I was sitting on the sofa in my living room and staring at the incredibly messy shelf at the wall across from me. Amid the pile of toys on the floor, my two little children were engaged in one of their usual play fights. I was trying to relax, but my mind was as messy as the bookshelf and the floor.
My thoughts were constantly hovering between the need to clean up the mess, to discipline my children, or to get stuff done from my never ending four or five to-do lists. The stiffness, weakness, pain, and fatigue from the rheumatoid arthritis made it even worse.
Oh, how I craved an inner calm and relaxed feeling state of mind!
What hadn’t I tried during the last years in order to get a handle on this feeling of overwhelm. Getting organized better, like boxing up the toys from the floor and putting them away.
I had read through a pile of magazines about decorating the home, being sure that I would be able to feel calmer and more relaxed if only I managed to shape up my living room like in one of those beautiful pictures.
I had read Getting Things Done by David Allen and also tried to apply the suggested process in order to get a handle on my to-do lists. Great book.
But somehow it all didn’t seem to work for me. All of it was only a superficial cure against the feeling of being overwhelmed by the excessive demands of life.
I was staring at the messy shelf when I suddenly realized,
‘Actually, I don’t want a nicer living room. What I really want is inner peace.’
Boooom! (Now imagine a stage with a lot of smoke and fireworks as the magician pulls a rabbit out of the hat).
“Here you are!“ said the universe the next day and led me to a website which had not only content about homeopathy (which was my passion at that time), but also articles about little children who started to talk spontaneously about their past life memories.
Past lives? Immediately, I was hooked.
In consider this the start of my spiritual journey around the end of 2006.
Urge to read
After that initial article on the internet, I wanted to know more and developed an urge to read.
The first spiritual book that I read was about reincarnation: Children’s Past Lives by Carol Bowman. That touched me deeply.
It shattered my worldview once again. I was lying in bed reading this book where little children of 3-4 years of age would tell out of the blue that they have lived another live before and who they were and how things were different back then.
I felt the floor shake under me, so dizzy did I feel. And initially, I became afraid as I realized that this world is not remotely what I thought it was.
We are not our body!
I always thought that the sense of ‘I’ and my thoughts were a result of the electrical signals in my brain. But, no! It was the other way around.
If there was reincarnation, then that had to mean that I could exist independently of my body. And if neuroscience tried to find out how thoughts emerged from the brain, that was just as useless as trying to find out how the evening news were created by watching the electron streams in the TV. There was plenty of evidence, not only from investigation of reincarnation (e.g. by Ian Stevenson) but also from near-death experiences (NDE), that our consciousness existed independently of a brain.
In the following months, my interest in homeopathy suddenly dropped to zero and I read only books on spirituality. I devoured them. Even though my life was very busy with a job and my little kids, I found time to read many books. Early in the morning, in the bathroom even before breakfast, and late in the evening, I would find some time for reading.
The next subject on my reading list was channeled stuff:
Conversations with God by N. D. Walsch, The Seth Material by Jane Roberts, The Law of Attraction by Esther and Jerry Hicks, and A Course in Miracles (ACIM).
That was my next aha moment:
There is a wise inner voice inside each of us.
And some are actually able to hear it! Wow, I wish I could hear that, too!
Actually, one day being able to hear the voice of inner guidance was a huge motivation for me on the spiritual path – besides the initial call for peace. I often felt that having to make an important decision was quite a burden, and I hoped that guidance of a wise inner voice would make life easier.
Later, I read The Enneagram by Rohr and Ebert which triggered another insight:
There is so much unconscious stuff in me of which I was not aware.
I found myself to be type 5 in the Enneagram (investigator, observer). That is someone who lives mainly in his head, likes theories, and in addition has an issue with loss of privacy. How the heck did they know that reading tons of non-fiction books is connected to a resistance of going public? I had read various models of personality types, but by none of them did I feel as X-rayed as by the Enneagram.
Then in one of the books on esoteric knowledge and spirituality, I came upon the word ‘enlightenment’. What was that?
It sounded like the ultimate wisdom, the ultimate vantage point.
I asked myself and others how an enlightened one would deal with two fighting, disobedient children, a frequently occurring situation which was particularly stressful to me. Would this situation still stress me after enlightenment? Would I know better how to react?
I asked the question to some people on an email distribution list on the topic of spirituality. But nobody there could answer this question. So, I had to find out by myself.
I started to read anything about enlightenment that I could get my hands on. I wanted to find an answer to the following questions:
- What is enlightenment?
- What is the journey towards it like? What happens and what does it feel like?
- What is life like for the enlightened one?
I devoured mainly autobiographies because I felt these would best answer my questions. Some of these books were my favorites. Among the ones that I read more than three times were the books by Jed McKenna, Bernadette Roberts, Suzanne Segal (Collision with the Infinite) Sally Bongers (Everyday Enlightenment), and books related to A Course in Miracles (ACIM) (by Gary Renard, and Carrie Triffet).
In these books, I found many real life stories about the journey towards and after awakening and enlightenment.
The answers to my questions from reading these books were:
Enlightenment is the permanent shift of the self-perception from a separate body-mind to “all that is”. (This is not to be confused with mystical states of union with the divine that occur as a temporary peak experience during meditation.)
The journey towards it is different for everyone, but there are some milestones and phases which are similar in most journeys.
There are many features that originate from that state where the separate self has fallen away, e.g. non-attachment, unconditional peace, acceptance, and knowing how to deal appropriately with each situation.
This was all theoretical book-knowledge just from reading, of course. However, the aha moment for me was:
If I assume that I am this body-mind with all its attributes and its history, then I am living in an illusion.
What fueled my search then from now on was not only the search for inner peace but also the search for truth.
If I am not this body-mind, then who or what am I?
Additionally, something else was a huge motivation for me: I wanted to avoid reincarnation at all costs.
After reading many texts on spirituality, my understanding was that we come into this world over and over again. Each time we forget that we are eternal spirit. We even forget our plans for this particular incarnation. The process of remembering our true nature usually involves getting through some difficult experiences which can be potentially traumatizing when they are not properly processed. That means lifetime after lifetime of forgetting and suffering. I wanted to know how do we get off the reincarnation wheel.
Having a body had been great for ballroom dancing. However, due to my painful rheumatic disease, I had come to conclude that incarnation sucks and that I should better avoid another life with a body in 3D space and time.
Where was the emergency exit from this illusion, dammit?
Even though this phase of discovery of another realm was mainly about reading material which shattered my former worldview, I did have the impression that the universe was sending me lessons. That means, things got down from the realm of mere book-knowledge to first-hand experience real fast.
At first, I had my doubts about it. Does life really conspire to send me learning experiences? But then these experiences became too frequent and too unlikely to ignore.
This post is part of a series about my spiritual journey (table of contents).