In September, I made an appeal through my blog for people to detail their experience of Awakening – a hidden-in-plain-sight secret to achieving contentment, peace and prosperity in life, and a phenomenon that appears to be repeating with increasing regularity in these early years of the 21st Century.
In explanation, many spiritual writers say that, as we approach 2012 and the various prophecies and hopes attached to the date of 21st December, 2012, a raising in the vibration of divine energy is bringing about a new consciousness.
I don’t agree with that any longer. It implies that, in some way, people who lived before this time were not deemed as worthy to receive this wisdom as we are, now.
Something is certainly happening, but I think the reason so many Awakenings are being recognised is because we have entered a new era of communication and cooperation, with technological advances giving us access to services such as YouTube, Facebook and, of course, the global megaphone that is Twitter.
Humanity has been given the ability to come together and remember that we are, wherever we’re from, very much the same, at heart and in spirit.
I believe, now, that Awakenings have been occurring for all of human history; a deep, ancient knowledge that every man, woman and child who ever walked the Earth has had access to – though, by far, not all of them have recognised it, within. Societal conditioning and the desire to control, by states and agencies stretching back for millennia, have blinded us to the truth… because when the truth sets you free, it's in the interest of these organisations for us not to see it.
There are many paths to the same peace and many stories of reaching the same awareness of being.
I’m honoured to introduce one such story – of an Awakening, over 40 years ago - from my great friend, the prolific author and, quite simply, one of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met, Gladys Hobson:
I first became aware of Les Floyd’s existence in 2007. I was putting together an anthology of stories and poems by a number of author friends and it was suggested to me by the author Geoff Nelder that Les might like to make a contribution. And so it was that Barnsley Bear made his scatty appearance in Northern Lights. From then on I have had the pleasure of getting to know Les and his delightful writing. Northern Lights was just a limited edition and copies are sold out, but maybe Les will eventually put together his own anthology and Barnsley will take up residence in many more homes.
|Barnsley Bear, illustrated by Gladys Hobson|
There are some people you instantly take a liking to, even though few words may pass between you. Meeting Les when he called to see me with his lovely friend Louise, was sheer delight. Mind you, Les is so tall that I was a little concerned that he would notice dust on top shelves and light fittings! It has crossed my mind that if he comes again I will give him a duster to take care of a nagging problem — climbing on things to clean causes me dizziness. Les is not only big in size, he has a really big heart to go with it.
Of course I know about Les’s past health problems. I saw them as being similar to those suffered by many highly creative people. He has been on my prayer list almost from the day I knew him. Indeed, for quite a long while I had a life-size photo of his face on my desk paper stand. No, not for his looks, good though they may be — I have a handsome hubby to wear my eyes out on and, after over 58 years, I am not planning to change that! It was just to send little darts of well-wishing his way. So, as you can imagine, it was with great pleasure when I heard about his enlightening experience and that he has, to quote Les himself, ‘after decades of sleepwalking through life… finally woken up and realised the greatest dreams are achieved with open eyes and a conscious mind.’ Les is in a unique position to help others. I am not sure I can take in the full scale of his dream but I believe in him to achieve what many would say impossible. I have good reasons for stating this. At a similar age to Les, I too had an enlightening experience although mine was quite different. Even so, it changed my life and outlook, and there was no going back. But even roses have thorns. Difficulties, pain and sorrow come to us all, but the Light continues to shine in the darkness. That Light is Love.
When I was a child of seven I attended a Sunday School at a local Elim chapel. Not that my parents were Pentecostal or even churchgoers, but an elder sister had persuaded her younger siblings to go along. Of course, being before the days of television, super toys and games and anything else to distract us on a Sunday morning, we did not need dragging the short distance. Each Sunday attendance put a lovely stamp — a picture of a Bible story — on our record card, and after about two years I could expect my very own Bible. Books, like toys, were in short supply at our house. One Sunday the Pastor said that he wanted children of seven and over to stay behind after class. He told us the story of a dying child and how Jesus came one night, picked him up, and carried him to another room where he would be happy forever. The child had given his heart to Jesus. We were invited to do the same, in the knowledge that, one day, we too would be in heaven with Jesus. I ran home to tell my mum that I had given my heart to Jesus. She said, “That’s nice.”
I drifted away from Sunday School about the age I started Secondary Education. Of course we had RE every morning throughout my schooling. Years later, when my dad was ill, I went to a church where a Healing Campaign was being held. Again I surrendered myself to Jesus. By this time I was courting and my hubby-to-be was not in the least bit interested. What’s more, Sunday had become a day for us to go out together. His only concern about my religious state was when we started planning our wedding. I had not been baptised, either in a church or chapel. Would the vicar marry us? Well, our local incumbent merely stated, “We don’t make marriage a reason for getting Christened,” and then booked us in for a March wedding.
One Sunday, we attended Evening Prayer to hear the bans read. This was the first time I had been in a Parish Church. I was not impressed. It so happened to be Lent and the church seemed dark and drab with no flowers, and the music dreary. I had always enjoyed singing hymns at school but I did not know any of those being played, neither could I find my way around the prayer book I had been handed. Nobody spoke to us. If this was Christian worship I decided I could do without it. But our wedding went very well. Being a dress designer, I designed and made my own dress: white lace over pale yellow taffeta. I made the bridesmaids’ dresses in a brighter yellow taffeta. My flowers were all white. It was a cheap but beautiful wedding but more important to me was the service itself. I took my vows seriously. Maybe we were ill matched in many ways, we certainly had nothing in common, but I truly believed that love always finds a way. As for God, I never doubted His presence in the world, in my life and in my marriage — even if my husband is agnostic.
We lived in a bed-sit at my parents’ home for three years. They were difficult years in many ways. Then we moved to the town where my hubby worked and a year later our first son was born. Nearly two years later our second son arrived. By this time I was working freelance from home. Five years and another house later, our third and last son arrived. The following spring we had an unexpected visit from the Rector in whose parish we resided. Who would have guessed that this visit was to be a turning point in my life?
The Rector was leading a visitation to all the residents of the new housing estate, inviting us to join the Church congregation, and giving out free copies of their magazine. Our previous house had been in the same parish but had a small church building of its own. Our first two sons had been baptised there, even though we were not Church attendees. Likely the baptisms were due to the influence of my hubby’s family plus a general acceptance of what was regarded as the norm in those days. While the Rector was on our doorstep I asked him about getting our ten-month old baby baptised. Then I had this sudden urge to proclaim that I wanted to get baptised too. Was I was beginning to feel an outsider? Or was it something else entirely? A movement of the Spirit within? Perhaps it was both. Anyway, the Rector told me that adults are confirmed at the time of their baptism, and that he would let me know when discussions at the Rectory would begin. I didn’t like the sound of it. Discussions? I was totally ignorant of such things.
In due course I was informed about the first meeting. A neighbour, who had asked for Confirmation, also received a letter, so we went together. There was a good mix of adults at the meeting, from students in their late teens to adults of pensionable age. First we all introduced ourselves. I felt incredibly nervous, especially when the Rector said something like, “If you have come here thinking Confirmation is a matter of convention, or just a means to allow you to take Communion, think again. Confirmation is about commitment. It is being part of the Body of Christ. It is receiving the Spirit of God into your life and allowing Him to lead and guide. God is our Father, Jesus is our Lord and Saviour. Jesus told his followers that he would send the Holy Spirit to be with them and in them. Are you prepared to accept the full blessing of the Spirit?”
To those who said this all happened at baptism, he asked how did they know? Then he began reading from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 12, and backing the quotations with other New Testament letters and parts of the Acts of the Apostles. He named the gifts that are given to those that believe — wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, prophecy, tongues, interpretation of tongues. Then on to gifts of ministry. All these given for the working of the Body of Christ. Certainly from the Day of Pentecost, speaking in tongues appeared to be a sign of receiving the Holy Spirit into a believer’s life. But the blessing was not only about gifts. The fruit of the Spirit — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galations 5vv 22-23) authenticates the truth of the Holy Spirit’s blessing.
This was forty-seven years ago and I cannot be precise on what was said that evening and at following meetings, but I recall quite vividly that his words shook me to the core. I went home thinking that this was more than I had bargained for. Should I drop out? But I was inwardly driven to continue the course.
The next week, the Rector said he had a surprise for us. A few people had stayed behind the previous week for the laying on of hands. I gave a quick look around the room to find the most likely candidates, in other words — who were the odd-looking ones? But when each gave their testimony, in simple language, of how they had received their remarkable experience, they all sounded quite normal, in spite of the fact that they could now speak in a language they had never learned. There was no hint of bragging but rather each had a quiet humility and, so it would seem, a sense of awe.
By the end of the session my neighbour said she was staying on for the laying on of hands. That meant I would have to stay too. A strange thing happened. While she had hands laid on her, I suddenly found tears rolling down my cheeks. Before long I was in full flood and there was nothing I could do about it. I was led to kneel, and hands were laid on me too. I felt incredibly odd. No, I was not shouting with joy or anything else. I was told that I had been given the gift of tongues, but I felt more as if I had lost the one I had.
The next day I was praying in my bedroom. I felt as if a voice was telling me I was too tense and should relax on my bed, also that I had been given the gift of tongues. But no words came out of my mouth. So I started making sounds. These turned into words. What they actually meant in English I do not know, but as I kept repeating them an incredible feeling of joy swept through my body. It went on and on, bubbling up from within me like a mountain spring. Bubble…bubble… burst! But I could not stay there all day, I had an infant to feed and jobs to do. It was all so crazy, all the time I was working the inner spring of joy was bubbling up. I felt absolutely ecstatic.
From then on I was a new, younger women. I started painting and engaged in various creative activities, both at home and in the Church. A ‘light’ had been switched on and everything seemed different. I went through a dizzy time of remarkable answers to prayer. No, not a usual prayer list but rather it seemed I was told what to pray for, and what action to take myself. Unknown to anyone, I was using nearly half my housekeeping on what might be termed ‘God’s work’. I turned into a remarkable housekeeper. So much so that my hubby said he did not know how I managed on what he gave me. He offered more but I refused. Everything we needed seemed to be provided in remarkable ways. One example: the local school was putting together an orchestra. My son wanted a cello. I prayed about it. I seemed to be told to advertise for one in the Nottingham paper. The day it was in, I was peeling the potatoes praying someone with a cello to see and answer the advert. A few minutes later the phone rang:
“Are you the person who wants a cello for her child? I was sitting drinking coffee and reading my paper when I just had to turn to the adverts page, something I never do. How strange. I have a cello in the attic that used to belong to my husband. It’s old but a good one. There’s a bow too but it needs restringing. You can have it for £4.”
The school had the bow restrung. And she was right, it was a good quality cello. But I found myself answering other people’s prayers too. I felt compelled to visit a friend. I found husband and wife in bed with flu and in need of help, which I was more than willing to give. And it went on and on.
At this time, prayer groups were formed and gifts of the Spirit were eventually exercised. I can’t say that all went swimmingly within the parish because it did not. Controversy was bound to set in. However, churchgoing was a joy and so were Christian friendships. But I could not have gone on living on that high plane. Apart from which, I began to question certain Biblical interpretations and inconsistencies. Being told to simply accept what was written without question was not good enough for me.
My dress design activities had dwindled when the country opened its doors to foreign imports. Things were bad in the garment industry; some companies turned to other things, but others closed down and the buildings turned into apartments. I saw an advert appealing for women with experience of children to train as Primary School teachers. I prayed hard about this. Could I really manage the course? I had never done academic work as such. Would I first have to get A-levels? But I did get into college, on the grounds of my design experience and through a single English test. After half a term I was able to change from Art to an academic main course — Divinity. It was hard work but a great joy! So much so, that from initially getting average marks I started getting B+ and the occasional A. Did academic study of the Bible cause my faith to waver? No, it strengthened it. It also dug me out of a rather narrow Evangelicalism to embrace a more liberal Christianity where love takes centre place.
Much water has gone under the bridge since then. Moving home, teaching, studying for the Church, ministry, more academic study and, since the turn of the century, writing. There have been good times and incredibly difficult and painful ones. Too much to relate here. (A recent post on my Wrinkly Writers blog — Gays and the Church — has a little of my history) One thing for certain, had I not had that huge spiritual awakening so many years ago, and smaller enlightenments since then, I would not be the person I am today. Religion with its dogmas, if extreme, can tear peoples apart. But the Light that dwells within speaks of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. As a Christian, I see myself as a follower of The WAY (however much I stumble). This, I believe, is my meeting point with Les — our WAYS have met in a kind of unity. We are certainly different but recognise our common humanity and celebrate the preciousness of life.