I do not know why, but my spirit is calling on me to write. I have had enough opportunities to have my spirit call to me that I trust it and bide its call.
I guess we are all on some type of journey our entire lives, whether we realize it or not. In truth, we may each be on several journeys simultaneously. The journey I am compelled to write about today is my spiritual journey.
Looking back, there are many moments and many people who have played a part in my spiritual journey. But at this point there are a few that stand more prominently in the light of my vision.
The earliest spiritual experience I had, though I would have called it a religious experience at the time, was at a Catholic retreat in the Catholic High School gym in Flagstaff, Arizona. I would have been in eight or ninth grade at the time. It was the first time I had an opportunity to really explore and prod my own relationship with my spirituality. That was a very long time ago, and I don’t remember the details, but I remember being deeply moved as I nudged my way into spiritual self-exploration.
When I was in college at SUNY Cortland, I had a number of experiences that primed me for spiritual self-exploration, but none of them were a true effort of exploring my spirituality. One thing stands out during that time period that helped to pave the way for me to continue that spiritual journey, accidentally learning how to meditate.
I remember this very well. I was sitting on the floor in Paul Fabozzi’s room in Randall Hall, up on the 3rd floor. We were sitting there doing nothing but listening to music, probably at least a little bit high. I was staring at a spot on a poster on his wall and focusing on a single tiny spot of brightness in an otherwise relatively dark poster. I think it must have been a concert poster for some rock band, I don’t remember the poster, but I do remember that spot. As I focused on that spot my breathing slowed and became deeper and rhythmic. I let my mind wander into that spot of light and before I knew it, my conscious was outside my body. I don’t know a better way of explaining it. It was deeply soothing and my thoughts slowed to the point where I escaped from the bombardment of thoughts that were normally in my brain. I guess it was the first time I escaped my own consciousness while I was awake and moved into what I feel was a sub-conscious state. I think Ekhart Tolle would say I had escaped my ego.
A short while later, something, a sound or a movement, caught my attention and broke the trance and I came crashing back into my conscious. But I was amazingly relaxed and at peace. I wanted to find a way back to that place so I began a meditation practice. I made a point of almost every day sitting down in my room and taught myself to meditate. It was incredibly refreshing and I found that a half hour of meditation was as good as several hours of sleep for refreshing myself and clearing my mind to focus on one thing at a time.
I continued that practice for the remainder of the school year, I even created a video that was shown in a film festival about my experience with meditation, and what it was like in my mind when I was meditating. But, my practice was broken when I moved out of the dorm in May 1986, and I have never made my way back to a regular meditation practice. (I should do something about that).
It was a very long time after that before I came back to my spirituality in any way. It was largely forgotten until my son, Brandt was born in 1992 and we as a family started going to church regularly at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Springfield, MO. It was there that I became part of a community of believers, and developed extremely close ties with a fantastic group of people, especially the Men’s Club and their families. We spent many years with this family of friends watching our families grow, and exploring our faith and belief systems together. I am still very close friends with a few of them, even after 16 years of living away.
In 2001, very shortly after 911, my family moved to Rockhampton in Queensland, Australia on a work visa that wold also eventually lead to my PhD studies. In Australia, our experience with religion, and with Catholicism began to change and the facade of religion started to remove itself from my spiritual beliefs, but not in a big way yet. But one thing stands out in my mind from our time in Australia.
I was traveling down a road just out of Rockhampton with a colleague, Wal Taylor. We came to an area and I got ah overwhelming feeling of dread or foreboding. I told Wal, “there is something evil around here”. Wal told me that the location where we were at was a place where people used to go to “hunt” aborigines and that there had been a massacre nearby. The thought of hunting human beings is quite disturbing. (Hunting of Aborigines by the “Native Police” around Rockhampton is referenced in the book “The Secret War: A True History of Queensland’s Native Police”, Jonathan Richards, 2008).
After we moved back to the United States, I ended up working at what was then the University of Missouri – Rolla, now called Missouri University of Science and Technology. My son Jax was enrolled at the elementary school at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church.
On December 15, 2006 when I went to drop Jax off, there was a van full of military people parked in the school parking lot. I asked Jax if something was going on, and he said there was a funeral for a soldier that had died in Iraq. I dropped Jax off and was heading to work when for whatever reason my spirit told me that I needed to go to the funeral. I listened to my spirit, and my life has never been the same.
I called my supervisor, Cheryl McKay. I told her I didn’t know what exactly was going on but that I was being called to be at the funeral for this soldier and told her I would be late for work. She said something to the affect of, “you have to go, tell me what happens when you get done.”
The soldier’s name was Captain Travis Patriquin (Obituary).
The details of the day are not important here, but I ended up sitting in the back pew with a person who was a cousin, or something to that affect, of Captain Patriquin. We spoke and I told him that I didn’t know Captain Patriquin, I was a member of the church and when I learned of the funeral I felt compelled to pay my respects . When he learned that the church did not take up a collection at a funeral, he took out his wallet and said “watch this”. He took a couple of hundred dollar bills out of his wallet and handed them to me and said, “do something good with this.”
After the service had ended and everyone left, I returned to the church and sat, emotionally overwhelmed, sobbing in the back pew. I knew the priest and when he saw me he asked if I was related to the family. I told him no and we sat down and I told him the whole story. I asked him what I should do with the money, and he said that it had come to me, it was my decision what do with it. I asked him if he would hold the money, and he put it in an envelope in his desk and called it the “miracle money”. Eventually, and it didn’t take long, we identified a good cause and it is my understanding that it helped a family through a difficult time.
But, I was changed forever. The series of events that led up to me going to and serving witness at that funeral changed me, and lit a fire in me that has had me on a soul searching journey ever since.
It is now eleven years later. I am no longer a member of the Catholic church and I do not practice any religion. My focus is spiritual. There is seldom, if ever, a day that passes when I do not think about my place in the world and relationship to others, and I allow that to lead me through my day. Some days it is easier than others.
I have learned to recognize and try to minimize the impact on myself of those things that are most divisive among humans: race, religion, creed, gender and politics. I have come to recognize that human nature, within its ebbs and flows, is relatively consistent. There will always be the seven sins and they will be countered by the seven virtues. It is up to each and every person to decide in the form of many small decisions every day whether they will take the path of the virtues. It is never too late to choose a path of virtue, or to fall off of that path. We can certainly influence others on their paths, but in the end you are the only one that can change your own heart. You and only you can choose your path.
This is a daily struggle, but one which I am at peace in undertaking.
I think that takes care of getting out what my spirit thought I should write. You now have access to a little glimpse of my spiritual journey and I share it with you willingly.