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Spiritual Seeking: From the church to inter-faith teachings and community

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Several years ago, a dear friend and I were on a quest to find a spiritual teacher. After a few disasters, we landed in the Art of Spiritual Guidance program taught by Atum O’Kane at Hollyhock. Through this program and others in Atum’s Spiritual Wisdom School, I have found a teacher and a community that has supported and enriched my spiritual quest through many years and many life challenges.

My quest for spiritual direction and a spiritual teacher began decades ago. At the age of 16, I had left the church in which my father was a founding father. The church was the centre of my youth; our family faithfully attended every week. But I could no longer relate to or believe in the teachings and the bible as it was explained to me during the church services.

I could not find the relevance or aliveness that I was longing for, so like many of my peers, I left organized religion and went on my merry way.

During my university days I sought other churches and places of worship, but struggled to connect with the teachings and messages being espoused. I could not find the relevance or aliveness that I was longing for, so like many of my peers, I left organized religion and went on my merry way.

In my early 30’s my father passed away at a young age. I was devastated. I returned to organized religion with the hope of finding meaning, some solace, and spiritual direction that had depth to the teachings. I longed for a relationship to the bible that had relevance for today, and not an emphasis on who was “in” and who was “out,” and the rules by which to live. I continued to struggle to find this, and I again abandoned organized religion and began my quest for a spiritual teacher. This is when I found the Art of Spiritual Guidance program with Atum.

What I found most relevant about the program was that Atum does not prescribe a specific spiritual path. He interweaves a smorgasbord of practices and relevant teachings from different sources encompassing many of the great religious traditions. He also incorporates the teachings of a variety of spiritual teachers from many different traditions, many of whom he has personally studied with and learned from. These teachings piqued my curiosity and my desire to live a more conscious spiritual life. These teachers have become my mentors on this path and a source of inspiration and continued learning.

One of the characteristics that I admire  most about Atum is that “he walks the talk.” He practices what he teaches on a regular basis and brings his experiences into his teachings. He is a role model for living a spiritual life and he makes it relevant and accessible. He inspires me to be a better person.

Children’s books, guided meditations, poetry, art, group activities, and music captivate my attention and curiosity as Atum incorporates all these to teach concepts about living a spiritual, soulful life. He has introduced me to a different way of reading children’s books and seeing the relevance of myth in our daily lives and our own personal stories and experiences. I have purchased many of these children’s books to read to my grandchildren and give to friends as they face difficulties and challenges in their lives.

An added bonus is that my husband of 43 years has also taken the Art of Spiritual Guidance program. This has enriched our lives in ways we could not have imagined. Besides opportunities for travel that we both have learned and benefitted from, it has been a lens to understand our relationship in a different way and to enhance our communication. In addition, several of our close friends have taken the program and this has added a whole new dimension to our discussions and relationships.

It has been a lens to understand our relationship in a different way and to enhance our communication.

Becoming a part of a community of similar-minded people that form the Spiritual Wisdom School (all participants of the Spiritual Guidance program or some program taught by Atum) has been an added bonus. This international community meets in different locations through pilgrimages, international gatherings, short courses and “soul respite” opportunities. I feel blessed to count many of them as friends and to have learned from them on our individual and collective quests for living a soulful life.

For me, Hollyhock is an ideal location to begin the Art of Spiritual Guidance program. Hollyhock provides a safe, calm, refuge where I can relax, let go, and explore and experience the meaning a spiritual life with others who are on a similar quest. And of course with the natural beauty of its majestic location, Hollyhock is a living, sacred place. May your spiritual journey be just as fruitful and rewarding.

Thomas Atum O’Kane, is the founder and director of the Spiritual Guidance Wisdom School, and teaches training programs with an inter-faith approach in five countries. Atum has a PhD in Transpersonal Psychology and a Masters in Psychological Counseling. He is also a graduate of the Guild for Spiritual Guidance and has served as a senior leader in the Sufi Order. He has lead over 50 pilgrimages to Holy Sites throughout the world. Click to learn more about Atum and his Hollyhock programs, The Art of Spiritual Guidance, The Mystery of the Soul, and Time of Transition.
Feature Photo Credit: Darshan Alexander

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