If you had asked me when I was ten years old what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have said unhesitatingly, “An archaeologist!” I was in grade 5 when this fancy first came upon me. It seemed like a pipe dream then. I didn’t know any archaeologists. Up until then, an occasional summer’s day spent rock-hounding was the closest I’d come to the somewhat strange avocation of carefully sifting through ancient layers of dirt to uncover their buried stories. But when I was 10, I fell in love with the idea of archaeology. If the Indiana Jones movies had existed at that time, I’m sure they would have been my favourite films.
I wasn’t that far off, as it turns out. When I was in Grade 13, I was invited to participate in a 2-week archaeological dig at an historical site in Toronto. When I was an undergraduate university student, I worked for three summers at a Toronto area museum. Then a dream come true . . . graduate school in the field of art conservation, with the chance to work on museum objects. I knew that if I had the chance, I’d like to work on site as an archaeological conservator. I wasn’t that far from my childhood fancy.
But, you know, the universe had other ideas about what I ought to be doing, and a week after I finished the research paper for my graduate degree, I was pregnant. By the time I was 25 years old, I was a full-time married stay-at-home mom (a choice I was very happy with).
Not that I left behind my interests — I took them in new directions. By the time I was in my early 40’s, ready to start my full-blown mid-life crisis, I found some new layers of dirt with buried secrets to dig in. That’s when I began my spiritual journey.
You have to understand that until I hit age 40, I was the most ordinary middle-class Canadian you can imagine. My spiritual experiences had been modest, to say the least, even when my younger son had died of leukemia when he was 3 years old (and I was 31). This had changed me, of course, but it had changed me at an emotional level rather than at a spiritual level. I had become less harsh and less judgmental towards others as a result of our family’s terrible trauma. But I can’t honestly say I understood God any better when my son went through the hell of cancer treatments, and I can’t say I liked God any better when my son died. My then-husband, who was a devout Baptist-High Anglican (go figure) seemed to have some pretty old fashioned fears about divine punishment being visited upon the sons, although he wisely didn’t express such thoughts in front of our older son. I basically thought God was being pretty mean. I don’t think that now, but that’s what I thought in 1989.
Some years later, in 1998, I started to ask spiritual questions. I didn’t know what I was looking for — I just felt an inner impulse to search for, well, to search for answers. The fact that I didn’t understand the questions was no impediment to my search for answers. This is how I led myself down the garden path. This is how I spent several years of my life — right up until mid-2003, in fact — in my Big Fat Idiot Stage.
In my Big Fat Idiot Stage, I read tons of New Age material. I read most of the “big names” in the New Age field. I started with Brian Weiss (Many Lives, Many Masters) and Elizabeth Stratton. I took Reiki classes (this turned out to be a huge part of my Idiot Stage), and I avidly read books by Barbara Ann Brennan (Hands of Light) and many others. When I read Neale Donald Walsch’s first book in the “Conversations With God” series, I thought I’d struck spiritual gold. And when I first read Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now, I thought I’d finally found the “answers.”
I still own copies of these books in case I need to transcribe exact quotes from them, but I now keep these books in my “Toxic Book” section. I also keep a copy of Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret in my “Toxic Book” section. I tell you this so you’ll know ahead of time that you won’t see me promoting any of the ideas put forward by these New Age writers.
Some of these New Age ideas, interestingly, are not new at all, but in fact are very old — much older than the oldest parts of the Hebrew Bible. So you also won’t see me promoting the sections in the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament that promote these damaging “New Age” teachings. These teachings should come with a warning tag on them: Warning: Insistence on Scrupulously Following These Teachings Will Turn You Into A Big Fat Idiot, And Cause You to Embarrass Yourself And Your Family In Ways You Never Thought Possible.
Yes, I have no one but myself to blame for the time in my life when I embarrassed myself and my family by naively embracing the messages of these books.
As it turned out, I eventually found redemption in the teachings of Jesus, although how this happened, and why, is not the usual story.
My journey of redemption began when I realized that I hadn’t lost the scholarly skills of my younger years, that I could bring that process of methodically digging away at different layers — each with its own story to tell — to the mysterious journey of spiritual healing.
That’s when my work really began as a scientifically oriented, liberal, blond mystic.
That’s when I turned to my background in hard science, especially Chemistry, and to my five years’ of work experience in the mental health field to help me begin to ask what the questions were.
That’s when I finally started to grow up.