In 1981, I was working in the environmental field, helping to grow residential waste recycling in Canada. Deeply passionate about my work, as both a consultant and the director of a non-profit organization, I truly loved what I did. As I used to say it, “I would go anywhere, anytime, to talk about recycling.”
Yet as much as I loved my work, I was also in deep conflict – in my personal life and a young marriage; and in my professional life with all the conflicts many environmentalists experience – with business, government, the state of the world, and each other. And I deeply needed help.
This ‘call for help’ within led me into counselling, therapy and personal growth work. But the only thing that truly helped was a spiritual text I came across called A Course in Miracles. Deeply, deeply resistant to anything religious or spiritual, I found the book very hard to read. Yet each time I did so, I felt a sense of grace and peace inside that I could not explain. And thus began my spiritual journey.
A New, Spiritual Worldview
Studying the Course not only helped me deal with the conflicts in my life. It gave me insights/practices to see and heal the conflicts within myself. And it opened me up to a spiritual or consciousness view of the world. As someone trained in science, this was very different from what I had been educated to believe. Yet it made sense to me on a deeper level.
As I began applying this wisdom, my life and experiences changed. I felt better. I got along better with others. Listening to my intuition also led me to take new actions, that actually worked. And I became eager to share my experiences and insights with others. However, when I did, people were not receptive. They could not go there with me. I tried desperately to find words and concepts that could bridge the gap between us, but could not.
Before this, I had been a communicator in my field. I would speak to groups, or on radio and TV, bringing recycling and a love/appreciation for nature into my world. But now, no one wanted to listen. I experienced a deep sense of isolation and rejection, no longer being able to connect with people and share what mattered to me. So I withdrew... I ran... and vowed never to share these ideas publicly again.
Something I could not hold back
I kept that promise for close to 20 years, until I could do so no longer. Starved for connection and expression, I began typing on my computer one night the words I had wanted to say for so many years. Out of this came a small book, called “Coming out of the Spiritual Closet.” And that opened the door – to talking more openly about spirituality, and to begin healing my deep fears about doing so. For whatever reason, expressing this subject terrifies me, so it has been a long and arduous path.
Two and a half years ago, I experienced the deaths of three people close to me. This opened another door, to deal with the loss and grief that had been constant companions throughout my life. And it also brought an added gift. After six months of deep healing, I had an "aha" one morning: an epiphany about why I had taken the spiritual path; and how I could begin to communicate my spiritual worldview to others who did not speak about or see the world this way.
Soon after, I began assisting two neighbours: a woman with the onset of dementia, and her husband, who was trying to care for her. Through sharing my spiritual insights (but without this language), I was able to help them both to cope, connect and share their love at an even deeper level than they had done before.
I also re-entered environmental circles and began sharing my new ideas. People were receptive, and asked for more. This led me, in December of last year, to begin writing about how we can create change (in our life/world) with less conflict and more effectiveness. And then to do a website for describing this new work, which I call “conscious change.”
This summer, as I was putting the finishing touches on my new site, I suddenly felt a sense of grace come over me. Inside, the words “I’ve finally done it” came up. And with them came a realization... that I had finally been able to say some of what I had tried to, so many years ago. I now had a bridge to connect my inner and outer worlds, and to communicate my spirituality in everyday language.
That day, I felt as though I had come to the end of a 35-year journey; the end of a very, very long, winding and difficult road. Yet at the same time, it was also a beginning. Having finally reconnected to my core work, purpose and voice, it marked the start of a new career – of sharing this work in the world.
How that will happen, I don’t as yet know. I have glimmerings and images (or “glimmages” as I call them) of how that may happen: coaching, talks, consulting and writing. But far more important than the future is the present: The sense of accomplishment this has given me. The solace and the peace I feel to have finally shared my truths. A divine sense of gratitude for finally being able to reach this point. And a knowing that I do not have to remain silent any longer.
So why do I share this?
First, to acknowledge my own journey; the struggles and the fulfillment. Second, to encourage anyone reading this – who may be questioning their own worth or value, or feel reluctant to talk about their spirituality with people around them.
I honour the challenge of your journey. I know the deep pain and sense of loss or disconnection that can come with it. And I also know that it is possible.
Stay with it. Heal more deeply. Raise to the light that which scares you. And take the next step out of your own closet.
I know you will find your way, too
Eric Hellman is a communications coach and change consultant, and Director of the Centre for Spirituality at Work. For more information, see his websites: http://www.consciouschange.info and http://www.erichellman.com
You can read more articles from our interfaith blog, The Spiritual View, HERE