When I was in my 20s, I drowned in the abyss of my own spirituality. The physical world wasn’t delivering on its hedonistic promise and my attempts to claim a guy or look more f***able dimmed in comparison with my more astute and glamorous social rivals. Thus, esoteric work brimmed with possibility, a solace from rejection and a frontier into a world much vaster than my own. Shamanism, energy grids or chanting ancient Sanskrit hymns and Goddess invocations were ‘the keys to the kingdom’, a palace of enlightenment from which I hoped to return ‘home’ more electric and awake.
It began mildly, as all glorious addictions do. I read books about the wonder of the mind and the interconnectedness of spirit. I attended (and later, hosted) workshops where I stared into a stranger’s eyes and shook off inhibitions through a frenzied dance. I tried to live out concepts like self love, compassion, equanimity and presence.
And like a spirit junkie looking for her potent hit, my explorations led me into paths of the Occult. I briefly joined a Wiccan Coven in Sydney’s Inner West, but couldn’t bring myself to attend the night of actual spell-casting. A milder, yet equally magical ride came in the form of a Tantric women’s only workshop, in which I was entangled for many odd and illuminating years. The aim of the work was an entirely nude public unveiling (usually in front of other women’s gobsmacked men) as a sacred rite designed to communicate our pure essence to the Universe. At one stage, I was even under the ‘tutelage’ (or accurately, spell) of a Black Tantra master, an experience that left me with a more disjointed imprint of my identity than the decade-long string of courses, studies and experiences I’ve collectively weaved through.
For a while, it was all glorious. Libertine sky clad swims with strangers whom I now considered my Spirit-family. The surge of energy as anxiety left my being, carried away through the fluid rhythm of dance that was cursing though my body. I gained insight on some major personal limitations and their origins, looked in awe as my body both held and released its weight in cathartic recognition – and even felt the waves of orgasm rock my being awake as a random man caressed my elbow with his finger at yet another workshop. I brushed up against worlds, not only in other realms and ideologies but also in the stories of awakening in others.
And yet as with anything, what elevates must also meet an inevitable drop. While my mind was transfixed with diving deeper spiritually, little else was manifesting in my physical world. I lived in yearning to attend the next retreat or gathering. Little else was granted to other gaps in my development, my once-strong interest in literature, art , politics and performance waning more with every ‘process’ I received. My peers moved on, yet I dismissed their paths of corporate work and marriage as basic programming or spiritual blindness, convinced that I was rather special and destined for greater platforms in my life.
My parents were growing weary of my empty bank account and sceptical of stories that soon enough, my wealth will ‘manifest’. Life in Sydney grew lonely and detached, so I retreated to Byron Bay, a safe and jungian landscape with forgiving crystal waters and ever-beaming blue sky that gave me a like-minded haven to explore my existential crisis. I went to a gaggle of psychics, yet none forecast the accident. I did my ‘success affirmations’ daily, yet I was aimless and broke. And most intriguingly, I could orgasm from the mere touch of an elbow, yet somehow I was still single.
Eventually even that dream ended with a four-car collision, a personal-best alcohol reading on 0.18 and a hazy ride to the police station. No-one was hurt, but the accident carried enough voltage to shake me awake and come home to unlearn beautiful theories that felt good yet had little practical application.
All that was left was the rather unspiritual act of getting a job, yet with no experience bar running a spiritual practice, my spell-casting skills didn’t exactly translate to a hierarchal agency world. A painful six months later my glib take on life landed me a stint as a digital writer within an ambitious startup. As trite as my new vocation seemed in contrast to my previous adventures, it was decidedly better than listless and dulled pain of my existence. My life was a cliche 9-5, after work drinks in the CBD and beachside BBQs with prams and board shorts on the weekend… and it was the happiest I’ve ever been. People were responding to written work. Friends, those very same ones with the ‘stable’ jobs banded around me and helping me step into this calmer life with humour and experienced advice.
Soon after that, I met my husband, a strong, soulful and grounded man. Our first date was filled with philosophical, esoteric and religious conversations, grasping excitedly at parallels amongst our seemingly disparate worlds, colliding gleefully on topics such as love, politics and God.
Emptiness still exists from time to time, but perhaps it’s just a human condition, an absence of connection, creativity to culture. Art is a trigger for the right brain, a place to feel our fullness and endlessness; gain a perspective from the intuition rather than the intellect. Through attending galleries, exploring playlists or getting lost in a dance (though I’m still naked, it’s usually confined to my lounge room), I am able to access the same insight as at a self-help workshop, yet with a stronger validation for my humanity. Art and music tells me I’m complete, rather than having so much way to go.
I meditate from time to time to still my mind, not seek enlightenment. Most relationship lessons come from my husband, grandmother or reading some Anais Nin. If crisis strikes, I speak to my therapist, just to refine what I already know: that key to the kingdom actually lies in the messy, rolled-up-sleeve participation in my life, not a book. And while I may still spread the Tarot cards from time to time, I’ll never lose my senses in that world again.