As a child, when I was about five years young, I used to be locked outside at night for being smart or answering my father or talking back. This happened all the time, when I first got locked outside, it was dark and I was very afraid, I cried and cried on that first night outside, then I started looking around me and instead of focusing on my fear of being outside alone in the dark, I started focusing on my surroundings, I started listening to the breeze blowing and how it created sounds as it hit the leaves on the trees, then I started looking around for little critters to see what would still be up at night. It was like poetry.
That night was how I first learned how to meditate, alone, in the dark through listening and observing. From then on, I wasn't afraid of being locked outside alone anymore, in fact, I looked forward to it, I loved connecting with nature and being by myself in that darkness and quietness of it all, although, nature is never really that quiet, but the sounds are always comforting.
From then on, I was curious about the world and how it works, about God and the universe. I wanted to learn and understand the meaning of life and my existence.
I was brought up as a Muslim and at the same time we were exposed to many different faiths, my mother's family are mainly Catholic. As a child I was always very confused and sad to believe that my Catholic family will never go to heaven no matter how good they are on earth and I would cry at times thinking about this. I became somewhat religious at around six/seven years old, I'd try my best to pray, fast during Ramadan, be the best daughter I can be, I was always helpful in doing all the chores, laundry for the family by hand, helped my mother to cook and cleaned the house, never a fuss. Through this period, I was always observing everything, the news on T.V. sadly, then and now remain the same, war, disputes and it never stops.
And many things happened in my life growing up, many confusing and traumatizing experiences as a child and as a girl. Growing up was painful, at around 15, I felt disconnected with everyone, especially my family and everything around me. I truly did not see the point of existing in a world that is full of pain, where no one really understands each other. It was hard for me, I was not like other kids in school, I was never interested in boy bands nor did I have any money to buy any trendy clothes like the other school girls did. I wanted to save the world, I wanted to understand God and the Universe, I loved poetry and Shakespeare, "Dead Poet Society" was my favorite movie, I listened to Gregorian and Enigma, my crush were, Richard Branson, Gandhi and Onassis. I was happy being me and I did not need anybody's approval of me, I was comfortable under my own skin and did not care what other thought of me.
I remember at 7 each morning when I got to school, the first thing I did was to walk around the school and picked up trash. In my head I always told myself, lead by example. As I got older, I read and learned about other religious books. I visited Dharma meditation centers, I went to temples, learned breathing exercises in meditation and meditation with some monks. I kept an open mind and heart and learned as much as I could about religion and different philosophies. I started reading a book lended to me by a very good friend of mine, "Freedom of the Known", by J Krishnamurti, after finishing the book, when I was about 23, I just came out of a relationship, I decided to not date and to spend time alone and meditate and learn to enjoy my own company. I went to fancy dinners by myself, to cafes with my book, I would meditate, I reached to a level where there was nothing but silence in my mind, I was at peace with myself, all the emptiness within me was gone. That moment I spent alone was a spiritual awakening for me. I learned, the emptiness that I felt was not about my relationship with God, or my lack of religiousness, but, it was my lack of personal relationship with Self.
We tend to always go outwardly in searching for a meaning, when the most important relationship is with Self. As when we do not even know who we are deep down, or when we do not even understand who we are as a spirit, or when we do not even love our own image, how could we understand the world around us, how is it possible for us to truly love others.
We were created in the image of God, therefore, to understand God and the Universe is to go within, not outwardly. From there to me it was clear that Spirituality is a personal journey, one book does not define all and does not fit all. It's more like One spirit in many forms.
Spirituality is more pliable, like water, it flows. Whereas Religiosity can be like hard concrete, it's so strong and hard and at times cold. For me, I pray for peace and one day hopefully we will learn to understand each other better and that we will learn to be kinder to Self thus to the World. For me wanting and believing in peace, being religious is just not possible, when in the back of my head, I think that only if others have the same belief as I, will be able to go to heaven and the rest at the waiting place or Hell is not a peaceful thought, so, for me being Spiritual is more who I am. My work on Self is a constant Spiritual journey. Many people asked me, aren't you afraid of Hell. My answer is, I have faith in God's intelligence.
May love & peace be with you,