We all have a story and this is mine. I hope it will inspire you to also move into living your life to its fullest potential, humanly and spiritually, because really they are both one.
Like the constant movement of salt water that erodes entire rock faces by the ocean or the desert wind that shapes sand dunes and can fire sand particles into your face with the strength and speed of a bullet, I allowed my story of childhood abuse and my own self-talk to both erode away my life and keep me hiding in the trenches.
I grew up in a house where love and abuse co-existed.
When she was a young adult, my mother had tried to kill her step father with a pair of scissors, while he slept, to eliminate his abuses on her own life. Take that anger and now give her children and you get some very dysfunctional life experiences.
My dad, who had introduced me to pornography earlier in life, tried working away from home as often as possible. “I’m just waiting for your mother to die so I can start my life,” he once told me.
Don’t get me wrong. I remember lots of loving things my parents did and sacrificed for me as a child. Dad sold his accordion to buy me my first drum set. Mom worked three jobs so she could send me and my brother on a holiday.
However, as I looked back on my life, whether perceived or real, there were many stories of abandonment, mind games, physical and emotional abuse, self-punishment and a sense of not being worth anything. These stories resulted in my lack of self-confidence, lack of self-worth and the unknown desire to keep abusing myself and sabotaging almost everything I put my hand to. Suicide was also a top thought in my consciousness.
The funny thing is, despite all these apparent set-backs, I always envisioned myself excelling at everything I did.
My faith base growing up was that of Roman Catholic. It was one of the things I seemed to cling to in my life. My mom’s answer to everything was, “Pray about it.” Except when I was old enough to ask about sex. Then her answer was, “Animals! Men are just animals!” I didn’t really know what she meant.
My God, at least the one I envisioned, was a punishing God on a distant throne that you had to journey to get to. If you were good then you got closer. If you were bad you got punished, for your own good of course, and you started back at zero. It wasn’t until I was in my fifties I realized that I had made my God a reflection of my mother.
As a teenager I dove into the music business realizing that when I strapped a guitar around my neck I got what I inwardly craved the most, attention and a form of love from others. Otherwise, I was a nobody to everyone. The more I played the more attention I got. So I got good at playing.
I started playing in pubs when I was around fourteen years old and in my late teens I got into just about everything a traveling band could get into.
My turning point came after I had moved to Canada from Scotland. Yes, I know, I forgot to tell you I was raised in Scotland until I was twenty-one. Or that my mother was born in India and my dad in England.
To cut a long story short and compress some passage of time together, I had worked my way across Canada. During that time I had a conversion experience, ended up attending a Catholic Bible School, then met my wife and started having kids. One summer, while the kids were little, we had flown to my parent’s house to visit with my mom and dad. A huge fight broke out between myself and my mother, followed by the usual “Nothing happened here so let’s stuff it” experience.
My wife said something when we flew home that changed everything. “That’s not normal life,” she said.
What? Up until that point I had assumed my entire upbringing was ‘normal life’.
From there, after almost curling up in a ball on the floor at work because a can of worms had been opened, I started going for counseling. It helped somewhat. It gave me coping skills and moved me to look at my past more objectively. It also helped me stop punching holes in walls and toned down, to some degree, the mind games I was playing with my wife. In my childhood I had learned that love was not something you got freely but that it had to be ‘earned’ in one way or another. That’s another story though.
As much as the counselling helped, it was still surface stuff in comparison to what I’m going to share with you now.
I had shared that I grew up as a Roman Catholic and also that I seemed to cling to that faith.
What I didn’t share was how strong that ‘cling’ was.
Despite my skewed view of who God was, and how distant that God was, there was definitely a Divine Presence in my life that had kept me living and glued to my wife.
I found comfort in that presence and in return I wanted to serve this God with all my heart and soul.
There was a period of about ten years when I even served as a sort of lay pastor in my church. There was something inside of me that drove me, called me and pulled me to this God. I was in love with this God.
At fifty-five years old my view of God would change.
It was 2013, about two months before my fifty-third December birthday.
My wife and I were running a kid’s summer camp facility in the bush by a lake. On the grounds there was also a year-round retreat house.
A meditation group met there every Wednesday evening. As a Catholic I kept my distance. “Na. I have my own prayer stuff I do. I’m good,” I would say, warding off every invite to attend.
I didn’t need meditation. I had developed a relationship with my Christian God and we would have ‘conversations’ regularly.
One morning, while sitting in a small wilderness cabin with my prayer journal I distinctly heard these words from within the depths of my being, “You’re life is about to get messy. I want you to join the meditation group.” I just knew that I knew it was God speaking to me.
Yet, despite this apparent divine mandate, you could see the trail marks from my heels as I dragged myself to the next meditation meeting
I think I carried a crucifix in my pocket, ready to pull out like a firearm at the first sign of trouble.
In hind-sight, I may as well have taken some garlic and a vampire steak too. Silly thing.
Over the next two years we actually became close friends with Tami Dovell, who led the meditations. I remember constantly arguing with her over her teachings and beliefs compared to mine. Not that she ever argued back. Yet I kept going to meditation.
In 2015 cancer hit me hard.
After rounds of chemotherapy and twenty-five blasts of radiation I received life-saving surgery. My esophagus was completely removed and my stomach was rolled into a tube and placed into my chest as a make-shift esophagus.
About a week after surgery I was lying in my hospital bed and staring out of the window at the late evening sky. I asked my God, “So, now what? Obviously I’m still alive. So, now what?”
Again, from deep within I heard, “Get to know me.”
My immediate reply was, “But, I already know you.”
I had been studying for ordained ministry within the Catholic Church at that time. I had also attended Bible School, completed a three-year lay ministry leadership program and worked full-time within the Church.
God’s response was simple. “No. Get to KNOW me.”
I didn’t quite understand.
After being released early from hospital, which was a miracle in itself, there began a long journey into my inner self.
It became apparent early on that this wasn’t a journey of the mind, like I had been used to, but instead a journey of the heart.
The late Dr. Wayne Dyer said that when the student is ready, the teachers will appear. Meaning that when you’re ready to see and open to hear you will see and hear what you’re meant to.
I was led to read and listen to great teachers like Dr. Wayne Dyer, Elkhart Tolle, Father Richard Rohr and Saint Francis of Assisi, to name a few. I was pulled into the inner journey of self-awareness and of inner transformation. Learning to live from the inside out.
I discovered that I didn’t have to fight to become someone new, ‘someone better’. All I needed to do was become the great Allower. Allowing God to heal me, one layer, one spec, one self-defeating thought, one skewed view at a time.
I learned about ego and the True Self. I also learned that we have everything we need, everything that is great and beautiful, already inside of us. Divine and absolutely awesome. It was all there just waiting to be re-discovered.
Consider how pure a baby is after it is born. That’s each one of us. But, over time we cover that light up, that DNA of God within us, with the stories imposed upon us by ourselves and others. “I’m worthless. I’m no good. I’m ugly,” and a host of other things. I certainly did.
I learned from Joeel and Natalie Rivera that you can change your story, re-write what no longer serves you into something that does.
I learned from Elkhart Tolle how to become the silent observer of my thoughts, my emotions and my life. I actually became aware of each time I got angry or felt lonely or was in a pity party. As soon as I observed that, rather than living inside the emotion like I used to do, being totally unaware and consumed by it, I discovered that it no longer had power over me. It was at that point a healing took place. Believe me, I had probably hundreds of those healing moments every day because I was extremely angry and had such a warped view of who I was.
I became aware of how toxic and self-sabotaging my thoughts were. Think something long enough and you will begin to believe it as normal life. That’s why you have to be aware of the environment you place yourself in and the friends you keep. Positive breeds positive. Negative breeds negative. I was allowing negative thoughts about myself to fester and breed more negative thoughts, without realizing it. My negative environment had become my own mind, which I took everywhere.
I don’t believe that everything around me has changed but instead it’s my view of everything around me, as well as what is within me, which has transformed. Father Richard Rohr says that you become what you already are. Beautiful and divine. Pretty deep and pretty real.
I’ve learned to live in the present moment, where God is. I’m no longer locked into the stress of a past that no longer exists or anxious about the future that also doesn’t exist. Only the present moment exists. The rest is all in your head.
I’m much ‘closer’ in awareness to the real me, the true me, than I’ve ever been. Much more peaceful. Less and less tossed around emotionally like a ball on the surface of a stormy ocean. Much more living from the inside out.
I was always compelled to be something in my life. Now, I’m driven to just ‘be’.
My path was that of meditation, connecting to my Divine, silence, learning to at least slow down the multitude of thoughts in my mind from time to time and allowing myself to be healed.
It was, and still is at times, an emotionally painful journey but it is so worth it.
Whatever you allow yourself to be, that’s what you share with the world, including your own world. Hurt people hurt people. Healed people heal people.
Allow yourself to become healed and transformed. You’ll never regret it.