Ah, Conversations with God... the beginning of the beginning. For some reason this was the book that reached me - that supported my feelings that there was some kind of order to how things worked.
The only thing that put me off was the title. I mean, Conversations with Who? I wasn't comfortable with the word 'God'. God for me meant the man with the white beard sitting on a cloud - the man I had prayed to when in need. The man who had turned a deaf ear to my pleadings. I didn't believe He existed.
But I could relate to Neale Donald Walsch. Here was a man at the end of his tether, wondering what he had done to deserve a life of continual struggle. He was in the habit of venting on paper as a method of releasing his frustration - addressing the letter to whomever was vexing him at the time and then putting the letter in the bin. This hadn't worked - nothing had changed. So instead he thought he would go to the greatest victimizer of them all, and he wrote his letter to God. Why not go straight to the top for a change?
It was a good move, because God answered him back.
And no matter what my opinions or beliefs on automatic writing, I liked the answers that "God" gave. "He" talked about being source energy, about making us in His own image so that we might create our own lives. More importantly, he explained that we can only appreciate what 'Is' by experiencing the 'Not Is'. Or in other words, how can you appreciate something until you have experienced the opposite? And how can you know who you are until you have come across who you are not? "God" also talks about there being no right or wrong - a fascinating concept.
But one thing that the book still didn't answer was "Why me?" I read the trilogy. Still no answer.
I persuaded my sister to read the book. My sister had been interested in Personal Development for years - the practical, scientific stuff - and I assumed that this might just be a bit too far-fetched for her to enjoy. I was wrong - she loved the first book. She devoured the trilogy.
I started to read Esther and Jerry Hicks (who channel a collective consciousness called Abraham and talk about the Law of Attraction). My sister started to read Wayne Dyer. I re-read The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, which now made total sense. My sister read that and ordered the follow-up: A New Earth. Together we read and learned and passed information to and fro: Have you read this? Have you heard of this author? We gave each other advice, calling up different stories and analogies from the materials we had read. Reminding each other of what we believed.
We each had our own preferences. We each connected with different material, different authors and different methods. And then one day in passing, my sister mentioned that one of her clients had started going to the Kabbalah centre and that she might go along.
Oh. At the time I had no idea about Kabbalah and in truth I suspected that my sister wanted to become best friends with Madonna. I had no interest in joining the bandwagon and so Kabbalah was just something that my sister did - I decided that could be her thing.
But over the next few months I watched my sister transform. We began to have more open conversations and our relationship started to change from older/younger sister in to a really deep friendship. She recommended a couple of books: The Power of Kabbalah and The Spiritual Rules of Engagement, and I enjoyed them both. Maybe I should learn some of this stuff after all.
At the end of June 2008, my sister planned a visit to the UK. She rang me beforehand to discuss her schedule.
"Oh and by the way" she said "I really want to go to the London centre for Shabbat. Will you come with me?"
"I don't know the first thing about Shabbat" I said "I won't know what to do"
"Me neither" she replied "Let's go anyway"
The moment that I stepped in to the London centre, I felt somehow.. what.. like I was meant to be there? How does that make sense? Well, it does. A couple of weeks later I joined a class and started to learn the basics. What surprised me was that there are so many things in Kabbalah which related to all of the other spiritual books I had read - the way that energy works, the concept of sharing - but the difference with Kabbalah was that although the concepts are so simple, all of them can be backed up with a deep knowledge. This is the type of knowledge that excites Quantum Physicists - it is way ahead of its time. And it is timeless.
At the start of 2009, I had my sixth meeting with my teacher. Rather than talk about my usual present day issues, I described the events of my teenage years and a feeling of anger that I had towards my step-father that I couldn't shift.
The following words changed my life forever: "Why did you invite him in to your life?"
I hadn't really thought about it this way. The theory is that before you come in to physical form, you make a contract with God - you agree what you need to overcome and in doing so you choose when you are born, you choose the parents and significant people who will give you the challenges that you need to transform. It's the ultimate in responsibility. And even if you don't believe in reincarnation and signing a contract with God, it is a fantastic way to consider your life. What if I had? If I did invite him in to my life, then why did I do that? Why him?
So the answer to 'Why Me?' is 'Because I chose it' which immediately changes the question to 'Why did I choose it?'
Despite finally finding the answer to my question, there were still several sticking points with Kabbalah. One was the constant use of the 'G' word which made it sound like a religion (it's not), and the other was the Judaism which makes it feel like a religion (again, it's not).
Time after time I have been wrapped up in a connection, singing Hebrew songs, the Brich Shmei, the Ana Bekoach, listening to the Torah reading, performing the Amidah, the Kidush and all of a sudden I have almost stepped out of myself and looked at the absurdity of what I am doing. And it is odd. At one connection I was amongst a group of women circling a washing-up bowl filled with water and singing in Hebrew at 3 in the morning. It doesn't get more bizarre than that.
But as soon as I start to have my doubts, I am reminded in a lecture or conversation in passing that this is not about worshipping a judgemental God or begging for forgiveness for my sins - it is about understanding the source energy of the Universe - the Light. It is Judaic wisdom, not Jewish Religion. It is about choosing the right consciousness, understanding how the energy works, finding my purpose, drawing abundance in to my life, dropping the victim consciousness, connecting to my highest self and pushing until all of my questions are answered and chaos removed from my life.
There are many people who attend the centre who are Jewish. And there are Christians, and Muslims. Nobody is persuaded to go kosher - in fact, we are strongly dissuaded from doing anything for the sake of jumping on a bandwagon. It's not about being part of a clique or a trend. It is not about idol worship or blindly following rituals to feel as though you have 'done your bit' in the way that some people do when they turn up for church once a week. It's not about being better than anyone else.
Coo, in fact, it's bloody hard work, this spiritual lark. But it while it continues to come up with the answers, it works for me.