As a human being, I cannot recall having a very happy childhood. For a large part of my life I suffered from a deep underlying tension, anxiety and guilt, and later in my life severe bouts of depression. Lately, however, this has gradually been giving way to an incredibly deep sense of inner peace as I internalize the words of A Course in Miracles, “Whatever suffers is not part of me”.
I grew up in a very religious home. From an early age already I had a deep interest in the teachings of Jesus, yet intuitively knew that what the church had made of Jesus was something very different from what Jesus had actually taught. At some level I knew already that the “kingdom of heaven” has nothing to do with what happens to us when we die, but is a state of being that can be realized right here and now.
Nature was my refuge. I spent many hours walking in the veld and later collecting snakes and lizards. In a society obsessed with the intellect, studying zoology and botany at university was for me the natural thing to do, and so I became a zoologist. However, this did not give me the satisfaction that I had anticipated. I missed something. As coordinator of oceanographic research with what is now the National Research Foundation (NRF), I was expected to keep up to date with the latest scientific research. I read widely, and in the process delved deeply into the philosophical foundations of science. I Increasingly realized that, like religion, science was no more than another human culture with its own beliefs, rules and norms and, because scientists can never detach themselves from consciousness, it can ultimately not solve the deepest mysteries of nature, which includes human nature. Of course, quantum physicists such as Max Planck, David Bohm and Einstein had realized that long before me.
I also realized that my interest in nature had its origin in the sense of oneness I had experienced with nature as a child, and that no amount of intellectual knowledge or reasoning was going to enable me to re-experience that.
As a volunteer counsellor with the Life Line telephone counselling service while with the NRF I was exposed to a very different side of life, and I loved it. I saw how “counselling” and group process could lead to a deep sense of connectedness, and with that significantly increased consensus, creativity and productivity. During some counselling sessions I experienced oneness at such a deep level that I knew with absolute certainty that all is One. I realized that I was onto something, resigned my formal job to “live in faith” and started doing A Course in Miracles (ACIM).
For the next few years I joined Peter Batchelor, a former director of Life Line Pretoria, in his Build South Africa Foundation, which was aimed predominantly at reconciliation through group process facilitation. This included youth camps in nature, conflict resolution, mediation and the like. When I was asked to facilitate encounters between an Afrikaner “rightwing” movement and the ANC Youth League, it turned out so successful that further dialogue groups were blocked by the dominant political party, as had happened with another political party before. Although I was bitter at first, I realized that, if the most powerful political parties deem it necessary to ban their members from having contact with us, we must be busy with something very powerful! From my study of ACIM I now knew this to be the fear-based “ego”, or that which we are not. The ego, based on guilt and fear as it is, wants an identity and power over others. True reconciliation through forgiveness would be its end.
Since then I have done many things. These always entailed interaction with other people. I have been a teacher from preschool to university, editor, tourist guide and guide trainer, wilderness trail guide and CEO of the Field (Nature) Guides Association of Southern Africa (FGASA). I used my knowledge of ACIM, and later A Course of Love (ACOL), to approach relationships in a very different way (‘holy relationships’), and as a result had some miraculous experiences of oneness and Love. In my books I have written about these experiences.
Several workshops on original or authentic play that I did with Fred Donaldson were another turning point in my life. I grasped the “spiritual” nature of play immediately: the metamessages “You are valuable” and “There is nothing to fear”, which occur in the authentic play of children and animals alike, were effectively the same as those of ACIM, and nothing less than forgiveness in practice! For six years I became the official “playmate” at a preschool in Pretoria, where I still play from time to time. During those times I presented various talks and workshops on authentic play. In these I pointed out how, apart from its “spiritual” value, regular play actually has an amazing effect on the learning and productivity of the children.
It was my interest in and experience of authentic play that led me to an ever increasing interest in early childhood consciousness in general. I read widely and learnt how critical early bonding, regular breastfeeding, regular touch, affection and play are in the natural emotional, social and cognitive development of a child. I also realized that, like so many others, I had had very little of any of this. For the first time I really started understanding the apparent origin of my guilt and anxiety. My book The Power of Childhood was a direct outflow of these insights and experiences.
Apparently understanding where our pain comes from, however, does nothing to the pain itself. Ultimately it does not matter where the pain comes from because, in the words of ACIM, “I am never upset for the reason I think.” I learnt that intellectual understanding of pain could even act as a block to healing as I learnt to transmute my pain in the here and now.
On the ACOL Facebook page I found that even through virtual interaction deep healing could happen. I had many healing experiences on wilderness trails. Then, on a miraculous journey in faith to the USA (see this and subsequent blogs), where I actually met and shared in dialogue with many people who had done ACIM and ACOL, I experienced a joy and abundance that I had never known before. I found the whole quality of my life changing. The “kingdom of heaven” is becoming a reality.
I was married for ten years, and two sons were born during that time. When Johan, the eldest, chose to end his life at the age of 20, I was devastated. I don’t think it is possible to give even an indication of the grief that follows the loss of a dearly beloved child. Those who have had similar experiences will know. It affected me deeply for many years afterwards, and much of the pain I learnt to transcend was related to this grief, which unleashed all kinds of emotions of guilt, regret, anger (mainly at myself) and fear. It was deeply disturbing, yet turned out to be an important part of my journey of transformation, and ultimately a major inspiration for the healing work that is my passion now. In my friend Mary Love’s book Grace: Finding the Light she gives a beautiful description of her journey of transformation after the loss of her young daughter, and in this I saw much of myself.
In the reality of spirit, which ultimately is the only reality, I learnt from experience that giving and receiving are one. Not once have I not experienced healing when I apparently had a healing effect on others. This was heavily reinforced on my journey to the USA. And so my desire to give – effectively of my authentic Being – has become my passion, for the simple reason that it gives me so such joy and abundance! And what I receive, of course, cannot but be received.