I tend to continually compare my idealized inner picture of the world as I feel it should be with the reality I perceive around me. As a result, I am usually disappointed, because physical reality has its own rules and patterns that often do not square with my idealized inner picture. In an attempt to discover and understand these rules and patterns, I have spent most of my life exploring different philosophies, religions, and lifestyles, hoping to find one that would feel like home.
The Good Boy
As a child, I thought by being “good” according to my familial value-set, I would be rewarded with the love, safety, and belonging that I craved. When that didn’t work, I asked my Dad to send me to a psychiatrist, because I felt something was wrong with me, and if I just fixed it, everything would be smooth sailing from then on. That didn’t work, either.
My father died suddenly, and I had a psychological snapping experience: I converted to Fundamentalist Christianity. I found a community of Bible-believing Christians who were really trying to live their faith. I did my best to follow the rules, which entailed giving up sexuality, dressing conservatively, and accepting the doctrine that I was bad through and through, a sinner deserving of eternal punishment in Hell. I even went to Bible College at my pastor’s urging and with my family’s money. But in the end, I found that no matter how hard I tried, the Fundamentalist doctrinal system was not for me the doorway into the unconditional love I’d been craving. I would pray and pray and confess sinful thought after sinful thought, but I never felt the love of Christ we sang about in chapel.
After that, I got into looking for love big time. I lost weight and sought out other gay men. I figured as long as I stayed slim, placed enough personal ads, and had sexual encounters in which I put my partners’ sexual needs before my own, the Universe would reward me with a longterm lover. I did find a lover, Alex, and we were together for two years, working as psychics, before his sudden suicide put an end to our earthly relationship. But if truth be told, having a lover did not satisfy me either. Almost as soon as Alex and I had moved in together, I had started gaining weight again in an unconscious attempt to put a shell of protection around myself. Inside I was still convinced I was ugly, unloveable, weak, bad, and a failure at being a man. Furthermore, I had failed to save him, so I was a failure as a partner as well.
Opening To Channel
After my lover’s death, I tried to practice, and expand upon, the the spiritual system Alex had channeled. I began doing trancework myself, and gradually, as I got better at opening my heart and mind to spirit, I felt a measure of that peace I had been seeking as long as I stayed in trance. But you can’t stay in trance twenty-four hours a day and function in physical reality. When I wasn’t channeling, I still found myself miserable, lonely, and scared.
After bulking up to over 360 pounds, in 1998 I got into a Twelve Step program for compulsive overeaters. I followed that system’s rules and procedures, and worked the Twelve Steps, a series of introspective spiritual surrender exercises. Suddenly, I started for the first time sensing a Higher Power’s benign presence around me, and lost half my body weight in 2 years. So there I was, thin again, and guess what happened? Despite my spiritual progress in the program, I still felt ugly and unloveable inside. So I left my Twelve Step program, and, increasingly tormented by the fear that the Universe was just an unconscious meat machine with no Divine Love, no survival of consciousness after death of the body, and no inherent purpose, I started overeating again. I ended up regaining all but around 60 pounds of the weight I had lost.
Letting Love In
Last November, at 302 pounds, I finally gave up the idea that any single system of philosophy or psychiatry or theology or spirituality was going to save me from my internal pain. I realized, finally, on a deepest gut level, that I had been embracing systems in an attempt to gain some control over my life. So one day I threw up my hands and said to Divine Love, “I give up my illusion of control over my life and death. I open my heart to You fully. I realize that all the love and safety I had been seeking in a constantly and inexorably changing physical reality is only found in You. Please fill me with Yourself.” Then I went about my normal business.
But a few weeks later, something unexpected happened. While leading a group of clients in a Heart Chakra meditation, I suddenly had the first of a series of spiritual experiences that left me breathless with a genuine, transformative awareness that Divine Love is real—and not only real, but unconditional, for It is complete in Itself and needs nothing from me, only seeking my good. And the Love felt familiar—it felt like home. I thought, “How could I have forgotten You’ve been there with me all this time and I never noticed?” It was that real. Again, the high did not last for more than a few months. But in the course of it I started a love relationship with another gay man. When the Divine Love high wore off, all my incest trauma crap came rushing up, and I was forced by my escalating terror to terminate the romantic aspects of my relationship with him. I thought, “How could I have been so stupid as to think my so-called Divine Love experiences were real? The atheist materialists must be right. Spiritual experiences are just brain farts with no inherent meaning.”
Love and Flesh
It’s been several months since my breakup with my lover and my fresh cascade of self-disappointment. I’ve calmed down a bit, and have realized a few things. Just as I had tried for years to immerse myself in systems and communities so I would not feel ugly and lonely, I had been trying to stay in the high of my visions so I wouldn’t have to feel the pain that physical reality often triggers in me. I had become, in a sense, addicted to spiritual bliss. I was using spiritual bliss to numb my pain and keep me in a protective shell where nothing could touch me, exactly the way I had once used sugar. I was trying to use spiritual bliss to protect my heart chakra from pain.
I realize now that my visionary experience of Divine Love last fall was not a brain fart, or withdrawn because I am a sinner. I know that that Love still exists whether I feel it or not. And because It is Truth as well as Love, Love refuses to be used by me to close my heart to my own pain and the pain of others. Love knows that, ultimately, I am safe; and that, ultimately, I will learn to keep my heart open to It even when I feel lost and abandoned. And I do not have to learn in isolation. Divine Love is expressed not only in visions, but through people, animals, and Nature as well. Recognizing Divine Love in the world around me is now my stated goal, and my prayer.
How have you experienced Divine Love? I would like very much to hear your story. •