By Eric Hellman
Eric Hellman is a communications coach, spirituality consultant and author of Coming Out of the Spiritual Closet. More at www.erichellman.com
Some people may find it easy to talk about God, religion or spirituality. But I’m not one of them.
That’s one of the reasons I held the ‘sharing spiritual experiences’ evening I described in my last blog ‘article.’ I did it to help others share their experiences, because I’ve been so challenged with expressing my own.
In the early 1980s, I began intensively exploring my spirituality – prompted by the need to heal a deeply troubled marriage. In the process, it changed my life. No, not changed; transformed. It helped me see my wife with more love and compassion. It changed how I worked with others, with less conflict and more cooperation. And it transformed how I saw the world, my purpose, and how I can personally effect change. You might say it took “we can make a difference” – the ‘slogan’ of that first Blue Box program – to an entirely different level.
At the time, my work was about bringing new environmental ideas into the mainstream; so I deeply wanted to share these spiritual perspectives as well. However when I did, people around me couldn’t relate. They rejected my ideas – and I took it very personally. So much so that I made a decision: to continue following the God of my understanding as much as possible; but not to talk about it publicly, to avoid further rejection. And I continued that for over 20 years – until I could hold it back no longer.
Let Me Count the Reasons...
For those of us challenged with talking about “spirit,” we all have our reasons. Perhaps yours might be:
1) It’s not acceptable in our secular, scientific world.
2) People might label us as “religious,” and therefore put us down or discount what we say.
3) Our beliefs may be very different from ‘the norm,’ and we’re afraid people won’t accept us.
3) Others may think we’re crazy if we share our unusual experiences.
5) We’ve been told not to talk about our feelings, experiences or beliefs.
And it goes deeper. For many people, just the idea of “God” or religion – whatever those words mean to us – touches some of our deepest beliefs and fears. Some of us also have unconscious memories of abuse or violence from previous generations, even lifetimes. So for all these reasons, rather than risk standing out, being judged, rejected or hurt, we protect ourselves by holding back our truths.
The paradox is, spirituality also goes to our ‘core’ in a positive way. When thought of as “the essence of who we are,” it’s part of the mystery and wonder of the universe, and what it means to be human. It connects us to a wisdom greater than our own, and provides new options for personal and societal transformation. It opens us to the “deep love” that lies at the centre of our being, and even leads to better relationships! When looked at this way, how can we NOT go there? And yet, a part of us still resists it.
Preaching to the Converted?
Some might say that writing this on a blog called Spiritually Speaking is “preaching to the choir” or the converted. And you know what? It probably is. But there’s something else I’ve learned over 30 years: The choir needs it.
Sometimes, spiritual work can be difficult or isolating. It confronts us with things we’d rather not see. So we need support. Encouragement. Places to share our ideas and experiences. And opportunities to explore how we can apply it practically in daily living – whether it’s finding peace, healing our relationships, making work more fulfilling, or contributing solutions to the world’s problems.
Through environmental work – which I deeply loved – I discovered that simply trying to change the “outer world” isn’t sufficient. We must also work with what lies within us, because this is where the roots of our problems lie. And to do that, we need to ‘come out’ and talk about our experiences with others.
That doesn’t mean it’s easy. Sharing what’s going on inside, facing (and healing) our inner conflicts, changing our deepest beliefs of how life works, or talking about things that others may frown on is challenging. I spent many years resisting this. But what I’ve finally realized is that it is freeing for me – to speak more openly and honestly, listen more deeply to others, and to be more fully myself.
In doing so, I also believe – from a spiritual/consciousness perspective – that this helps to free others as well. And for that I am deeply grateful.
It feels good to be out of the closet...