I just returned from Toronto attending my first "I Can Do It" conference. Many feelings swept over me as I sat imbibing the positive, uplifting energy of over 2000 attendees. Dumbfounded I thought, "Am I the last person on this earth to get this message that's been out there for years?" Thinking of the numerous "I Can Do It" conferences all over the world, how could I get left behind? I have read many of the presenter's books but never made the effort to attend the conference, never getting to soak up the optimism and the collaborative spirit that oozes from every pore, never understanding the true inspiration. Maybe I just wasn't ready. But this time the teacher did appear and the "student" was ready.
Being raised as a strict Catholic and serving as a nun for seven years, I had a tight rein on my religious beliefs guarding against any heresy. I would read books that I regarded as "out there," or "new age" with what I thought was a feel good, watered down message. "This couldn't possibly be a true religion bringing anyone closer to God," I mistakenly judged. But I never understood how the messages translated into a deep faith, "inside faith." My training had been concentrated on the "outside," obeying rules, following rites and attending rituals. I gave away my religious powers of discovery to the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, never questioning. My faith was stunted in my immature practices and thinking. I lived to obey and please.
Since I have published "A Change of Habit, A Spiritual Journey From Sister Mary Kateri to Sister Mary Vodka" with Balboa Press, an arm of Hay House, I had the opportunity to participate in a book signing at the conference, experiencing first hand the Spirit at work and meeting fellow spiritual sojourners. Even in that short amount of time it takes to sign a book, I took in their concerns and felt compassion for them as they expressed fears and guilt in their stories trying to move from a traditional "God out there" religion to a more mystical "we are God" approach.
In "A Change of Habit," I offer seven secrets for guilt-free living. These sayings I collected over the years of my journey. These thoughts gave me the insight, courage, and permission to follow my own heart and learn what personal happiness really is and how to achieve it. I prayed that my "secrets" could somehow give solace to the fears they expressed.
One "secret" came to mind visiting with so many people. Secret #3 says: "You can't steal second base until you take your foot off first." Fear and guilt residing deep down, embedded for years, are difficult habits to dissolve. I was struck by one woman in particular who said she had goose bumps reading the ideas in my book and wanted to shake my hand. She held my hand as support and perhaps congratulating me on my "leap of faith." I could hear the fear in her voice when she relayed that she, too, had been raised in a strict religious home, and now was struggling to adapt these new messages into her spiritual beliefs but couldn't quite make the break. My heart and soul resonated with this woman's plight, understanding the tug-of-war going on inside. Learning to listen to and trust that "little gut feel" is a journey of a lifetime that begins when you and take your foot off first base and run to second in freedom, guilt free.
Follow Patty Kogutek on Twitter: www.twitter.com/pattykogutek