From Practicing Presence to Finding Jesus!
Tara devoted herself for a season to
Buddhist meditation, then became a follower of
Bagwan Shree Rajneesh.
Finally, she was personally mentored by Eckhart Tolle, until she had an encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ
and everything changed!
With hindsight, I can see that God’s hand was on me all my life. There were so many instances that could have been awful and even dangerous, yet I was protected. He was also endlessly patient with me, until I had ears to hear the gospel of Jesus and to recognize that I belong to him. Jesus said in John 6:44, ” No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”
1 Corinthians 1:9
God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
In one of my earliest memories, my father taught me how to say “The Lord’s Prayer” (Matthew 6:9-13).
Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be Thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever Amen.
I was about four years old. He had divorced from my mother because she’d had an affair with another man, although I don’t really remember any of that. I just remember that I would go and visit him in Manchester (England) and stay for a few days perhaps, and that He taught me to pray. There was an old photo of me (aged 4) I remember, with palms together and eyes closed. Most likely I’d been asked to pose, but still the image stayed with me as a significant memory. Like a little clue on the trail that would later lead me to Christ! I heard later that my Dad had become a born-again Christian shortly before that. I like to believe that I was covered by his faith, because soon after that, he was gone, and I was left to navigate some rather dark situations as the course of life unfolded.
My father died suddenly one day while walking home through the park, on his way to meet me and my grandmother. He was in his early 30’s; an asthma attack brought on a heart attack and that was it. Gone. It was a shock! My uncle told me that he died from a broken heart. I loved and adored my dad, and I missed him terribly. I wondered where he really had gone. As the years progressed, I imagined that he had become a star in the sky, looking down on me. I also used to silently pray for him to appear as a ghost (even though I was afraid of ghosts!). Not surprisingly, he never did!
It was really the beginning of my search for the father! I missed my earthly father and was seeking my Heavenly Father, but I didn’t know that at the time. I wasn’t taken to my dad’s funeral, (not sure why) and so I never really said goodbye. There was always a sense that he must still exist somewhere; it was unbearable to imagine he didn’t. I clung to the memory of the Lord’s Prayer as a delicate thread that connected me to him.
There was an old, beautiful, family Bible my mother had: huge, white leather, with a gold embossed cross on the front. I can still remember it so clearly. My father had written something inside the front cover, something about all paths leading back to God, and that Jesus was the only true socialist. Both my parents were media people, my father was a writer (a journalist) by profession, and my mother sold advertising space for various publications. They were both politically minded socialists, so I guess that’s why he said that. Personally, I don’t think Jesus had any interest in politics.
My mum wasn’t a believer as far as I know. She called herself ‘agnostic.’ I remember she questioned how a loving God could be so cruel as to take away my father so young. And she admitted to being angry with him, if indeed he even existed.
It’s really interesting, but I never saw it that way, even though I missed my father so terribly. Somewhere deep down, I imagined there to be a perfectly good reason for everything. Even then there was a sense and beginning of trust in perfect order, even though I certainly didn’t understand it, or even like it very much.
I used to go to church when I visited my grandmother in the school holidays; it was a small Methodist church. It smelled a bit dusty, and the preacher would ask me to take the collection plate round the congregation, as was the norm for most of the visiting grandchildren. Nothing particularly stirred in my soul there and I felt a bit out of place, but the people were kind.
Another interesting clue the Lord laid out for me was in giving me my best friend, Catherine. We were in the Brownies together, as well as being in the same class at school. We were definitely on the same wavelength. (I like to think she was a gift from God.) She was also the vicar’s daughter. He had the same name as my dad: Colin. I sometimes had sleepovers at her house, which was the vicarage. Her mother was so sweet and kind, such a comforting presence. She made us snacks of bananas with chocolate sauce. Something about the atmosphere in their home felt very safe, and I always remembered that. I loved Catherine very much.
I loved and adored my mother, and she loved me too; of this, I was always sure. It was an immense gift, and I’m sure it helped me to eventually comprehend that God himself loved me too. But, at this point, for the sake of honesty, I must refrain from the temptation to glamorize my childhood. My mother was bright, funny, intelligent, sociable, and special. There was something so lovable about her. My dad once wrote a song for her with the words “You’re gentle and tender and oh so easy to love……..” I really know what he meant. But as time went on,she also developed a problem with drugs and alcohol. By the time I was eight years old, she had a serious heroin addiction. She was beautiful, and although she laughed, she suffered a lot.
I only pray that in her last moments, Jesus was able to reach her. I have prayed that prayer from the depths of my heart, because I loved her, and I love God, and I know he is able to do anything. God himself must have loved her because he loves even the worst of us, and she certainly wasn’t that. It hurts a great deal to think she may have lived and died not knowing the love God had for her.
To describe the darkness of the next few years could probably fill a book, but it would be very painful to try and remember and to write and perhaps it isn’t necessary in this case. I only mention it to give you an idea of the life experiences which drove me toward faith in Jesus. I remember this time with a deep sense of loneliness. I really was o.k. My mum took care of me. She was a great cook and made me laugh like no one else could, and I always had a roof over my head. My love for her kept me going, and also the trust that she loved me too. Even so, I still carried a sadness which became so familiar it really felt like my best friend. Helplessly watching her destroy herself was the hardest part; it was maddening! Feeling that I couldn’t do anything to change it was even more exasperating. She once told me that it wasn’t my business, that she was the grown up and I was the child. I accepted what she said, but it didn’t change my sense of frustration.
My conscious search for God really began when I was around fifteen. I remember perceiving a feeling, a sense of goodness, happiness, within me which wasn’t caused by anything. It was deeper than melancholy, my old friend. I became interested in it and started trying to wriggle my way into it, so that I could experience it all the time. I watched it, to find out what made it go away and what made it increase. It was fairly accessible and became more important than most worldly things.
Interestingly, and certainly significantly, around that time, a dear friend of my mother’s (who remains a dear friend of mine) gave me a copy of The Handbook to Higher Consciousness by Ken Keyes. It had helped him come through a twelve-step Alcoholics Anonymous program. I had never read a book like that before and it certainly opened my mind. The same friend then also introduced me to the teachings of Ramana Maharishi through the Paul Brunton book A Search in Secret India. I wouldn’t say I was heavily influenced by those books at that time, but I enjoyed them a lot, and my curiosity about spiritual things was certainly aroused.
As the years followed, I got into, and out of, relationships, jobs and education. I left home, travelled, and still, the only thing I perceived to be God was this good, peaceful feeling within me that wasn’t caused by anything, and which I could feel my way into when I wanted. I found it much easier when I was in parks, under trees, in the mountains. And so, I gravitated toward those places…. quiet places, where I could read, or write, or just breathe clean air ….. I loved the rain too! The sound it made, the feeling it stirred within me.
I must have remembered, if not consciously at the time, the ideas put forward in the books I read, that God was already within me, and that I just needed to rest there a while in order to find him. I had such a lot to learn! I looked hard, but I didn’t find God inside myself.
Now I realize that I started off with a tricky misunderstanding. That deeply peaceful, good feeling was real; it was my own God-given spirit, but it wasn’t God. He was the one who created it, but my spirit couldn’t know him until it knew Jesus.
A long time after that, I realized that it takes incredible humility to accept that God might be different than who I imagine him to be. I had to be very open to the possibility that I didn’t actually know who he was. I was looking in the wrong place. I had to be open to the possibility that perhaps he did indeed make me in his own image and not the other way round. I had to be very humble in order to willingly accept who he really is and to find out what he wants from me. I have to really love him, and really trust him, and really want to know him.
I understand why Jesus said in Matthew 22:37:
“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”
Certainly, in my case, I didn’t even come close to knowing him until I fell in love with him hook, line and sinker.
My mother suddenly and unexpectedly died in 1996 from a heroin overdose. Consequently, the spiritual search really stepped up a notch! I was living in Edinburgh, studying theatre, living in a small flat with my boyfriend at the time. I remember the exact moment the policeman told me what had happened. I was eating an avocado sandwich. The sensation was something like my being falling through the floor and loss of hearing for a few seconds. I had always known it was possible that she could die, but I had never quite come to terms with it. She once overdosed when I was twelve years old and I angrily shouted at her, “What am I going to do when you’re dead!” I hoped it would shock her into getting clean, but it didn’t. She couldn’t (although she did try several times). The main problem was always a resistance to seeking professional help for her addiction. She tried a few times to get free by herself, at home.
I guess what I experienced was total shock when she died. I had no idea how to process the feelings, the grief, not a clue! And for a while I must say, I lost the sanctuary of that peaceful feeling I mentioned. Although at the time, I perceived this feeling to be God, I had some way to go before I really found the truth that God, the Father, could only be found through first knowing his Son, Jesus.
With hindsight I see that the loss of both my parents at a relatively early age, gave me a reality check on the fragility of life, the fleetingness of it, and the preciousness of it too. I have never been able to shake off the awareness that I may not see the next moment, and I developed a kind of urgency for seeking the purpose behind it all. The blessing is that it has never felt possible to become complacent about life, but the challenge was enormous, and I truly wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
After Mum died, my whole experience of life became different. I felt alone and utterly abandoned. I was angry with her and I missed her terribly. I continued my studies, got a place at Dartington College of Arts in the south of England. (I read one of Mum’s poems for my audition, which made me feel like we did it together!) All I wanted to do was to find a way to keep her near me. I drank, I smoked, I flirted, I tried to be like her, but thankfully the merest thought of taking heroin made me want to vomit! I realized that I was even trying to do the whole theatre thing for her, but it was fast dawning on me that she wasn’t there, and nobody was interested whether I did it or not. I was also losing interest fast.
I couldn’t find a way to express what I was feeling. It hurt too much. And I just didn’t think anyone was interested anyway. It wasn’t enough for me to be playing with concepts and trying to make truthful art. What I really wanted was the truth itself! Raw and simple! I wanted to know what the point of it all was.
One evening over lots of wine, a friend mentioned that she had once participated in a ten-day Vipassana retreat. Something in me momentarily came alive at the mention of it. I booked myself onto one: Dharma Dipa in Hereford, England. Soon afterwards I was in silent meditation, learning how to watch my breath and walk mindfully in the snow. Ten days later I emerged with a feeling of stillness and mental clarity. I felt so clean, inside and out! It was a marked contrast to what I had been previously experiencing, which was a lot of brain fog and emotional turbulence. I felt I was onto something.
I must interject here, though, that since coming to faith in Jesus everything has come back into its right perspective now. If I’m aware of consciously allowing my breath, it’s because I’m so grateful to God for my life. There’s no practice involved, it’s pure gratitude for life. I don’t need to practice my life; I just need to live it as the Lord directs.
I took time out from my studies, flew to Australia to visit some friends. But again I found myself feeling like a fish out of water. I could no longer do bar jobs or waitressing to earn money, because the world felt strange and I felt a bit like an alien. I took to the streets as a human statue and to the art colleges as a life model. I was happy to find a way I could be still and meditate and earn a living at the same time. Stillness became my sanctuary, the only place I felt at home. I felt I was surrounded by madness and I found it very difficult to relate to anyone or anything, yet somehow I felt I had to, “Keep it together, Bell” (my mum used to say that a lot!)
By chance I came across a meeting of Zen Buddhists in Melbourne. I sat at the back of the room in silent tears, feeling deeply touched by the kindness and humility of the teacher and the atmosphere in the room. I spent the last of my money booking a place on a week-long silent retreat. I arrived at the retreat late, just as the bell for silence had been rung, with no idea what I was supposed to do or how to do it. I did my best to fit in and basically sat cross-legged staring at a wall for a week. I very much enjoyed the discourses the teacher gave. He was a lively, bright, compassionate Korean man who everyone called Zen Master Hogen. I felt strangely at home in that situation. Probably because the focus was in seeking truth, rather than worldliness.
When I left the retreat, I realized I didn’t know why I was in Australia or what for. And so, I went back to the U.K., hoping to try and pick up the pieces of my previous life. I landed back in Scotland and found myself yet again feeling isolated and bewildered and completely out of place. I couldn’t relate to anyone… and still, this crippling grief….. I had changed in ways that made it impossible to fit back into my old life. I decided I would become a Buddhist nun and wrote to a nunnery. While I was waiting for a response, I came across The Orange Book by Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh: a little book of meditations and commentary. I completely resonated with all of it. So I went seeking (via the Internet) for this teacher, whom I soon discovered was no longer alive.
Not to be put off, I also discovered that there were many centres around the world where people still lived by his teaching. I didn’t think twice. Again I used my last money to pay for a bus fare down to “Osho Leela” in Dorset. I met people who were very warm and heartful and who welcomed me into their community. For the next three years (on and off) I did an awful lot of jumping and screaming and dancing and actually connecting with people from the heart. It felt enormously healing. I experienced myself becoming more grounded, more open. In other words, the energy of life started to move through me again. And I was also still meditating on stillness and finding my meditation going deeper. I was becoming more acquainted with stillness. It was rather taking over my being in fact. I called myself a sanyassin.
I must express at this point, that when I lived in the Osho commune, I really thought I was growing spiritually. However, I would in no way advise anyone to seek God in that way. I really don’t mean to offend anyone involved in that way of life; its just my sincere opinion from where I stand now. The highs were high but were not sustainable. The love I experienced felt good and was relatively satisfying, but it didn’t penetrate the core of my soul. In some ways it’s more dangerous to be in that place than a place of total brokenness, because you really feel o.k, even great, at times! But you are still so far away from being alive in Christ, which is infinitely, indescribably more real and satisfying!
The fruits of the Spirit, as mentioned in Galatians 5 of the Bible, were not evident in me. I had a sense of vitality and a sincerity which was good, but I was sexually immoral (everyone was, although, I am sure they wouldn’t call it that!) and that was seen to be acceptable. I was also emotionally volatile and wrongly thought I was justified in expressing myself in any way that felt good. It was really o.k to be very angry, and we were all accustomed to expressing our strong emotions wherever and whenever we wanted to, feeling somewhat righteous in that.
I was also spiritually arrogant, thinking that because I was so free and relaxed, and relatively present that I had something on those ordinary unconscious people out there. How awful!! How dreadful! I shudder to think of it. I was brought to repentance for my sanyassin days after watching the Netflix series “Wild Wild Country” (a series of documentaries about Rajneesh and his followers). By then I was already saved, and the awfulness of the whole scene was so glaringly obvious to me. I was really cringing through a lot of it. I saw Osho in a new light, and I have to admit that I really didn’t like what I saw. Again, I really must apologise to any current sanyasins if I cause any offence. I’m really not trying to be offensive; I’m just telling my story. However, I renounce my sanyas, completely, by the grace of Jesus Christ. I am faithful to my master, and I serve only one! I know I am in good hands with the clear and loving guidance of the Holy Spirit. Thank God, thank God!
I could never have received the gospel at that time. I was far too arrogant. Thank God for his perfect timing and loving patience. I’m so grateful. I can hardly describe it.
I began to find it less and less appealing to be jumping and shouting and dancing and wanted more and more to experience this stillness, this good and peaceful feeling, which calmed my mind, expanded my heart and made everything seem o.k. I had also just met my future husband at that point, and we were living together in the community. As luck would have it, I severely broke my foot during a dynamic meditation. This sat me on my bottom for at least a couple of months.
During that time, a dear friend from outside the community gave me a copy of The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. Around that time my beloved and I decided to leave the community and move to Glastonbury. That very same day, we were offered a room in a house just outside the town by some visitors to the community. It all happened so fast!
It later turned out that Eckhart Tolle had lived in that house some years before, and we were becoming aquatinted with some old friends of his. I must say it all felt so ‘meant to be.’
The book was blowing my mind! My leg was still in plaster and I was feeling the power behind the words. It really was palpable. I was still doing my facing-the-wall Zen meditation, had joined a Zen group and regularly went to Satsang meetings with various teachers of “Non-duality.” I was really becoming familiar with silence and stillness and loving it more than anything. I realized that I could be awake without thought and filled with this peace and not wanting to be anywhere else. It became my life’s focus to nurture that space, that experience. I found such enjoyment in that. It was transforming everything!
I quit smoking, drinking, took up yoga and a raw food diet, without any effort or sense of discipline. It was just pure enjoyment to feel so well, so still. Around that time, I became overwhelmed with a sense of deep gratitude to Eckhart Tolle, and so I wrote a letter to Namaste Publishing (it was the only address I had for Eckhart) to simply say, ‘Thank you.” I remember feeling the vibration of deep gratitude as I wrote the letter.
Soon after that, Eckhart was in the U.K. and happened to be passing through Glastonbury (his old hometown). He was chatting with an old friend of his who worked in the same ‘New Age’ shop where I worked, when somehow, I came up in conversation and he told her he’d received my letter. He was already quite well known, and received a lot of mail, so that really amazed me. My friend called me and arranged a meeting between me, Eckhart and his partner Kim at the Abbey Tea Rooms in Glastonbury. It felt like a wonderful meeting! By then, I had learned how to keep attention in my body, and feel the aliveness there (as Eckhart teaches), yet I didn’t meet too many people who were really just focused on the same practice. Glastonbury is a very colourful place, with so many different ways of life, practices and beliefs living side by side. It was very beautiful to be in this very simple communication, and feeling the presence between us all, sensing we were all experiencing the same thing…communicating from within! It’s hard to explain, but I felt very, very blessed!
At the end of the meeting, they invited me to come on the retreat they were soon to hold in Italy. I didn’t mention that I was quite financially poor, but somehow, they must have known because they offered me a scholarship. Although I was very happy about all this, I also had a deep sense that it was all meant to be, almost pre-ordained. And so I didn’t question any of it. I felt I had met my teacher; he had arrived when the time was right. During that retreat I remember struggling with trying to let go and be in stillness. Yet at the end of the retreat, I met with Eckhart, hoping to speak some words of gratitude, but I really couldn’t speak for laughing! Tears were rolling down my cheeks. It was hilarious! The let go had finally occurred!
At this time my beloved Alex was meeting his teacher too, and being spiritually called to Portugal. So, for a couple of years it seemed we were on different paths. I moved into a raw food ashram in Glastonbury, where I could meditate and practice yoga, and once again live in community. I felt very spiritually sensitive at this point. And I was in regular contact with Eckhart. I trusted his guidance totally, and you could say that I sought a kind of spiritual communion with him, in order that I might become more like him. Which is rather the way I am with Jesus now, but on a much higher level. Eckhart was like my own personal John the Baptist, because he continuously reminded me, that he himself was not the goal, that I needed to look where he was pointing and not keep looking at the finger. He wasn’t directly pointing me to Jesus, but towards the truth in a generic sense, but I discovered that Jesus IS the truth, the way and the life (John 14:6) that’s where I ended up. By the grace of God, I ended up there.
I was rather a perfectionist about being ‘present,’ and felt something of a failure if I found myself in any kind of suffering. Somewhere along the line I must have gotten the idea that I could only bring my ‘presence’ to Eckhart and not my “pain body.”[Please note: The ‘pain body’ is how Eckhart describes accumulated emotional baggage which gets stored in the body and psyche. He describes it as being like an entity which dissolves in the light of consciousness. I was always trying to turn the volume up on my consciousness in order to rid myself of the ‘pain body! It’s where unconscious reactivity comes from, or suffering thought patterns, heavy moods, depression. If we let this operate unchecked, it causes suffering—in ourselves and in others. Through the practice of presence you seek to dis-identify from it, in order to be influenced by it less and less, and hopefully, in the end be free from it altogether. It’s like a process of sanctification, but one you practice. To put it in a biblical perspective, though, I would say that this is the work of the Holy Spirit after putting your faith in Jesus. It’s not something you can achieve only by your own efforts. And this is the clear difference between practicing presence and walking with Jesus. Through surrender to the will of God, you are sanctified. It’s not something you can achieve by your own efforts, no matter how hard you try!]
I saw the pain body as my business and my task to dissolve. I didn’t want to defile people around me with my smelly old pain body. Although I loved Eckhart and my other friends and associates, I felt that I was only worthy of their love if I was fully present. (I’m not saying that was true, just that that was my perception at the time.) Although I really tried, it wasn’t always possible. So, it was rather painful at times, in that I understood that this love I felt was entirely impersonal. It wasn’t supposed to be attached to anyone or anything. It was supposed to be my essence, and really, I was seeking to dissolve into it.
I applied the same practice to all my personal relationships, looking for that pure space where two could become one. Although I became acquainted with the space of love, I was somewhat detached, because I trained myself to see it as impersonal. Not attached to people, it was supposed to be my true nature. That was one of the first things that broke my heart wide open when I fell in love with Jesus, because it was so personal! And really, I needed that personal love! It was so satisfying! I knew he loved me, warts and all, pain body and all! The love he has for me, makes it possible for me to love others in a very real and grounded way, and I don’t need them to be perfect either before I love them. When I admitted my need for Jesus, it gave him permission to scoop me up in a warm embrace. I’m so happy to be attached to Jesus! It’s a forever attachment! I will cling to him, and I don’t mind admitting it!
At the Eckhart Tolle Findhorn Retreat in 2004, my beloved returned from Portugal and joined the retreat, and then assured me he was ready to start a family. I had been broody for children for some time. Although, i couldn’t be really sure if motherhood was compatible with my devotion to God, or Self-realization, as I sought at the time. I remember once asking Eckhart about that, but I didn’t really comprehend his answer. So, I guess I needed to find out for myself that nothing can prevent me from being with God.
During my time with Eckhart there were a few very significant moments where my recognition of the present moment deepened. There were certainly moments of no-mind, and a fairly constant sense of interconnectedness with everything. My cultivated sensitivity made it possible to notice how my thoughts affected my reality. It certainly gained me higher ground and the possibility to choose. The present moment is always so rich, no matter what it contains. For many years, all was well. I really felt I was on the right path. The Power of Now was my Bible. I rarely read any other book on spirituality, because I didn’t see the need. I must say, that I do hope i will never fall into the trap of criticizing Eckhart. He does not claim to be a Christian, and therefore, does not deserve my condemnation. He was only ever kind to me, and certainly one of the most humble men I have ever met, if not THE most humble man I have ever met! He taught me how to be humbler, even though I still had a long way to go. But that was my responsibility, not his.
In my experience, he was totally honourable, upright and clear. I saw no manipulation in him whatsoever. He was not in the least bit concerned about money (despite what I’ve heard critics say). That was certainly not his focus. In no way do I regret having met Eckhart. Far from it. I simply don’t follow his teaching anymore. There is no need. Because I have been delivered to my King—the King of all kings.
If ever I meet Eckhart again, I’d like to share with him what happened to me when I first believed in Jesus. How it was my heart that believed, as well as my mind. I’d like to invite him to read the Gospel of John and I’d love to ask him if he believed John was telling the truth. I’d love to share the reality of being “born again” with him.
I realize that in presence I ‘find myself’ and that is a wonderful thing, after all as the psalmist wrote—
Psalm 139: 14
I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.
It’s wonderful to be present. It’s really a good thing. But the biggest shift took place for me when I realized that I am NOT God, and that He could not be found in me prior to my encounter with the truth. It’s true that after I realized who Jesus was, his Holy Spirit came to dwell within me. That’s a fact, but it still doesn’t make me God! I am closer to him than ever before, and I cannot describe my gratitude. If I hadn’t found Jesus, I never would have found the truth.
I am not interested in the pursuit of personal enlightenment anymore, not one little bit. I’m only interested in serving God. I love him so much! Practicing presence helped me see the preciousness of time, and of the creation, including the human body, but it did not, by itself, connect me with the true light, which is Jesus.
1 Corinthians 2:11
For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.
I sincerely love Eckhart, and it’s quite likely that he’s far more ‘present’ than I could ever be, which is really o.k. I’m no longer seeking a state of consciousness. I now realize that none of that can bring one into a real relationship with God. I wish I could cry, again and again, to those I used to walk with—that you don’t need to be present to find God, you need to give your heart to Jesus. I had no idea! I’m so glad I found him! I really believed I could do it myself!
After I said goodbye to Eckhart in 2004, I still continued following his teachings and watched, over the years, how this simple practice of keeping attention in the body and honouring the still spaces as they became apparent, brought so many blessings: in health, in temperament, in pregnancy and childbirth, in parenthood, in relationship. My children have taught me things I don’t think I could have learned without them. Selfless service, devotion, patience, tolerance… things like that. With each child, my capacity to love grew wider. We have four. I feel so very blessed!
There was a time shortly after our fourth child was born where the stillness was yet deepening. I had so many opportunities to practice presence as I walked him to sleep, down the peaceful forest tracks, and breastfed him in quiet places. One evening I was consciously keeping attention in the body. I was present, and there was no thought. Suddenly there was an incredibly bright flash of light in the room. There was no storm, and quite possibly we didn’t even have any electricity in the house at the time, because we ran on solar. And we often ran out of power by nighttime. I have no idea why, but I was instantly terrified! Inexplicably, uncontrollably!
I ran to my husband shaking with fear, and was comforted by his presence. I always feel safe with him. What happened thereafter was very interesting because I became afraid of entering into stillness. It was the only place I had known security, the only place I ever really felt at peace. But the terror I experienced was uncontrollable. I couldn’t think my way out of it, meditate my way out of it, or yoga my way out of it! Nothing! I also began to experience other strange phenomena whenever I was in a space of no thought. I saw mists, and lights, I felt strange energies, that I was uncomfortable with, perhaps it’s more honest to say I was scared of them!
I began to experience frequent sleep paralysis and fearful dreams. Only my husband’s hand on me or his reassuring voice could provide the necessary comfort. I was grateful, but I knew I shouldn’t become too reliant on that. The most difficult thing for me in all of this was that I thought I was just supposed to be able to accept my fear, or at least accept that I couldn’t accept it. I was unable to do either! It was not within my capacity to do it, no matter how hard I tried! I did seek advice from a couple of teachers I respected. I would have asked Eckhart but had lost touch with him by that point. However, their answers didn’t satisfy. They explained how these experiences were simply manifestations from my own mind and were a sign of progress on the spiritual path, and that if I could just be with my fear, all would be well. It sounded good, but these experiences didn’t seem to be projections from my mind, and neither was I able to accept my fear to the point of it dissolving. These manifestations would appear out of nowhere, and I couldn’t deny their existence.
This ‘intense spiritual upheaval’ went on for a couple of years, until it became obvious to me that I was being guided to read the Bible (through many chance meetings and spiritual nudges). I had already learned in the previous years to trust and accept guidance, so I didn’t question it; I didn’t judge it. I just read it. At first, it didn’t make sense and I got a bit lost in the words and tangled in the mind. But then I remembered, “Read from presence. Don’t try to understand!” and then it really began to work on me! This time it was different, though, because the “presence” was the personal presence of the Holy Spirit leading me and drawing me to the truth.
“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.”
“However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth . . .”
I began to understand the meaning of the words, what they were pointing to. It was deeply touching my heart. I was also feeling a deep, stirring love for Christ. I felt his suffering, and I also began to ‘believe’ that he was in fact the Son of God, not a fictitious character in a symbolic story. That was something quite radical for me because I was trained in not believing in anything, just seeing things for what they were in the moment. Belief didn’t have a place in that mindset!
I don’t think I was aware at the time of the beliefs I held, but I think it’s safe to call them that. I believed that it was my purpose to play my part in allowing the divine plan of the universe to unfold, and the plan of the universe was to become aware of itself. I believed that by becoming fully conscious myself, I was adding to the pool of consciousness that would eventually reach a critical mass, enlighten all of creation and create heaven on earth.
Yet something very amazing happened when I realized that I actually believed Jesus was the Son of God. That moment occurred while I was reading the Gospel of John. Isn’t it wonderful that a testimony written so long ago still has that power? First, there was a recognition that the author of the book loved Jesus; it was written from the pure space of love, and I sensed that clearly.
I began to engage with the story, and to feel it, then it happened! There was a tangible shift in my heart in the moment I believed that what I was reading was true. It didn’t come from a mental decision; it was significantly a shift from the heart. Shortly after that, I don’t remember if it was the same night or some days later, I began to experience the familiar fear I had previously become accustomed to. It was instinctive to call out the name of “Jesus.” In the next moment, I encountered an incredible power; yet for the first time I didn’t have fear. My heart rate sped up; I couldn’t hear. There was an intense vibration taking over my body; and yet I knew it was o.k and that I should let it. I trusted this to be Jesus. It felt like an intense cleansing! Like being washed clean with power. The transformation was quite amazing, because I went from being afraid of stillness to once again feeling content there! Although I no longer pursue it. Whenever I am afraid, I just call on him, and I know he is with me. Ever since then, I feel guided and comforted by him. Whenever I ask, he is there. I am most certainly being transformed by the Holy Spirit, and all previously held concepts of what “Christ Consciousness” is, have had to dissolve. Because what I experience now is not conceptual; it’s very real and it’s now! Christ is alive! In me! When I look back, I realize that I have grown in knowledge, faith and trust in him. I continue to feel blessed and guided and grateful. I trust God completely, and I feel very, very fortunate to have been guided to accept his Son, Jesus Christ, as my personal Savior.
Soon afterwards, I felt overtaken by a really strong desire to be baptized! I didn’t really understand it, because I wasn’t sure it was necessary, but it seemed that God was convicting me that it was indeed necessary. I didn’t want to be baptized into any of the churches in my locality. And wasn’t quite sure how to go about it. Finally, I explained my desire to my husband, half expecting him to think I had gone mad! But he was very gracious and offered to baptize me himself. At first, I wasn’t sure that would be acceptable to God, but I didn’t want to be disrespectful to my husband, so I agreed! The Lord clearly showed me afterwards that he had accepted the baptism, and I knew we had done the right thing. I feel so thankful, beyond words, to be in the hands of Jesus. It’s just what I always wanted, although I didn’t always know it.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I think the main thing people need to understand now, is that Jesus is real. He is not a concept or a story. He was not a Buddha or an ordinary man who claimed to attain Self-realization. He was God incarnate. And when he died, he rose again from the dead in his physical body. That was a real miracle! His glorified physical body ascended up to heaven, where he still resides at the right hand of the Father. He sent his Holy Spirit down to us, to guide us into knowledge of the truth, so that we can be saved. We need to believe in Jesus if we are to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and be with God. And that’s the simple truth.
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
I certainly began to see changes in my character after coming to faith in Jesus.
And said, “Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
I used to think conversion was something you could choose. I thought you could become converted to Christianity or any religion, just by deciding you wanted to. But by my experience, I have to say, it came rather as a surprise! I didn’t know that through falling in love with Jesus, and through believing in him, I would become converted! I didn’t even know what that meant. But the truth is, that from the moment I accepted him as my Savior, a change began to take place in my whole being. Now I understand what is meant when I hear people say that you receive a “new heart” when you accept Jesus (Ezekiel 36:26). It’s true! In many ways, it was a great blessing that I didn’t have a lot of Christian knowledge beforehand, because it made everything so much more wonderful and believable when I read in the Bible that my own experience was perfectly matching what was supposed to happen, according to Gods Word.
i came to understand that becoming converted is entirely at the discretion of God. It’s only by his grace, by his power, and by my own willingness to accept his guidance that it can take place. It is a process of sanctification, which is entirely out of my hands. I just say “Yes” to the new heart, “Yes” to the washing and renewing of my spirit.
He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit
Through the washing of my spirit, through the process of sanctification, I become more humble and innocent, just like a little child! Thank God for the renewing of my mind and the washing of my spirit.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.
Some of the changes I experienced after that initial experience of accepting Jesus as my Lord and Savior were very subtle. Others were more obvious. One of the first things that happened was I began to want to read the Bible. I didn’t always understand everything perfectly, at first, but understanding would always dawn eventually. I found such pleasure in simply reading it, that I didn’t grasp for understanding, although it seemed as though the sanctifying effect of being in the Word is what revealed understanding. It’s quite difficult to explain, but that’s my experience. Sometimes I even long for my time in the Word. Just reading. I don’t have anywhere near the same enthusiasm for reading any other book. The Bible is like nectar, like necessary food. I try to carry my Bible everywhere. Just so I can read it if the opportunity arises.
When I first began to receive parts of Bible scriptures in my mind, it seemed strange, that I should be thinking in Scripture, but now I’m used to it. I just look them up, and take them in, study them and seek their significance for me in that moment. I presume that began to happen because I was becoming so familiar with it. I have come to trust the Bible as the Holy Word of God and honour it as such. I feel so richly privileged to be able to read it whenever I want to. I have discovered that it wasn’t always so. Even today, in our world, there are places where people can’t openly study the Bible without great trouble. When I found out the way in which it’s been preserved over the centuries, on pain of death, and at great peril, it became to me a great testimony of its authenticity and power. It contains warnings and prophecies imperative for freedom from deception, especially relevant to the times we’re living in today. And far more importantly, it contains the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. It was directly through reading the gospel of John that I was ‘saved.’ And I didn’t know that was going to happen!
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.
As well as giving me a love for his Word, I began to notice that Jesus was wearing down my arrogance and stirring compassion in my heart toward others. He was giving me a more ”meek and quiet spirit” (1 Peter 3:4). So that reactivity was rarely even arising. I must say that all those years of practicing presence gave me self-control over reactivity and awareness of it, but it’s as though Jesus just took it away completely. I experienced a deeper sense of peace, really rooted. Gradually he shows me what it means to lean on him, to trust in him and not in my own efforts. He deepens me in a way I never experienced before, not through years of spiritual practice. He sees into the recesses of my heart and through that, gently encourages me to give more of myself to him. The more I trust, the more I give, and the rewards are far more precious than I could explain. Deep rest.
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me ; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls, For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Perhaps it’s a small thing, but I noticed that the way I dress has changed too. Not by mental process, but I began to feel undressed in what I would previously have felt quite comfortable wearing. I’m not overly interested in clothes, but I do need to feel that I’m dressed, before I see anyone.
A big change occurred when I realized that I couldn’t practice yoga anymore. Even shortly after coming to faith in Jesus I saw no harm in it…. although the Holy Spirit had other ideas! The last few times I practiced, I ended up with excruciating neck pains: it was so stiff in fact, that I couldn’t turn either to the left or the right. And they were accompanied by a strong conviction in my heart that the Lord was trying to tell me something. I had practiced pretty much the same routine for years, based on the teachings of Eric Schiffman. I practiced in a very gentle way, not using mantras or philosophy, just postures. I felt it made my body more flexible and helped me to be more present. I hadn’t read anything specifically about yoga in the Bible, so I just thought it was fine to continue. But every time I practiced, it got worse. I even found myself feeling very emotional with it. So, there I was, hardly able to move and I typed into the YouTube browser “Is it OK for a Christian to practice yoga?” something like that! I came across this video which sealed it for me—no more questions, no more yoga! No more neck pains!
During the video, I dropped to my knees on the kitchen floor, in tears, struck with a clear conviction of the message. Yoga was in no way compatible with following Jesus. And I haven’t practiced since then.
Mike Shreve (founder of this website) was a former kundalini yoga guru and this is his testimony (click on the picture).
One afternoon I was kayaking down the river and the thought came across my mind, “Maybe not everyone needs to hear the gospel of Jesus in order to be saved.” It was more of a question really, because I had been hoping I could somehow get around this seemingly difficult task of proclaiming Jesus as “the only way to the Father.” For me there is no doubt, but I am not a forceful person and I had been meeting a lot of closed ears to that message. The moment, and I mean ‘the moment’ I noticed that thought cross my mind, an incredible wind came against me and it turned me around completely. I had to use all my strength to try and get back on course. In fact, it wasn’t until the wind dropped that I could do anything at all! I really took that incident to be a direct answer to my question! “No!” there’s no way around it! I had to speak about Jesus!
Since then my understanding of this need to proclaim Jesus has increased. I began to feel suffering because I was unable to speak about him, either for lack of opportunity or lack of courage. Then one day as I noticed this suffering, and then heard someone mention his name, I felt it distinctly shift inside my heart. It felt like the Spirit of Christ within me was seeking release, proclamation! I had been thinking it had something to do with me but came to realize that because Christ is my Lord, I have received the gift of his Holy Spirit and he lives in me, he has a job to do! Nothing to do with me!
When I resist the leading of the Spirit, I suffer, simple as that! It becomes so much easier as time goes on to share my faith, and as I grow in boldness, my joy increases! Recently, I felt these inhibitions driven out of my mind and heart. I was filled with the knowledge that God loves me. And everyone! And now I can’t help but share the good news! God loves you and wants you to know him too!
Tara and her husband, Alexander, in the beautiful rural area where they live.
You may contact Tara at the following address:
Tara’s blog: Falling in Love with Jesus
Tara shares her thoughts on John 14:6 / Jesus is “the way, the truth and the life.”