I didn’t believe in God as a kid. I grew up in a religious culture where God was supposed to be this omniscient authority figure who had a say in how you should behave, and who would punish you for all eternity if you didn’t follow his rules. He resembled my father too much for me to accept that.
Like my siblings before me, I was to go to Sunday school to learn about the Bible and prepare for my First Communion. Church was dark, eerie, and smelled funny, and I came home questioning what the nuns were trying to teach me. Every time. I would enter a philosophical debate with my mother, who in spite of having a strict Catholic upbringing, was pretty liberal and came to the conclusion that it would save her much grief if I didn’t follow her family tradition.
So I was off the religious hook pretty early in life, and since there weren’t any other spiritual options at the time, I simply dismissed the concept of God altogether. I didn’t even think about God for years. I respected if others wanted to believe in whatever they wanted to believe, so the mention of God didn’t trigger any reaction on my part. I had no interest or investment whatsoever in any religious or theological debate.
Searching Love Within
In my mid 20s, broken relationships along with family dysfunction and chaos led me to years of psychoanalysis, which later became a lifelong journey into the exploration of the mind. At some point, I decided to go on a “personal retreat” for three years, in almost complete isolation, to reflect on my life and myself, and delve deeper into my unconscious motivations. I spent most of my days alone, facing my emotional “demons,” but every now and then I accepted an invitation to engage in the world. I would go out only if I intuitively felt that it could help me further understand my process, which was evolving into a spiritual adventure. I had begun meditating almost unwillingly and undergone various mystical experiences that kept me moving forward, while I was contending with very painful and confusing memories that I had nobody to blame for, or even share with.
On one occasion, I went to a party with an old friend. As I entered the apartment, my eyes were immediately drawn to a young man sitting on a couch, chatting with another guest. As our eyes met, there was an instant recognition, although we hadn’t met before. He followed me to the kitchen and we started talking.
Later on, we drove to the store to get some beer. When we were ready to get out of the car, we both remained silent and as if frozen for a moment. I felt like something was holding me in place and clearly saw energy coming from and connecting each of our chakras. It all happened very quickly, but it was powerful and a bit scary. As soon as the energy subsided, we glanced at each other without saying anything, and he stormed out of the car.
We barely talked for the rest of that evening, and even though we became friends, we never discussed this experience. I was afraid to bring it up and discover that it was all in my imagination and that I would seem “weird.” I had always been very sensitive to energy, but this chakra thing was new to me, and I was just beginning to understand the experiences I was having on my own, without needing to involve anyone else in my mystical confusion.
Finding Love Without
When I got home that night, I realized that I was completely and absolutely in love with this man, and wondered if I would ever see him again. I did, since our common friend hosted a few more parties and he also invited me to his house a few times. Each time we met, my love intensified and grew deeper, but it was evident that our relationship could only be of a platonic nature. He had never been in a relationship and wanted nothing to do with that; he made clear that he was married to his music and spiritual path. There was a quality to our relationship, however, that was very unusual. It was as if we were awakening to something that we couldn’t yet understand; and it was not to be muddled with any type of expectations.
As we continued enjoying each other’s company on occasion, it was clear that our energy was connected and that something was shifting; it felt as if our energy field would fuse, cleanse, and expand when we were together. We seemed to open something up in one another, although we never talked about any of this. We could look into each other’s eyes and communicate almost telepathically; it felt as if there was no need to put words to our experiences because we both knew on some level that it was okay not to understand and to simply allow and enjoy them. Plus, we were just friends and friends don’t talk about these things. Those who saw us would secretly comment how obvious it was that we were in love, and everyone around assumed that we would end up as a couple. I too was hoping that we would, as I silently suffered and struggled to get emotionally detached from this man.
One night it just hit me. The pain of my unrequited love became unbearable, and I started crying from the depth of my heart. I cried and cried, and as I couldn’t stop crying I had a vivid vision of both of us dressed in white robes in a spiritual community. I recognized this as a past life. Then the vision took over me and I was enveloped by the deepest feeling of love and light. It was then that my shell cracked and I experienced the Divine for the first time in my life. Needless to say, I was profoundly touched and changed forever. My perception of life was also transformed, and I began to understand and embrace the spiritual senses that I had been trying to dismiss along with my idea of God and anything that smelled like religion.
Love and Oneness
As it turned out, my beloved friend and I never became a couple, but our relationship definitely served its purpose: his heart opened up to be in a relationship for the first time and become a parent shortly after, and my heart opened up to God within. Since then, I’ve been blessed with the guidance and support of several spiritual teachers and teachings, and my spiritual exploration has become my life’s priority. But that’s another story. When I think back, I believe that even though it was very painful and confusing then, I got the best part of the agreement that my friend and I had seemingly made: to help each other remove the barriers that prevented us from enjoying a much fuller experience of life. I guess that is what soul mates are actually supposed to do.
Viktor Frankl writes, “What is to give light must endure burning.” So I cherish the pain that contributed to my understanding of love—the love that burnt my resistance through the mirror that my young friend was—and the pain that has drawn and continues to direct me toward finding who I really am and to help others get there as well. In this process, I’ve come to realize that I have not been alone and that humanity as a whole has had myriad conflicted, twisted, incongruous, distorted, and polarized feelings about God and love.
However, we now seem to be taking the first steps toward unification and Oneness. Within the confusing and painful state of our world, we begin to see the need to honor and integrate the Masculine and Feminine principles in all, and to remove the distorted beliefs that keep us apart—feeling unheard, small, and lonely. We also understand the urgency to look within and embrace a new perception of the Divine. Because it is becoming obvious that our divine nature has truly nothing to do with religion or intellectual beliefs, and has everything to do with love.
It is the spark that lights our inner knowing, the quiet wisdom of our intuitive voice. It makes us stand in awe of the array of miracles that life is, and allows us to be in love with love through ourselves and others. In this recognition of love for love’s sake, we are able to heal our wounds; we can come closer together; and we may empower one another to take on the phenomenal endeavor of shaping a better world.
© 2013 Yol Swan. All rights reserved. This article was first published on WNC Woman – November 2013.