The Story of a Soul
I lay unconscious in the hospital bed, my breathing assisted by machine. It was my 50th year and possibly my last. Multiple auto-immune 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 30’s?
After a fearful childhood and, an adolescence filled with alcoholism, addiction, depression and agoraphobia, I had eventually recovered in my 29th year. Participation in a 12-step program had led to an incredible awakening and the future seemed bright. I had a host of friends, became a nationally published writer, and, founded a finance company that was sold to a multi-national 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 that surrounded 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 own awakening and for my ultimate well-being. She told me that the emotional pain, so prevalent in my life, had arrived as my great teacher, to lead 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 pre-occupied with other pursuits and distractions. But it was not too late. She would now teach me.
My Soul then spoke of the gifts that had been intended for my life. That 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 to me the lessons intended, and the gifts that 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 really 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. It was during this time that 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 an immature one, as I had not yet been given my unique gifts of purpose to share with the world. Though magical, this time was actually 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 on 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 then led me through my school years, which were 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 did have much enjoyment 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 there was always something just beyond my grasp that would make me feel complete. However, I could never seem 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 had quickly learned which behaviors and traits appeared attractive and which were shunned. Being true to my Soul was not my highest priority and it was becoming less so with each passing year.
Then my Soul stated that, in adolescence, the security instinct, turned financial, 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, which would heal not only my financial concerns, but my self-esteem issues as well. 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 also became a major achiever. I now see that I was simply chasing external things in an attempt to alleviate my dis-ease. I was transferring nearly all of my attention onto to the outer world, and this was costly. It was like there was a deepening hole inside of me that 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 in to society’s recipe for happiness which seemed based on material goods, romantic relationships and external pursuits. Without a true connection to Soul, my life necessarily 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 the business world and fulfillment would certainly follow. The chase was on and I was intoxicated with the pursuit. Of course, my Soul knew that I could find be 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 that with a change of scene, far from home, things would be different. 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. There was nothing but hunger and emptiness waiting for 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 in order to avoid looking into the abyss of separation. Eventually I turned to psychiatric medications to do the same. 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 for me. I was feeling increasingly unique, the rallying cry of the ego, and there literally 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 this 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. My soul then offered me a chance to come home. A fresh canvass, and I had 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 half-way 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 of a brighter future. It was also during these months that I 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 had re-introduced Herself to me and gave me a tour 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 to endure many trials along the way. Was I willing to pay the price?
For a time, I was, though I found that 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 Soul outshined those of the world. I trudged along nevertheless and was introduced to the healing, transformative power of Her ways. I could see glimpses of the deeper truths at work as well as an underlying intelligence supporting it all.
It was also during this time that spontaneous bursts of poetry would emerge as if already written and waiting for me. In fact, it was more like listening than writing. This was very strange for me 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 was flowing naturally and effortlessly.
I also resumed my childhood interest in photography during this time and would stumble upon incredible scenes in nature, 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 was becoming 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 truly flow through me, it had to do so unhindered. She had great creative plans for me but only if She was freed from the ego’s control.
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 expected road of bliss was getting bumpy. Very bumpy.
In the subsequent months and years, I tried to stay close to Her, but eventually, the intensity of the trials seemed unfair, 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 now was being asked to revisit these depths. Here I had balked. I felt that there must be another, less costly way.
It was during these trials that I also began to experience symptoms of agoraphobia again. I was terrified. This didn’t seem like it was part of the spiritual plan. What I was unable to see is that my Soul had been trying to free me all along; that my neurosis had actually come from trying to hold up the defensive walls. I just couldn’t sense Her healing hands at work here. Instead, it seemed that I was being asked to trust in the hidden powers of the Soul when science and medications seemed so secure. In the end, I again chose what appeared to be the easier way. I would medicate. Of course my Soul knew that it would cost me either way.
As we journeyed on together in this retrospective, there was sadness in Her voice as we discussed the ensuing journey back in the empty kingdom. With medication providing a false support, I resumed my quest in the business world and also moved to Chicago. Five years after my catastrophic bottom, the external chase was on once again. I had turned my back on my Soul.
Within two years of arriving in the corporate world, I had founded a fraud prevention company, which I named Verifraud. Three years later, Verifraud became part of a Fortune 500+ firm and I was in charge of 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. It seems that I could never hear the call of the Soul for what it truly was.
Soon, the weariness of mind was joined by 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 grew progressively worse 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. By 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 hunger of the ego simply cannot be satisfied.
With each passing year, the success was overshadowed by the disease and I was hospitalized many times. The condition eventually become life threatening. I had lost the fight with colitis and I had my large intestine removed at the Mayo Clinic in AZ. It was truly a dark time though just a hint of what was too 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, a physical as well as an emotional one. 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 finally have my full attention again 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. With my health somehow fully restored and the diseases going into remission, I was given another chance. 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. Alchemy of the Soul.
She promised that, if I persisted on this journey, I would find undreamed of rewards. I could experience peace, joy, and creative purpose beyond my wildest dreams. These fruits of Soul would indeed surpass all understanding. She said that 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 90’s, 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 and yet I had wandered and become 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 that were available to me such as prayer, meditation, journaling, artistic expression, and, especially, service to others. These were powerful tools of awakening 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 seven years since I came back 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 served to strengthen and cleanse me so that the Soul can flow more freely. Through these Dark Nights, I am led to deeper states of surrender and a fuller trust.
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 has been difficult, it has been worth the price as the gates of the Soul have opened onto a land that is absolutely breathtaking. 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.
On the harrowing journey, I have relied heavily on the wisdom that my Soul shared with me through Her ‘Postcards.’ In a sense, these words and images became my trail guide. I now offer them to you. May you find your way home and may you share the beauty of your story with others.