforting words I wanted to hear.
At the beginning of my depressions, I thought that the route to take was
to resist Western medicine's approach to treating my illness. I thought at
that time with a more "spiritual approach" -- just a little more
meditation, a bit more swimming, a tad more yoga, a great deal more
spiritual reading, I should be able to shake this thing on my own.
This is one of those concepts I've come to disbelieve about some New
Age teachings - that your thinking has gotten you where you are and it's
changing your thinking that's going to cure your illness!
I'd be dead now if that was the approach I had taken with my
particular kind of depression.
Finally, a friend said to me "You know God just might be in those pills!"
I have not missed my medications since.
I do believe that asking for spiritual help works every time...maybe not
in the way we expect it to, and often not in the timeframe we would
like, but it will come. It's said that we are closest to God when we are
the most difficult moments in life. Pain is the touchstone of
spiritual growth. For me, the best prayer of them all is
"God, please help me."
What would it feel like if we knew that everything in life unfolded
exactly as it should? Not because we're being punished but because we
have chosen to be here and be part of the "course work" in Earth School --
to grow through
pain and heal through love. A great quote by Kate Rubinstein is:
"We crave the deep place within that cannot be
touched by the ups and downs of life,
but rather just IS
--- connected and whole."
Maybe everything is just fine and dandy the way it is. What if there are
no mistakes? Contemplate this: some of us might just be in graduate
school (taking the toughest courses) and others are struggling to get
through kindergarten (and can't get over collecting toys and exerting
their power over the other kids!) I'm not quite sure which side of the
spectrum I'm on or, even would rather be on.
But now I'm confident that this doesn't really matter either. I am where I
am, not knowing exactly where that is, and I can learn from every life
both the best and the worst. In fact, I finally have realized that,
whether we know it or not, whether it feels that way or not:
Everything is fine and dandy just the way it is!
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Who is Kathleen Pasley?
Kathleen has a life that encompasses numerous
areas of endeavor: writing, fundraising, marketing
Two things help define her: she has been on
a serious spiritual path for 35 years and has
known serious depressive episodes.
She is committed to speaking from the heart
on spiritual issues and sharing honestly
and openly about mental illness.