When I first began blogging on change and transformation, I didn’t know I’d eventually be writing and processing the issue of Faith. Growing up, my connection to God was disjointed and confusing: I was brought up in a home where both Roman Catholicism and Taoism was practiced. By the time I approached adulthood, I thought myself an agnostic, my actions based on complete self-determination.

And so, I am often surprised during my own process of change and transformation that Faith keeps coming up. Perhaps for many who are faithful, in whatever religious classification, that Faith would be a crucial element is obvious. For how else do you walk into the unknown, without an ounce of Faith?

But I’m not quite ready to give in to blind Faith either. Where is that in-between? To approach this question, let me tell you how I met my Faith about five years ago…

Since my early thirties, I’ve struggled with big existential questions like, “what’s the meaning of life?” “What’s my calling and purpose?” and “what does the afterlife look like?” Looking back, I now realize that working in challenging contexts in Africa and Asia since my early twenties meant that I encountered almost too much suffering for someone who had not regularly leaned in on Faith. I was without the means to process the existential questions that came to mind.

In came a dear friend (a holistic medical doctor by profession) who saw my need for emotional healing and recommended me an unconventional treatment: psilocybin mushrooms.* A note for the uninformed: magic mushrooms is a psychedelic drug or hallucinogen which often creates a spiritual experience for the user. Through my trips, I gained insight into answering those existential questions. The one insight I share with you here resonates with me most in terms of Faith in the unknown. And yes, this insight came in the words of God him/herself.

God’s message for me was that this is the only life where we get to be completely autonomous and have independent thought. In other words: we can be who we want to be, but we only get this lifetime to do so.

Simple right? But the flip side, is that we don’t get to know everything. Read together: having independent thought means we cannot truly know the things that do not depend on our autonomous selves, outside our autonomous minds.

After that message was revealed to me, I became disillusioned with the idea that I was not actually going to gain answers to the questions that led me down this spiritual questing. Over time, however, I came to realize that while I did not gain knowledge, I did gain insight.

I emphasize this idea of insight, because having gone down many paths of change and transformation, I now understand that insight is all I ever get. It is the key to my process of becoming my true self. Faith, by definition, is having trust in the unknown, and holds the other piece of the puzzle. Understood together, if the thing we’re transforming into is a mystery, then hold onto that bit of insight, and lean hard into Faith. The rest, is your genius and hard work.

Before I wrap up, let’s visit this idea of self-determination.

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“The Na’vi say that every person is born twice. The second time is when you earn your place among the people… forever.” – Jake Sully, Avatar, the movie.

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In the movie Avatar, Jake Sully (played by Sam Worthington) uttered those words above as he was coming out from his initiation rite into the Na’vi tribe. There’s 8 minutes of deleted scene of his initiation rite, “The Dreamhunt”, viewable in Avatar’s Extended Collector’s Edition. In this deleted scene Jake eats a worm with psychoactive alkaloid and is subjected to a scorpion venomous sting, in order to gain a vision (as explained by Sigourney Weaver’s character, Dr. Grace Augustine.) During Jake’s psychedelic trip, he sees and connects with Toruk, his spirit animal. Without going into too much detail, the Toruk is important in the story to Jake leading the Na’vi tribe into victory against the “sky people.”

By deleting this vision quest scene from the final finished film, Jake’s employing Toruk is presented instead as an act of self-determination. “Sometimes your whole life boils down to one insane move,” says Jake, as he seeks out Toruk.

Similar to the way Jake Sully’s heroic story was finalized, how often do we consciously or subconsciously edit out Faith, and only leave in “self-determination” as we process our own story of becoming? Our Hero’s Journey to our truth?

While we’re not here to know the unknowable, we ought not edit out the other forces at play either. There is mystery in this world, as well as meaning of life and purpose. There are also ideas buried in our dreams and imagination waiting to be discovered. Those things that rely on an ounce of Faith to take on.

 

*Disclaimer: all opinions expressed here are my own and are a result of the way in which my somewhat dysfunctional mind interprets a particular situation and or concept. Should you decide to act upon or reuse any information provided by me, you are doing so at your own responsibility.

 

 

We live much of our lives not realizing that our inner self has healing work that needs our attention. In my last post, I listed ways to accessing healing. In this post, I want to get a bit deeper into what I think a process of healing looks like, illustrated in more or less chronological order:

1. Inciting incident. True story: I got really angry at an ex-boyfriend once (okay, maybe more than once), because he called me “lazy.” Why? Growing up, my mother used name calling to shame me and my siblings into submission. One of the names she called me was lazy. Or that time when I broke down because my doctor called me with a report on some negative result. And sure enough, there was an emotional wound attached to this physical ailment.

Or maybe your inciting incident comes as a dream, an unfortunate event such as divorce or getting fired at work, etc. Whatever its form, inciting incidents are invaluable because it is one way that the universe sends you a reminder that you’ve strayed off course from living and being your true authentic self. So next time you stumble upon an inciting incident, rather than getting angry or running from it, try embracing it (or parts of it.) Because it will lead to…

2. Insight. Following the inciting incident comes insight. To be clear though, insight comes with staying open and listening to your true authentic self. Otherwise, it’s just gut reaction. And gut reactions are useful when you need to react quickly to a swerving car in front of your’s on the highway, but no good, when it comes to healing an emotional wound. Put another way, gut reactions to an inciting incident often manifest itself in the form of anger or fear.

Instead, if your mind can stay quiet and really listen, insight will come. For me, I had a recent insight where I realized the totality of the universe and where my place was within it. I also realized that I was on the course of my true calling in life. Now, not everyone will have the same insight: but your insight will be equally profound. One where you come into awareness of whatever the universe wants you to know in that moment.

3. Inward journey. It should be clear that everyone’s inward journey is going to be a bit different, depending on the insight they just gained. My favorite way to relating to this part of the healing process is to borrow Joseph Campbell’s template of the Hero’s Journey, as described in The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

Readers, don’t skim on this part of the healing process! If you must, throw all your eggs into this basket. Because this is the part where you will learn new skills, gain new experiences. By devoting your time and energy to your inward journey, you might have a shot at becoming the person that you were suppose to be, or wish to become.

And as such – embarking on your inward journey will feel right and true. Yes there will be moments where you will fall or fail. But for the most part, if you’re doing it right, it will feel like the best ride of your life. In fact, it can feel like you are creating your own life from scratch. Sounds amazing, right?

Now if you’re completely lost as to where to begin, read my last post, Accessing Healing Part 1, where you can get some ideas on how to kick start your inward journey. Some advice: be kind to yourself, never judge yourself or your pace, and stay open to whatever possibilities that might shore up.

4. Teachers and guides 2.0. It dawned on me in recent weeks that most of us traverse the bulk of our adult lives with no teachers, guides, or mentors at our side. Where did they go after we completed high school or college? As part of your inward journey, you will hopefully meet teachers, guides, and mentors that will help you along your way. But they will be masked by some other profession or identity – because our society tells us that we’re done with learning after formal schooling.

Personally, I work with a coach, a reiki teacher, and an acupuncturist and consider them my teachers and guides. I have a professor from college that I keep in touch with that I consider my lifelong teacher. And I connect with the Dalai Lama’s work at a spiritual and soulful level.

I also have a friend who, when asked about her teachers, responded that her best teacher has been herself. Whatever works for you. Just remember that only a fraction of what there is to know is within our immediate reach, and someone (or your intuition) has another layer of information we still want to have access to.

5. Learning. After you’ve completed your inward journey, you’ve now learned a bit more about your true self, what you are capable of, and who you are capable of becoming. The new skills we’ve gained now requires practice. Constant practice. I find this to be the most frustrating part. In the end, my mother was right: I am lazy. Well, sort of – the wound ran deep because therein lies a truth! But it is not the only truth.

No matter who you are (or how hardworking you are,) this part is difficult because it is unnatural to our decades-old self. But for those of us who has a tremendous amount of patience, persistence, and/or perseverance, this stage will feel easier and more natural. Either way, the next and what I consider as the final stage of the healing process will forever impress upon you as the person you were meant to become…

6. Re-scripting. We’ve got muscle memory, and/or an inner script that’s outdated, and therefore false, to replace. In fact, you were probably never really the person that you thought you were – it was just a script, a narrative, that you or others told of you. But guess what? That old you, whether s/he was real, is still in the background, waiting for the perfect opportunity to make a comeback.

Re-scripting is therefore crucial to cementing your new identity. Re-scripting is the culmination of insight, learning and practice of becoming the new you. Re-scripting means replacing your old identity, roles and behavior with new ones, and telling yourself who you’ve now become and who you’re now made of. Whether because you’ve now become a great daughter, singer, writer: you now get to say it, own it, and be it. Re-script creatively – you might even stumble upon another insight for another inward journey.

There’s a reason why they call it the art of healing… There’s an art to it, and art takes process. Art is also creative, and creation takes time. Be gentle and kind to yourself as you embark on your healing process. Give yourself time to master your own healing process! What’s more: once you’ve mastered this art, you’ve now become its next great teacher.