Mapping the Way Home: the Sufis and the Three Stages of Spiritual Awakening
Food, body image and self-acceptance have run like a royal road right through my life. Food is and was my safety, my comfort and my security, my north star through a difficult childhood adoption spent in fear of abandonment and fear of being returned to a children’s home.
But it’s a long story – and a trap to dwell there – you know – we all have one, a story that is – and like Mary Oliver writes in her beautiful poem, Wild Geese
“Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.”
It’s not that it doesn’t matter, more like the hero’s journey – the story is our starting point and an invitation to the waltz.
The Sufis and the Three Stages of Spiritual Awakening
Lying in bed last night in my restlessness, I chose to listen to Geneen Roth read from her book.: Women Food and God I guess I fell asleep at some point but awoke at dawn to hear the wild birds singing and words from the epilogue – about the Sufis and three stages of spiritual awakening – the journey from God, the journey to God and the journey in God and I started to think about my own journey and how I could start mapping the way home.
The Journey from God
“In the Sufi version, the journey from God is the one in which you believe you are what you do, weigh, achieve and so you spend your time attempting to adorn yourself with external measures of worth: a thin body, a big bank account, cool patent leather boots. Since even rich and famous people get old, have cellulite and die, the journey from God ends in 100% disappoint every time.”
Extract from “Women, Food and God”, Geneen Roth
My journey from God starts with being taken from my birth mother and placed in a loving adopted family. My experience is of a wound, the wound of separation, a deep hole that placed me on the wrong side of the divide. Period. Always on the wrong side of the street, always on the outside looking in. As the event happened pre-verbalisation, it registered in a very primitive reptilian place, one which sought a very primitive type of comfort one which is difficult to verbalise but overwhelms rational thinking, easily and at will. Food, cake, clothes, make-up. And in this first stage of spiritual awakening – there was none – spiritual awakening that is – but a constant desire for self-gratification in the many myriad forms and guises that can come to pleasure us. For me part of that negative cycle was about filling the hole where the wound was but nothing ever satisfied that hunger. Nothing ever filled the hole or blotted out the vague sense of uneasiness, the pain and the fear.
The Journey to God
“According to the Sufis, the next journey – the journey to God – is also fraught with disappointment. You try to stop the endless stream of thoughts and they keep playing their crazy tunes. You decide you are going to stamp out judgment, evil, anger, hatred and you find yourself wishing your next door neighbour would accidentally slip on a banana peel and die. You find yourself a spiritual guide who seems to be the embodiment of wisdom and purity and he ends up sleeping with sixteen of his flock.”
Extract from “Women, Food and God” by Geneen Roth
My journey to God began with my children and the deep loving connection I felt for the first time, nursing each one at my breast. Feeding my eldest son in my arms at night, rocking us both gently to sleep under the nursery light was the closest I had ever felt to reality and home. Later when my home life began to unravel, I began to venture out and look for an external truth to make me happy and to bring me home. So deep the pull – I left my children behind to search. I travelled to Canada, Mexico, America and the Island of Patmos where the religion was high, high, high as the smell of the incense and intensity of cerulean blue light that drenched my reality for a short while. I came home and travelled the length and breadth of the country always looking for answers, finding and taking a teacher who could bring me home who could help me rise above the endless negative cycle of thoughts and fill the fucking void.
My Teacher took me to the edge but my fear kept me there and my punishment was lost contact with my two eldest sons who were unable to forgive me for leaving. And all the time, all the time, the Truth was right where I had left it. Finally waking up to that reality brought me home.
The Journey In God
“The Third Journey, the journey in God…In this journey you end the search for more and better. You no longer live as if this life is a dress rehearsal for the next. Authenticity not trying to be good infuse your actions. Through practises like the eating guidelines, meditation, and inquiry you slowly realise that you are already whole and that there is no test to pass, no race to finish even pain becomes another doorway another chance to recognise where love appears to be absent.”
Extract from “Women, Food and God” by Geneen Roth
And so I become this stage. This is my passage to power entering and embodying this third stage of my life.
Finding that place where I feel stronger and with grace more authentic in my interactions with the world. The compulsions fuelled by my story begin to fall away though some days, part of that negative cycle still catches up on the need to fill the hole where the wound is – it never really goes away. But I know to keep the lens wide. On days when the wound opens, let it – don’t zoom in and don’t adjust your focus – rather keep the lens wide. Cast around for what I may be stressed out about and may be projecting onto my body, get comfortable and listen. Learning to love all of me in this my third stage of awakening is the biggest blessing. realising that I am enough.
And in this way, I follow the map home.
And you, what works for you? How do you find your way home?