Midweek Faith Lift
February 5, 2014
Human Self…Spiritual Self: Who Runs Your Life?
Amy Popillion, Guest Speaker
Good morning! I preface my talk with letting you know that despite the fact my job includes talking in front of 350+ students each week, thus, it would seem I should not be nervous to talk in front of a much smaller crowd but…I am a bit nervous. There is a certain level of vulnerability that comes with sharing our personal stories, which is some of what I am going to share with you today. Last week Rev. Deb mentioned the book, “Gifts of Imperfection” by Brene Brown. Dr. Brown also has a wonderful TED talk on the power of vulnerability, which I would encourage you to check out.
Today as I share about my journey from human self to spirit self, I will outline 4 main things that helped me: (1) reading and learning; (2) journaling and documenting; (3) nurturing relationships; and (4) prayer and meditation.
Much of my life has been ruled by not only my feelings of vulnerability, but more what I did with those feelings by turning them into intense guilt and shame, two things that Brene Brown also speaks in-depth about. I grew up in a small community, the oldest child of a single mother, not always realizing that we were poor, but definitely feeling the impact of my mother’s struggle to make ends meet. I started working when I was 14 and never stopped. When I moved out at 17, I had three jobs to pay for my apartment and by that point unfortunately lots of self-hatred and low self-esteem all of which translated into my quest to fill that void with a series of negative choices.
Growing up was not easy, as our home was filled with abuse – abuse I witnessed as my mom had many relationships and most of those included aspects of drinking, drug addiction, violence, and in general what we label dysfunctional behaviors. I also experienced physical, emotional and sexual abuse against me by a variety of people in my life. In many ways, I believe the abuse that took the biggest toll was that from my mother as it shattered my very foundation of feeling safe and loved in the world. Experiencing sexual abuse and subsequent sexual assault as a young adult further shattered that foundation of feeling safe and loved and the hope of having a loving relationship, not to mention a lasting relationship. I used to read the research that stated if your parents were divorced, your chance of divorce was even higher so I did the calculations considering my mom had been married 6 times and I figured I should probably not even date – the odds were definitely not in my favor.
Growing up, my “religion” might have been summed up by – Me against the world, no one (and I mean NO ONE) is to be trusted, and I do not need anyone. As we all know, this goes against the very essence of our divine selves and when we try to maintain it and fight against it, typically bad things happen. For me those bad things came in the form of being in an abusive relationship for two years in my late teens, using alcohol and drugs to silence the pain. When that was no longer working, I “fixed” those destructive behaviors and turned to something that seemed more acceptable and developed a serious eating disorder that would plague me for many years until I reached the time when I realized letting my “human self” rule my life was no longer working and I needed to find my “spiritual self.”
That is when things started to changed…it was a lot of work and trudging through a lot of pain & hurt that at times I would have rather left buried in that deep hole that expressed itself in my life through hatred of myself, anger and bitterness towards others, and not trusting the people who had come into my life wanting to show me love & support. I was that driver who would flip you the bird if you so much as looked like you might cut me off. I was the person in the checkout lane who snapped something rude if you seemed to be taking too long to get my stuff rang up. I was the diner at the restaurant who rudely complained if there was even a tiny thing wrong with my food.
At the same time, when it came to children I was the kindest, most patient person you would ever see. I clearly remember one time, Jason asked me, “How is it that you can have so much patience with children but absolutely none with other people?” The answer to that question could be a whole different talk; however, over time the reason that came to me was because when I was with children I felt safe and I allowed my spirit self to show – that infinite love and patience, acceptance, and joy that we all have within us. I also found (not right away I might add, not found like when we lose something and one day are pleasantly surprised to find it), but found gradually over years of self-examination, counseling, reflection, ups and downs – so I found that it is often ourselves who puts the obstacles in place that keep us from allowing our spirit self to show.
One of the obstacles I put into place was giving me the identity of the victim, of someone who had all of this bad stuff happen to me so I convinced myself that I deserved to be mad, I deserved to be bitter. But being mad and bitter was not fun. It left me struggling with depression and anxiety, feeling insecure and rejected.
So what happens when you really open yourself to spiritual guidance? For me – it shifted the focus of my energy from feeding addictions and dysfunctional patterns to being a loving and compassionate person; to using my painful experiences as a source of healing energy, insight, and empathy for others. I learned to develop the ability to sit with the hard stuff and trust that God was with me, in me, to have it all work out in time – spirit time, not human time (:
Let me give the disclaimer that by no means is my spirit self always in control and I mean in NO WAY!! But some of the ways I have been able to make the switch from human self to spirit self are things I challenge you to consider. There is not one thing that will work for everyone, but I just kept trying different things to find what worked: Journaling and documenting – I started to document what I was feeling and most importantly I started to document those times when I felt the spirit in control, whether it was for the big things in life such as during the summer of 2001 when I had consistently journaled every day (a miracle in and of itself) and when our son, Tristan, then a baby, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis in August and I felt so scared and worried. I could look back through my journal and see that one of the verses from the bible I had written more than once and underlined and highlighted was from Mark 5:36 “Do not be afraid. Just believe.” I had an immediate sense of calm come over me and that was a time I knew my spirit self was leading.
Or the little things such as last week when I came into church already becoming a bit anxious about what I would talk about today and seeing an insect on the floor in the bathroom. You may wonder how an insect on the floor could be interpreted as a message from Spirit. But I had been thinking of sharing a quote from a children’s book that had an illustration of a tiny insect exactly like the one I saw, so I knew my message was going in the right direction, led by my spirit self. Or another time a few months ago when I was driving down the interstate stressed about how to respond to a situation in which I felt I had been wronged. I was thinking of my Grandma who died a couple of years ago and telling her that I wish she was there to help me know what to do. Then, I reached down to turn on the radio but decided to see what CD was in. When I turned it on, the chorus from “Let It Be” was playing and I clearly knew my Grandma was telling me what to do and I was letting my spirit self lead the way.
Because as I’ve just shared with you, had my previous human self been leading, if I felt like I had been wronged, someone would have heard about it. Instead I let it be. So in addition to documenting whether in writing or other ways, I found friends who I could be open with. I learned when I declared my thoughts, fears, hopes & dreams out loud they became less scary and my dreams actually started to seem attainable. I also have slowly trained myself to rely on meditation and prayer to remain focused.
One of the classes I teach is Children’s Literature and one of my favorites books is called, “Lifetimes” by Bryan Mellonie. It is a book teaching children about the cycle of life and death. In the book there is a line, “All living things have lifetimes. There is a beginning and ending for everything that is alive. And in between is living.”That is what I now focus on – LIVING and when I allow my spirit self to run my life instead of my human self, I find that my life is so much better – no comparison!!!!
Moving into meditation – some of you are likely to be able to relate to some or many of the experiences I shared; others may not be able to relate to those same experiences, but my hope is you will consider how are you using the hard things in life to shape your connection to God, to your spirit self and what are the obstacles that you put in your own way – then consider what strategies can you put into place to keep your spirit self at the helm and your human self out of the way?
Meditation: If your spirit self were to tell you something, what would it say? I encourage you to let this happen rather than make it happen. As you breathe in deeply, allow your breath to settle in your heart, where you can allow it to disperse throughout your body, bringing you peace and relaxation, where you can just be open to whatever spirit brings. It may not be an earth-shattering revelation (or it might be) but listen for even those whispers and nudgings to allow the spirit to share with you your divine purpose, the divine truth that you are loved and perfect and valuable just the way you are. How are you living your in-between? Is your human self in control or are you moving those obstacles out of the way to allow your spirit self to take the wheel?