The Story of a Soul
(Inspired by actual events)
I lay unconscious in the hospital bed, breathing assisted by a machine. It was my 50th year and possibly my last. Multiple autoimmune diseases had taken their toll on my body, accompanied by cardiac arrhythmia, tuberculosis, and major depressive disorder. I had considered myself a ‘bag of bones’ before I succumbed to unconsciousness that final morning. How could this have happened when such a bright future lay before me after an awakening in my 30s?
After a fearful childhood and adolescence filled with alcoholism, addiction, depression, and agoraphobia, I eventually recovered in my 29th year. Participation in a 12-step program led to an incredible awakening, and the future seemed bright. I had many friends, became a nationally published writer, and founded a finance company that was sold to a multinational firm. It could have been so perfect; it seemed destined. How could it all have fallen apart?
As I lay in the dark hospital room, suspended between life and death, the deep fog surrounding me began to lift, and I heard the soft voice of my Soul. She, this motherly, creative force, spoke of a deeper purpose and a necessary rhythm behind the events in my life. She shared that these had worked toward my awakening and my ultimate well-being. She told me that the prevalent emotional pain in my life had arrived as my great teacher led me home.
Before I could argue or question, She told me that She would now act as my guide and would show me how and why my life unfolded as it had. She revealed that She had been whispering to me from my earliest years but that it had been up to me to pause and listen. I rarely did.
Since She could not be heard over the years, She had penned beautiful postcards of wisdom that had been left for me. I simply had not stopped to collect the mail. I had been too preoccupied with other pursuits and distractions. But it was not too late. She would now teach me.
My Soul then spoke of the gifts intended for my life. The simplicity and wonder I had experienced in childhood were but a taste of what could be if I surrendered to Her depths. Her soft voice held much sadness as She reflected, but it was also imbued with hope. It was never too late.
I listened in wonder as my Soul declared that She had much more to show me, and so, beneath the soft lights of my quiet hospital room, we walked into the night. Together, we would revisit critical times in my life where She would reveal the lessons intended and the gifts I was meant to receive. Along the way, She would teach me about the original state of the Soul as well as how it becomes lost. She said, for most people, an awakening is just a journey of unbecoming, of unwinding the falseness that has been heaped upon our true nature. Ultimately, it is about finding our way back home.
The Retrospective Journey - Surveying my childhood, my Soul reminded me that I had been very close to Her in these early years. During this time, I often experienced a sense of wonder and awe while exploring the world. I would become lost in the moment and didn’t need to be anywhere else. I could be doing something as simple as floating popsicle sticks on a curbside stream and yet feel joyful and whole. When did I lose this innocence? I hadn’t seen it slipping away.
My Soul explained, however, that this early state, though beautiful, was immature, as I had not yet been given my unique gifts of purpose to share with the world. Though magical, this time was an introduction of sorts. An invitation to the kingdom of Soul. She said that the best was yet to come.
Drifting Away – My Soul then showed me that the unnatural state of conditional love and acceptance in the world had eventually led me away from Her. It had caused me to erect a persona, or false self, as a defense. This device of ego became an aid for navigating the conditional waters.
As I found the behaviors and traits that led to more praise, or less scorn, I added to my walls accordingly. Since I had such a sensitive Soul, my defenses became particularly high, and I eventually lost myself. I had essentially become identified with this false self.
My Soul led me through my school years, filled with much bullying and ridicule. She showed me how this environment, with the striking tiers of peer popularity, had led to further separation for me. It was as if the state of conditional love and acceptance was put on steroids during these years, and my defenses grew higher.
Though I enjoyed much during these years with hobbies such as sports and hiking, I could now see that I had a deep sense of alienation. It was as if something was always beyond my grasp that would make me feel complete. However, I could never seem to find it, and over time, I had become accustomed to this feeling. I simply assumed that this was just how life was.
My Soul then showed me how the emergence of the other major instincts led me further away from Her. As I became interested in the opposite sex, very conditional waters indeed, I tended to focus even more on my persona, and the false self was strengthened. I quickly learned which behaviors and traits appeared attractive and which were shunned. Being true to my Soul was not my highest priority; it was becoming less so each year.
Then my Soul stated that, in adolescence, the security instinct turned financial and joined the parade. Faced with the prospect of fending for myself beyond the family nest, I became consumed by the fear and allowed it to control my choices. I reacted by aiming for business stardom to heal my financial concerns and self-esteem issues. The walls around Her were growing even taller.
Next, we reviewed my high school years. During this time, I continued to struggle with peer acceptance, and I also became a major achiever. I now see that I was chasing external things to alleviate my dis-ease. I was transferring nearly all my attention to the outer world, which was costly. It was like a deepening hole inside me was growing much faster than I could fill it. In truth, I had become lost and simply did not know the terrain. I had no map with which to find my way out.
My Soul then showed me that by this time, I had also largely bought into society’s recipe for happiness, which seemed based on material goods, romantic relationships, and external pursuits. Without a true connection to Soul, my life revolved around the next external rush, the hollow counterfeits.
Over time, society’s recipe became fully my own. I would find fame and fortune in business, and fulfillment would follow. The chase was on, and I was intoxicated with the pursuit. Of course, my Soul knew I could find no true fulfillment in this land, but She had to let me go.
From here, my Soul led me through my early adult years. After a painful high school experience, I enrolled at the University of Texas, which had an excellent business and accounting program. Somehow, I felt things would be different with a change of scene, far from home. Again, I was attempting to change outer circumstances to heal the inner turmoil. I would pursue this path to the end.
My Soul then shared that She had tried to lead me home again with whispers and, eventually, screams. However, I would not listen. I was too distracted and no longer understood Her language. Since I would not, or could not hear Her, my Soul had no choice but to allow me to grow weary in pursuit of the false kingdom. Nothing but hunger and emptiness awaited me in this land, and She knew this. However, there was no other way at this point.
As Her calls grew stronger, I began to silence them with alcohol, addictions, and other dependencies. I became ever-busy and had to keep moving to avoid looking into the abyss of separation. I had listened to the world and turned a deaf ear to my Soul. The result was alcoholism, depression, and agoraphobia. The cost of separation was great.
I stumbled along in this state for many years, completely losing the respect of family and friends. I was a frequent visitor to detox and medical centers, though these never seemed to hold a solution. I felt increasingly unique, the rallying cry of the ego, and there seemed no way out of this hell for me.
Finally, with no other alternative, my Soul had allowed me to experience a catastrophic bottom, filled with spiraling addiction and a suicide attempt. I had reached the point of absolute hopelessness.
At this point, I was hospitalized, and after detoxing, the fog slowly began to lift. My Soul then had a chance to speak clearly to me for the first time in years. She offered me a chance to come home, a fresh canvas, and I tentatively accepted. Though still dazed and bewildered, I had hope for the first time in years.
From the hospital, I was sent to a 30-day treatment center in Anoka, MN. The time at this institution gave me even more hope, as I learned that I was not as unique as I believed and that others with similar suffering had found their way out. The healing process had begun.
After treatment, I went to a halfway house in Rochester, MN, for a three-month stay. Again, I found much comfort in the common brokenness of the peer community. Together, we were rediscovering life and had hope for a brighter future. During these months, I also found a supportive 12-step program and was introduced to another recipe for living. With renewed hope and willingness, I threw myself into these steps. Halfway through the process, I experienced a powerful awakening and was reunited with my Soul more fully. It was truly a magical time.
During this period, my Soul re-introduced Herself to me and guided me around Her kingdom. There was wonder and awe, such promise. However, I also realized that this treasure would come at a cost. I had to be willing to remain true to Her and endure many trials along the way. Was I willing to pay the price?
For a time, I was, though I was still somewhat dazzled by the sights outside the gates. Romantic relationships were especially distracting for me, and my heart was divided between the two lands. A part of me was still not convinced that the gifts of the Soul outshined those of the world. I trudged along nevertheless and was introduced to Her healing, transformative power. I could see glimpses of the deeper truths at work and an underlying intelligence supporting it all.
During this time, spontaneous bursts of poetry would emerge as if already written and waiting for me. It was more like listening than writing. This was very strange since I had never written or even read poetry. I had been an accounting major in college and didn’t think I had a creative bone in my body. Yet, the poetry flowed naturally and effortlessly.
I also resumed my childhood interest in photography during this time and would stumble upon incredible natural scenes, which I managed to capture. My Soul now showed me that the writing and photographs were meant to go together and that these were ‘postcards,’ of sorts, that She had penned for me. It was indeed a wondrous time.
The Path Narrows – As my spiritual walk progressed, it became clear that my Soul had been layered over with many false attachments and dependencies. She said that if I wanted to grow closer to Her, these would have to be unwound. If Her creativity was to flow through me truly, it had to do so unhindered.
In hindsight, I now realize that my Soul was taking me through the purification stage of awakening, with its accompanying trials. I was not aware that this was familiar territory on the spiritual path. I simply sensed that the expected road of bliss was getting very bumpy.
In the subsequent months and years, I tried to stay close to Her, but eventually, the intensity of the trials seemed unfair and the cost too great. I was being asked to walk through dark valleys and forests on this journey which I had skirted my entire life. I had avoided or buried much emotional pain over the years and was now asked to revisit these depths. Here I had balked. I felt that there must be another, less costly way.
During these trials, I also began to experience symptoms of agoraphobia again. I was terrified. This didn’t seem like it was part of the spiritual plan. I could not see that my Soul had been trying to free me all along, that my neurosis had come from trying to hold up the defensive walls. I just couldn’t sense Her healing hands at work here, and I began to drift away. I retreated to familiar, safer territory. Of course, my soul knew that it would cost me either way.
As we journeyed together in this retrospective, there was sadness in Her voice as we discussed the ensuing journey back to the empty kingdom. I had turned away from Her and resumed my business world quest. Five years after my catastrophic bottom, the external chase was on again.
Within two years of arriving in the corporate world, I founded a fraud prevention company named Verifraud. Verifraud became part of a Fortune 500+ firm three years later, and I oversaw the business unit. It was an exhilarating time. The recipe seemed to be working, at least on some level.
However, I again felt a sense of disillusionment growing within. I finally had money and success, but I still felt empty. There was still something missing. Furthermore, the flight from Soul had left me weary. She now sighed as we reflected on this period and the recurring lessons of separation. I could never hear the Soul’s call for what it truly was.
Soon, the weariness of my mind was joined by my body, and I developed ulcerative colitis. I began experiencing internal bleeding, though I largely ignored this. I was too busy pursuing corporate success. However, the symptoms worsened, and eventually, I had no choice but to seek help. The battle and treatment of this disease would go on for many years.
While struggling with these health issues, I continued to work and achieved much success. In 2007, I was featured on the cover of CRN magazine. CRN was an icon in the technology industry and, for a month at least, I was its poster boy. The success and recognition were intoxicating, and I wanted more. I always wanted more. I was learning that the ego’s hunger simply cannot be satisfied.
The disease overshadowed the success each year, and I was hospitalized many times. The condition eventually becomes life-threatening. I had lost the fight with colitis and had my large intestine removed at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona. It was a dark time, though just a hint of what would come.
Symbolic of the state of my Soul at the time, I continued to run Verifraud from my hospital bed. I was not yet finished with the chase. It still held too much allure for me, and I had not seen the physical disease for what it was, a cry from the Soul.
Within four years, this deadly condition was accompanied by ankylosing spondylitis, cardiac arrhythmia, tuberculosis, and major depressive disorder. My body was deteriorating towards what seemed a tragic and early end. I was again at a bottom, though, this time, physically and emotionally. The depths of my being had spoken once again. I was ready for the end. How dark it is before the dawn.
Full Circle - It was now 2015, and we have come full circle. We are back in the quiet hospital room and have completed our retrospective journey.
My Soul whispered that She was glad to have my full attention again finally and did not want to lose me. She shared Her ‘postcards’ with me once more and trusted them to my care. She said that they were the story of my Soul and that they would guide me on this journey. I was given another chance with my health fully restored and the diseases going into remission. I would stay close to Her this time.
My Soul told me that She would be with me throughout this journey and that all I had to do was call on Her. She had incredible powers, but only if I would listen and remain close. She said I could always draw near to Her in silence and that nature was Her favorite classroom.
She also reminded me that emotional pain is not something to be pushed away or endured but is meant to be mined. It is Her call to the wandering and the lost. If I walked through it with Her, it would open to new frontiers and beautiful vistas. The pain would be transmuted into treasure.
She promised I would find undreamed rewards if I persisted on this journey. I could experience peace, joy, and creative purpose beyond my wildest dreams. These fruits of the Soul would indeed surpass all understanding. She said I would also discover many gifts to share with my fellow man in Her name. Perhaps I could help others see that it is possible to convert pain and suffering into beauty and truth.
I paused and reflected. For a time in the 90s, we had walked together and toured Her kingdom. These memories came back to me now through tears of sorrow. There was such wonder and awe, yet I wandered and became lost again. I had attempted to find another, less expensive path to happiness. I now realized that Her way was the only true way. Whatever the price, I would now pay.
I was also reminded of the accompanying resources, such as prayer, meditation, journaling, artistic expression, and service to others. These were powerful awakening tools, and they would sustain me on my journey. My Soul cautioned, however, that these tools were largely ineffective without the fuel of rigorous self-honesty. The false self would always try to regain its lost ground and could only be defeated through honesty and awareness.
She then reminded me that She would never leave me as long as I desired Her above all else. That She would always show me how to grow closer to Her. I couldn’t think of a more beautiful offer.
Epilogue - It has been over eight years since I returned to life. My health is full, and I do not require any medications. The Soul’s promises to me have come true, though the cost has been great. It has meant embracing my deepest emotional fears and walking through much pain. I have had to endure the vulnerability of being without the defenses of ego that had sheltered me, albeit in false security, for most of my life.
During this journey of awakening, I have also been led through many dark valleys filled with the demons of the past. Ultimately, these trials have strengthened and cleansed me so my Soul can flow more freely. I am led to deeper states of surrender and a fuller trust through these Dark Nights.
I am constantly reminded that the spiritual walk is not for the faint of heart, but I have also witnessed miracles of healing. I now have absolute certainty that I am being led to spiritual and psychological wholeness by the most powerful force in existence. It has been a journey of both wonder and terror. It seems that there is no other way.
Though the journey is difficult, it has been worth the price, as the gates of the Soul have opened onto breathtaking land. It turns out that this was the experience that I was seeking in alcohol, drugs, and other dependencies all along. It is complete fullness and absolute wonder. I have found passion and purpose beyond my wildest dreams. I am finally home.