My Spiritual Journey

Inner Growth – Highlights of my Spiritual Journey

I was in my thirties before I started turning inwards and even understood there was a life inside. Emotions were not shared or talked about in my family, and the school system certainly did not teach anything about inner development. My personality type also supported an outward orientation and in the tumultuous years of the late sixties and seventies there were so many exciting activities going on it was very compelling to jump in and focus on them. My unhappy love life was also not exactly a welcoming portal to engage in inner reflections.

The first approach I undertook was a course in co-counselling, a self help based inner growth format of focussing on your emotions with the support of a silent witness. You work in dyads or in groups and take turns listening and talking. You (not a therapist) are considered the expert on your own feelings. As much as I liked the approach I remember agonising minutes of silence that dragged on when it was my turn to explore my feelings and I could not come up with one single emotion. I simply was not aware of what was going on inside. I could have reported on a whole bunch of projects I was engaged in and was excited about, but I could not identify my emotional life. There was an automatic denial mechanism at work, that set in when I was emotionally upset. It was not that I did not notice when I was hurt, I did. But an immediate response arose in me to cover it up, to hide it from others. Keep smiling.

This went so quickly I would hardly notice what was happening.  It resulted in burying my emotional reactions so deep, they were hidden even from myself. I really needed to dig deep down to uncover them again and become aware of my feelings. I was ashamed of them. I had no confidence that I was entitled to feel what I feel. I believed I needed to legitimise my feelings, so I was already on the defensive. This was certainly also a result of my upbringing. My father, who himself had not grown up in an emotionally warm and accepting family climate, demanded that you could present good arguments for your feelings, otherwise you were not entitled to have them. To this day it takes me a lot of work and presence to “catch” this denial mechanism so deeply ingrained in my personality structure, and to stay aware of my feelings, and especially to engage in a kind and allowing attitude towards them.

The next method I learned to trace inner processes was the “Option” Method, a set of questions designed to uncover belief systems. This was also a method you could do in dyads. After having learned the method myself at a workshop with the Kaufmanns, the originators of the approach in the US, I invited my dear friend Gabrielle, who had pointed this method out to me, to hold a workshop in Munich, so all my friends could learn it as well, and we all could practice it together. It was amazing to realise how strongly unconscious belief systems determine behaviour, as well as emotions, for that matter. When bringing these beliefs into consciousness most of them look quite silly indeed, as well as often very self destructive. Again, however, it takes constant attention and the light of awareness to dissolve negative belief systems, many of which are collective and shared and reinforced by society.

I come from a Christian household. My father was a pastor and missionary and religious rituals were part of our everyday family life. I enjoyed the family community these rituals created, but strangely enough the Christian religion never touched me. I was not against it; it simply did not speak to me. And yet I always knew I was a spiritual person. But somehow traditional religions in whatever form (including Buddhism) were not my path. I always felt them to be fear based in some way or other,  to trigger fear. I was more drawn to contemporary spiritual paths, what sometimes is referred to as “New Age Spirituality”. That was what spoke to me, where I could feel my soul and even the cells of my body respond and sing with joy.

I believe that the core of all religions is the same and that everyone needs to find their own spiritual path. I find it wonderful that there are so many approaches being currently developed and available on the planet at this time, so that people can find what speaks to them and are not confined to one approach. This is one of the reasons why I find we are truly living in exciting times.

Most of the steps on my inner journey were inspired by friends. A highlight for me was when I learned to channel. My friend Inge from Oslo (the first woman I had ever fallen in love with) was on a world trip together with her partner and had invited me to join them for parts of it. When I had time over the Christmas vacations their travels had led them to San Francisco and they had just learned to channel. I joined in. It took some more practicing back home, attending several seminars,  and working through a work book, but it turned out that I had quite a talent to channel. I started offering channeling as a service to friends and also using it for guidance and encouragement in my own life.

One of the sources I had found to learn to channel was a spiritual approach called the Light Body, developed by channelled entities, Orin and Daben, channelled by Duane Parker and Sanaya Roman. Here I learned to run my light body energies and to hold greater and greater amounts of light. When friends asked me why I was for years going off to California for the light body seminars, I could not really explain to them (or to myself) what I was doing and why I was doing it. But my intuition definitely pulled me towards developing my Light Body, and I trusted that pull.

I tried out several other spiritual and personal growth approaches that were available in Munich and learned from each one. I never, however, became a joiner and subscribed to one particular spiritual path, nor was I ever attracted by a guru. It all came together, however, when I heard of the Diamond Heart Approach or the Ridhwan School as taught by Almaas. Again it was my friend Gabrielle who told me about it. I read some of the books and immediately felt that I had found my spiritual home. One of the attractions of this approach is that the teachings are totally based on experiential experience. You are taught an intricate body of knowledge, but it only becomes real and true through your own experience. The methods of this school are designed in a way to support you in accessing your own true nature, as personal experience. Inner growth in terms of working through personality structures is a part of the path, but not the goal. The goal is to find and to live your life as your true inner nature. The school operates with a system of regular retreats in a continuous group. I first joined a group that met in California and then transferred to one of the European groups. The practices taught in the Diamond Approach, which I share with other co students as well as my personal teachers, who work with me one on one, have given me tremendous support, especially in the time after my cancer diagnosis.

I can see that over time my soul has ripened through the spiritual courses and practices I did. Mainly because they gave me a framework and support in facing and working through the challenges life has put my way. In the Diamond Heart approach you gain access to directly experiencing the support of your true nature in its many qualities. This does not immediately free you from your personality structures but you do gain a keen awareness of them and start identifying less with them. And you have a direct and personal experience of who you really are and of the immortality of your soul.

My cancer diagnosis capitulated me into the most intense spiritual experience of my life. My workaholic structure, which was driving me all my life, melted away, glided off my shoulders like a cloak, whose ties had gotten loose. I realised that in reality I had other priorities and values and how I had been neglecting them with my total and frantic focus on my work. It suddenly felt absurd how my busyness was driving my life and keeping me from experiencing and tasting it. My heart opened, I felt much more love, toward myself, my body, my partner, my friends. Love and connection have become most important and I can feel my longing for them when something comes between. I can be present and in the now for longer periods, spontaneously, without engaging in any efforting practices. Life has become my practice.

I have started to immensely enjoy the two homes we have built. Our Jordaan neighbourhood in Amsterdam is breath takingly beautiful. I was startled to realise how often I had passed by the treasures of my neighbourhood coming home from an exhausting business trip and the anonymous business world culture of the sleek German Intercity trains, blind to my environment. Our office/home at Zandvoort, right on the beach, has become a haven of relaxation and recovery. Building my collection of sea shells is something I now take the time and energy for.

I am not putting down my work, the movements and social change projects I have engaged in all my life. Friends have given me beautiful presents to acknowledge and document them: a personal website and the (ghost-) writing of my autobiography. I have a tender feeling towards the enormous dedication and engagement I have shown towards social change and the huge amounts of time and energy I have invested in creating innovations and working towards a better world.

What I am understanding better now are the connections between my spiritual quest and my worldly engagements. Spiritually I am learning that we are all one and that what causes our suffering are the separations our ego structures build between us. The focus of my life’s work has been on community building, on reconciliation, on facilitating contact and solidarity beyond the many lines of separation built into our societies. As much as we have developed huge material riches in the West, we have become poor in our social contacts and we have developed a huge divide globally between the affluent and the poor. It is very fulfilling for me to see how the Mother Centers I helped develop have become a project that rebuilds community: between families, between generations, across social and ethnical divisions, as well as across nations and continents. I can connect the focus of my work, the strengthening of the maternal voice,  to the return of the Goddess

I  see it as a privilege that I can see and experience the fruits of my labour. That is something I hardly ever stopped to do. There was always so much more that needed to happen and that I thought I needed to make happen. Being always very keenly aware of the unrealised potential of situations is what has made me a pioneer and an innovator. It also made me a workaholic. And it frequently made me want to move too fast, ahead of the group. This often created pressure for and distance from my co workers. I still can’t help but see the further potentials, in all of the projects I have been involved in. The learning process for me now lies in letting go, in being in peace with the fact that I am not able to further be a leading force. I am beginning to trust that things will evolve anyway, most probably in different ways than I foresee or can imagine. And that beneath it all there is a guiding force and a larger picture that we cannot decipher.