I am from Germany and was born in the end of the sixties. Both of my parents were teachers.
I grew up without any spirituality other than normal Christian religion. We were Protestants but went to church basically only on Christmas Eve.
However, I remember that I often had a hard time to hold back my tears when the pastor talked about the love of God. I never knew why this touched me so deeply.
But other than that, religion didn’t play a major role in my life. I wasn’t sure whether there was really any God and whether prayers would be answered.
One day when I was still a little child, the doctor said with a sorrowful look that a family member very likely had cancer. I was devastated. I cried and prayed with all my heart, “Please, God, make that this isn’t true!”
And then, it wasn’t true. The result from the biopsy was negative.
I remember my relief and gratitude. Had my prayer been answered? I wasn’t sure.
During my teenage years, I developed an interest in science. My motivation was to look behind the appearance of matter. I thought if I could only zoom into the world and look at all the tiny atoms and molecules, then I could understand the world.
I read books like Double Helix by Watson and Crick about the DNA structure and thought that must be really exciting to do scientific research and find out about the secrets of our world.
My earliest aha moments were with Einstein’s relativity theory and with quantum mechanics:
Time and space are not what we think they are. If we move very fast, then they change.
Atoms are pretty empty and subatomic particles can behave as particles or as waves depending how we look at them.
Fascinated by these world-view shattering insights, my wish was to become a scientist and find out about the secret truths of our world.
Back then, I didn’t imagine what kind of more profound secret truths I would eventually discover later.
Illusions were another topic which fascinated me. A book about optical illusions impressed me deeply.
Later, I devoured books by neuroscientists Oliver Sacks and Vilaynur Ramachandran about people who experienced a radically altered perception of the world as a consequence of brain damage. All of that left me with the impression that our sense perceptions and our brain are not the appropriate tools to see reality as it is.
I was also interested in psychology, always asking, ‘What is it that makes us happy?’ When I came upon the theory of flow of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, it made sense to me at that time.
I experienced flow during painting, dancing, solving math problems, and computer programming. These activities kept my mind engaged and were creative. Back then, I thought the recipe for a happy life was that I just needed to make sure that I could fill my time with a lot of activities that allowed me to be in the flow state.
Because of my interest in science, I studied chemistry. But after my doctorate (German PhD equivalent), I thought that staying in science would not contribute to finding out the truth about the world and it would not make me happy either.
Therefore, I decided to leave science and got a job in the corporate world. That was not about finding the truth and understanding the world any more, but at least it gave me some financial security. In addition, part of the work was fun and allowed me to sink into a happy flow state.
Then I got married. And in 2003, our first child was born.
For my spiritual journey, I use the metaphor of a hike up and down a mountain. This part of my journey was in flatland. Even though I loved mind-boggling new insights, I was unaware of a dimension behind the visible 3D world (- the mountain at the horizon was covered in clouds and invisible to me – ). And I was always busy achieving the next step in my life.
I had it all, a job and a family. Life could go on like this, I thought.
But life had different plans for me.
This post is part of a series about my spiritual journey (table of contents).