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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

An Epiphany: My Spiritual Awakening and Path Toward Forgiveness

Taking a nod from Peter I decided to write about an epiphany in my life. This is the epiphany of my spiritual awakening. I had just returned from a difficult, trying, scary, confusing and exhausting two year Mormon mission from Cote D'Ivoire, West Africa where my world had been turned upside down. My unflinching commitment to the Mormon faith was unraveling by the day as I began to do some research into what were the opposing views. You see, I had been taught to not question the veracity of the church let alone read a different viewpoint on the history and teachings of the Mormon faith.

Yet I had questions that nagged at me day and night that even invaded my dreams. I could not push them away. There were too many things that were not logically lining up or making sense to me as I looked further into the looking glass of (what was for me) honest investigation. I had to know what was out there in the spiritual garden to choose from that I hadn't even glanced at before. I had never before looked at both sides before making up my mind on something so important as my spiritual path. I firmly believe in knowing all the information out there before making decisions. I had simply borrowed from my parents testimony in the church and those of my teachers/leaders. I thought I knew that the Mormon faith was the only truth possible on the Earth but I began to realize after my mission that I was simply parroting what I was told in Sunday school class. I wanted to fit in and be like everyone else who had such seemingly undeniable faith.

Yes, I did feel some wonderful spiritual moments growing up in the Mormon church and I've always had a deep spiritual foundation yet the older that I became the less the same old answers and explanations made sense. The more I read the more disillusioned I became yet I still attended meetings in hopes that maybe something would change because although I wanted to know what was true for myself--I was afraid of making such an earth-shattering change to leave the faith. It wasn't long, however, before I knew that I couldn't carry on the charade anymore. I had to leave if my integrity meant anything to me.

I left and didn't look back which was difficult for me because it meant possible alienation from my family and friends who were at the time all Mormons. But how could I stay--living a lie?? No, for once I had to be brave and set forth on my own path in life. So, for the first time in my life I was free to be who I wanted to be and think for myself. I dined at the spiritual feast of options and engorged my hungry appetite for knowledge. Yet nothing seemed to fit--just as Mormonism didn't seem to fit. In the meantime a monster was brewing in my brain--Schizo-affective disorder.

I was living with a brain disorder--a chemical imbalance in my brain that was causing wild mood swings, depression one minute and mania the next. However, this monster hand many heads. Along with the mood swings came hallucinations in the form of voices, visual disturbances, paranoia and delusional thinking. This combined with a raging anger at a feeling of being misled by the religion of my youth made a dangerous mixture. In short, I was growing more and more isolated from people and more and more disillusioned with all things spiritual, material and otherwise. I was in deep suffering not knowing where to turn, not knowing there was medicine out there that could help my chemical imbalance. Hell, not even knowing I had a chemical imbalance!! I saw everyone as my enemy. I finally saw a psychiatrist who started me on medicines but they didn't work and that began a journey of jumping from one psych to the next. None of them were helping much and the medicines seemed to just make things worse.

I was listening to angry music, reading about bizarre spiritual practices and becoming more enraged by the day. The climax of my spiral through this Hell though came when I was so angry, fearful and depressed that I just wanted nothing more then to blow up the entire planet (or for someone else to. I wanted to take a nuclear bomb straight to the head). Just end the misery that I saw the Earth experience to have become. I wanted to end my suffering, that of others and destroy all those whom I perceived had done me wrong. I was in a very bad place. Enter my friend "Charlie" I'll call him. We met in a summertime class at the university--I can't remember the name of the class now but I remember him, yes, indeed I always will for "Charlie" opened my eyes. He introduced me to a man named, Dr. David R. Hawkins via his books. He was some sort of mystic I gathered and agreed to read his first book, "Power vs. Force" and I couldn't put it down.

There for the first time I learned about Oneness, mindfulness, impermanence, ego, karma and the description of a "God force" that made much more sense to me. This force taught by Hawkins is one that is intrinsic within all things and goes beyond a physical being. There were some things in his books that I didn't really get or agree with but over-all I was astounded at what I found. It was no less then finding not only the meaning of life but the meaning of the existence of everything that ever was, is and will be!! Talk about an epiphany!!! I was spun around and "reborn" to use a heavily loaded word. The more I read these books the more the very world around me shifted into a new light. I didn't just see the trees around me as "scenery" but as living breathing brothers and sisters that I was dependent upon and vice versa. That my friends as many of you know has a powerful effect. I was apart of something powerful, loving, beautiful and perhaps most importantly--meaningful. It was about this time that I met my current psychiatrist and psychologist who finally found a combination of medicines that help me manage my condition as best as possible. I knew that from that point onward I would be a totally different person and I wasn't scared--I was relieved. It also through his books that I was introduced to Buddhism and four years later--here I am.

Now, I try to see the good in all religions and I often succeed but I still struggle with the Mormon faith. Never the less, I am working on forgiving past wrongs and healing scars. I still have some strong opinions about that church but I am trying to put that all behind me. It is a personal challenge for me to forgive those people and accept that faith as having value and benefit to society. There are times when I see much good in their teachings but still others when I see them as dangerous. I am by no means a perfect man. Yet, there are many wonderful people in the Mormon church who's lives have been greatly improved by their faith and who have beautiful, pure, loving hearts--my mother, father and two older brothers are a few. In fact, there are even some things that I agree with them about after all these years. It isn't always easy but I am determined to let this anger, bitterness and hurt go one day once and for all.

PHOTO: The temples of Bagan in Myanmar by Stuart Clyne.

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10 comments:

PeterAtLarge said...

Thanks for letting me know about this entry, James. It's good to know more about you and your often difficult and challenging path. Blessings, Peter

k said...

hey- you're a psychiatric survivor- that is great. I love knowing people who experienced the darkest distress and came out the other side. As someone who works with families when there is a psychosis happening, and as someone who too has experienced psychosis- it is always so affirming for me to hear about people who have recovered from their intense distress. This post was so amazing to read- wow- what you've been through. I love that you found your own path, and made the difficult choices you had to to get to where you are now. Thanks for sharing.

私達 said...

<3

American Scot said...

Thank you for sharing your experience with me! It seems we have a lot in common!

They call him James Ure said...

Peter:

Thanks. I hope that my story can inspire others. :)

K:

Survivor--that's a good way of putting it. Thank-you for this comment. It means a lot. There is always an instant connection with people who have been through similar psychiatric issues.

Finding my path has been a HUGE benefit in dealing with my mental health issues. Meditation is so helpful when I am anxious, depressed, etc.

I just want people to know that there IS hope and not to give up.

Asian Characters person:

I wish I knew your name or spoke your language. In fact, I wish I spoke ALL languages found in the world.

Anyway, thank-you for sharing your love.

Scot:

You're quite welcome. I was happy to share my story since you shared yours. And yeah we do seem to have similar paths.

abacus said...

thanks for sharing. whether or not we are similar - we are all the same and made of the same matter and that in itself is so great, love always

They call him James Ure said...

Abacus:

Yeah, exactly. I think that one of the best ways to over-come our seeming differences is to meditate upon inter-connection.

Julie said...

Thanks for sharing your story. I too am a return missionary turned to greater awareness. IT finds us when we are ready. Thanks for validating I'm not the only RM who has dealt with "leaving the tribe". Sounds like you would love the writings of Ken Wilber. He's my favorite next to David Hawkins. Thanks again for sharing.
Julie

They call him James Ure said...

Julie:

Ah, a fellow ex-RM!! It is indeed nice to meet fellow rebels (laughing). No, you're not the only one at all.

Ken Wilber, huh? That name sounds familiar. I'll have to look into him.

paul said...

Thaks for sharing your story.
I have my own journey i went on.
Thanks! Paul

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