What if the past never happened?

{trigger warning: everything, I suppose}

In my previous post, I explained how my childhood church forced me to sing for money, resulting in voice-centered trauma that I’ve only recently begun to resolve by making music on my own terms.

After reading that post, you may have gotten the impression that I’ve been permanently scarred by the experience. Maybe you even found my story inspiring, because clearly I must be a very strong individual to overcome such profound, nebulous trauma.

But the Truth is a bit more complicated than that.

The story as I told it to you, may have never actually happened.

Picking up where I left off, in this post I would like to share with you the epiphanies I had about the nature of reality and consciousness, as revealed to me precisely by the very same “trauma” I once identified as permanent, pertinent and pervasive — which freed me from the trauma altogether.

I now understand “the past” to be a perceptual state. Not a fixed event on a timeline, but rather, an interpretation of a memory that retroactively and instantaneously changes when we change in the Now.

So when I refer to music as my path of “self-liberation,” this is what I mean:


Memory #1

My childhood church was Pentecostal. So they believed you had to be baptized not only symbolically (by water) but also spiritually (by being filled with the Holy Spirit). And unlike water baptisms, being baptized in the Holy Spirit was not something you could simply opt-into. The Holy Spirit chose you, based on your sincerity and purity of heart, which only God could determine.

Their understanding of “being filled” was that the anointed person would start dramatically convulsing and shouting in unknown tongues, overwhelmed by the power of God moving through them. It was believed that being Filled was the only way to access Heaven after death — so, naturally, my church became predominantly concerned with instigating these experiences with events called “Revivals.”

At Revivals, we would all stand up, close our eyes, raise our hands, and begin to worship God. We were supposed to do this for as long as it took until we were seized by the Holy Spirit. Thus, Revivals could go on for hours.

At one nighttime Revival, I made the rookie mistake of lowering my hands after an hour because I was tired. That’s when one of the deacons came over, yanked my hands back into the air, and hissed in my ear — literally hissed — that I needed to keep worshiping God “correctly.”

Other people got Filled that night, but not me. Despite the fact that I was sincerely worshiping God, using every phrase I knew (“King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Lion of Judah, worthy to be praised,” etc.)… nothing happened.

I could feel the judgmental eyes of the elders on me, deciding that I wasn’t chosen that night because I must be secretly living in sin.

I was 12.

In the car on the way home, I was shaking. I didn’t know what a “panic attack” was at the time, but in retrospect, I believe that’s what I was experiencing. I silently prayed to God, begging to know why I wasn’t chosen to be Filled despite trying my best to reach that elusive state of consciousness that others seemed to reach so easily.

No answer.

Memory #2

We had a guest pastor once. Fire-tongued and fierce, she aimed her sermon at the youth of the church. At the end of the sermon, she had us line up at the altar. One by one she went down the line, speaking in tongues at each kid, then she’d push them on the forehead with a dramatic flourish of the hand. The kid would fall backwards, seemingly Filled with the Spirit.

When the preacher got to me, I was excited. She was Filling kids with the Spirit like it was so easy! Finally, I would know what it was like to experience God’s power moving through me! I closed my eyes and waited eagerly.

But when she finished speaking in tongues at me and then pushed on my forehead, I didn’t feel anything spiritual happen. I stayed standing.

She went on to the next person — the “best friend” I mentioned in the last post who, only a few years later, would have me crucified in the church for her sick pleasure. As soon as she received the forehead push, ~bestie~ fell backwards and worshiped God, seemingly lost in ecstasy.

The guest pastor continued down the line until all the kids were “slain” on the floor… except me.

Again, God chose everyone but me! What was I doing wrong?!

After the event was over, Bestie sidled up to me and whispered in my ear, “You were supposed to fall over.”

She didn’t say it outright, but her tone said it all: The other kids were pretending to be Filled with the Holy Spirit! The push on the forehead was their theatrical cue to act like they’d achieved the Baptism!

It wasn’t that I was the only one who hadn’t been Filled.
I was just the only kid who refused to lie about it!

And yet, ironically, my honesty cost me my reputation in the church. The elders perceived the other kids as more holy and pure than I was, because why else would they be getting Filled, but not me?

It’s not hard to see how I eventually got singled out for an exorcism, while my lying Bestie got the honor of preaching sermons from the pulpit.

The demonstrative quality of Holy Spirit baptisms, paired with its extreme importance in Pentecostal doctrine, created an environment wherein people would basically compete to get Filled — or at least to appear to have been Filled, so that they could rise in the ranks of the church.

It was essentially the spiritual version of “virtue signaling,” where people would over-compensate for their under-developed moral character by performing their purity. “Look at me, everyone! God chose me because I’m such a good person!”

Realizing this, I lost faith.

Everyone must be faking it, I figured. Either that or they’re lying to themselves.

For this, the exploitation, and a score of other reasons, I “checked out” of Christianity at age 16, and went on to wander aimlessly through the occult in the years to follow.

Memory #3

Prior to my Spiritual Awakening, I was disturbed. I mean really disturbed.

At age 16, an eating disorder nearly took me out; I dwindled down to about 100 pounds and almost got hospitalized; the malnutrition caused my heart to stop beating on a plane once, and for that moment in time I was suspended not only in the air, but in between Life and Death. My thoughts went blank; the world went colorless. Had I died in that moment, my last meal would have been a snack-pack of animal crackers (chosen for its low caloric content) and a Coke Zero, neither of which I even liked the taste of. “Pleasure” was such a foreign concept to my pain-addicted self, I once sincerely wondered aloud, “But I like croissants — so why don’t I eat them?” — whereupon the friend I was talking to burst into laughter, like that was the most ridiculous thing she’d ever heard.

My right thigh is covered in self-injury scars, carved so deep that years later they’re still visible enough to elicit shocked reactions from unsuspecting lovers. I never intend to spring the scars on anyone. The truth is that I forget they’re there, until a new set of eyes points them out to me again. And then it’s like: Oh, yeah. I used to make myself bleed on a regular basis, because I was so fucking miserable all the time.

The reason I’m able to forget I have scars, is because I’m not the same person I used to be, who romanticized razor blades and obsessed over emptying myself with constant purges. I don’t even remember what it’s like to have the urge to suffer anymore. The memory has been fully transfigured, as have I.

But we’ll get to that.

I can’t point to a particular issue that characterized this dark phase of my life. It was like everything was wrong.

I was bitter — from the childhood abuse at the hands of the church as well as family members;
I was angry — at every conceivable injustice, both those personally affecting me and those affecting the world;
I was sad — so, fucking, sad — all the time, for all the reasons.

My body was fucked up too — from a score of health issues like “fibromyalgia,” chronic fatigue, and PTSD (which, I would fiercely proclaim, I had been diagnosed with by four separate psychologists — in case anyone didn’t believe how much emotional pain I was in).

It seemed I lived in a perpetual state of malaise, physically and emotionally, knowing that something (well, everything) was wrong, but not being able to explain what exactly… let alone find the root cause.

So I did what most people do: I blamed my childhood.

I can’t do XYZ, because trauma.
I can’t feel joy, because trauma.
I can’t get ahead in life, because trauma.
I can’t have successful relationships, because trauma.

I can’t! I can’t! I can’t!

I would never admit it then, because I wasn’t consciously aware of it, but I had learned how to benefit from my trauma. I knew of no other way to survive the pain, but to make my trauma a good thing — a safety net, a protective shell, a convenient comfort zone I could take with me everywhere. Trauma was the ultimate excuse not to live my life.

And the best part? Nobody dared question it — except only the meanest, cruelest, most privileged assholes who’d never had real problems like mine!!! I wielded my trauma like a weapon against Possibilities and Love and Growth and Change, and felt accomplished when I successfully slayed those Good Things which came and tried to save me from myself.

Ah, I just thought of a word to summarize this dark phase of my life:

Hatred.

I hated everyone. I hated everything. I hated myself. It was as if every single one of my actions was motivated by the naked desire to destroy myself and everything around me by any means necessary. I was an ouroboros, locked in a cycle of devouring my own body and stupidly calling that sustenance.

And if you had asked me why I was full of so much hatred, I would’ve told you it was the only logical response to “what was happening to me.” Quite a revelatory phrase, isn’t it? My inner vision was so impaired, the concept of having any influence over my reality was unbelievable, offensive even. Everything was “happening to me, ” as if I was a doll being marionetted by merciless forces beyond my control. I still couldn’t see the relationship between my inner world and outer world. In a way, I couldn’t see at all. I was so lost in the darkness.

And so, my sleepwalking continued, right up into my mid-20s.

Memory #4

Due to my profound lack of self-awareness, I eventually found myself living through the most cliché “twin flame union” ever. We had the same interests, same mommy issues, and even the same Moon sign (Pisces, if you’re curious).

I thought he was The One. In fact, I was so convinced of this, that I spontaneously moved across the country to live with him. I had never done anything so extreme before, and I haven’t since. This was definitely one of those “karmic relationships” where you think it’s going to be a fairytale but you get your ass handed to you instead.

As it would turn out, this relationship would become The Heartbreak that dragged me kicking-and-screaming to the depths of my own unconscious mind, forcing me to look at my worst character flaws and darkest motives. There was no one else to blame anymore. Here I was, a grown-ass adult woman, living out of a suitcase in a house with 5 strangers, a whole country away from everything familiar, isolated in the most anti-social city ever (“Seattle freeze,” anyone?), lost in a perpetual haze of dispensary marijuana smoke, hurt, heartbroken, scared, lost… and terribly, terribly embarrassed.

How did I fuck up this badly?

“Dark Night of the Soul” would be putting it lightly. Worse than being a “Night” of the Soul, this was an ongoing torture session that lasted months, during which I had nothing else to do except evaluate my personality & life choices. The horror!!!

I had never done “shadow work” before, but triggered by this Heartbreak of Heartbreaks, the self-discovery process unfolded naturally, instinctually.

Phase 1 was admitting that I was not the poor little victim I wanted people to believe. I freely chose to be with this guy, actively ignoring all the red flags and failing to question my own shadowy motives. To claim “abuse” would be easy, and partially accurate, but it would also obscure my willing participation in the drama.

Phase 2 was realizing, from months spent alone in my room, that I had been living my entire life in dissociation, attempting to escape my own thoughts and feelings by staying perpetually distracted by drama after drama (ironically, making my trauma worse and giving myself more reasons to dissociate).
Now that I had nowhere left to run from myself, I had to learn how to sit with the pain.

But, perhaps more importantly, I learned how to sit with pleasure too.

I learned how to give myself loving touches, instead of desperately seeking that nurturance from external sources.
I freely explored my formerly taboo interests, especially those of a spiritual nature.
I learned how to take myself on dates, to savor new foods and stop caring if people judged me for eating by myself.
And I walked around Green Lake a lot, doing nothing in particular… just appreciating beauty, and Life, and my place in it.

And then there was Phase 3.

The Spiritual Awakening.

Memory #5

6 months after the breakup, I stabilized enough to consider opening-up to Love again.

So I sat on the edge of my bed, and began to reflect on this question: “Who is my role model of healthy Love?”

I ran down the list in my head of every person I’d ever known, whether personally or distantly. Everyone had at least a few good qualities. But none of them felt like the example of Love I was looking for. I needed not only an example of Love to model my own behavior after, but also a high standard to uphold for future romantic relationships.

After a few minutes going through the rolodex of names in my head… the name appeared in my head like a beacon of Light:

Jesus Christ.

First, I was shocked.
I had dismissed the religion of Christianity a long time ago, embittered by The Church that (I thought) had ruined my life. In doing so, I had thrown the baby Jesus out with the bathwater.

But in that moment, it dawned on me that Jesus had never hurt me — the Church did.

Suddenly, despite the evil, twisted behaviors of The Church which had all but obscured the Truth, the Love in Jesus’s message shone through like Hope after a Pandora’s Box of Evils. For the first time in my life, I had ears to hear what Jesus had actually been saying all along:

Love.

And just like that,

a light shone forth from within me, illuminating my world.
I could see, all at once, a vast array of Truths that had previously been hidden.

I understood why I was alive.
I understood why I had suffered up to this point.
I understood why everything had to happen exactly as it had happened.
I understood what it means to Love, and be Loved.
I understood that I was free — so free that I was even allowed to run away from God’s Love, because while the church believed in Forced Obedience, Jesus actually did not.
I understood the vampiric/parasitic nature of Evil, and how it was simply an unconscious pattern — a pattern that could be broken, immediately upon the realization that one is Free to choose differently, to dis-identify from temporal drama and instead accept the Truth of God’s eternal and free Love.

I understood “redemption” and “baptism” and “being born again” in an embodied way… not merely as words being shouted from the pulpit by a charismatic preacher.

Knowing that the Evil committed against me was simply a vicious cycle of reactive behavior (very much like the vicious cycle of suffering I had been stuck in), I was able to feel compassion for all of my abusers, all at once. The Church. My mother. My ex. Everyone.

And I forgave them, for they knew not what they did.

In that moment, I felt a Peace that surpassed all understanding. I Loved and felt Loved.

A transfiguration occurred within me that completely overwrote all previous narratives I had identified with. There was no point in hatred anymore. I could finally see the value in compassion, mercy, and grace. The bitterness that had defined my former self was now a sweetness, a boundless gratitude for Life and for another chance to live it.

I called my mother, who I hadn’t spoken to in 8 months. I found out that, synchronistically, she had also endured a difficult move to a strange land at the same age I was currently at. We talked like friends catching up with each other. I understood why. Why she did what she did. Why she chose what she chose. Why everything. And I simply couldn’t hate her anymore.

When I reconnected with the ex who broke my heart and catalyzed this awakening in the first place, to make peace with him, he said he didn’t recognize me. My words were no longer loaded with sourness or resentment.

And truthfully, I don’t recognize myself either. Now, I have a vague memory of who “Cailen” was before, but it almost feels like a memory of someone else entirely. Someone whose life I read about in a storybook, or saw in a movie.

It’s as if… actually, it is the case that… the past never happened.

Some would call a transfiguration of this magnitude “receiving the Holy Spirit.”

Galatians 5:22-23 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

If it is true that I was filled with the Holy Spirit, then it was nothing like I was taught in church. It was quiet, gentle, peaceful. No fanfare, no convulsions, no higher rank in the church as my reward. My reward is internal, reflected outwards as the over-all improvement of my Life.

Whereas The Church glorified itself as the one and only access point to God, I now had Gnosis of the Inner Sanctum: the sacred space where I can experience God’s presence within. The living church of my beating heart. I could go there anywhere, anytime. No gatekeepers or prior permission needed… and certainly no virtue-signaling performances.

And because this direct relationship with the divine is necessarily a personal experience, once again I am my only witness. And I’m okay with that.

This experience taught me the literal truth of the phrase “Seek and ye shall find.” In contrast to the strained, coerced Revivals of my youth, where I was mostly seeking God out of fear of punishment… it was only when I freely and willingly sought God that I found God.

For that to become possible at all, I had to accept that I was free in the first place.

The choice to either drown in hatred or alchemize it in order to rise (to fly!) in love, was always mine to make.

In closing, a word on how this pertains to my music:

Whenever I catch myself experiencing writer’s block (as I did a few times while drafting this blog), I command myself to “Just tell the truth, Cailen.” As soon as I do this, the words start flowing again.

Because of this, I have come to think that creative blocks reveal a resistance to Truth itself.

What is art, if not the expression of Life?
Therefore what is a creative block, if not the fear of Life?
Maybe even… the hatred of Life?

It’s a common line of thought among humans, that struggle imbues value upon one’s works. Everyone loves an underdog, it seems. We’re “inspired” when someone overcomes a challenge, and we’re unimpressed when somebody blissfully coasts through life, perpetually in awe and gratitude. We have a special insult for those types, and it’s “privileged.”

This, I think, reveals a collective shadow in the mind of humanity: We secretly want people to suffer for our entertainment.
Furthermore, we secretly want to impress others.
Thus, we commit to self-defeating narratives, giving ourselves hurdles to jump through so that we can claim greater strength and resilience, and hopefully receive crumbs of recognition in return… instead of shining just because we can.

This is hatred.

It’s hatred of Potential, in Ourselves and Others.
It’s an unspoken condemnation of each other to illusory limits.
The Unlimited Being, in this stifling social set-up, is regarded with resentment.
How dare they not fear the criticisms of the masses?
How dare they just EXIST like that, embodying God’s glory so easily and effortlessly?

The hatred of Creativity is hatred of the Creator, and it’s a shadow that runs deeeeep in the Collective psyche… so deep that only the brightest lights can expose it for what it is.

This was the exact shadow that drove my childhood exploitation in the first place. It’s the shadow I internalized and propagated every time I introduced my music with a sob story, hiding behind the trauma narrative just in case people didn’t like my voice or my songs.

Indeed, when I set out upon my “self liberation” path, I thought I’d be liberating myself from trauma…. Turns out the real liberation is the forfeiture of identification with trauma at all.

So with that,
I hereby proclaim that I don’t need a “justification” to express Truth…
…and neither do you, my love.

Truth itself is reason enough to sing, to dance, to paint, to poem, to story, to sculpture, to play, to ART.

And so is Beauty.

And so is Joy.

And so is Thankfulness.

And so is Life.

And so is Freedom.

And so is God.

And so
is
Love.

One response to “What if the past never happened?”

  1. Sometimes, I recognize that there’s no need to try conjuring up a profound and meaningful comment or reply. The ideal choice here, I feel, is to simply and sincerely state: THANK YOU!

Leave a Reply