Hey there, pretty new to this board. I just want to give a testimony of some personal experiences that have radically changed my life over the past few years, I pray that those who are struggling, suffering, depressed or in great distress will sense the power of the spirit of god in their lives, and it's life changing energy that brings about what Jesus refered to as , "the rebirth". I grew up an extremely sensitive child, very aware and in tune with my body, mind and emotions at an extremely young age. With that came pro's and cons. I had a very strong will to persevere, was very compassionate, and gifted intellectually, and athletically. With the extremely sensitive nature also came some real roadblocks though. I was very ADD, always struggled with my grades, was extremely introvert, shy, prone to severe bouts of depression, anxiety, panic attacks all symptoms of the true root of the problem. That being a lack of identity, of "my true essence". My first encounter with the spirit of God came when I was 15 years old, I've always been very shy, independant, and during this time I spent a great deal of my first year of high school alone. Through this, God began impacting my life. I found myself waking up in the early hours of the morning, reading the bible and spiritual literature, praying, meditating going to a small church and worshipping the LORD. It was a spontaneous, beautiful, seemingly natural feeling. I felt so embraced, blessed and most importantly of all I felt loved every night I went to bed. My parents and my brothers attended church for awhile, but slowly everyone but my Mom seemingly lost interest in the concept of God. As time went on, I became increasingly fascinated more and more with the concept of a Divine power in this world. I would indulge in debates, e-mail pastors, constantly read scipture, literature analyzing that scripture. I listened to Charles Stanley, Billy Graham, Joyce Meyer, among others. But what began as such enlightenment, and such joy began taking a radical turn for what my mind perceived as the worst. Even though behind the apparent chaos the Lord had bigger plans, plans that would shake my foundation and transform me in ways you couldn't even dream. Before I turned 16, I was admitted to the psychiatric unit, diagnosed with severe "Obsessive Compulsive Disorder" which became so out of control I lived every second of my being in constant fear, panic and terror. My body withered down to skin and bone, and all I can remember is a sense of impending doom awaiting me. I began medication, and therapy sessions and eventually got my anxiety and OCD under control, and began to re-kindle the pieces of my life slowly but surely. I became more confident, started getting excellent grades, gained alot of weight back, cleaned up my diet, began exercising and stuck with the medication and really seemed to get my life in order. Yet, despite all the positive changes, somewhere subconsciously I began to not just ignore anything spiritual, the concept of God actually began to repulse me, and I completely cut ties with the idea of searching for him any deeper. I believed so fervently, was so passionate about becoming more spiritual, and connecting and loving God with all my heart, and yet part of me felt completely abandoned, and seemingly tortured by him. The flashbacks of night after night of intense terror God would strike me sins I committed, the intense hot flashes of dread of burning in a place of eternal torment Christians called Hell, were the straw that broke the camels back so to speak. Something inside of me died, I felt what had once started out as Love, had become my worst nightmare. From an emotional standpoint I felt torn, I was terrified of pain, suffering, dying, and hell, and yet I couldn't come to grips with the fact that a seemingly loving God could ever be capable of those things. So the subconscious response to the madness in my soul, was to acknowledge God through fear, and not love. Even though, I got mixed up into drugs, alcohol, partying, sex with whatever girl I justified it all in the back of my mind, and believed If I confessed my sins, and repented I would be forgiven, and those blissful pearly gates would await me. Life kept rolling, my ego grew out of control, I became extremely popular, would host parties seemingly weekly, I became known as the "kid with the touch" for my unbelievable luck in gambling. I won $16 000 on hockey, $9 000 on baseball, I would go to the casinos and rake in a thousand in a few hours, I drank, smoked drugs, got into cocaine. I felt virtually "untouchable". Part of my felt guilty, and those dark thoughts of terror, punishment and hell would re-surface from time to time, but everytime I was reminded of the torment and the pain I experienced, I was able to block out because I could virtually distract myself with anything, the good times were rolling, and my ego clang onto every moment of it for dear life. Looking back it all made sense that from a psychological standpoint it's human nature to become a very guarded person, or turn to addiction to run from your past. But in March of 2007, things took a drastic turn, I would soon be in for a world of hurt in a way that was seemingly far to painful to accept. Little did I know that It would be the night that began a spiritual transformation to the road back to God. I went to go sell drugs to a friend at a party, next thing I knew words were exchanged and we ended up wrestling on a hardwood floor. I ended up tearing my shoulder very badly. What ensued was years of grueling surgery, rehab, pain meds and deep deep depression. My luck started running thin, I blew through all my big wins, and everytime I gambled I would lose more and more money. I resorted to borrowing money, stealing, selling drugs anything to get those extra bucks to gamble again. "Gambling literally became my heroin" It was my escape from a seemingly endless existence of misery. It was as If I was re-living my past all over again, the depression, anxiety, OCD were triggered into high gear and I began contemplating suicide more and more. What followed was more pain and misery I was kicked out of my house time and time again, my best friend died in a canoe accident, and my aunt died of cancer And Yet Due to my extremely impulsive, passionate, competitive nature however I was able to "fight" and work hard in re-tooling the pieces of my life all over again, the pain of losing those close to me always lingered so deeply, but I managed to due my best to do what I had always done, "run away" or escape my problems with some form of an addiction or another and escape the reality of what my mind perceived to be just the way life was, a hostile jungle full of pain, misery, death and suffering. The only thing seemingly keeping me from ending my life, was this deep spiritual dimension that subconsciously existed inside of me, that would guide me, and counsel me with a sense of calm, peace and love. Yet I was torn because as much as I could sense it's presence deep inside, I couldn't yet integrate my life into accepting it's true reality, because all I was ever reminded of when it came to issues of God or spirituality was the mental prison of the constant pain, chaos, guilt and intense fear that I had associated with my past. Eventually, everyone reaches their breaking point where they meet a crossroads, and the irony is it's through the pain and suffering that your what you perceived to be greatest defense, your ego that guarded you for so long, and carried your for so long, slowly begin to die, and the spirit inside of each and every one of us begins to shine through, and slowly transform your life. It happens so naturally, you can't help but stand in "awe" , once your spirit begins transcending the ego and a new form of consciousness arises within you. You begin awakening to a face in the mirror you never in your wildest dreams could have thought existed. For me, I really became awakened to this new reality while I was at rock bottom. Working the nightshift alone in a gas station , and living paycheque to paycheque. I bought a book called " The Third Jesus" written by Deepak Chopra. When I first encountered the literature I was stunned, part of me wanted to throw the book in the garbage, because so much of what I was reading stood directly against old traditional beliefs of the image of God, and yet part of me became compelled to read more and more and absorb every word of it. It was as if there was a constant tug of war inside my soul, and deep contemplation of the true essence of God began. It's one thing to read and experience the dawn of a new spiritual awakening, but it's even more empowering when what you read begins to manifest into a reality that you experience within and that you share with others. As fate would have it, right around the time I was becoming deeply immersed in this book, Customers with the same questions, and burning desire to know more about God started coming into the station. It was almost as if there was a magnetic force of energy that is so far beyond the normal human senses that seemingly attracted each other. What I began reading, I started seeing with my very own eyes. All walks of life, Christians, Atheists, Muslims etc.. began expressing their love for God, their curiosities in regards to the true spiritual nature of God, and how he interacts with mankind. It started slowly dawning upon me could it be that traditional religion that claims the exclusive, and only path to God was nothing more than a fabricated lie of the ego? The spirit inside could see that regardless of what God you ascribe to, all humans share the same trait, " the pursuit of true joy and peace of experiencing the divine. The thought of it, made me shake in my boots, because that was the only God I ever knew, and was always taught from a theological standpoint. It was as if I was destined to walk directly through my past, the trauma and the terror and deal with it head on this time. The egoic identity inside of me wanted nothing of this, it was like a voice in my head, doing everything to seemingly discourage any attempt to unmask the truth that I so desperately yearned for. Yet the power of the spirit just kept opening up my eyes more and more, I sensed the calm, still peaceful presence of it guiding me down a path I just knew in my heart was right. So I was compelled to listen to it, and follow it more and more. What I had yearned for so deeply for whole life was "love" and the spirit I sensed growing inside compelled me towards that feeling more and more. I became fearless, and started reading more and more dialogue that mainstream religion may label " new age", or "blasphemous", I started opening up my mind, and my heart to the fact that the concept of "God" has been interpreted in a million different ways, through countless centuries, among countless walks of life. And It finally dawned upon me, that for one group, tribe, race, religion to claim an "exclusive" path to God was nothing more than the ego's expression of a deep seated insecurity and fear projecting itself through man, as witnessed by the countless horrors and atrocities committed in the name of " Our God", or the "One and only Almighty" I could never see the intolerance, or injustice of it all, because the ego had corroded my mind with fear for so long. And with fear comes to reluctance to change, reluctance to opening up your mind to any other possibilities. You remain in an invisible prison, until you are awakened, because the dark entity of the ego knows it's survival depends solely on keeping you in a state of blindness. It cannot exist in the presence of the spirit, because the light extinguishes the dark. Through my own lack of consciousness, and living in my own state of blindness it made sense that I could read the words of the bible, but not TRULY grasp the hidden truths behind it all. I associated salvation with belief in forgiveness, re-birth with baptism involving water, good with heaven, evil with hell. I couldn't see beyond the literal portrayals in the bible, because the ego inside of me was consumed by fear and obsessed with form. Only once I began transcending the ego and aligning myself with the spirit could I see, that rituals or trying to earn your spot in heaven are just the ego's means of looking to objects in form to bridge the gap and obtain salvation. Christ was truly enlightened, when he said, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again’” (John 3:3-7). He was expressing to be born again, is to transcend the ego by surrendering, and thus allowing the true spirit to fill up your life. I started understanding, when Christ said, "the Kingdom of God is within." he was expressing that to find God you have to look inside your own heart. You can't find him through rituals, or anything outside of yourself. Because the truth is God is trying to live inside each and every one of us! When Jesus said " I and the Father are one" he was hinting at a deeper meaning, that mankind has struggled to grasp for so long. Traditional Christianity believes deeply that this was him signifying his true essence as the one and only "Son of God". What it fails to grasp it that, It was the spirit speaking through Christ illustrating it's clear nature, a nature that exists in us all. Jesus was a human being just like us all, who was enlightened enough, and aligned with the spirit to the point of complete surrender on the cross. Even when he was being tortured, he cried, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they are doing." This was a revelation to the fact that the spirit inside of him had such compassion for mankind, being clearly aware that they were crucifying him not because they were "evil, or "sinners" as the church likes to label them, but rather they were human beings living in a state of unconsciousness doing a horrible thing for that reason and that reason alone. Why else would he say, "for they know not what they are doing" . This was him expressing, had they been living in a state of awakened consciousness aligned with the spirit of god, they would be UNCAPABLE of performing such an act. This clearly shows that human beings don't CHOOSE to be good or evil, but rather perform good charitable acts only through the transformation and awakening of the spirit inside. I've began to heal in my life through other extremely powerful books such as " A New Earth and the "Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. these books in particular have truly opened up my eyes to the fact that God is and always will be a mystery, we try to explain him in form, or words, or sayings, but only the spirit inside of us can truly understand the invisible dimensions of the divine. And Once you truly embrace the fact that the spirit lives inside you, and us all, you can begin to enjoy all the beautiful things life has to offer even in the face of pain, suffering and adversity. Life is always lived in "the present moment" and once you start seeing that through even the most painful and tragic experiences beauty can and WILL arise in your life, once you begin to see that. What we "perceive" to be horrific, painful, and dreadful is often mentally fabricated through means of "fear" which is of course based on the ego. When you align with the spirit, and truly embrace the present moment for whatever life may throw at you, you begin to see that what you perceived the most horrible set of circumstances is actually no more than an engineer for change for a brighter and better future. This is why pain and suffering bring people together, more than fake, unconscious mundane day to day living could ever hope to accomplish, because pain and suffering give birth to the spirit, and like energy attracts the same kind of energy. So I pray for anyone who is truly struggling in despair, pain, depression etc... to see that "God" or whatever name you give to it's divine essence is irrelevant, because it lives inside of you and wants you to be free of your mind, and at one with it's true nature. This brings about immense healing in your life, and into a way of life in which you live every moment in surrender, embracing whatever life throws your way. Immense healing happens once you transcend into the state, and anything is possible. If you ever would like to talk, interact with me about this topic I'd love to engage in this more. God Bless.