Words by: Zayan Ismail Art by: Monica Ouk
‘There are no conditions, simply a warm embrace and a welcome home. The lack of wholeness in humanity is an indication that we are not yet home, we are not expressing our true nature. And we have not yet flowered,’ says the Reiki healer Richard Ellis, who describes God as love, compassion, justice and forgiveness.
I got these words from a recent book I received as a birthday gift, by a chance encounter. In the end, I got some wisdom on healing, but I made friends with someone who’s going through an awakening. I found in him what I saw in myself. Now more than ever I seek true human connections. Perhaps it has been the long Covid-era isolations. In seeing the humanity in others, my spirituality has blossomed. I don’t buy into the daily grind of capitalist life — I seek less material, I crave nature, an abundance of light, the ocean, and the sand, the trees and flowers, the earth to ground myself and indulge in all that it has to offer. Of course, it wasn’t like this all the time.
Like most people, I was raised within a devout orthodox dogma. I was told to fear a higher being and follow protocols without questioning, and this led to a lot of fear and more questions than my mind could comprehend. I struggled to make sense of what was happening around me and blindly followed through ‘just because’. I started to realise from a very young age that there was more to life and my own being, I started to question some of the norms that surrounded me. I still remember vividly how some teachers at school would look so puzzled when I asked valid queries.
How does science work? Does the universe go far beyond what our minds can ever imagine? Why do people choose to hate, love, laugh and cry? How do societies form out of civilisations? These were just some of the questions that kept me up at night.
Nonetheless, the answers to life may not necessarily be in one scripture, one creed or principle. Like the multiplicity and diversity of life itself, the solutions to our problems and answers to our most pressing issues come in a variety of forms. This I knew for sure.
As I started to mature, so did the society around me; much progress, and even regressive setbacks. I saw how some chose the path of piety and devotion. What baffled me, however, was how such people slowly removed themselves from the wider society. Some of them chose hate, misogyny, sexism, discrimination of all forms and even outright violence — in the name of God. I was taught from a young age to look at God’s presence everywhere. In nature, in the changing of the seasons, in animals and even in the caress of my own mother. God to me is not a fearful or vengeful monster out to get us all. Instead, I find hope, solidarity, truth, kindness, love and belonging. Most importantly, God isn’t gendered either. I think it is worth pointing out the patriarchal attitudes that we were taught from a young age, that in turn give rise to whole institutions that perpetuate negative biases. The concept of equality and justice must encompass all of us in our society.
I have always been in tune with such questions but it was really during the last two years (ahem — a whole pandemic if you didn’t know) that upended my belief systems, values and what I held true to myself. I needed to find peace in the chaos. I turned to everything but myself. I finally let go of all expectations and control to truly sit in silence and come into myself. Meditation and embracing the silence helped me to clear out my thoughts. It made me realise what life is worth living for. I started to heal within, deal with past traumas and do the necessary work to identify why I react the way I do. I did indeed choose anger and hateful words in the past. My mind would wander along the negative alleyways of thoughts that not only hindered my progress but also fueled my ego and emanated that energy around me.
It all started to make sense when I finally let go and embraced the flow of life. I approach every day with gratitude and mindfulness. It helped to channel my anger in other ways: I started to read up on astrology, energies, auras and the impact it has on our daily lives as individuals and as a collective. I picked up on my toxic patterns and the repercussions that it has on my life. As I look at the growth and healing I have achieved over the past year, I see the often revealing and painful shadow work I do on myself. The beauty indeed is in the struggles to achieve a sense of spirituality. It is the road that we oftentimes are afraid to travel on, but it is on the road less travelled that we can find ourselves and embrace the truth of our authenticity.
And yet I still seek answers to the many questions. I still ask myself, how does spirituality truly work? I suppose in hindsight the trick is to always be curious and not to seek perfectionism. Your soul craves multiplicity of creativity and exploration. We cannot be bogged down by the mundane and trivial. To anyone who’s reading this, I hope you get inspired and get to venture on a new exploration of yourself and your surroundings.