Welcome to “Lessons by the Bar”, a seven part series of life experiences and lessons that have shaped Annette into the coach she is today.
Spirituality & Me
I thought I’d kick off my “Lessons by the Bar” series with a blog on Spirituality, what it means to me and how I now view it as I’ve had a pretty full on experience when it comes to religion, faith and god, the universe or a higher power. These experiences have shaped who I am and my outlook on life, which is one of the reasons why I’m so passionate about being authentically me, living life not existing in it and making it a great experience for me and those who work with me too. Spirituality is important to me now but it’s taken me a long time to view it the way I do these days. I was introduced to the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses (which was also referred to as “the truth”) when I was 5. I never knew this religion was a cult until a long time after I left it for the second time but I don’t regret being a part of it now, even though I feel at times it was quite damaging. I didn’t speak about my beliefs growing up because I hated living a different type of life to everyone else around me but not celebrating birthdays or Christmas anymore made it pretty obvious, however the lessons I learnt from growing up in a cult like religion have been valuable. I’ve had to do a lot of work to reprogram the deeply ingrained beliefs I had that were negatively impacting my perception of the world around me. When I started this work, I found true happiness and the rest of my life began falling into place. Up until then, my teens and 20’s felt like a constant battle and I was a victim to the hard life. I obviously had a spiritual yearning and valued knowledge from a young age though because I really took to learning from the bible.
But I eventually realised that religion and spirituality are not the same.
I became an angry teenager. My anger stemmed from a few things. My Dad and I began butting heads. He loved to be in a position of power and respect and I had become an outspoken 13 year old with a strong value around fairness.
Around the same time my cousin who I loved and adored was “disfellowshipped” from JW’s and while I was being taught the basis of my religion was love, I struggled to understand how being loving was cutting off all association with someone, even if it was a blood relative. I loved my friends from school but I was being taught from the bible that they were bad association and that I should associate within my religion so my friendships suffered and again my perception of love was being challenged. I also never really fitted in anywhere and was made fun of a lot behind my back by those who didn’t understand me or know what I was dealing with in my mind. I was being taught that “this wicked system would soon be destroyed and all those who didn’t obey Jehovah would be destroyed” so I felt pressured to love what I was being taught. I was taught to be no part of the world so I never really dreamt about what I wanted to be. In fact I never saw a life for myself beyond 20 because I was convinced god would step in and destroy mankind as I had been led to believe by the teachings of my religion. I was shown scriptures from the bible to back all this up. I studied the bible, I knew it quite well. I strayed from the religion when I turned 18 after my parents split up. I was binge drinking 3-4 times a week. I had a couple of years where I turned to drugs to escape my pain. I feared the future. I was seeking freedom from my mind and the emotional turmoil I was in. A bong ended up becoming my best friend. I was smoking a shit load. I wanted to quit but I was addicted. I had tried to quit several times, I couldn’t. The minutes passed by like hours, my body was screaming for comfort and relief from the withdrawals I was experiencing. I couldn’t focus on anything, I just laid on the couch looking at the clock wishing for my life to fast forward or just end. I could never quit longer than 24 hours, so I gave up trying and just accepted that a plant had control over me and how bad could it be, if it helped me function and be a good human. Then I came into contact with the witnesses again. I was 25. It was just after September 11, I was in fear that the prophecies foretold in the bible about the last days coming to an end were about to begin. I went along to a meeting and met someone who became a wonderful friend to me for the next 4 years. I told her my situation. I told her I was addicted to marijuana and that I wanted to quit but I couldn’t. So she prayed with me and I never touched drugs again. Cold turkey, no withdrawals. My addiction had vanished. I was so overwhelmed with gratitude to the god she prayed to, the “one” I grew up learning about, that I made my way back to “the flock”. But after 4 years of trying to make that way of living work for me again, I was miserable. I sought out help from a psychologist who suggested I look at other religions instead, so I stopped seeing her because I was taught that the devil would find cunning ways to damage your relationship with God and I was taught the religion I was a part of was “the only true religion” with the “only true God”. A year later, I left anyway because doing things like attending their meetings and going door knocking did not bring me joy. Because of their teachings and how I was feeling, I began believing I had a wicked heart and that my eternal life beyond this earthly life was doomed.
When I turned 30, I had a massive melt down. I was miserable because I had spent my entire life putting everyone ahead of myself. I was tired from trying to lead by example because the example I was trying to set wasn’t allowing me to be authentically me.
I wrote about what this meltdown taught me a few years ago, called the Secret to Success. I am grateful for all the experiences that lead me to where I am now because I would not be the coach I am without them. I quit a life that was based on pleasing everyone before me and doing what was expected of me and I started living a life that allowed me to identify and fulfil my values in a positive way to become authentically me. In 2015 I met a lady who was a reiki master who has since become a friend of mine. Up until this point I had avoided reiki, meditation, even yoga because they were things I was taught to steer clear from. I began using meditation to connect with my soul and the universe. A deeper level of healing had begun for me. I began listening to my body, mind and soul as a whole unit, which together allowed me to grow almost effortlessly. Having a spiritual outlet is important to me these days because life is busy. Running a business is stressful, its a lot harder for me to switch off so I need ways to help me balance out life. This outlet allows me to be more proactive instead of reactive, it helps me make choices that are more aligned with the things that fill my cup. Because of my experience with religion and where I’m at in my life, I like to refer to that higher power that helped me when desperate times called, as the universe but I don’t doubt that the strength I got to quit my addiction comes from the same source that allowed my life to fall into place when I asked the universe to start working with me.
These days I use things like meditation, yoga, strength training and spending time by the ocean to help me reconnect and grow, but spirituality is whatever you choose it to be. Anything that allows you to love your life more, connect to something that brings you inner peace and clarity. Just because someone has other activities or beliefs which they feel makes them “spiritual” doesn’t mean they are above or below you.
So there you have it! How my beliefs have been shaped and how I fulfil my spiritual need these days so that I can live my life to the fullest, in a way that works for me.
We all make choices based on what we know and how we feel, which brings me to part two! Stay tuned for the next part of “Lessons by the Bar” on Training!
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Annette Shepherd will soon be running some online workshops and launching a series of online coaching courses to help people all over Australia live healthier and happier lives. If she is someone you feel can inspire you to step outside your comfort zone, then be sure to follow her public page on facebook so you don’t miss anything.