As long as I can remember I have been seeking.
I remember when I was 6 years old having two distinct thoughts:
Is this it?
Is this what life is all about?
Most of the grownups in my life seemed somewhere between bored and depressed. I remember thinking, “So I just stay in school and learn a bunch of useless calculus (no offense to those of you who love and use advanced math daily), go to college and suffer in a career for the next 30 years?” Even my child-mind wasn’t convinced that this was really working for anyone around me. I felt lonely and like I was the only one with these nagging questions. I mostly kept them to myself.
I had my first profound spiritual experience at 16 years old. I felt connected to God and to something bigger than myself. I remember, through tears and a full-body tingle, a distinct feeling that I was loved and accepted by God.
If God loved me and would always love me, then I thought I should take a shot at being nice to myself. This camp experience changed my life forever. Most 16 year olds have a spiritual experience and descend from that mountain top in a matter of days or weeks, often changing a behavior or two, but rarely changing their entire view of life. I went home and started to stop caring. I stopped worrying so much about who liked me and who didn’t. In moments when I became concerned about how others were perceiving me, I quietly in my own heart reminded myself that I was loved just the way I was. It changed everything.
Nearly 20 years later that moment still remains one of the biggest spiritual shifts in my life. While I have been on a long winding path with spirituality for the last few decades, a few things are foundational to where I am right now.
I recognize that this has been a long winding road with a lot of bumps and bruises along the way, but it has gotten me to this point. If I think back to things I used to believe years ago, it can make me blush. However, all of these points on the journey have brought me to where I am; because I continue to keep asking questions, I am quite certain that this is not a final list.
However, if I could boil down my spiritual belief to one simple statement it would be:
You are ok.
That is it…
It is exhausting to live in a world that is always telling us we are not enough, should try harder, be better, skinnier, richer and more attractive. It’s exhausting to live in a world that tells us we ought to be afraid and ashamed all the time.
You are ok.
You may not be able to feel your Inner Okayness, and that is ok. Some of us feel too addicted, afraid, guilty or ashamed to feel that part of ourselves. Maybe you think you are too fat, dumb, or awkward or your nose is too big to be ok.
Maybe your dad beat you or you were raped, or you raped someone, or you have learned to hate yourself and so you think, “not me, I am not ok.”
Even you. You are ok.
I suppose I should clarify the word ‘ok.’ I don’t mean you are ok, like an average meal at a restaurant is okay. I mean you are ok even though things aren’t perfect. I mean, yes I know you are suffering at your job, but truly you are a powerful force in the world who has the capacity to love deeply and feel a sense of contentment.
If you have ever had a moment where you felt deeply at peace and a sense of contentment even though you had bills you didn’t know how you were going to pay or relationship troubles that you didn’t know how to resolve, then you have felt your Inner Okayness. If you haven’t felt that yet, that is ok too.
We all have a loud voice that tells us, “as soon as (fill in the blank), then I will feel happy.” You can fill in the blank. As soon as I graduate college, finally get pregnant, become financially secure. It doesn’t matter what your mind tells you, it is not true. As soon as you attain the thing that you think will bring you contentment, you will want something else. It never ends. You will never find what you are looking for on that crazy train. We all know rich, successful, clear-skinned, famous, child-bearing people who are miserable – so miserable that they don’t even want to live anymore. The inner ok feeling is actually you. The voice that keeps demanding more is not.
If I had a billboard this is what I would put on it. Really big.
YOU ARE OK
The world desperately needs to know this. Your kids need to hear you tell them that and so does your mom and your best friend. Most of all, if you believe that you are ok in every cell of your body it will change your life, and most likely, the world around you.
While a billboard would be fun, I don’t think it would be the most effective way to share this information. Most people have been conditioned since they were little kids to believe that something is wrong with them. It is not just about changing what we think. It would be nice if the billboard would be deeply impactful, but I am not sure it will be.
This rewiring is hard work. Shifting the mind, heart and body to align with who we really are is not for the faint of heart. It is a journey that once we start seems to be like peeling an onion with infinite layers. It requires a lot of resources. For most of us, it requires time and space to observe, feel, grieve, get angry or feel our fear. The inner work often asks us to shift things externally as we shift internally. Relationships, jobs, belief systems, friendships will often morph or end completely. We have to learn to create a life in deepest alignment with who we are. We have to reclaim ourselves, our real selves. While thinking is necessary, it is often the work of the heart and body that create some of the biggest shifts.
One of the biggest barriers people find to this internal work is our busy lives. It can feel difficult or even impossible to find this quiet space. It is hard from the forest of our lives to see the trees. In the noise of jobs, kids, and house projects, it can be really difficult to get clear on who we are, what we are, and what we want our service to the world to be.
It can be hard to find the space and time to reclaim who we really are, yet it is my belief that every dollar spent and tear cried to find and feel our Inner Okayness is worth it.
So, in place of a billboard, Raechel Marrow of Grand Rapids Healing Yoga and I are going to be leading a retreat in Puerto Rico this February 2018.
When I talked with Raechel for the first time I could see a fire in her and a passion for her own freedom and those that she worked with. The more we talked, the more excited we got. The more excited we got, the more it was clear that we wanted to show up in the world together assisting others in reclaiming their own unique voice, power, and freedom. While we both do this work in Grand Rapids, we wanted to create a larger opportunity to allow participants the time and space to process and get deep in their own work. While we love yoga, we didn’t want a yoga retreat, and while we love meditation, we didn’t want a meditation retreat. We want a retreat that assists people in reconnecting back to their essence and the deepest, most authentic part of who they really are. We wanted to remind them of their Inner Okayness.
At Reclaiming You there will be teaching, yoga, meditation and a community of like-hearted people, but more importantly, there will be an invitation to come back to yourself and reclaim who you have always been.
Perhaps this retreat was created for you… to help you on your journey back to yourself. In this space we aim to help all participants reclaim who they really are and create practices in their lives that keep them connected to their most authentic selves.
Above all, it is to remind people that they are ok.
If you are interested in attending Reclaiming You in Puerto Rico you can find more information here.
Author: Micah McLaughlin is a naturopathic practitioner specializing in the integration of the body and mind. In 2008, he founded Continuum Healing, a holistic health clinic located in Grand Rapids, MI. Micah is passionate about walking alongside men as they work out purpose, power, love and vulnerability in their lives. He is also a co-founder of the Wellness Collective Grand Rapids.