For myself I was raised without the “fear of god” put into me, and thusly came into spirituality (vs. religion) with ease. What an odd saying, “putting the fear of god” why would anyone want to fear god? Not having been raised with religion it was fairly easy to begin attending a gay and lesbian church (yes, Virginia there’s such a thing), right here in good old old San Francisco. For five years, nonetheless.
For the latter half of those five years I used my creative skills to assist in building what I call “non-denominational altars”. The church I attended is the least churchy place I’ve ever been, and a very diverse group of folks attend. In order to appeal to such a diverse group of people I had to make sure that there was beauty and “divinity” created in the altar but lacking the classic holy relics, that reminded many of them (and apologies to those who didn’t) of long boring childhood hours in a dull church feeling reprimanded, weren’t something they wanted to be reminded of. And then there’s that, you know, if you’re gay or lesbian, the little “going to hell” issue.
What I discovered was that plants, rocks, candles, and linens made for some amazing altars; all of which we’re greeted with appreciation and wonder. I didn’t take responsibility for the creative process, as it felt much to me like what writers say: they just take dictation, someone else is in charge.
Closing in on midlife I’d always flirted with Buddhism, meditated, loved nature, and needed some understanding of why I was here. What coaching provided for me was a place to ponder these questions, sing a lot, feel a sense of wonder, and discover a profound connection to “the divine” (not to be confused with John Waters actress Divine in Pink Flamingos), all without having to attach it to a specific deity. Then using those feelings to make profound changes to my life.
Besides the purpose of being of service to others through coaching, I can tell you that while the over-arching larger answers to “the meaning of life” aren’t discovered in a single session (I’ll get back to you on that), a connection to what inspires my clients does happen, over a series of months.
My journey from feeling broken and lost, to whole, wise, and happy, at middle age (yes I’m 49, I know I don’t look it or act it) is a one of those self-help book tales. How did I come to acquire so much gratitude? I’ve lost a lot: Childhood innocence to violence (outside of the home), unavailable parents (I was a ‘change of life’ baby), the loss of a sibling at fifteen to suicide, racism, homophobia, learning disabilities (this is starting to sound like a soap opera, cue violins); then my twenties and much of my thirties to depression, and in later adulthood I’ve lived with CFIDS (chronic fatigue) for close to twenty years.
Through being coached, coaching, and through developing my spirituality, I discovered a profound appreciation that what I lost taught me what I have: love, running water, the most comfortable bed in the world, food, friendship, mended family ties, work that I adore, an eighty-six year old dad who says “I love you,” and, as I like to say, “I’m still chewing my own food.”
divine |di?v?n| (adjective|noun |verb) of, from, or like God; informal: excellent; delightful; providence; discovering by intuition; having supernatural or magical insight.
Interestingly to me, in being a coach, I use a strong sense of intuition to form insights and assist my clients to discover the “ah-ha” moments while in coaching; they use those moments to move forward and change their lives. Life is short and “there’s no dress rehearsal”; we only go around once so what are we wasting each precious moment on?
What I never noticed was that those 3 italicized words in the last paragraph are all in the definition of “divine.” Divinity is an interesting thing (for me Jesus, Buddha, or plants, they’re all the same). I find divinity as I type this: sitting in Golden Gate Park, as the sun sets over a pond filled with (I kid you not) jumping fish, ducks flying overhead, a heron, and a homeless encampment just around the corner.
What’s divine? What’s not!?
Divinity, to me, is a feeling of reverence, for friends, for strangers, for a client whose just made a breakthrough, for the pond I sit by, right at this moment, and for the homeless encampment teaching me that I’m housed, fed, and safe, in the beautiful apartment I call home.
Reverence a.k.a. “deep respect” has come from the practice of Gratitude and Appreciation. Gratitude is just a fancy word for being thankful, and Appreciation is both “the recognition and enjoyment of the good qualities of someone or something” and/or an “increase in value”.
What’s interesting about the “increase in value” is that the practice of Gratitude can make an instantaneous payoff: the weekly five minute conversations I used to have with my disabled elderly mother. When I felt lousy I called her; not for support or consolation, but to give her support and consolation. Mom spent the last 20 years of her life in a bed, and I had spent the last 20 years complaining. Five minute conversations we’re a little boring. Why couldn’t my mother open up to me? Why were her thoughts and feelings such a mystery? I’ll never know since she passed away six years ago. Then, and only then, did I realize that I’d have given anything for a boring five minute conversation with my mother. Makes you think, huh?
What we lose, if we pay close attention, gives us the understanding of what we have. What I found is that I could be thankful for that which I already had. And, as it grew I appreciated that just appreciating it made the sense of whatever it was … grow.
Now, as a coach, it’s something I offer: we work on where they are in life, what they have, what they don’t, what they lost, what they want, and what they appreciate. Eventually we begin to work on what their life as a figurative altar might look like, what they’re changing, what’s fulfilling in life, what needs to be discarded, what they love, and how they’ll have more of the better things in life.
What’s amazing about this process, for me as a coach, is that it’s not only both using the four years of training and coaching I’ve been through, but also an amazing gift that I appreciate; I get to be part of people improving their lives, loving life, learning more about what makes their toes wiggle, and taking specific actions that change their life. Wow, work doesn’t get much better then that!