I remember first being introduced to formal religion at the age of 5. My parents had never been religiously inclined and so I had never been baptised. My father was a self-proclaimed atheist and my mother had never once talked about religion to my sister and I. In fact, if it were not for my grandparents arriving to live in Australia from the UK in 1965, mainstream religion would probably have never entered our family sphere; however, it was decided that something needed to be done about the situation and so a baptism was arranged. It was a sombre occasion. The metallic grey stone walls of the church, cold, wet water on my forehead, and my 2-year-old sister screaming in protest, all very solemn and strange, is still a strong memory for me. From then on we were obliged to go to Sunday School every week.
My mother, sister and I went for an introductory meeting with the minister. He was dressed in a dark black musty smelling suit, his voice was rough and blustery, his hands red and puffy reached out to me. I was taken aback, horrified actually, I could make no sense of my parents wanting me to be here. I spoke up, “No, I don’t want to go.” I could feel my mother’s embarrassment as she laughed nervously at my outburst. But my sister and I had to go; my father, who had no belief in God, sent us along anyway. “I thought it would teach you morals,” my father said to me later in life. This I look back at with great irony.
It was a 2 kilometre walk to Sunday School from home. On the way we always passed the enticing smells of hot fish and chips coming from our local Greek shop. I would dream of spending the twenty cents offering that Mum had given us on a pack of hot crispy potato cakes, but I never did. At Sunday School they taught us about ‘miracles’… I remember the first day vividly. I felt that I was in the middle of a fairytale story that I must earnestly believe in. And try I did. I would conjure up pictures of what these miracles looked like in my head. But the whole story never felt real. And then there was a completely different side – how we were complete and utter sinners, all of us, just by being born. How does that work if God is love? It didn’t add up for me. I went along each Sunday, as that is what we did, but could find no true meaning in religion as it was presented to me. I couldn’t relate it to my everyday life and so deemed it as being of no consequence. And this way of thinking became more cemented as I grew older and experienced more of the world and its history. Why, when for centuries wars, persecution, torture, rape – you name it – have all been executed in the name of someone’s god, would I ever want to be ‘religious’?
But with me also was an innate sense that there were other realms than our two-dimensional life on earth. This I knew. It made sense that God was Love, but what does that mean in activity? What makes one religion more special than another? Surely God was a presence that didn’t favour anyone.
Searching for a deeper meaning to life I later entered the spiritual new age arena, but never looked the part, you might say. I was a modern woman with a spiritual slant. Apart from my normal working and family life I would attend occasional meditation evenings, theosophical presentations and festivals checking out what was on offer in the ‘spiritual world’. Then, at around the age of 35 at an event in the UK I was asked a question by a popular new age leader of a particular religion that has a huge following. “What is your religion?” he said. I instantly became aware that this was not an innocent question. The feeling coming towards me was neither friendly nor innocent; I sensed this man’s forceful demeanour attempting to back me into a corner, the intensity of his hollow, black eyes wanting to grab and draw me in. I stared back, not giving an inch. Almost before I could think I had replied “Nature – the natural world is my religion”. He nodded and walked away. I was pleased that I had managed to fend him off with the answer that had simply popped into my head. But, in hindsight, I realise that at that point in my life this was actually true.
My first strong memories are of the great love I felt in my heart for nature and animals. There seemed to be a common slant or agenda in most relationships I encountered with people. For me, it always came back to the natural world, a safe place which simply allowed me the freedom to be myself. I would feel so lovely and complete. My Dad used to call it my ‘soft look’, which he loved.
I did, and still do, have a deep relationship and connection with nature. And in this way, at that point in time, nature was my religion my go to, the place that I connected to for a deeper consideration of life. Being in nature always had such a strong and beautiful nurturing and nourishing effect on me. From a very young age I felt safe by myself in the bush and could spend hours playing contentedly, never needing anything else around me. Walking through bush, spotting wildflowers, feeling the warm sun and cool breeze on my face, sinking in the long grasses and staring up at the clouds passing by – I was never bored nor felt lonely. Nature was the place from which I was able to bring the complexities of life into some sort of perspective. I would now say that nature was my go to from the harshness and brutality of the world, it gave me space to take breath. There was no denying it, life in the world was intense.
Then, in 2002 I met Serge Benhayon. Recommended by a friend I went along to a workshop that he was holding, presenting The Ageless Wisdom. I totally loved what I saw. Everything presented made sense to me – there was nothing I had to believe in or change about myself, other than to be my true self. This I was truly interested in. There were no hooks or embellishments and above all no hype or promises. This was asking me to look deeper within myself and consider the immensity of who I truly was beyond any personal fears, and although for me this was scary, I knew that this was where everything laid that I had ever queried or felt was missing from my life. To know myself, truly, and to live that intimate relationship with myself, my Soul and God. This brought a responsibility and power that both challenged and supported me in the most beautiful and amazing way.
So, 17 years on I am always developing and deepening my relationship with religious connection, alongside living with my husband, raising a son to teenage years and working. I still have the most gorgeous connection with nature but can rely on my own well of love and wisdom, the place that resides within, to nurture and nourish me. Uncovering me is the best thing I have ever done. My life is enriched beyond measure. I love people, love working with the public, and this is reflected in how much I love and connect with my inner self. Reconnecting to the religious way of The Ageless Wisdom gave me the tools to become the leader of my own life. A Soulful union with myself, my relationship with God – straight to the source.
Yes, I am religious, I can say this now with no reserve. 20 years ago, I would never have imagined I would be using the word ‘religion’ in relationship to myself. I would want to run as fast and far away from the word as I could. And I did run, for many years … until I connected to the true meaning of the word and the natural religious nature within myself – my connection to God neither through idol nor man, but the power of my own knowing heart.