When does someone's spiritual journey begin?
At birth? At the time of the first big loss, however that manifests itself? As heartbreak, illness or death? Or as depression or confusion or doubt?
Or is it like a spontaneous combustion for some? A kind of grace for others? A blessing, sometimes in disguise, sometimes not?
As long as I can remember, I was asking the big questions. The endlessness of the Universe both frightened and fascinated me. Same with darkness. And the dense pine forests of the north, where I grew up were soothing and scary at the same time.
I loved ghost stories; tales of the super-natural. Haunted houses. Omens. Psychics. Demons. Witchcraft. I loved biblical stories of good and evil, despite growing up in a pretty agnostic household. I used to call out to satan in my head, and then I would quickly withdraw my wish for him to reveal himself, when my heart seemed close to smashing my ribcage.
I was convinced that there must be more to life than what meets the eye.
And the big bang theory of creation I wanted to accept as an atheist, left so many questions un-answered.
I was eleven or twelve, I think, when I had a really high fever. And that was the first time I had an out of body experience. Of floating. In space. I remember the feeling of realising how insignificant my worldly troubles were. Also that realisation was two-sided: liberating yet sad.
At the age of 19 I tried LSD for the first time. This wasn't some random teenage drug experience, but something I had planned to do for a long time. I knew this would be something I'd learn from, rather than alcohol (which I definitely enjoyed immensely at that point, and for a long time), which was an escape, and sometimes liquid (pathetic) courage.
I was endlessly fascinated by the sixties, a decade I had missed out on by being born in the seventies. For me the sixties were about some sort of awakening, even if that probably wasn't the word I would have used describing it as a teenager. But Flower Power, Woodstock, Anti-war movement --I just could never get enough of stories from that time.
I felt sad I had missed it all. I knew that with LSD it was possible to have mystical experiences, and that was what I was going for. I didn't know much about set and setting.
Because my friends and I had pretty much chosen the worst place possible to have our first trip.
We scored and dropped acid in an illegal goth club, located in a scruffy industrial space in London, filled with people whose fashion sensibilities had them dress up like vampires. We obviously hadn't gotten the memo that nature was the name of the game as far as acid was concerned.
The trip that came on like an avalanche; laughter and tears. Tears cascading but not from sadness, but from strong emotions. Synergy. Overwhelm. Sounds affecting visuals. Everything breathing. Discovering new dimensions of colour.
I remember riding out the peak of the trip in that less than ideal environment, and then, when the morning was a fact, leaving the club and embarking on a long cross town walk as the day was getting brighter and brighter. The world was spilling over with intense beauty. Everything was imbued with magic and mystery. I felt incredibly lucky to be alive. I am not so certain that my comrades all felt the same. We were a group of five teenage girls, and at least two of them had a frightening experience, of which I now can recall very little if anything.
We walked for hours and then went to my friend's house and sat there for hours and hours, drinking pot after pot of tea, and talking about our experience. We were all wide awake and not the least bit hungry.
It was well into the next evening, and after nightfall, and we were still basking in the afterglow of the trip. All colors, sounds, thoughts were still a bit more vibrant, had more depth and more dimensions.
After lying awake in my bed for a long time I finally fell asleep, and when I woke up the following morning, I had the feeling I had landed back in the 'old' reality again. Yet something had forever changed.