My earliest memory of spirituality is listening to “Mary Don’t You Weep” blasting from the radio. I remember raising my little hands like I’d seen my mother do, and lifting my voice, telling Mary it was okay to stop crying. To this day, it is one of my favorite gospel songs. I didn’t understand the lyrics until a year or two later, when I learned the stories in bible school, but I understood the feeling. That tingling, floaty, effervescent feeling of pure light energy flowing through you and filling you up is priceless. It’s the state people hunt in their religions and spiritual practices, and it’s called a lot of things. Nevertheless, I found it in its purest form at the age of four, with just a few gospel songs.
I also found something else at that time; I could perceive things others couldn’t. I could see the darker aspects of a person. In the case of my father, they sometimes had a life of their own, sometimes in the form of skinny little angry malevolent beings who fed off his violent, manic energy; sometimes in the form of a dark cloud around him. I was always a bit of a night owl, but one night, when I was six or so, I could not go to sleep because I was sick with worry over my mother. I had a terrible feeling that something bad would happen to her. She worked the night shift and my sister and I were staying with our grandparents. Eventually, my grandmother stopped trying to force me to sleep and nature took its course. But I remember being adamant about being near the phone. I remember touching it right before I fell asleep. What felt like five minutes later, my mother called to tell my grandparents she’d gotten into an accident with a buck, and the car was wrecked. Amazingly she was fine. I was so emotional I was crying, and my mom had to spend a couple minutes calming me down and convincing me that she was sore but unharmed. That night, my grandmother looked at me long and hard before she hugged me and told me to try to get some rest.
Looking back, I know that I am blessed. My mother and grandmother, who undoubtedly had gifts of their own, may not have been able to impart any wisdom other than prayer, but they never looked at me or treated me like I was crazy whenever I shared or showed my extrasensory perception. They never batted an eye when I discovered that term and tried to learn more. Nor did anyone say anything to me about my overuse of the word vibes to explain all my feelings. If I said I felt a spirit or bad energy, they usually believed me. My only regret is that we didn’t feel comfortable as a family sharing that knowledge because I know other women in my family have similar gifts. I only hope they didn’t feel overwhelmed and alone too.
I was always the curious one in the family. My favorite word was, and still is, why. That extended straight into my quest to understand each and every sermon and Bible verse at church. Yet, ultimately curiosity is often considered “questioning God” and is not well received. Personally, I never understood the separation between religions, new age practices, and science. They all fit so naturally if you just look beneath the surface. Jesus performed miracles, but they can just as easily be categorized as magic. Don’t come at me! I’ve already had enough arguments about my perspective on this. The Bible speaks of the power of belief and prayer; so does the law of attraction. For me, it was never one or the other. Long before I knew the words, or understood what I was feeling, I believed in God and astrology, the power of meditation and prayer; the importance of having a connection to heaven and earth. In its simplest form, I believed that everything and everyone was connected, and that connection needed to be honored.
I was taught by the church that only pastors could be prophets. Any other type of psychic ability was often considered magic and therefore of the devil. Déjà vu was a mind trick; premonitions were manifestations of an overactive mind or psychic (meaning bad), and sensing people’s emotions, intentions, and future actions was simply women’s intuition coming strong and early, most likely because I was raised in the inner city. Meaning, “Baltimore’s a bad city and you’ve learned street sense.” Someone told me I couldn’t claim to love God and believe in astrology at the same time because the latter was a false god and evil. In bible school, someone else told me that I would be cursed because I questioned the Bible and God was vengeful. I asked her if God was a dictator and if so, why should we praise him. She got really flustered and walked away. When another Bible school leader at a different church gave me a similar reprimand, I asked her if that meant free will was a lie. She said no, but rules always had to be followed.
Being raised in black churches, I am no stranger to watching people catch the holy ghost, shout (praise dance), and speak in tongues. To be clear, I believe in this phenomenon. As I said earlier, sometimes the energy moves in its purest form, and it can be strange to witness, but it is always beautiful. Spirit never quite opened for me in that form. For me, it came in the form of full-body chills, tears, and sometimes just the feeling of being full. Silent, but powerful. And I could literally feel love from the universe. One church we attended was pretty big on speaking in tongues. So much so, that nearly the entire congregation spoke in tongues, which is unusual. And I, a kid of no more than ten or twelve, could spot several adult fakes. There were a few you could time no matter the sermon. It was one of those fakes who told me my relationship with God wasn’t all that strong if I had not found a tongue yet. She said I didn’t have a tongue so I could not speak to God in a personal language, and he could not truly hear or speak to me. I was devastated because before then I had been proud that I could still hear God in a house full of pretenders. What baffled me most was that an adult went out of her way to tell me I was worshiping incorrectly.
I will not lie and say I was not hurt or beat down by my experience in churches. From bible school to the day I buried my mother, I had to fight to keep my faith intact. In a space meant to teach unconditional love, I was often found to be lacking or to be entirely too much. Too inquisitive, too logical, not godly enough, and not a strong believer. In the back of my mind, those warnings of being cursed or not close enough to God always lingered because, well, an adult would know right? The funny thing is, back then I believed God could move mountains or give me the power to if need be because the Bible said so. While I was never really sure how hyperbolized the story of Jesus multiplying the fish and bread was, I felt the truth of Daniel in the Lion’s Den in my soul. It was my favorite story. It, more than any other story, proved to me that God was real, and so were miracles and divine protection. When I was young, I heard divine guidance so clearly, I sometimes wondered if I was going insane, yet time after time adults found me lacking. Unsurprisingly, with so many telling me that my Bible knowledge, wayward faith, and outward worship wasn’t adequate, it made me question my sanity and, inevitably, my relationship with God.
Today, we have a term for what I faced called religious trauma. It is real and cuts deep. I remember being terrified when I was pregnant with my son because I hadn’t been to an actual church in over seven years, and I had no idea how I would raise a good person as I had zero inclination to go back to church. Luckily, it didn’t take me too long to unpack the fact that being Christian was deeply ingrained in my culture and how I was raised. Once I was able to recognize that, I realized religion does not make a good person. So, two good people, charitable, loving, kind people, who fight for the underdog, can raise a good person without ever setting foot in a church or mosque. I am proud to report that my seven-year-old is a kind, honest (most of the time), good person.
Sometime after my mother died, I prayed away my gifts and shut them down. Honestly, it was one thing after another, starting with some issues in the church that led me to leave, and ending in not seeing my grandfather’s death coming. My faith was already shaky, and I was exhausted. Naturally, something had to go. Let me explain. Weeks before my mom died, I had a series of dreams, premonitions, about her not being available in the future. Fast forward some time and she passed away, making each dreamed scenario true. That did not happen with my grandfather. One day he went to the hospital for dehydration. A hectic and confusing few weeks later he was brain dead with a bunch of injuries, and no one could pinpoint the source. At the time, my belief was had I seen it coming I could have stopped it or at least prepared for it. Not seeing it coming threw me for a loop and left me unsettled.
If I had to find a source for my loss of faith, I’d say that losing my grandfather was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I had received messages, signs, and signals about everything except my grandfather, which felt like the universe had betrayed me. In hindsight, I was overwhelmed, fatigued, suffering from insomnia and a host of other issues, and his death was just too damn much. Something had to go.
Let’s talk about the present. As much as I’d like to, I do not have a consistent spiritual practice. I am not yet at the point where I do something specific every day. Instead, I have an arsenal and I use whatever I feel pulled to at the time. I listen to sermons, read bible verses, practice meditations, and Energy Alignment Method (EAM), use crystals, incense, candles (and candle magic), baths, yoga, journaling, automatic writing, Reiki, chakra healing, breathwork, tarot and oracle cards, readings, astrology, etc. And I absolutely adore the moon and stars and talk to them often.
The difference between now and then is I can talk freely about most things. It’s no longer unsafe to talk about tarot and chakras. I don’t even feel weird saying I have seen and felt spirits and had visitation dreams. Best of all, I no longer feel the need to defend myself or anything I believe in. You believe in crystals, too? Great, let’s talk; you probably know more than me. You think people who use crystals are kooky? Ok, cool. To each his own. I’m not going to argue about spirituality any more than I’m going to argue about music preferences.
While we haven’t learned to mind our own damn business, much of mankind is learning to live and let live. We are being less attached to the old rigid definition of normal and embracing all manner of lifestyle variations. I am excited to be alive at this time. I love that I can scroll through social media and find like-minded people. I love that I don’t have to scour the library and bookstore for a billion books because plenty of people have done that and can summarize them for me, allowing me to deep dive into subjects I really like. And I am so excited that so much information is free and readily available.
Still, with all this growth, sometimes, I look at my life and the world and wonder if I have it wrong. Perhaps God really is more like a vengeful ruler than a loving father. I wonder where collective cocreating ends and divine punishment begins. I hear the whispers of churches past and I fear my life is the way it is because I’ve disappointed God by being too inquisitive, too off the beaten path. At the same time, I think my belief system is perfectly fine, but God has a whole wide world to handle, and my unhappiness is the least of his/her problems. Obviously, there are a host of issues that ride that belief including the one that says I’m not worthy of miracles because my problems aren’t big enough to be noticed. I know. I’m working on that.
Even with all that is left to work through, I love where I am. More importantly, I love who I am becoming. I have all the pieces and they are, slowly, coalescing into a beautiful picture. I accept that I need a good sermon as much as I need tarot and meditation music. I reaffirm my intuition and all that it brings, and I never want to live without it again. I embrace the woo and I accept myself and all the ways in which I express my spirituality, and I am happier and more centered than I’ve in years because of it.