The Story of Tess
I was born into a family of nine and grew up on a farm. I am the second eldest. It was a religious household where we were often reminded of the existence of God, not just by our parents but the whole community and culture I lived in.
From an early age I was always looking for answers. My questions were about things like; what’s it all about, is there life after death, why is there so much unfairness in the world, do animals have souls?
Being a country child I saw animals as just being another version of people.
On August 6th 2010 I finally found the answer to all my questions. This answer is what is known as Self-realization or Awakening to The Truth.
It had been a long haul getting there and until close to the end I did not know what I was doing. I was just trying to find some understanding of life or meaning to it.
With hindsight I can see a pattern of development that has taken place, though this was not at all clear throughout the journey.
I can say that the first existential crisis in my life happened around the age of eight, though of course I did not have any words for it then.
At that time my world view was that creatures were constantly being born. In my experience calves, kittens, pups, foals, birds and babies were are regular feature of life. I thought that all creatures lived their full life and died when they were old. I knew that old people died. This was the natural order of life and it seemed that old people and old animals were happy to die. Then one day a calf died shortly after it had been born. It struck me that if calves could die then so could children- and specifically this meant me. I could die at any time. My world view was shattered. I ran to my mother to ask her about this. She confirmed for me that “everything that is born will one day die”.
I was devastated by the thought that one day all of our family, my parents, all my siblings and all our animals would one day be dead. The enormity of it!
My mother also consoled me that “hopefully that would all be in the future and we do not need to worry about it today”.
From then on I often thought about the fact that death was always just hiding nearby and could come to anyone at any time. There were always stories of someone dying unexpectedly.
As a teenager I was exposed to Shakespeare who made some statements that seemed to me to be addressing this question of the meaning of life.
Statements like “All the worlds a stage and all the men and women merely players” and especially “to thine own self be true”, had a profound effect on me.
I thought I might find the answers to my questions in literature and so I read many of the classics.
I recognised that classics became classics because they were dealing with questions of the meaning of life. So, it confirmed for me that there is some purpose to an individuals life though I certainly was not finding mine.
Later, in my thirties, at a time when a new genre of book was appearing in the book stores, I got into reading “self-help” books.
By this stage I had been married, had two children and my marriage had fallen apart.
I ended up going to the United States, where I was exposed to the concept of therapy. I started into therapy, mainly so that I would never again get into a relationship that would break up.
But, along the way I became exposed to ideas of spiritual development. I tried out yoga, and Tibetan Buddhism and “Feel the Fear and do it anyway” and analysing my dreams and twelve stepping and God knows what else.
After eight years in the US I returned to Ireland- back to the west of Ireland. I had more or less given up any hope of finding anything useful in my life, including having made a hames of anything that could be called a career. I felt like a failure. I had thrown away or just lost my chance to make a difference, or if not make a difference, then just make money.
I met a nice man and got into a relationship with him. We are married now, happily, I can say.
In about 2003, when I was just about getting the hang of Googling, I Googled an old boyfriend whose name is Richard Rose. Nothing came up about my Richard but a website about another Richard Rose, Zen master in West Virginia, United States came up. I was immediately struck by the writing on this site, both the content and the style of writing. There was something simple and clear about the writing and at the same time I could not understand the content of the sentences.
For the following two years or thereabouts I regularly visited this site and all the sites linked to it. I read everything I came across and even ordered some books that had been mentioned on these sites.
I knew I was on to something significant but still I was a bit nervous about the whole thing. I never contacted anyone on these sites until 2005, when I decided to visit them. The website in question is http://www.tatfoundation.org.
I had a friend living in Boston who agreed to accompany me to a meeting they were having, just in case they were a cult with ulterior motives.
What I found was a bunch of normal people, in relationship, raising families, holding down ordinary jobs and trying to make the most of it. And I also found a quality I articulated to myself as “integrity”.
These people charged very little money, just enough to cover the costs of the meeting, friendliness, and above all a desire, it seemed, to help me in my efforts. They seemed to understand my problem better than I did.
Several of these people claimed to be awakened/enlightened and I had never before met anyone who claimed to be enlightened. Whatever about being enlightened, I did decide I wanted to have the integrity they had. I identified that I was a bit off centre, so to speak, and wanted to become centred or have the integrity I witnessed here. They also assured me that I could have this integrity and that it is the natural condition of all human beings. In fact, this is the goal of the spiritual search. Up to this time I had not known that what I was searching for was spiritual development. And there were thousands of people all over the world on the same search. I had thought I was alone in it.
I also learned that spiritual development is not about gaining anything, such as more divinity, or beauty, or being of service to the less well of, or a better job, or whatever. It was about the dissolution of the ego.
Of course, first of all I had to learn to recognise the ego, in the context of spiritual development, because that is what it’s all about really in the end.
From this time on, spiritual seeking became my main interest. I read everything I could get my hands on, searched the internet for sites of people who were talking about this stuff, and learned that there is huge movement of spiritual awakening going on in the world today. In fact, it seems to be unprecedented.
I went back to West Virginia again in 2007. Following the 2005 trip I had become ill and spent about nine months of just one illness after the other. Following the 2007 trip my husband was diagnosed with cancer, from which he is now in remission.
During the time of my husbands illness experiences began to occur which I recognised as some kind of spiritual experiences. But I didn’t have time to think about it.
In the summer of 2009, for my 60th birthday, I was given a present of a five day stay at a retreat centre. During that retreat I had a major experience.
Since 2005 I had regular email contact with one of the several awakened people in West Virginia. His name is Art Ticknor. Of course I wrote to him about this experience and he was able to help me understand it. He assured me it was a major milestone but not he end of the line. He referred to this experience as “satori”. Since I did not myself know anything about the stages, or milestones on the spiritual path, this was a great comfort and help to me. Without this help I would surely have had more difficulty accepting the implications of it.
In August 2010 I had again arranged to spend a week on solitary retreat in Co. Cavan. On the last night of this retreat an “experience” occurred which I immediately, instinctively knew was the end of the line. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I had seen my true nature. I finally had the answer to my question, “what’s it all about?” I knew what I am before birth and after death and what everyone also is. I knew and I knew that I knew.
Spiritual awakening is a coming to know your True Nature and in that knowing all your questions about life are answered. Not the little questions about what will happen tomorrow, or how to make a million, but about “what’s it all about?.”
There is no greater security than this. It is what you have always sought even if you can not articulate it. And, this knowing is available to everyone in this lifetime. After all, what you are seeking is to know your True Nature, what you have always been.