Fifth grade. I was the new kid from Colorado, riding the bus home to the old farmhouse my parents had just bought us in rural Michigan.
The kids on the bus wanted to know all about the new girl, so they insisted on asking me probing questions like, “Do you believe in God?”, “Do you go to church?”, “Do you believe In Jesus?” Clearly there was a theme.
I responded easily, “No, we don’t go to church, and my mom said Jesus was a really great guy, but we don’t believe in God.”
To which the kids responded with the obvious taunt, “You’regoing to hell.”
I got off the bus, tears stinging my eyes, shaking. Where was hell?! Was I really going to have to go there?
I told my mom about my exchange on the bus, to which she replied in her thick, midwestern accent, “Honey, we aren’t going to hell. We’re Buddhist, and Buddhists believe in reincarnation. Buddha was here before Jesus, you know.” She paused, looked at me, then went into the other room and came back carrying two Enclopedia Brittanicas—B for Buddha and J for Jesus.
The next day, she loaded me on the school bus with my history books and reminded me that we weren’t going to hell because we would be reincarnated and after all, Buddha was here before Jesus, you know!
I’m sure the kids on the school bus had an earful for their parents that night.
I had never been to a Buddhist temple before that day and it wouldn’t be until my mid-twenties that I found myself in Thailand meeting monks and visiting Buddhist wahts. But the real shift came for me in my late thirties as I was faced with my own existential crisis.
I was psychic.
As my abilities as a psychic medium accidentally spilled out on my wedding night, I realized I had to find people in the spiritual community to train me to speak to those on the other side in a more responsible, less under–the–influence–of–alcohol kind of way.
What I found in my years of practicing and researching spirituality and intuition was the same thing I had discovered on the school bus years before: judgement.
There was this dogmatic practice of meditating and chasing “Buddha, God, Universe” instead of focusing on living in the authentic moment and trusting in ourselves.
From my adult vantage, Buddha was a dude who found it easier to escape and meditate in the woods far from real life than to confront problems and conflict head-on. He cheated by running away from the day–to–day issues of ego and found solace alone.
But the rest of us mere mortals are trying to keep up with the Kardashians or Buddha in the midst of real life chaos.
Hell is not living fully in our truth, whether by trying to live up to other people’s brand of “should” and “have to” practices or by running away from the real world.
You might find the flow of spiritualism or your intuition in dance, hiking, or a beautiful conversation with a friend and never really find bliss in the sitting-on-a-cushion, palms–up-eyes-closed method of meditation. And that’s ok.
Enlightenment (because isn’t that what every religion is chasing?) comes from a place of inner knowing and trust in yourself that creates real connections with people from all walksof life. You’ll be able to see the love and light pouring out ofthem when you aren’t comparing yourself to Buddha or Jesus—or someone else’s dogmatic spiritual practices, for that matter.
Your way is ultimately the highway to enlightenment and no Encyclopedia Brittanica can teach you this. It only comes with pure trust!
Ignite your own intuition, lean back, and trust yourself!