My journey to owning my spiritual path
How I got off the fence, despite my doubt and fear
“Sovereignty is self-possession. It is the belonging to oneself that happens internally as we claim our being and commit to our unique life journey.”
- Alana Fairchild, White Light Oracle Cards (Card 40)
The day after I published my last newsletter, I woke up disoriented and grumpy. I figured it must be my good friend, the vulnerability hangover. But it didn’t quite feel like that. As the day wore on and I sorted through my feelings, I realized, Oh. That was an initiation. That post was a public commitment to walking the path of a mystic. And taking that big of a step in public was making my nervous system freak out.
I had made this private commitment a few months ago, but I had no idea it would lead to this. But I never know how one thing will lead to the next—that seems to be part of my path. It requires walking in faith, one step at a time, on a path I can only see a few steps ahead.
And sometimes, I don’t understand the significance of what I just did until I reflect on it later, or notice how my nervous system responds to it. It’s kind of like noticing you just bumped into something because a bruise appears—not terribly efficient, and I think it may be a neurodivergent lacking-self-awareness issue. But it did train me to be very good at discerning clues and putting the pieces together, which is actually pretty useful on the spiritual path.
I learn by going where I have to go.
One of my favorite poems by Theodore Roethke starts:
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.
I read it in high school, and even then felt a deep resonance to the concept of being led by something beyond my understanding, but which nevertheless compels me to follow.
It is an audacious notion to put forth in this age of science and willful determination that one’s existence is somehow inspired, guided, and even managed by unseen forces outside our control. Whether called fate, destiny, or the hand of God, slender threads are at work bringing coherence and continuity to our lives. Over time they weave a remarkable tapestry.
Robert Johnson, Balancing Heaven and Earth
When I read these words, they call to me, like the sea calls to Moana. There is nothing more meaningful to me than to follow that inner feeling—when I can discern where it’s leading—and when I have the confidence to follow it.
But—I don’t always feel that confidence.
When I can’t discern where to go, I work on myself. I am not a personal growth junkie out of a desire for self-improvement. I’m doing it because if I remove all the cruft that got loaded on from family dysfunction and social conditioning, then what is left is my authentic self, who is connected to what I’m here to do. Healing is a way to be able to sense my true path clearly and give my full self to it. I’m trying to honor my calling by working on my ability to honor it.
In spiritual language, quieting the ego lets you hear the whisper of the soul.
Every time I heal a trauma, unravel a pattern, undo a belief, or reclaim an aspect of my authentic self, it feels like magic. It feels like I’m accessing some underlying truth of the Universe. Healing feels sacred. It feels like restoring something to what it always should have been.
I’m not trying to become “well-adjusted”, whatever that means. I’m trying to follow my destiny, even though I have no idea what shape it will ultimately take. I’m always trying to honor what feels most deeply true inside me.
My family infused me with doubt.
I have mostly kept my spirituality to myself, because I have always been plagued with doubts about it. My dad was a committed atheist. He was very sure that the Universe was a cold, dead place, that humans do not have souls, and that believing in God was for the weak, who could not handle the fact that life was meaningless. He also thought Earth would be better off if humans went extinct.
When we are children, we have to align to our parents beliefs. It’s a psychological imperative—a developmental Stockholm Syndrome, if you will. We don’t have a choice. And I remember the day he told me his beliefs, because it created a split deep inside me. To align with my only (relatively) safe caretaker, I had to disown what I already felt to be true. I had to push my inherent awareness of our interconnectedness, of the aliveness of Everything, into my shadow. I had to reject my own calling and purpose. I had to agree that God was dead and we were all better off being able to face the cold, hard truth that our existence is a fluke, and when you die, you cease to exist.
This set up an inner conflict that has haunted me ever since. When I got to college, I found lots of people who didn’t think like my dad—I took classes on mysticism and Wicca, I did rituals, I tried out church (that was hella boring), I explored as much as I wanted—but inside, I was plagued with doubts. I would have spiritual experiences, and then wonder if I was deluding myself.
I could still feel what was true—but I could no longer trust those feelings.
I followed my path anyway, as best I could, but not consistently, not publicly, and always accompanied by a lot of ambivalence.
Meanwhile, I needed to work through various mental health challenges and dysfunctional relationship patterns, so there was plenty of healing to do. Spirituality became something I perpetually put on the side burner—I knew it was important to me, but I didn’t know what to do with it.
It is through healing work that I developed my faith.
I never felt conflicted about healing. Healing always felt like an expression of my spirituality that I could wholeheartedly believe in. So my wiring for devotion got channeled into a commitment to my own healing. (Unfortunately it also got channelled into self-sacrifice in relationships—apparently if you really need to be devoted to something, it’s important to be extremely discerning about where you direct that energy.)
After going through the healing process over and over and over, I eventually learned to trust that if I threw myself at a pattern, with willingness for it to be transformed, I would find my way through it eventually. It might take longer than I wanted, but I would always find a way to unravel it. And on the other side, I would get a little piece of my true self back, and it would feel like magic.
But eventually, I had healed enough that I could no longer live with this inner split between me and my spiritual truth.
I had to find a way to be OK leaving my inherited belief system behind. Which didn’t just consist of “God is dead”, but also gems like, “Suffering is noble”, “Humans are terrible,” and “Cynicism is the correct position.” (I spent the last 10 years getting a close-up view of the latter ones mirrored back at me, and I’m really ready to be done with them too.)
So a few months ago, I decided it was finally time to get off the fence. I couldn’t just maintain the plausible deniability of “Well, who knows if any of this is true, it just works for me and I like it, that’s all. Could all be made up. <shrug>”.
I know from experience that commitment unleashes magic.
Since we are doing quotes today, here is one of my favorites, and the foundation of my relationship to growth and healing:
Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.
All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe's couplets: “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.”
― William Hutchison Murray
In fewer words: fortune favors the bold. This principle has always held true for me in healing work—there is magic in jumping in with a willing heart and committing to seeing the process through. I’ve experienced it over and over so many times that I have unshakable faith in it.
But I wanted to have that same level of faith in the unseen world. But for magic to happen, I had to commit. Which meant I had to slay my inner dragons of doubt—the sneering, smug atheists of the world, who think all psychics are charlatans, and anyone who believes in woo-woo stuff must be gullible and stupid. And if there is one part of my ego that I am really attached to, it’s being seen as smart.
But…fuck it. This is my life, and I don’t get to live it twice. I can live the life someone else thinks is respectable, or I can live the life that I know in my heart is right for me. And while it would be nice if those were the same thing, they simply aren’t. And there is just a limit to how far I can go on my path if I never commit to it.
So despite my fear and doubt, I decided to commit.
What is the difference between half-assing spirituality and committing to it?
For me, it’s that the world starts to feel unreal.
When I accept astrology and Tarot and intuition and talking to my guides as the ground reality of my life, rather than extra weird things I do sometimes, my life takes on a dreamlike, watery quality. I feel like I'm floating, surrendering to a current that is carrying me. My environment comes alive—I'm listening moment to moment for cues that show me where I am to go next. I am dancing with an unseen partner.
I notice synchronicities I would have missed or dismissed before. There is a tapestry of symbolism and meaning woven within everything. As I’m walking, a crow calling out affirms my last train of thought. My dentist appointment becomes a ritual to extract a lingering piece of my childhood in the form of a baby tooth that finally has to go. The fantasy novel I’m reading reflects my inner process. Everything becomes a mirror of everything else.
I've dropped into this place before, but I have always pulled myself out and rejected it. I didn't trust it. Not just because of my upbringing—I also struggle with limerence and fantasy, i.e. delusion. There is a fine line between sensitivity and imagination, between vision and delusion. My most readily available coping mechanism as a child was to escape into a dreamworld. It has taken me many years of trial and error and losing and finding myself again to begin to discern the difference between an intuitively felt truth and an emotionally attractive fantasy.
I've come to accept that there is no hard and fast line there, and delusion is just a risk I will have to accept to swim in the waters that call to the deepest parts of me. I can no longer ignore what I need to explore; I have to accept the danger and learn how to navigate it.
There is risk in committing to this path, and there is opportunity cost to not committing to it. There is no risk-free choice. But I would rather live a life where my decisions rest on trust and faith than one governed by doubt and fear. I am not choosing an end result or goal, because I don’t know where my path leads. What I’m choosing is how I want to live.
This feels like the end of one journey, and the start of another, and I still have no idea where I’m going.
But I trust that I’m being led, and that I don’t have to know. And I finally feel like I can just be who I am, and it doesn’t really matter what other people think. They get to live their life in the way that works for them, and I get to live my life in the way that works for me. Nobody is burning witches anymore, and if people think I’m weird—well, they were probably already going to think that given all the other things that make me weird. And in the end, it’s nobody else’s business how I live my life.
Thanks for reading. This is really a huge milestone in my life and I appreciate you witnessing it with me. 💚