I would have once upon a time referred to myself as an ‘atheist’. My parents were not religious and the only exposure I had to God was through my grandparent’s connection with the Catholic church, but I saw them very sparingly. I remember my grandmother standing over me, absolutely horrified that I had never been baptised. I was in this moment very scared. I didn’t understand how this deep faith my grandparents held was the cornerstone to them leading a meaningful and fulfilling life.

20 years on, I would not refer to myself as a religious person, but do value spirituality as one of the greatest parts of my life. It wasn’t something that happened gently. I fell to my knees in desperation. I could not keep going on. I didn’t want to do life as it was anymore. I felt completely broken and unfixable. Life no longer felt worth living. I experienced a rock bottom when I was 21 years old and found myself walking into a community support group and seeing the words God written throughout the basic text. I was so desperate that I was willing to keep going back and connecting with these people, but I just ignored any reference to a higher power.

I was then told that all this power needed to be was something bigger than myself. A room full of people coming together to support one another or anything that simply was not me alone. I got told ‘go down to the beach and see if you are strong enough to push the ocean back.’ As time went on and my mind became more clearer, I began to notice things I would never have before. I would feel a tingly warm sensation inside when someone spoke to me. Or the coincidence of someone telling me the answer to a question I had been pondering on that same day. The answers seemed to appear at exactly the right time and right moment.

I then began to notice the beauty of the flowers, trees and felt this great sense of peace when in nature. I had never been present enough to notice these small details because I had been so stuck in my head. But I began to marvel in my surroundings and wondered if there was anything more to what I could see with the naked eye. One of the most marvellous realisations was that perhaps there was a deeper reason for my experiences. That the pain I had experienced, perhaps had occurred to provide me with the opportunity to support others whom were going through what I had before. This gave me a sense of purpose.

I began reading spiritual books and learnt that there was no separation from myself and my environment. That I was connected to everyone and everything around me. I found great joy in this because for someone whom had felt alone and different my entire life, I realised that even when I felt alone, there was a deeper force connecting me to the world around. That I was a spiritual being having a human experience.

I spent a long time chasing God. I lived in Bali for 4 years and travelled to India regularly. I would participate in Hindu ceremonies. I did Ashtanga yoga which has a big focus on ritual and taking pilgrimages to the founders hometown in Mysore, India. I would meditate twice a day every day. One day I woke up and realised that whilst I had experienced this great sense of change in the way I related to myself and the world, I was still reaching out for the next person, the next ceremony, the next yoga class, the next trip – thinking at the end of the ‘next’ thing was when I would find what I was looking for. I realised that is within, not without.

Whilst I still do many of these practices within my life still to this day, I now look for God in the little moments. I realised that the love and joy I was seeking was everywhere. It was the smile from the barista at the coffee shop, it was the cuddle from my baby sister, it was my partner holding me tight when I was upset, it was laughing with a friend, it was the memories of loved ones whom were no longer with me today. It was happening everywhere and it was everything. I was finally awake!

This piece was written by one of the ICLA eFriend Peer Support Workers. eFriend is an online platform where you can connect with a trained peer support worker whom has their own lived experience of feeling lonely, isolated, stressed or worried. You can speak to your eFriend Peer via video or phone call. Your eFriend Peer will listen, validate and provide hope. If you like, they can also assist you to identify any other services you may like to try or help you create plans to improve your personal well-being. Or they can simply listen.

To book your first call visit: https://my.efriend.org.au/preregistration/