Fiona shares with us the moving story of how her upbringing caused her to reject God and how connecting with the Light of the Emerald Heart helped her to open her heart again to the God without and the God within.
I have never been particularly ambitious, but from an early age, I always had a desire to be wise. Growing up as a child in the only family I knew that didn’t have a television, reading became an obsession to me and I would always use up my book quota at the library every Saturday morning. I loved to be transported into other worlds and remember being particularly fascinated by characters that were ‘wise’, such as the owls in Winnie the Pooh and Beatrix Potter. I could never work out how this mysterious wisdom was achieved because, even at that young age, I knew it was more than just knowledge and experience.
I was born to missionary parents who had both been ‘saved’ at University and who had become Bible translators in Vietnam (until the war) and Nepal. I was 18 months old when they returned to England with four children under the age of six. We arrived with no money or home to live in, but at the very last minute someone connected to their mission offered a house in West Dulwich, London, and the local church rallied round with gifts of food and clothing. Our living conditions gradually improved after my dad found a good job, and when I was four my parents had saved enough for a deposit on a house round the corner.
My dad was (and is) obsessive – everything he did had to be taken to extremes (such as his compost heap…but that’s another story!) and this included his faith. Grace before every meal (much to my embarrassment when friends were round), evening bible reading and prayers (I could never have had sleepovers), church twice on Sunday, and Sunday school before church. This was an ‘Evangelical Free Church’ and the pastor would always spend half an hour during the service preaching hellfire and damnation to us all. The tone of this, and of my parents’ instruction to me and my brothers was that God was always watching in judgement, and nothing could be hidden from him; not even your thoughts. Added to that, there was the constant fear that Christ might come at any time to ‘judge the living and the dead’ and I might be left behind when he took away all those who were so much more worthy than me.
Unfortunately I was too young to understand that my dad’s dislike of children (in particular, those who weren’t perfect) and his constant criticism, bullying, and even violence was nothing to do with Christianity; nor was my mum’s obedience and subservience to him. Their obsessive lifestyle meant we were not allowed the things that many children take for granted, and this would lead to deeper, long-term issues for me and my brothers. In particular, sweets and crisps were so severely restricted that they became (for all of us, I found out much later) the forbidden fruits that I would do anything to buy and gorge on secretly; using my dinner money or even stealing from a drawer where change was kept. This habit of comfort eating has continued into adulthood (with the addition of alcohol) and is something that (with the help of the Light) I have only just begun to truly understand.
Inevitably, upon reaching my teens and realising that it was impossible to live by my parents’ uncompromising view of Christianity, I rebelled completely by refusing to go to church, cutting my multi coloured hair into spikes, smoking and drinking and generally doing everything I knew my parents would disapprove of. This also included dating the most inappropriate boys (such as an older, tattooed skinhead I met at a Crystal Palace football match who was part of a violent gang of troublemakers). I was off the rails and completely out of control, but I felt I had no option because my parents would not allow me to be myself and join in with the things that my friends were doing. Eventually, when I was 15 I ran away from home and lived on the streets of London with a friend (for two days!) because I was so desperate about the situation. When I returned home, I made it clear to my parents that I was sorry for worrying them, but I was not sorry I did it because they had to come to some agreement with me on how things should be changed. They finally relented and allowed me to go out to places that had previously been forbidden, such as the cinema and parties.
Although our relationship improved, I completely rejected the notion of God and Christianity; thinking that the only way to eradicate the brainwashing was to go completely in the opposite direction and not believe in anything. This was difficult, as there was always a nagging concern that I could be wrong, and occasionally I would have nightmares about rejecting God and being forever condemned to the fires of hell. Looking back on this later made me feel quite angry, as I felt that what my parents had fed us verged on child abuse.
I married young, and had two daughters by the time I was 24. My husband was ultimately a good man but we were very different and he spent a lot of time at work or absorbed in his own obsessions such as gaming. He was raised in a devout Catholic family and although he wasn’t religious when we met, he felt strongly that the girls should be baptised as Catholics. This surprised me, but I was secretly pleased as the way my dad talked about Catholicism, you would think he was talking about Satanism! I am ashamed to admit now that the satisfaction in annoying my dad was a major contributing factor to the fact that I became a Catholic – that and the fact that the girls would be able to get into a good school!
However, if I do anything, I tend to do it wholeheartedly and over the years I did attend classes to learn more about the Catholic faith. I enjoyed the community aspect of taking the girls to church and the church school nearby. By this time we had moved from our flat in Streatham to a house in Teddington to be nearer to my husband’s family. I threw myself into the church activities but there were various aspects of the Catholic faith that didn’t sit well with me, such as the Pope and the Vatican with all its riches, and his view on contraception. For a long while I had been drawn to Buddhism, and the more I read about it, the more I identified with its principles.
My marriage had been very rocky for several years before I finally plucked up the courage to end it. It took a long time to recover from the break-up, and I turned to Buddhism in earnest, with daily yoga and meditation. I only had books to learn from, and toyed with the idea of attending a temple in the hope of finding the right teacher. This seemed to go against the grain, as I felt that a teacher was someone who should come to me by some sort of divine intervention. I didn’t realise that at that time I wasn’t ready, and that I was to endure the most challenging time of my life before that teacher was sent.
Three years after my marriage ended, I met a man who I should never have brought into my life; let alone have allowed him to damage my children and our relationship in the way that he did. He was a violent, negative and manipulative alcoholic, but funny, exciting and exhilarating in equal measure. After years of having to be the good girl/mother/wife, I entered another phase of rebellion and became a selfish, hedonistic, drink-dependent, co-dependent and manipulated half of a couple who only had eyes for themselves. In my most forgiving moments, I can see that I tried to fix the severely damaged person that he was; in my most unforgiving moments I am utterly disgusted that I could have allowed the havoc that was wreaked on me and the girls. I can only take the blame squarely on my shoulders because I knew what he was when I met him, and I put having fun before the children that I should have been protecting the most.
The relationship ended when he finally took the verbal abuse too far and turned it into physical abuse by attacking my youngest daughter. The lowest point of my life was the fact that, even when it was happening, I was trying to reason with him rather than calling the police. Even afterwards, I didn’t throw him out – I felt sorry for him as he attempted suicide a few times, and felt obliged to support him if he gave up drinking (which he promised he would do). It was only when my daughter found out that I was trying to sort things out and put her foot down that I knew I had to get away from him once and for all.
By this time, as the girls had been to University and subsequently moved out, I had sold my house in West London to downsize, and bought a place near the sea in Suffolk. We were staying at my partner’s flat in London during the week, so this was really intended to be a weekend place, but the shock split meant that I was now cut adrift and living miles away from my friends and family. Thankfully, my job as an Area Manager covering the South East of England meant I could either stay in hotels, or drive from home to most of my accounts. Strangely enough, circumstances had led to my girls eventually moving from West London to South East London and they were now living in West Dulwich, round the corner from where I grew up (you may think this is irrelevant, but bear with me). I was able to stay with them as it was easy to get into central London.
You would think that by now I had learnt all the lessons necessary to make me a well-balanced individual, but no, not yet! Once I had licked my wounds and begun to repair the damaged relationships with family and friends, I embarked on various light-hearted sexual flings, often with completely inappropriate men. Having realised I was making the same mistakes again, and feeling hollow and empty, I thought that perhaps an online dating site would be the way to choose more carefully. I could pick someone based on common interests, rather than meeting random men in bars when I was drunk.
My friend recommended a particular dating site that you had to pay for (surely this would mean a better class of men was to be had?) which offered a 14 day free trial. I thought I had nothing to lose, so I signed up and quickly found that I learned far more about myself than I did about anyone I conversed with. I only made it to 10 days (including one date) before cancelling – I couldn’t bear the objectiveness of it all. Just because you match on paper, doesn’t mean you have any chemistry between you, and that’s aside from the fact that anyone can make up a fake persona to project. However, I felt that the process had taught me that I needed to find myself first before I found a partner. After so many years of existing for others and/or rebelling, I felt I had lost my identity. I deleted all the guys I had been in contact with, apart from one whose profile had caught my eye – partly because his spiritual interests were similar and intriguing, but also because he lived down the road from where I grew up and where the girls were living (now you see the relevance).
That was Tim Dyson, and that was how my teacher came to me. We met up and walked in the Dulwich parks that I had walked in as a child, and astonishingly we found that our childhoods had been very similar. He understood the pain of that brainwashing; the embarrassment of being different; the feeling that your parents would never be proud unless you were like them. During our conversation, I asked him about the type of spiritual work that he did, and he mentioned something about light, but didn’t go into detail thankfully, as the little he said made me think it was all a bit weird. We talked for hours, and by the time we said our goodbyes, I felt as if he was a brother to me.
Tim invited me to the next gathering at his house, so I went despite much fear and trepidation regarding what I was going to encounter. Although there are many of my parents’ ingrained beliefs that I have managed to dispel, the idea that some aspects of a spiritual nature could be evil or dangerous still rings alarm bells, so I was somewhat guarded when I arrived. The group of people were a very mixed selection of characters, but everyone was friendly and welcoming. My first experience of the Light was a very strong, heavy feeling which almost took my breath away. I had to resist the urge to panic and as Tim talked me through it, because of our connection, I knew I could trust him and that this Light was something pure and true. One thing that did unsettle me however, was that he occasionally referred to ‘God’, and given my utter rejection of the idea of God, I found this hard to swallow. However, by thinking of God as ‘the Universe’ instead, I was able to accept the deeper message he was conveying.
That was last summer, and I can’t believe how much the Light has changed me since. Or should I say, how much it has shown that the ‘me’ I despised and couldn’t forgive, is the product of my life and past lives, but the ‘me’ that is my Higher Self is full of compassion and love for everyone and everything; including that ‘despicable me’. Continuing to attend the gatherings as often as possible, and using the essences that Tim prescribed, I have gradually worked through so many of my old habits and fears, such as my relationship with my parents and children, my relationship with food and alcohol, and ultimately my relationship with myself. It has not been easy, as I have gone through periods of utter darkness and despair, but just when I have felt at my lowest, the Light shines through and another revelation clicks into place.
Having recently reached the point of feeling that I had hit a brick wall, I approached Tim for help and he put me on a program. The message he gave (which hit the nail on the head) was that I was struggling with guilt and shame, and a deep sense of unworthiness. In particular, I had a disconnection with my identity. This made me realise that, in spending most of my life trying to create a new identity that was different from the one my parents inflicted on me, I had completely lost myself. Following a one-to one Skype session with Tim, in my next meditation I was filled with an amazingly powerful surge of love and acceptance and the words that came to me were: ‘Be still and know that I am God’. I was profoundly moved as I realised that, by rejecting God, I had rejected myself! My parents’ version of a Christian life was what I should have been rejecting; not throwing the baby out with the bath water and rejecting God in the process. I finally knew that it was ok to accept and talk about God, and this incredible feeling I experienced was the same as being touched by what Christians would call ‘The Spirit’. It doesn’t matter how you label it, this is ‘All That Is’ – full of Truth, Love, Compassion and the path to Enlightenment. You could even call it ‘Wisdom’.