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I was 42, going nowhere (after having been nowhere), and my world was falling down around me.
I had hit rock bottom and was morally, financially, and spiritually bankrupt. When I finally surrendered and admitted I needed help, I was willing to try anything to regain my sanity and rid myself of this unbearable sense of doom that had plagued me for far too long.
In my darkest hour, I reached out for help and was introduced to some people who had started to live a spiritual way of life. I write this in the hopes that if you’re looking for a spiritual connection—a Higher Power—my journey might offer you some insight into finding that connection.
In many of our lives, there is a yearning to find a connection to God or some Higher Power.
We seek out that Higher Power in hopes of gaining some reward—that next big promotion, or if one is thinking well enough ahead, then perhaps a place in heaven. Others desperately seek His presence when they realize they have no viable options left.
Aside from atheists, who assert that they have an absence of a belief in any deity, and agnostics, whose view is that God is unknowable, there remains among most people a fundamental belief in a Higher Power. Whether it’s Buddha, Allah, God, or some other name, many people would like to have a stronger connection to a spiritual presence to attain a deeper sense of fulfillment in their lives.
These people I spoke of had a way about them: they were calm, happy, and had a determined way they carried themselves. I wanted what they had, but was certain that it was unattainable for me.
They advised me to find a Higher Power that I could understand, and assured me that I, myself, was not it. They asked me to pray and meditate each morning. I was out of options in my life, so I decided to give it a try.
In regards to prayer, I was told to ask for nothing for myself unless that something would allow me to be of service to others. Asking to win the lottery so I could do philanthropic work wasn’t exactly a realistic workaround. But praying for a family member who had cancer, asking God to help them accept their situation, and asking for the right words to say when I phoned them was closer to where I needed to be.
I was to look to my Higher Power, who I choose to call God, when troubled, agitated, or unsure of myself. The direction was simple: whenever I was out of sorts, I was to pause, take a deep breath, and invoke God’s help. Of course, in the beginning, the best I could do was recognize this angst in me—which was a good start.
For many of us, myself included, just accepting the way we feel when troubled is how we allow the emotion to take root. Understanding that I didn’t have to accept it was a step toward freedom.
At first, when recognizing any untoward emotion, I would pause, take a deep breath, ask God for help, take another deep breath—and then go right back to being a miserable person. I found in this exercise that I couldn’t invoke my God and then turn around and say, “Now where was I?” I had to pause in that moment, turn over what was troubling me, and ask Him to change my perception of the situation.
This takes practice—lots and lots of practice. But I found that I didn’t like the angry, agitated, and miserable person I could be, and if I wanted to change then I had better take this exercise in earnest and practice it fully.
Soon I found myself stepping away from the situation and asking, “Does this really matter? Do I have to be so __________?” (whatever the negative emotion was), and then asking God to help me see things differently. By doing so, I found relief and a sense of serenity—something I hadn’t felt in a long time.
I also learned that so much of what troubled me was based in fear. In understanding that so many of my emotions were fear-based, I realized that fear had been a constant ruler over me. I also found that fear manifests itself best through my ego. Saying “I didn’t want that job anyway,” or “I don’t want to make that trip,” or “I won’t make that phone call” was nothing more than my ego covering up and hiding the fearful person I had become.
This started to change when I started being mindful of my fear-based responses to people. Being honest, learning to say “no,” and understanding that I don’t need people to like me were just some of the ways I overcame my fears. Not playing small, speaking my mind, and believing I was worthy of all the good things that were happening to me gave me a sense of satisfaction that I had never known.
Being mindful of my behavior throughout the day, I can now recognize when I have been unkind to a coworker, friend, or loved one and atone for my mistake quickly by meeting with that person face-to-face and telling them I was wrong.
Among the downtrodden, there is a belief that problems and troubles are different. Often we hear people say that they are victims of this or that. Our inability to behave humanely toward each other leaves many of us to live as victims of cruelty and neglect, who must figure out for themselves how to survive and live with their past.
Among my new group of friends, I heard someone say, “You’ll never be free, so long as you’re a victim.” That statement hit me hard. In looking back at my life, hadn’t I allowed myself to be a victim? A victim of a poor upbringing with parents who struggled with their demons? A victim of poor education, shyness, and so on?
How could I best shed my victimhood and gain freedom?
My new spiritual group members advised me to take an inventory of myself, my life, and the people in my past and present for whom I’d held a grudge. Most importantly, I was to share my thoughts on this list with someone else.
Some call this soul-searching; others call it confession. What we call it doesn’t matter all that much though, so I made the list and shared it with someone not impacted by its contents, which was of the utmost importance. I also learned that I owed some people an apology for my behavior. By following through with this, I learned that I could be free from my past.
On this clean slate, I could rewrite my life. The possibilities were endless. And the freedom to be able to do that was exhilarating.
I was also told: “If you want self-esteem, do estimable acts.” Being of service would help me to remain humble and teachable.
I took this charge and ran with it. In doing for others, I got out of myself. I volunteered and followed through with commitments. I learned the best way to be of service is to do something for someone and don’t let them know that you did it. By avoiding the “thank yous” or other platitudes, I remain humble. Only my God knows what I did, and that’s alright with me. This was a major step in becoming the man I’d always wanted to be.
I could live my life the way I chose to live it—so long as I sought God’s guidance, remained honest and humble, corrected my errors, and remained of service to those around me.
For me, it all started with finding God. But it has mushroomed into a life I could not have imagined.
Simply put: trust God, clean house, and help others.