As a youngster, I was introduced to the Catholic religion as my mom was a non-devout Catholic.
I never really learned anything about God or the religion, but I remember hearing talk about this place called “purgatory,” which was a place where people went, who weren’t quite good enough to go to heaven. You had to “do your time” in purgatory and pray and pray and pray to get into heaven. Then, maybe you would. Just maybe.
It scared me into thinking I had to be super duper good (epic failure). I resolved to do the best I could and hoped that I at least made it there and not be thrown into the fiery furnace of hell.
I remember having to go to confession, which was the place where you had to tell your dirty little secret sins to a man you didn’t know and couldn’t see. That must have been intimidating for me because I never told my “real” sins, but made up a few minor sins to confess like, “I yelled at my brother” or “I lied about not eating the last piece of chocolate cake.”
That way my penance would be minor—a few Our Father’s and five Hail Mary’s. How deceitful, right? I was surely headed right for Purgatory!
The “in between” world
If purgatory is the “in between” world of heaven and hell and a place with regret, suffering, pain, anger, disappointment and a lot of striving, then I believe I’ve already been there. I think I’ve done my time clawing the glass ceiling in purgatory. Perhaps not physically, but emotionally and spiritually.
I’ve actually spent years and years scratching and banging to get the heck out! Self-help books, church, therapist, more books, more church, more books, no church, meditation and so on.
On the outside, maybe I looked fine; maybe I looked like a shiny red apple, but inside I was rotten to the core. Inner struggle permeated my being day after day and year after year. I kept striving and praying and begging and waiting for healing and the sparkling waters of revival to wash over me and cleanse me, but it didn’t pan out like that.
There came a point in time in which I felt like I’d tried it all. I’d wrestled with my inner demons long enough, sought help in almost every fashion available and finally gave up. I took a sabbatical from self-help mode, learned how to breathe deep and to sit with myself in quiet.
I happened to have to write an eBook on mindful meditation and the more I learned about meditation, the more I recognized that I had already begun meditating.
Years of turmoil and seeking help outside of myself led me straight to my inner core to find solitude (and myself).
Meditation liberated my soul.
The more I meditated, the more I realized that many of my present issues had their root all the way back in my childhood. For the first time in my life, I had to face my past, all the way to childhood and then relive the stuffed emotions I’d repressed for a lifetime and most importantly, surrender this weird fight I’d been fighting forever.
Done. White flag. Cooked. Finished.
I’d suffered long enough. I’d carried the guilt, the shame, the regrets, the hurts, the pain, the anger, the fear (and on and on) long enough. Screw all that. Screw the comfort of emotional numbing and alternate reality.
I stopped waiting for healing to miraculously come. I intentionally altered my spiritual path. As I did, guess what happened? The heavens (or something like the heavens) opened up for me. I saw the light. I became the light. I chose to let it all go. I didn’t shake or cry or see bright lights or anything like that.
I simply stepped on out of the “in between” into freedom.
You know what else I did?
I smiled more.
Can it be that easy? Not necessarily. I did my time. This is my journey and solely mine. I don’t know what yours is like. Maybe you’re as peaceful as a river and as happy as Richard Simmons and if you are, I’m thrilled for you! Or, maybe you’re stuck in the “in between”. Maybe you’ve been there so long it feels comfortable.
Perhaps you have no way of knowing how to get out. I didn’t know either, but what I did have deep within me was a resolve to keep pushing through. You’ve got that resolve somewhere down deep. I found meditation to be the key for me.
I slowed down. Got quiet. Gained control of (much) of my thought life. Tapped into the love of my Creator.
I’m not perfect. I still have some negative thoughts and emotions on occasion. Sometimes, I still want to tell people off or have a pity party, but I’m quick to get back to “centered.” I’m not going back to purgatory.
What about you? Where do you find yourself?
Declare that you’ve had enough of the “in between” and consciously make a decision to walk on out. Declare today that you will do whatever it takes to push through whatever it is you have to push through on your journey. Then, after you’ve bid purgatory adieu, reach back and grab someone else’s hand and help them out. It’s the right thing to do.
Hasta la vista, Purgatory.
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Assist Ed: Steph Richard/Ed: Sara Crolick