Guest blogger: Michelann
Royal reader since: 2010
I am a princess because I can put lipstick on in the dark, sing opera, and cook a mean eggplant parmesan.
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When GG asked me to write a guest post for the Princesses, I was super excited. I have not written about my spiritual path for several years. When I blogged about my spirituality before, it was at a point in my life when the ground under me was shifting faster than I could handle. In the midst of the chaos, I found Something. Or Something found me. The path that led me to this realization was Vedanta – a non-dualistic branch of Hinduism based on early texts such as the Upanishads. My path looks something like this: Atheism > Agnosticism > Judaism > Wicca > Comparative Religion > Buddhism > Vedanta. Yeah, it’s a little twisty.
This makes more (or maybe less) sense when you know a little about me. I spent the first half of my life as a professional musician. I went to a conservatory, got a couple of degrees in music, auditioned and performed opera, art song, and sacred music for many years. I eventually left music and ended up in interactive marketing full time. This cause a big identity crisis, so I went back to school for a Masters degree in Leadership and Ethics. When I finished, I got married; started my own business, and two years later had a baby. Now I teach college part time, consult, write, and do public speaking and corporate training. I have a spectacular husband and a beautiful two-year-old daughter.
In recent months I feel like I have been trying to retrace my steps. When I was preparing to write this post, I went back and reread my spiritual “coming out” post from 2007. Here is my story, with five years and a lot of changes worth of perspective:
In the early part of 2007, I started meditating at home and going to the Shambhala Center to meditate and study with a teacher. The teachings of Pema Chodron, an American Buddhist nun, appealed to me and resonated with my understanding of the world. Meditation helped me manage generalized anxiety disorder and occasional panic attacks. The Shambhala path advocates directly experiencing your emotions and thoughts, rather than judging or running from them. Likewise, it suggests not clinging to happiness, joy, or pleasure. This style of meditation helped me learn to tolerate discomfort and curb my anxiety. It also created some shifts in my awareness and stillness I had not experienced before.
While the philosophy claims to be not concerned with the existence or nonexistence of God, it also says, (or at least Pema’s books say) that belief in God can be a crutch that keeps you from fully experiencing the present moment. This made sense to me at the time, since I was raised in an Atheist, nihilistic family whose favorite saying was “no one is coming.” I was pretty biased against organized religion and towards rationalism. So this particular brand of Buddhism fit right in with my existing belief system.
Then, one night I watched a DVD – God and Buddha: A Dialogue – which was a conversation between American Buddhist Robert Thurman and Deepak Chopra. I had never heard Chopra speak before nor read his books. When he described the Vedic concept of God and the universe, I was thunderstruck. It was as if he was describing something I had always known, but never allowed myself to see. Rather than seeing God as a male-ish being who sits in judgment and provides a set of cryptic rules for us to follow blindly (the version of God my family had taught me to reject) he described the Universe and everything in it as a living manifestation of God. In this way, I am an essential part of God although I sometimes labor under the misconception that I am separate. (This type of non-dualism is present in the mystic versions of many religions, including Gnostic Christianity, Sufism, and Kabbalah.) God, also known as Brahman, is gender neutral and encompasses everything in the Universe. Or, looking at it another way, the Universe is a direct expression of God.
It felt as if some part of me had always known that I was not alone — that I was an integral part of a greater whole. But it wasn’t until that moment that I became conscious of it. In the following weeks I saw everything differently. I could feel the energy pulsing through the world around me, especially in nature. I could look into the vast Texas sky and feel surrounded by love and profound acceptance. I read everything I could get my hands on that related to Vedic Hinduism, and a lot of Chopra’s writing. These ideas resonated with me on a physical and emotional level, far more than any religious texts I had read before (and I had read a lot). Meditation felt ecstatic and blissful. It was some seriously powerful shit.
This awakening reframed much of my previous life. I remembered moments of stillness in my childhood that had been so quiet and vast they frightened me. Now they seemed like flashes of deep awareness. Like God was saying, “Hi, how is it going?” Atheism, at least in the secular culture I came from, meant to believe in God was to be deluded, duped, or less intelligent than a rationalist. I had cut myself off from mystical experiences, or reduced them to fit the culture in which I was raised.
My singing career, too, seemed totally different. Towards the end of my career, I grew to love singing in churches and contributing to people’s spiritual lives, even when I didn’t share their beliefs. It seemed ironic, since I considered myself an agnostic. Who was I to think I was helping people connect to a God I didn’t believe in? But through this new lens, it seemed as if my singing had been about crying out to God, communing with God. It made perfect sense that singing in a religious setting was more resonant than doing industry auditions or performances. Singing was often for me what is called a “peak experience” – a moment where time would stop and it would feel as if something intense and energetic was passing through me. While I recognized the shamanistic qualities of performing long before my awakening, it wasn’t until that moment I realized how profound those moments truly were.
So, Realm, that is the story of my totally unexpected epiphany. Thank you for letting me be your guest! If you want to read more about how my path has gone since then, check out Non-Linear with Miss Michelann. What about you? Have you ever felt connected to the divine? What triggered it? What did you experience?
+ Featured image, Lotus by Michelann.