Branches of Scots Pines are swaying softly in the wind. The sky is milky blue interspersed with menacing grey cloud. The smell of impending rain hangs on the wind. A grey squirrel hops across the path, hesitates and climbs a hawthorn tree with reckless ease.
Your Calling Needs To Be Trusted
As we learn to tune into and trust our calling we are able to live with reckless ease. However, learning to live with such grace needs finely tuned discrimination as to what is and is not inner guidance, gained from practice and experience. I have made many painful mistakes in learning to discern and then trust my calling. The temptation when I make a mistake is to close up and shrink from life. This is a perfectly natural reaction to failure, pain and stress. However if we can learn to discriminate and trust inner guidance as a result of reflecting and learning from our mistakes, we will discover our potential, our lives will blossom and we will gain a quiet inner confidence.
When I was at architecture school I wanted to learn something significant from my time at university. However my first two years at University were relatively uneventful. I had learned a little about design but had not learned much about life.
Then in my third year a new tutor joined the school. He was tall with a dignified look and fierce penetrating eyes that set him apart from the other tutors. I soon realised that he was a very able designer and an excellent tutor who had an awareness about life that others lacked. Through this awareness he seemed able to control what went on in the architecture school, even though he was neither a professor nor head of department. Over the next two years I came to admire him for his positive qualities, but chose to ignore the many small signals that suggested he had a darker side.
At the end of fourth year we were invited to choose a project for our design thesis. I had selected this teacher to be my personal tutor and had decided to design a crematorium. A short time into the yearlong project I called on my tutor for some help and guidance. When I told him about my wish to design a crematorium he said, "That's already been solved." He took down a book of designs and opened it at a crematorium explaining the significance of the symbolism as he did so. His explanation must have made a big impression because I left the room stunned. For the first time in my life the significance of death really hit home.
I wandered in a daze back to my flat where I proceeded to cry. I could not stop. The tears continued for three days. My flat mate had no idea what was happening to me, but I knew. I had accepted the inevitability of my own death. After this period of intense grieving I felt a new level of inner peace and contentment. I was amazed at my tutor's awareness and began to feel he was someone I could really trust.
When I visited him again he suggested that I do a cathedral as my design thesis instead of a crematorium. I was surprised. Did he really think that I, a mere architecture student, could design a cathedral? Then I made a big mistake. I decided to design the cathedral because my tutor felt it was a good idea. I trusted his judgement instead of my own gut feeling, which was suggesting I design a crematorium. I did not know it then, but I had just put myself in the power of a manipulative man.
I returned to my tutor and told him I had decided to design a cathedral. He was delighted.
"I have been interested in the cathedral as a design problem for a long time," he said. We started to meet regularly to advance the project. At the second of these meetings he began to stare at me intensely. Then to my surprise an energy wave came out of his forehead and went right through me. I felt as if the cobwebs were being cleaned out of my mind. When I objected to this treatment he said,
"Perhaps I should take the candle to you instead of the searchlight."
When I left the room I was full of energy and for the next few days could not settle to do my work. I felt compelled to visit his strange new home outside the city.
I visited him on Saturday. We worked together on putting the finishing touches to his unusual modern house. That evening we went for a drink, returning late in the evening. Around midnight his wife went upstairs to bed and I was left sitting beside this strange man with paranormal powers. He turned to me and made it obvious that he wanted some kind of intimate sexual contact. I refused to cooperate. He was annoyed and rose to go to bed asking,
"You'll survive on your own?"
I spent a restless night in bed downstairs, had breakfast with the family in the morning and then left as soon as there was a bus back to my flat.
The following week I endeavoured to return to my studies but could not concentrate. How could I work on a cathedral design project with a tutor who wanted a homosexual relationship with me? How could I do the project without his help? I had only chosen it because he thought it was right for me. I was well into the final year and it was too late to change my project or tutor. If I failed this project, four years of study would be wasted. I was becoming very stressed because I was unable to see a way forward.
One afternoon I rang my mother in an agitated state of mind. The next day both my parents appeared at my door unexpectedly. They had sensed something was terribly wrong and had come from Ireland. I did not tell them what had happened, but did say that I could not cope with my studies. We decided to visit the tutor that evening.
At the meeting he denied suggesting I design a cathedral and we agreed that I should take a year away from university to recover. When we returned to my flat I still felt distressed and agitated. That night I awoke and as I opened my eyes saw a long dark tunnel with a light at the end. I rose from my bed and went out to the landing. I sat on the stairs in a completely disoriented state not knowing who or where I was. Returning to bed I waited for daybreak.
The next morning I was still disorientated. My parents suggested I immediately return home with them to Belfast. I lay in the back of my father's estate car for the whole journey. Looking out the windows from my prone position at passing trees and clouds, I was unable to think or use my mind in any constructive way. On arrival in Belfast I had an emergency meeting with a psychiatrist, who immediately admitted me to a psychiatric hospital, where I was put on medication. I was not given the name of my condition because the doctors and my parents thought, in my fragile state, it would be too much of a shock. I had been diagnosed as having schizophrenia, a condition that was to haunt me for years.
Schizophrenia is a malfunction in brain chemistry triggered in some people by exposure to extreme levels of stress. The stress and pressure I experienced while in the company of this tutor had sparked the condition.
When I explained to the doctors my experience of the energy wave passing through me from the tutor's forehead, they considered it part of my breakdown and therefore a psychotic illusion. However I am sure it was a real experience. It was different from any psychotic experience I have ever had. I have since read about the "third eye" an energy centre in the forehead that a few people have managed to activate and now believe this was the source of the energy I experienced.
Once I recovered my mental faculties sufficiently to understand what had happened I was very bitter and resentful. How dare that tutor prey on me! How dare he cause a devastating illness from which I would suffer for the rest of my life!
I felt my tutor had caused my breakdown and subsequent disability. However as I reflected on the experience I realised that I was the one who had chosen him as my tutor and I was the one who had chosen to become very stressed and feel trapped when he started to put pressure on me to do what he wanted. I had other options. For example I could have reported the tutor's inappropriate behaviour to my professor.
I eventually recovered well enough, with the help of the medication, to return to college. This time when it came to choosing my design thesis and tutor, I was more tuned in to my inner guidance and had learned through bitter experience to trust it more. I designed a crematorium and chose a gentle, caring, humble man as my tutor. These wise choices were instrumental in helping me pass my final year, even though I had a disability that made me vulnerable to stress. While there I avoided my old tutor.
My final year over I left to enter the workplace, but I was not the person I had been. For the rest of my life I would have to learn, by trial and error, how to manage my medication and my stress levels so that I could lead a normal life. However I could not escape the presence of my tutor. An invisible thread, woven from my bitterness and resentment, connected us. I was now a disabled person and for a long time considered him to be the cause of this misfortune.
However as time went by I managed to forgive my tutor. I saw him as he really was, a man with good qualities, who was also selfish and misguided. I began to grow and mature as I understood the lessons in this misfortune. On reflection I realised that in choosing this tutor and deciding to design the cathedral, I was moving counter to my inner guidance. My maturity developed still further when I learned the spiritual lessons from living with disability.
Now, as I sit typing this, it is obvious that when misfortune befalls there are valuable spiritual lessons to be learned. Experiencing this setback and learning the lessons contained in it, gave me much of the knowledge to write this book. As I grew in wisdom I was able to find it in my heart to forgive my old tutor and the twisted cord of bitterness and resentment that had connected us all those years dissolved and disappeared and I was free.
The great religions of the world, like Christianity, in their essence are about the spiritual journey and this inner call. This is the journey they teach, although it has somehow become lost in the mists of time. That is why Christianity places such a great emphasis on faith. What is meant is not blind faith, like the faith I had in my tutor, but faith in ourselves, in our inner guidance, intuitions, insights, dreams, creative ideas, conscience, in Christ Within and faith in a transcendent reality to which we can aspire.
So let us have faith. We can trust our guidance, the radiant inner swan that grants discernment, from all the hurly burley in our mind. Then we can choose to trust that guidance. We can test our intuitions, insights, dreams, creative ideas and conscience in the real world and see if they work. Ask yourself, is following my calling helping? Am I able to avoid harm? Am I becoming wiser, more loving and more peaceful? I invite you to experiment and find out.
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