Coming from a non spiritual upbringing, the words ‘finding yourself’ was the instant trigger for an eye roll. Regardless of my upbringing, my logical sense and natural personality was quick to shut the thought down. I remember hearing it from others and thinking- Do you even know what that means? Does anyone know? Why can’t someone just elaborate on how to identify when one ‘finds thy self’? Even if I did fall into the concept of believing this could happen, how would I know I’ve achieved such spiritual awakening when no one could provide a reassuring answer. You’ll just know was the only response I recieved and that quickly prompted an eye roll followed by the realisation I needed more wine to continue this conversation. Though soon the subject reined heavy into my thought process and I started comparing the concept to falling in love. I guess you just know when you love someone so maybe this is the same? My inquisitive subconscious must of had enough and set out to find answers.
Spiritual enlightenment has been greatly associated with travel and for that part I understood. Travelling forces you out of your daily routine and comfort zone. Landing in unfamiliar territory, with different cultures, food, smells and interactions gives you a chance to grow as a person. You learn and with learning comes growth. Not to say you have to travel in order to ‘find yourself’ because I personally had been across the other side of the continent, anticipating embodying buddha himself and still came home confused and disappointed. Though refusing to give up, I tried over and over again.
My eyes open to complete darkness in a hotel room in Barcelona. I lean towards my phone to check the time, expecting early hours of the morning just to nod back off to sleep. The digits 10.20 light up aggressively and blind my vision. Knowing I went to bed after 11pm the night before, this was not a good sign. We were due for a bus tour up Montserrat Mountain at 10am. God damn these black-out curtains. They are an incredible force, can completely distort all notions of time. I jumped out of bed into the dark unknown while yelling for my daughter to wake up. “We’re LATE, we’re so late. Get up!” Throwing on the first clothes I could find, Sienna half asleep while I shove a toothbrush into her mouth- not the most gracious of wake ups. We dashed across the city towards the meeting point. “There was no way I was missing out on this spiritual experience,” I thought while sprinting across busy streets, Sienna being dragged mid-air from behind.
The Mountain itself holds a religious significance. Home to the Benedictine Monk Monastery and statue of the ‘Black Madonna’ also known as ‘The Virgin of Montserrat’ or ‘Virgin Mary’. The monument was believed to be carved in Jerusalem at the beginning of the religion and known to bring miracles to all who worshipped. Although I’m not highly religious, I respect history enough to dote over the experience. This was it. If I was going to transform into a new, better version of myself- this was it. Sienna and I lined up to touch the sculpture and pay our respects. When leaving the alter we had the opportunity to pray in the chapel of the Image and we bowed our heads and prayed. Sienna undoubtedly praying for world peace, while I wished for a sign of change. A spiritually enlightened change.
The views on top of this 1200 meter-high mountain were breathtaking, showcasing the landscapes of Catalonia. The atmosphere was electric and although an incredible experience, I still couldn’t feel any shift within myself. A similar experience happened in Rome when visiting the cathedrals. I tried the same wish while throwing a coin into the Trevi Fountain. I caught the claustrophobic tube in London, ate alone, saw the Queen, meditated while looking through floor to ceiling glass windows and walked aimlessly through foreign places in search for this life changing moment. Yet nothing!
Recently the opportunity to travel to Indonesia with a group of strangers lead me to believe that this was my moment. I couldn’t possibly be thrown out of my comfort zone anymore and besides India, Bali is the epitome of spiritual enlightenment. During my time there I challenged myself to the limits. Not only being away from my daughter for the first time for that duration but I experienced moments that broke my heart. I spent a lot of time alone, trying cultural therapies and ended my trip by visiting popular temples. One of the stand outs was Tirta Empul, home to the Holy Spring Water Temple. This is a place of self-cleansing, though not physically but spiritually.
A man helped me tuck in my sarong as I stood nervously at the entrance. “Think good thoughts”, he whispered as if he could read my mind or maybe he just felt my resistance while his hands were around my waist. I walked slowly towards the pool of ‘Holy Water’ and observed all my nerves disappear. This has got to be it, this is the moment. Looking around, people were working their way through the water in clockwise movements. Briefly stopping in at the shower-like hoses attached. I followed suit and bathed in the water. I’m unsure if I felt any life-changing breakthrough, though I was strangely calm. As I handed my sarong back, the same man looked at me with enthusiasm as if I should be enlightened. I just starred back while giving him a hopeful smile yet still I felt nothing. Why is this not happening? Right I guess India is next for me.
Like most good things; they will happen when you least expect it. While sitting at the airport waiting for my flight home, it happened. I sat down on the floor of the gate shortly after breezing through a very relaxed security process and thought about the concept. I was proud of my efforts the past week and imagined myself sitting here, book in hand, alone in a foreign airport and thought “Holy shit I have grown up”. And that was it, the penny had dropped.
Maybe finding yourself isn’t a thing, well not something you hit instantly. Finding yourself is not a destination, it is a journey. You could find yourself a million times through life as you’re constantly changing through growth. Growing is the logical answer I had been searching for. YOU JUST GROW UP! Since planting my feet on home soil, this concept was amplified through my behaviour and reactions. I had changed.
It’s reassuring to know you don’t necessarily need to travel to the ends of the earth, dunk yourself in Holy Water or pray to the Virgin Mary to find spiritual awakening. You just need to grow up and it happens in your own time. The experiences you encounter may fast track or delay the process but enviably it will happen. And when it does you’ll just know.