A Forty Year Journey – Part 2

I worked hard during my stay in the government, and the experience was certainly worthwhile. However, I did not find what I was looking for, and became more and more disillusioned the longer I stayed. I often regretted turning down the university offers I had received. I became more and more isolated from my family. My recurring depressions and the inadequacy of my beliefs eventually led me to undertake the practice of transcendental meditation in an effort to find relief and new understanding.

In 1977 we bought a farm near Maxville, Ontario, about an hour’s drive from Ottawa. My parents lived near there, and helped us find the property. While we were completing our purchase negotiations, my Dad died. His funeral was the first time since university I’d attended a church of the denomination I’d grown up in (except for one wedding), and I experienced a strange comfort during the service. I thought it was because of the transcendental meditation I was practising. Also, the transcendental meditation movement taught that it provided the foundation of everything, including religion, and that its followers were free to pursue the religion of their choice. Although I wasn’t a believer, my own religious background was certainly Christian, and so I thought maybe I should explore it a bit. As a commuter new in town I had little opportunity to meet people except through going to church, and I was lonely. My neighbour went to that church. I started to attend there sporadically.

In the winter of 1978 I was afflicted with a kidney stone. In the process of treating me, the doctor said, “I think there’s more wrong with you than just a kidney stone. I want you to go for a neurological exam, and if that reveals nothing I want you to go to a psychiatrist.” The neurological exam revealed nothing, and I ended up at the psychiatrist’s. I had sought help from psychiatry a couple of times in the past, as a result of the depressions I’d experienced, without noticeable results. Both times I had eventually cancelled my visits, since I would always recover for no noticeable reason. This time was to be different.

The psychiatrist gave me a book on depression and anti-depressant medications. I could relate to it because of my background in chemistry. For the first time, it put a name to the problem I was suffering from, and described its symptoms. I knew this particular psychiatrist could help me. But, I decided to reject that help.

I had decided to pursue a career in politics. I had actually been considering it since graduate school, and that was one of the reasons I had gone to work in the government service, to get some experience. I recognized the only way I could possibly fulfill my ideals was to be a government leader, and I had decided I didn’t want to do so as a career civil servant. I felt that if I allowed the psychiatrist to treat me and people later found out about it, it would harm my prospects. So, I told the psychiatrist I would handle the problem on my own. He said, “That’s fine; if you decide later you want to come back, you’re welcome to do so.”

On the way to his office and again on the way home, the weight of the whole world was on my shoulders. Everything seemed dark, and my mind raced as I tried to figure out the answer to my problems. As I drove into Maxville, I had just passed the garbage dump when I looked up at the moon and saw how it made a circle of light on the surrounding clouds. I thought, “I wonder if there’s a God and some day I’ll have to answer to Him?” Immediately I felt my inner self start to leave my body and head out somewhere – perhaps to outer space. It was like a pit of destruction, and it went on and on forever. You were continually being destroyed and you would never, ever, finish being destroyed.

The only way I was able to pull back from this experience was by beginning my transcendental meditation routine. Severely shaken, I reached home and collapsed in bed. The next morning I woke up early to go to the bathroom. There I fell on my knees, crying and saying, “God, please forgive me for not believing in You!””

Amazingly, I started to feel better. I recognized I had a choice of going back to the psychiatrist or continuing deeper into transcendental meditation. I chose the latter. Although I had come to believe in God, I still thought it was through transcendental meditation that I had done so.

Eleven days later was Good Friday. It was also my 36th birthday. I felt an inner prompting to go to church. From time to time over the years I had noticed that inner prompting in the course of making decisions, and had come to trust it as an indicator of the right way to go. There was a young student minister preaching that day. He spoke of how Jesus had died on the cross to pay the penalty for the sins of all mankind. If anyone thought he could do the same thing Jesus did, that was a sin. I recognized that as being exactly where I had left off in university, when I started to doubt the truth of the path I was following! (I had thought Jesus was a great moral teacher who had died rather than compromise on his beliefs, and that I might have to do the same some day.) I went home and again knelt by my bed, and asked Jesus to come back into my life.

Soon afterward I resigned my government job to join a small consulting firm as part-owner. I felt I needed to make a lot of money in order to be independent when I went into politics, and this was the way to do it. I joined the firm on a hand-shake deal, asking my new partner to have our agreement drafted by his lawyer. I also plunged deeper into the practice of transcendental meditation.

When I joined the firm, the agreement that arrived back from the lawyer wasn’t exactly what we’d agreed to verbally. I felt betrayed, and ashamed for having been so foolish as to leave my job without an agreement in writing. We tried further negotiations after the fact, but I was an inexperienced negotiator and we were never able to conclude our deal.

The stress of all these changes in my life was taking its toll. Eventually I reached the point where I could do nothing more than sit on the floor and cry. The time had come to go on medication and return to the psychiatrist.

Over the next year and a half I was on a gradually-decreasing medication dosage, and went regularly for counselling. I left the firm I had joined, and my wife and I both went to work for a small company that supplied computer programming and systems analysis personnel on contract to government departments and larger companies. I began by working on a contract to document a large circuit-design package for Bell-Northern Research, the research and development arm of the corporation now known as Nortel Networks. The plan was that I would then go into marketing with our firm, in preparation for opening another branch in Montreal of which I would be part-owner. I was still pursuing my ideals.

It was a very hard time in our lives. I had stopped going to church, and wondered where God was in all of this. Toward the end of 1979, my older daughter invited me to come to her church and hear her sing in a choir. I no more wanted to go to that church than I wanted to fall off the moon, but because I loved my daughter I went anyway. That day the minister came out with a line that spoke to me. He said, “Whenever I’ve got my God in a box, He always gets out of it and shows me He’s bigger than that!” This sounded like the “unbounded awareness” that the transcendental meditation movement talked about, so afterward I went to talk with him. He eventually spent four very enjoyable evenings with us, and invited me to a Bible study at his church. I said I was planning to go on a series of transcendental meditation weekend retreats if enough people were available, but otherwise I’d be happy to attend. The transcendental meditation people were two people short of their quota, and I ended up going to the Bible study.