relationship with God

100% Jodi: When Spirituality Presents a Problem

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Hey everyone, welcome! I feel like I’m inviting you into my living room because this is going to be an intimate conversation. Buckle up because this is another one of those “What I’m Afraid to Tell You” episodes like the one I did 6 months ago.

A Tale of Two Conversations

god

This episode was brought on by two conversations I had within a 2-week period.

The first conversation was a coaching call with one of my clients. She has given me permission to share our conversation with you and I am very grateful to her. We have been working together for 2 ½ months so we’ve gotten very comfortable with one another. In fact when we’ve talked about personality tests like Myers Briggs and DiSC our profiles are a near match. She joked that if we lived near each other we’d either be hanging out all the time or avoiding each other because we would be a mirror to the other and there might be times we don’t like what we see. I completely agreed.

We were chatting a couple weeks ago and she mentioned that she wasn’t sure of me when she first started listening to the podcast. She enjoyed the interviews and got a sense that we had a similar take on things but the Marianne Williamson quote at the end of my episodes has a strong reference to God and that did not resonate with her. Also, being from the UK and living in Australia she also sees how evangelical U.S. citizens can be. I chuckled and thought this impression was very fair considering what gets blasted in the new and on facebook whenever there is a presidential election. She had a valid concern considering she didn’t know me very well.

However, it was when she heard my episode on Higher Consciousness vs. Traditional Theology that she realized that I was a spiritual person but not practicing any religion. It was then everything clicked and within a few weeks she reached out to me and we scheduled a Skype call.

I was very appreciative that she shared this with me and grateful that an unintended consequence of that episode, also inspired by a conversation with another client, allowed her to feel comfortable reaching out to me.

What is My Truth?

confrontation

Okay, so that conversation happened and about a week later I was having a one to one networking meeting with a member from another BNI chapter. I had recently seen a book list he put together for his employees and it included some of my favorite books like Start with Why, The Four Agreements and The Alchemist – books that from my perspective are spiritual but not religious;  along with another book that had the word “spiritual” right in the title.

Of course I had to ask him if he considered himself a spiritual person. This opened up the gates to a conversation I did not see coming. During our conversation I told him what my client recently shared with me about the perception she had of me. He asked me some great questions and picked up on the fact that this is an area I censor myself, not just on this podcast, but in my entire life.

There is such a stigma around spirituality, and exploring concepts like faith, divinity, intuition and higher callings. It’s not to say that I feel a need to talk about these things all the time but even when it’s relevant I often find myself saying very little on the subject even though the truth of the matter is I believe these things are woven into everything. From my perspective there is no conversation where these topics are not relevant. It’s like trying to pretend water is unnecessary.

In the course of a conversation I would have no problem saying, “Do you mind if we pause while I go fill up my glass of water?” but the thought of saying, “Do you mind if we pause while I check in with my intuition?”, makes me feel squeamish. I could count on one hand the number of people I would feel comfortable saying that to and I only feel comfortable because they did it first, thus giving me permission to do the same.

The Type A Dilemma

Dilemma

And this is probably something many of you have grappled with. Being Type A and likely left-brained, logical thinkers we like our facts, our case studies and what has been scientifically proven. It can be difficult for us to embrace faith because that would mean letting go of control and allowing things to unfold. We don’t like being told what to think and believe, or having anyone assign our role or cap our potential, so the dogma of religious institutions can chafe against who we are at our core.

And for most of us we have collapsed spirituality and religion into the same concept but they are distinct. Spirit is your non-physical form and your connection to something greater than yourself as an individual. Your spirituality is how you choose to explore and express that connection. Religion is a system of practicing faith and worship. Religion is structured and has agreed upon principles.

I want to be clear that I am all for a religious practice if it aligns with you and allows you to grow in your spirituality. Joining a religious community can provide support, guidance and company in your spiritual journey. I was raised Catholic and although I am not a practicing Catholic there are many things that I treasure about the Catholic faith. I can’t remember what age I was but I would guess it was somewhere between 4th and 6th grade I had a catechism teacher whom I felt comfortable with. Because of my level of comfort I would pepper her with questions. Being logical we can instantly see when things don’t add up, when they don’t make sense and if there is inconsistent information we have a hard time trusting the source.

For instance, in the Catholic faith you are only to receive communion if you are in a state of grace, meaning your sins have been absolved. And you can only receive absolution by confessing to a priest and doing your penance. So for example, if you skipped mass the week prior and haven’t made it to confession it’s a no-no to receive communion. However, during the mass right before receiving the Eucharist the entire congregation repeats the words, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.” Having said that, and believing in a forgiving God, you are still not to receive communion unless you have confessed to a priest.

Still, often when I am back in Worcester visiting family I will attend mass with them for several reasons. I like the people of their parish. They are warm and friendly and comical. It also makes my parents happy to see me attending mass. They do not push nor do they hide their hope that all their children will become practicing Catholics once again. They are very respectful of my choices and so I feel a freedom to attend mass. Lastly, I sometimes become very moved during the mass. When you get past the quirkiness of the Catholic mass, and some of the dogma that doesn’t resonate, you can see that it is designed to create an environment in which you can have a spiritual experience. Sometimes I feel so connected to that something greater my eyes start to water.

We Need to Explore Beyond the Physical Realm

exploration

If you cut yourself off from the notion that there is something greater than our mortal coil you will limit what is possible for you in regard to your own development and your human experience.

I remember watching a PBS broadcast of a talk Wayne Dyer gave and he made the statement, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

That stirred something in me and I realized I already believed that but I had never heard it articulated in that way.

That is at the core of my beliefs but it has been a journey to get here. My faith has been tested many times and I went through a time when it was shattered.

As I share this story I don’t want you to get hung up on the word God. If God resonates with you, great; if not know that in the telling of this story I could interchangeable use the words source, higher power, universe, etc. Change out God for the word that is true to you.

In 2005 life was really good for me. My career was going well and I had a great group of friends. My brother Jimmy had been living in Maine for a year and we were roommates. Family is so important to me and it was nice having at least one family member in my day-to-day life. He got into shape, started running with me and became friends with my friends who loved him. I couldn’t make plans to party with my friends without being asked, “Is Jimmy coming?”

My sister Kerri and her husband Ben got married in April and my best friend, Christina, got married in August. My sister Erin got engaged and began planning her wedding for September of 2006. I completed the Maine Half Marathon in October and immediately committed to running the Maine Marathon one year later – it would go down one week after Erin’s wedding. In November I overhauled my nutrition and created a training plan. In December I accepted my 5th promotion in 6 six years and starting in January of 2006 I would be the Assistant Vice President of Corporate Quality.

Have you ever heard the song, The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades? Yeah, that was me. There were definitely challenges, there always are, but I was facing and resolving them one by one and my confidence was high.

Life Will Throw Many Curve Balls

drowning

The first half of 2006 was me putting everything into action. Jimmy let me know he had no interest in running in the marathon but he would train with me so I would have company on my long runs.

But July Jimmy, who had been discontent with his job for some time started exploring going back into the Army. The first week of August he got word that he could have the job in the Army that he was hoping for but he would have to leave in 2 weeks to get it. I was happy for him but it also made me very, very sad. It also meant my last 3 long training runs – 22 miles, 24 miles and 26 miles – would be done on my own.

I considered finding an apartment for just me but financially it made more sense to buy a condo and so I began my search and quickly found a condo that suited me. The scramble to checks tasks off my list and fill out a ton of paperwork began. I got a closing date of September 15 – one week before Erin’s wedding and two weeks before the marathon.

By the second week in August I received an email that my brother-in-law Ben’s dad, Mike, had gone into the hospital and it was serious. My family had been so close to Ben’s family for years that I thought of his mom and dad as my aunt and uncle and his brother and sister as my cousins. I went home that weekend to visit his family in the Intensive Care Unit. On August 18th Mike died at the age of 50 and the next day I dropped Jimmy off at the Army Recruiting office and said goodbye.

Around this time my Uncle Eddie, who had been previously diagnosed with cancer started to decline and was placed in hospice. On August 31st, less than two weeks after Mike, my uncle Eddie died. Childhood memories of him at family weddings buying all us kids Shirley Temples came flooding back to me. It was painful to see my dad grieve. He was one of five children and now only he and my aunt Tina remained.

I continued my training, hired a moving company, and began packing up all my stuff in preparation.

The Straw that Broke Me

identity

On September 11th, 4 days before I was closing on my new home, I got a call from my best friend, Christina. Her mom, Ruth, had died suddenly and without warning the day before. My entire being rejected the information. I don’t know how to quite put Ruth into words. She was quiet and unassuming. Though she certainly had her opinions she accepted and loved people for who they are, she cheated at cards – badly. She was a proper Bostonian, her family had come over on the Mayflower, her parents were Deans at the Harvard Business School and Weslyan College, yet she wasn’t above a water gun fight at my brother Steve’s homecoming party when he returned from Iraq.

My confirmation name is Ruth and I think we connected over that from the start. The day we went shopping for and found Christina’s wedding dress we came home in the afternoon and popped Champagne. We popped a lot of Champagne. I don’t know where the time went but at 3 AM the three of us climbed into Ruth’s king-sized bed and watched Singing in the Rain and sang along to every song.

I knew she was dear to me but her death exposed to me a depth of love for her that I had been unaware of.

The next few days were a blur. Though Christina’s mom lived in Boston many of my friends in Maine, who were also my co-workers had attended at least one of the annual barbeques Christina, Ruth, myself and a group of friends had been putting on over the last several years. They all had fallen in love with Ruth too and their dismay over her death was comforting to me.

I closed on my home on Friday. Saturday, moving day was a series of unfortunate events but as soon as all of my stuff was in my condo I locked the door, got in my car and drove 2 hours to Boston.

A core group of Christina’s closest friend and family members had gathered to be with her as extended family, neighbors and friends stopped by to bring food, offer their condolences and help with all the arrangements.

Sunday morning was the first opportunity I had to let everything that had been happening over the last 6 weeks settle in. There was a few moments when the shock and numbness faded and I felt an enormous pain that went beyond physical pain. And then the words, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me” popped into my head and then I was numb once again.

Heartbroken, Disconnected and Empty

I remember over the next couple of weeks there were moments sadness would overwhelm me, I would break down and cry, and then I would go back to feeling numb.

I came back to Boston the next weekend. Ruth’s memorial service was in the morning, her reception followed and in the late afternoon I hugged Christina and then drove to Worcester for Erin’s wedding rehearsal. I pulled myself together, walked into the church and my brother Sean made a crack about me being late for my own sister’s wedding. I burst into tears. Oh my God, my poor brother, the look on his face. He was stunned and so sorry.

I was in the line up to do a reading during the mass and I was handed the reading at the rehearsal. It was the same reading that had been read at Ruth’s service that morning. I broke down again, this time to my sister Kerri and my brother-in-law Ben. I sobbed that I didn’t know if I could do it.

That night and the next morning I kept practicing the reading to try to make it rote, to take the emotion out of it. But I couldn’t make it through without starting to cry. And when I say cry I’m not talking about beautiful silent tears that slowly roll down your cheeks. My face scrunched up, my shoulders hunched forward and my gut tightened like someone was about to punch me in the stomach. It wasn’t pretty.

Given my relationship with Erin we also had a few laughs at how ridiculous it was that I could not do one run through of the reading without crying. Erin told me it still meant a lot to her for me to do the reading but she would understand if I wanted to back out. I did the reading. I cried through it – at a wedding – but I did it.

The next weekend I ran the Maine Marathon. Friends of Christina’s and my sister Catie signed up to do the relay so I could run most of the marathon with a partner. My Mom and Dad, my nephew Tiernan, Kerri and Ben all came up for the weekend to watch me cross the finish line. I was gratified that I completed the marathon but I was also feeling very empty inside.

After a late lunch everyone was on the road back to Massachusetts and I went back to my condo.

Looking back now on the time period after the marathon I can see how disconnected I was. I walked into a bad but blessedly brief relationship. The tight-knit group of friends I had inside and outside of work began to disintegrate. I began overtraining because I wasn’t paying attention to the signs my body was giving me. I threw myself into my work.

I think I existed like that for a good year or more. I did start to come back to myself and taking better care of myself but I still felt empty.

Going Back to The Promised Land

healing

In 2008 my friend Niva was wrapping up her year attending the University of Tel Aviv and she invited me to come visit her before she came home. I jumped at it. It was just an amazing 2 weeks. I feel in love with Israel but at one point in the trip Niva went through the pictures we had been taking and she exclaimed, “Jodi, you don’t look happy in any of these pictures!”

Without thinking I responded, “That’s because I’m not happy.”

And I couldn’t explain why.

Niva and I spent some time talking about it and she gave me a lot of space to think my own thoughts and be silent for long stretches of time.

It came to me that what had been missing was my relationship with God. I couldn’t remember that last time I had a conversation with God, something I regularly did in what I’ll call my glory days.

I knew what the problem was and so coming back from Israel I felt more peaceful than I had felt in a long time, but I didn’t know what to do about this problem.

After I returned home I went back to Worcester and visited a very wise woman in my old neighborhood. I told her about the feeling of emptiness I had, my current relationship with God and my loss at what to do about it.

She said to me very gently, “You know the moment you lost your connection with God.” And suddenly I was brought back to when I had been in horrible pain and thought, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me.”

It suddenly clicked. I realized in that moment that it had not been God who had forsaken me, I had forsaken God. I turned away from God. I had severed that connection.

The lovely woman I was sitting with suggested I start talking to God again like I would with a friend I had not seen in some time. It started slow but I did begin an internal dialogue with God. And I’m so glad I did.

Finding God Once Again, In the Mirror

in the mirror

In the next couple of years I would go through two acquisitions at work, I would get certified as a coach and I would launch my coaching business. I don’t think I would have thrived through that time period without my faith and trust in God.

There were experiences I had that were so incredible I’ll have to share at another time –  they changed how I saw myself, how I related to others and the world around me.

During this time I read The Mastery of Love by Don Miguel Ruiz. I’ll read you an excerpt from the final chapter of the book titled, God Within you.

“There is an old story from India about the God, Brahma, who was all alone. Nothing existed but Brahma, and he was completely bored. Brahma decided to play a game, but there was no one to play the game with. So he created a beautiful goddess, Maya, just for the purpose of having fun. Once Maya existed and Brahma told her the purpose of her existence, she said, ‘Okay, let’s play the most wonderful game, but you have to do what I tell you to do.’ Brahma agreed, and following Maya’s instructions, he created the whole universe. Brahma created the sun and the starts, the moon and the planets. Then he created life on earth: the animals, the oceans, the atmosphere, everything.

Maya said, ‘How beautiful is this world of illusion you created. Now I want you to create a kind of animal that is so intelligent and aware that it can appreciate your creation.’ Finally Brahma created humans, and after he finished the creation, he asked Maya when the game was going to start.

‘We will start right now,’ she said. She took Brahma and cut him into thousands of teeny, tiny pieces. She put a piece inside every human and said, ‘Now the game begins! I am going to make you forget what you are, and you are going to try to find yourself!’ Maya created the Dream, and still, even today, Brahma is trying to remember who he is. Brahma is there inside you, and Maya is stopping you from remembering what you are.

When you awake from the Dream, you become Brahma again, and reclaim your divinity. Then if Brahma inside you says, ‘Okay, I am awake; what about the rest of me?’ you know the trick of Maya, and you can share the truth with others who are going to wake up too.”

The Mastery of Love should have been listed in the episode in which I shared the books that changed my life but I held it back. It was so personal to me because this story shared in The Mastery of Love is what I believe about all of us and our divinity.

The Belief that is at My Core

at My Core

My belief is we are all divine beings. We are not just created in the image of God, we are God; there is no separation other than the separation we create.

As a baby is just as human as its human parents, we are as divine as our divine parent.

It’s no wonder to me now when I severed my connection with God I severed a connection I had to myself and it left me feeling numb and empty, and unable to take proper care of myself.

I wonder sometimes, with the society we live in today with the stigma around spirituality, and exploring concepts like faith, divinity, intuition and higher callings, if that’s not the reason why so many people feel lost, unfulfilled, antsy, anxious, and depressed. Why there is such dependence on alcohol, drugs, TV, or anything that will distract or numb us from a feeling of emptiness and a life without meaning.

I have found that the more I honor my relationship with God and my own divinity the more peaceful, confident and effective I am. When I am in that space I find it easy to connect with other, to make an impact and to be memorable. I’m not just honoring my divinity; I’m honoring the divinity of everyone I come into contact with. I am powerful, free and joyful.

What has this to do with Women Taking the Lead? Everything.

It was a calling, a part of my life purpose to launch this podcast. At the time I was considering launching a podcast I was bombarded with the self-doubt other women were experiencing, with the self-doubt I was experiencing on occasion, and the resulting lack of action and unhappiness, and it bothered me.

I thought, “What would the world be like if all women could recognize that we are as deserving as men, that we are truly equal partners and that it is just us, oblivious to our own divinity and power that holds us back?”

That being said, I don’t need you to believe what I believe. Many of my friends do not claim a strong relationship with God, and some are where I was back in 2006. I love them and enjoy their friendship no matter what they believe.

My policy is “Come as you are.”

We are all on our own journeys and I honor that. I would not want to miss out on the pleasure of getting to know you because we saw things from different angles.

A Pleasant Surprise

relationship

And my client who originally thought I could possibly be an evangelical American. When I reached out to her to get her permission to share our conversation in this episode, she shared with me that I had gotten her thinking about an old fascination she had with Celtic mythology. It had more of a connection to the earth and the environment than traditional and dogmatic religions and so resonated with her. This got me sharing with her the fascination I had with Greek mythology.

My point being, even though from the outside we appear to be on opposite ends of the spectrum there’s actually a lot of common ground here, and a jumping off point for a conversation if she wants to have it.

Wherever you are I want you to find more ways to experience and express how amazing you are. That is going to start with you being true to who you really are.

If you’d like to share where you are on your journey comment below or you can email me directly at jodi@womentakingthelead.com.

My hope is always that what I share is of value to you.

Thank you so much for being a part of my journey and Here’s to our success!

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