If you had bumped into me seventeen years ago you would have met a deeply depressed person. I was sick and tired of existing and I wanted off this rock. My level of despair was paralyzing. So what to do when you feel washed up at twenty-four? For me the answer was…a hypnotherapy class?
I remember walking into the classroom (a remodeled second story room over the garage) and wondering why in the hell I was bothering. My PTSD was so bad at this point that my anxiety came over me in waives, crushing me with panic attacks so severe that I often felt as if I was dying moment by moment.
Hypnotherapy class was…different. I met neat people, I learned about meditation, trance work and how easily humans are led through the power of suggestion. (We are predictably irrational creatures) I also learned what manipulation looked like and how to identify it instantly. I heard other stories of suffering and felt my heart open little by little to the reality that suffering is universal.
Until then I’d believed that the people I’d met throughout my life were all living “normal,” “productive” lives. I’d honestly thought that “normal” was the universal experience. I had bought into the assertion that I was not a “normal” girl because life felt scary 24/7 and that made me a freak. I believed I was the “late bloomer”, the “overly sensitive homebody” who would never “get a life.” I believed what I’d been told and my belief in my total “failure to thrive” only seemed to confirm my future as an insane bag-lady and underpass occupant. Confused, sad, and desperate, I went to our teacher and requested a private therapy session.
At the beginning of the session I prepared myself for a hoax, a well woven fraud. Even though I’d paid for the class and the session, I still did not believe in all this hypnotherapy crap. I wanted to desperately, but I was too jaded for hope, too angry and rebellious for faith.
The trance part was easy. Count down from 25, (I could do that). Imagine yourself in a garden (easily done). Now ask your spirit guide for guidance, (Hellooo…?) No one came. I stood in my idyllic garden, adrift in a silence where no one answered my call.
“So what’s coming up for you?” My teacher asked as I lay there looking over fields of poppies and tulips.
“I’m alone,” I whispered dolefully, “utterly…alone.”
“What message is your body sending you?”
“Pain,” I said, “the usual heavy cold pain.”
“Go into it,” she said.
In the next half hour, I wandered through every dark memory, every lonely moment of my life, every section of violence, stupidity and pain I’d ever experienced until I was so drained I couldn’t feel anxious, fearful, or depressed. I felt empty, abandoned and for the first time in my life I felt enraged by the injustice of existence.
“Now stand in your garden and ask for guidance,” my teacher said. I stood among my flowers, glared at the soft sunlight and asked, “Why all this suffering? Why all the pain? Why can’t we all be happy?”
Light comes in many levels of brightness. The light that answered me that day was warm, it was loving, it was everywhere all at once. It offered peace and (for me… maybe not for you) it took the shape of Jesus.
I was raised a sort of Christian. As a baby I was christened in the Mormon temple, as a girl I went to Unity with my parents and as a teenager I went to every church I could, sampling religion like chocolates from a box. At eighteen I was a Buddhist, at twenty an agnostic, at twenty-four I was lost.
Nothing prepared me for the presence of the one man I had never wholly given credence too. Nothing prepared me for the love and comfort he offered or the words he spoke, “What you see as suffering, is in fact a lesson. There is only love.” I felt my rage melt away. I thought of the suffering of Job and understood, really understood how God never left him, how he never left me, and how he is here for all of us. I understood that we are here to reach for the light even when we are surrounded by darkness. I understood that God is our mustard seed; even when we think his love has slipped through our fingers, it’s still there holding us close.
I’m not going to thump you with a bible. I don’t believe I’m right and you’re wrong. I believe in unconditional love, in compassion, in answered prayers no matter what language they are spoken in or to which God they are uttered. I have learned to welcome this world of experience. I accept my own life lessons knowing that some lessons come as soft as angel wings while others cut our throats while refusing to let us die.
So be brave in existence. Be true to your soul’s purpose. Savor your life. Be quick to find the lesson within the experience. No matter the pain you may be in or how dramatically violent the world around you seems, in the end we are all learning, we are seeking to understand the lesson in the experience, and we are all cradled in loving hands which will never let us fall. We are all the children of a loving creator who is as eager to expand our souls through experience as he is to welcome us home when the lesson comes to a close.