I invite you to imagine this situation: you heard of a country where people believe the grass is purple, chickens are sacred animals and are convinced that polygamy is the sanest way to live. If you decide overnight to immerse yourself in their culture and see the world through their eyes, take one minute to imagine the internal process you will need to go through to get there. You will need to deconstruct your own concepts and swipe out your canvas as much as possible, to paint a new world with new thoughts. Believe me, this road is not easy, because our “tapes” are well installed inside of us. This is a gross understanding and you might think it’s exaggerated. But it’s a bit what I had to go through to venture outside the christian world. After 11 years in the church, I can say that I didn’t expect to have such a “cultural shock” for trying to explore the “normal world”. Let me share with you this part of my life’s path into 3 steps. You will understand a bit more (I hope so!) what I mean by “deconstructing my thoughts”. Those steps come and go, back and forth, overlap and entangle…to this today!
A friend once told me: “Melanie, your heart is like a trash can. You placed the teachings, beliefs and values transmitted by your parents, friends, church and teachers…And now it’s time to empty and clean it to transform it into a precious vase where you can place your own pearls.” In the moment, I didn’t truly understand what he meant. I found the image was strong, but I didn’t grasp the scope it could have on my life. Becoming aware, to me, was done gradually, through exchanges and situations when, for example, I realized I had automatic answers and I started to investigate where they came from:
“I am with friends and we are talking about life after death. They ask me what I believe about this topic. I answer that the christian answer would be that there is a paradise blah blah blah…but for the first time I allow myself to wonder what I truly believe. I don’t know anymore.” (excerpt from my journal)
“I am at a medium channeling conference with my partner. I sit down, a bit anxious. I don’t know what to expect. Following the agenda, a man starts speaking, welcomes us and explains how the night will go. Then, a medium enters in a trance in front of us. Her voice changes, she moves like a robot. I am submerged by fear, I feel like backing out; I am sitting way too close! Inside me, I hear shouts warning me about demons, that what I am seeing is orchestrated by Satan. I become aware of my thoughts and I let myself question them. And what if I chose to experience this conference without judgment, just as an observer? Then, maybe I can say if it was good or bad. Or maybe not.” (excerpt from my journal)
Often, I catch myself in the middle of a moment or a thought, I take a step back and observe what manifests, what’s ready to express itself mechanically and I allow myself to stop and reconsider.
Since I want to allow myself to explore what is flourishing inside me, what is mine and what feels right to me, for the first time, I read books written by non-christians, I make friends with non-christians, I take part in various spiritual events. Through these actions, I meet people and exchange with them. Beyond simply “doing things”, I open my mind. In fact, I force an opening even when I feel discomfort, fear, or a major confrontation with my beliefs. I listen to people’s views of the world, read books they recommend, listen to videos. I hit walls inside me, I freeze, I back up. Sometimes I don’t feel ready to keep moving forward. In those moments, I respect my need for time, and when the time comes, I dive back in and I face my ideas or ways of thinking that propel me outside my comfort zone. I try to observe them with neutral eyes – even if it’s truly impossible to do – and to push aside all anchored judgment and belief.
“I am sitting at a popular bar in Rimouski with friends I met recently. We share our stories. They see a lot of culpability in me and ask me questions about it. What makes me experience that? I answer that I left my husband, I left church, and I fell in love with another man. I tell them that since that shift in my life, people have opened up to me and shared their deepest secrets, and how a friend admitted she is in a relationship with a married man. I accentuate the word “married”, because to me (like to her) this revelation is serious and terribly shameful, one of the worst things a woman can do… By sharing those snippets of my life, I feel like I am showing them how sinful and unworthy I am, how this culpability is justified. Their reaction surprises me: they laugh, tell me seeing a married man, as my friend is, is nothing, that leaving a husband, as I did, is frequent, that in those stories there is nothing tragic. I don’t understand. To me, relationships, marriage and sex are sacred. They suggest some books and videos to watch online (not pornographic!). Wanting to take my reflection further and see if they are right, I get some of the books they suggested. Slowly, what was dramatic softens.” (excerpt from my journal)
That’s what it means to me, to voluntarily emancipate my thoughts and beliefs: daring to watch how it works elsewhere and seriously consider it. It’s deciding to no longer make room for heavy or condemning thoughts that make me believe in demons, judgments, exclusions. It’s slowly emptying my “trash can” to clean it and turn it into a vase.
Exploring freely is to visit unknown spaces without judging my steps. It’s reading books, assisting in conferences, having discussions or participating in retreats belonging to a completely different world from mine. It’s dipping my feet in unknown waters and feeling its effect on me; it’s participating at Vipassana, a bouddhist retreat, it’s trying the voice of native symbolism suggested by a friend, it’s doing an internship at an orthodox center. In those moments of exploration, I become more aware, which invites me to emancipate myself, then explore even further…and everything starts over again and again.
All that to share with you a bit more on what has been going on inside me for the past years. Changing vision takes time. It’s painful, sometimes too. I had to open my arms and let go of some views and beliefs I had for a long time, that were completely guiding my life. It didn’t mean I had to abandon them forever, but at least for a moment, take the opportunity to step back, empty my “trash can” and evaluate what I want to place back in my heart after this big cleanse.
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