My how time flies! 2 years flashed by in the blink of an eye!
I recently celebrated my 2 year anniversary of the first time I attended services at the Agape International Spiritual Center. Coerced by my longtime friend and soul sister, Lily; it was her last Sunday of a month-long visit to California from Brazil and “Rev Michael” was speaking. Years ago (10 or more) she had begged and begged me to attend services at this mystical spiritual place. Back then, I had absolutely no interest in “church”. “It’s not like any church you’ve ever attended” she assured me. Still, Saturday was party night for me back then and I absolutely was NOT getting up early on a Sunday morning to drive across town to go to church or anything remotely similar! This time…I went.
I was raised in a traditional religion and never felt quite comfortable in that environment. I didn’t have the words to express why it didn’t resonate with me, but I knew the most of the time, I wasn’t left with a good feeling walking out of the sanctuary. I was always afraid that my “being saved” didn’t quite “take” and that at any moment I would be driven to hell in that proverbial handbasket. And, I didn’t understand why one religion’s beliefs were the “only” way and all others were wrong or misguided. Agape turned out to be exactly how Lily described it with the added bonus that, from the moment I walked into the sanctuary until walking out and beyond, I felt GOOD! No, not Good, GREAT! LOVED!It was like a wave of love rose up to meet me when I crossed the threshold; a wave that buoyed me through the congregational hymns, the welcoming of first time visitors by the congregation, the musical inspiration, which was a Sufi minister with an angelic voice who chanted in a language that, while I did not understand the words, the feeling tone of the music seemed to lift me even higher into love. (Agape embraces all religions and beliefs. That, alone made me take notice that this place was different.)
When this “Reverend Michael” spoke, he did so with the authority of one who knew some Truth about me that I did not yet remember about myself; one who has sat with the ineffable, has touched the garment of the Christ, and who was so completely down to earth, accessible and funny – all while delivering a message of love for everyone and the planet. I was moved beyond any words this little chatter box could seem to find. So, I did what was easiest for me: I cried. And I cried. And when I was done, I cried a little more for good measure. Never had I felt this kind of all-consuming love. Something in my soul woke up. Those tears washed away years of feeling separated from God. I knew that I was HOME.
Most people who seek out Agape or happen upon it for one reason or another have a similar story: A feeling of finally being home. There is nothing like it. To feel the loving glances and blessings of the culturally and ethnically diverse congregation saying in unison “Welcome to Agape” and to see the sincerity in their eyes and feel the hugs at the end of the service, one may think this is just a touchy-feely new age-y kind of kind of band of religious rebels or misfits. I promise you, it is SO much more!
Rev Michael likes to say, “We don’t come to Agape to feel good. We come here to be free.” Well, freedom sometimes has some high costs.
I dove into this new world with bright eyes and open heart, attending services every Sunday and telling everyone I knew how wonderful a place it was. Several friends were intrigued and came along a couple of times but most, for various reasons, didn’t resonate with the energy there and stopped going. That didn’t matter to me. I was pulled –out of my comfort zone which did not permit me to go into any gathering where I knew no one – into a place and a teaching of such unconditional love that one could not help but be comfortable.
While I went deeper into remembering who I am and reconnecting with Spirit, this new-found freedom started to exact its cost in my life. Friends I’d had for decades started distancing themselves from me, finding we had less in common and less to talk about, and saying I was too “this” or too “that” for them. Financial challenges started showing up with increasing regularity. Ultimately, health challenges followed closely behind, all rocking me to my core and inviting me to stand in the Spiritual Principles I’d learned, the most profound being “all needs met.”
Three little words: All Needs Met. I took that literally as I sat like a Buddha every morning on my sofa, meditating, assuming God would provide for all my needs, while I sat in stillness. Later, of course, I realized that it’s not enough to remain “STILL”. We must move one foot in front of the other, as the ground rises up to meet our feet. Each step in the right direction shows us more and more of who we really are and what we came to be. Support shows up. Abundance shows up. LOVE shows up.
I was taught that what no longer served me would fall away – and it definitely did (and still does!) - but at what felt like the lowest point in my outer life, my spiritual life was blossoming. I was the little flower blooming through the cracks in the hard pavement. Somehow I knew it would all turn out ok.
And it has! Yes, friends and I have parted company along the way and while there is still more than enough space in my heart for them, I also know that our vibrations no longer match and that those old conversations just don’t interest me any longer. For each one that fell away, 3, 4 – 5 more have filled in that space. And, miraculously, some friends from my past have resurfaced with their own awakened journeys! Our conversations go higher and deeper than I’d ever imagined possible. The “aha” moments come faster and faster and I feel my awareness expand on such incredible levels; I am not sure WHAT I was doing with my life up til that first day 2 years ago!
In these past couple of years I have seen myself transform into someone I could never imagine in my wildest dreams!
One of my first realizations of this was while sitting in a sound bath in Eagle Rock on the Summer Solstice. At the end of the sound bath, we were invited to participate in a “Sea of Oms”; 7 deep breaths, exhaling “Om” with each one at our own pace. 50 or so of us together, creating this “sea” of sound – the sound of God ("OM" is the name of God, the vibration of the Supreme in Hinduism.) With eyes closed, I felt compelled to open one eye and take a peek at who was swimming with me in this sea. In that moment, something forever shifted in me. If I could have only seen myself! I was now officially a tree-hugging, veg-head, om-ing being! Let them laugh! I am the Happy Buddha! I shall laugh right along with them!
I’ve heard it said (and I believe) that everyone will eventually wake up. For some, like me, it may happen gradually after a long period of seeming separation. For others, it may be a sudden awakening at the time of their transition out of this physical form. For others, perhaps it occurs somewhere in between. But EVERYONE will wake up.
In the early morning light of my spiritual awakening, as I look in the mirror of my transformation, I see someone familiar; someone that I love being in this very moment! I wipe the sleep from my eyes and I give thanks for the incredible journey ahead; and for all that brought me to this NOW moment.