by Jennifer Soto

Sometimes in life, we mistake the beautiful for the mundane. We fly right by the gorgeous sunset, knowing there will be another one tomorrow. We drive down the road of life without truly seeing the signs, only the off-ramps that present an exit from our boredom or our pain. We want excitement to broaden our horizons and create a life of activity and possessions, because that is what fills us. Due to our ancestry, culture, and upbringing, many of us are empty holes looking for something to make us feel real, and connect us with the world outside our own misery. But what we need is to genuinely connect with ourselves. To do this, we must stop, look around, and see what is in front of us. By looking up into the beauty of our life and not just down at our failures, we move our attention to the possibilities in the future, and soften the blow of past disappointments and ancestral errors. Moving our focus off our failures and onto the beauty of what exists within us can brighten our outlook and redirect our energies toward growth and maturity—spiritually, emotionally, and physically. 

In October 2017, my husband and I traveled to his home country of Ecuador with seven friends who had been asking for a tour for years. We started in Quito, then down to Cuenca, over to Guayaquil and then off to the Galapagos Islands for five days. After the islands, we returned to mainland Ecuador for three days on the beach. Once back in Quito, five of us went off to the Amazon Rainforest for four days. As luck would have it, on Day-4 of the whole tour, I twisted my ankle (for the 1000th time in my life) and tore ligaments on both sides. Though medical care was definitely called for, I opted for a neoprene brace with metal rods and a crutch to stabilize me. That’s how I traveled for the next three weeks—like a gimp. I got through it, but I missed some things I would have liked to see. More importantly, looking back, I see how that simple “twist” of fate was the catalyst to my enlightenment, as painful as it was.

After a day of unseen traveling miseries, we reached our destination in the Amazon region eight hours later than scheduled. My frustration made me question my basic right to even be there. I was kicking myself for thinking I had any business trudging through the jungle, in the rain, in the mud, in the dark. Who the heck did I think I was? Only “other people” had the right to experience the wonders of the world; not me. Once we finally arrived at our cabana, I just wanted to get inside and lie down until it was time to leave in four days. As I was stomping up the stairs in my self-created misery, I saw a yellow leaf on the doorstep. I would have kicked it off the step had I been able to get my balance with one good ankle, but I couldn’t and resolved myself to leaving it there. By 5am the next morning (wake-up time) I had decided to go for the first activity, just to see what was up. My husband stayed back, because 5 in the morning was too early for him no matter what phenomena was on the itinerary. As I left our cabin, once again I wanted to kick that yellow leaf off the step, but my good leg wasn’t in line to do so. I don’t know what made me want to kick the leaf, but I figured I’d get it coming back, and off I went in a canoe; me, three friends, a naturalist, and a guide. 

The morning’s jaunt into the jungle was AMAZING, beautiful, unbelievable, awe-inspiring, sobering, and left me thinking about what I would have missed had I stayed in bed. I couldn’t wait to get back to roust my husband off his perch for our next adventure. When I arrived back at our cabana, I looked closer at the “leaf” and found that it was a beautiful, yet dead, Amazonian butterfly. I grabbed a piece of paper and scooped it up. It was then I realized I was so focused on my misery, I completely missed the beauty laying in front of me. This was indicative of my whole life. Focus on the negative, the things I don’t have, the things people have said to me, past personal rejection, the idiotic things I’ve done, the stupid stuff I refuse to let go of, and on, and on, and on… I felt like I was having an epiphany watching a paradigm shift take place before my eyes. I started to get excited. 

Once I read the spirit-animal-meaning behind the butterfly, I knew I was entering an important phase of personal growth. The butterfly signifies metamorphosis. It’s about the ability to go through important changes with grace and lightness. It was time to pay attention to the areas in my life, or personality, in need of transformation, and take account of the beauty of life’s continuing unfolding.

Boy I was proud of my self-realization, my turning a new leaf. I was ready to write a book. What I didn’t realize at the time was that I wasn’t even close to understanding the process I had just begun. I had so much more to learn. I had to learn to see the truth in things, not merely catch a glimpse, and assume I was in possession of complete understanding. I needed to pay attention to my surroundings and not anticipate anything, only watch what comes my way. Not every experience is an epiphany. I’m now OK with the mundane, as it makes my job of self-realization easier. And I had to learn how to listen, not to others, but to my own innate and intelligent inner voice. It is here where I found true insights into who I am and what I can accomplish ON MY OWN. I learned to listen to the Spirit, that gentle voice I lived my entire life trying to deny and suppress. I found a fountain of tranquility and calm I had never experienced and, though I detoured from my path a few times, I knew inherently I was finally making sense of my life.

Historically, I wandered through life with my head literally in the clouds, not receiving the answers I was seeking, and not even knowing what I wanted. Food didn’t give me what I was looking for. Christianity did for a while, until my faith in God was broken through personal failure, or the disillusionment brought about by the destructive forces of other believers. As I grew in faith, clergy told me to be careful because the devil would send his forces to attack me, my family, my happiness, my success, and even the foundation of my belief. Hold strong to the Word, they said. So I did. I tried hard to avoid that devilish influence. As I had been taught as a child, I studied my Bible, read the scriptures to others, taught, learned, sang, served, and found joy, happiness, and peace in church. But I failed. The joy, peace, and happiness were in the church, not in me. When the church failed me, I failed. And that’s where I left it. After dropping the baggage of my religion, my personal practice for many years left me dependent upon relationships, addictions, or other activities to fill the gaps in my life. I didn’t understand that temporary solutions are just that, temporary. I didn’t know how to “enlighten” my path with the readily available light of the universe. This universal light is love and compassion. Nothing more and nothing less. It’s the same love and compassion that is at the center of all world religions, though the expression of it is frequently hard to find in those settings. Love and compassion get lost when rules and rituals take center stage.

Once I began to “see” things differently, I started to “listen” too. It’s amazing what Spirit teaches me when I listen. When I speak of “Spirit” I am referring to the universal energy that is present in all cultures. Christians call it the Holy Spirit, Hindus refer to it as Prana, and the Chinese consider it Chi. This Spirit is the power behind the Higher Self (the same higher power of all 12-step programs.) Through this Higher Power we have access to infinite wisdom, understanding, guidance, and direction. Spirit tells us to put our faith in the universal truths and in ourselves. The God I banked on before is the same creative force I now turn to for insight and wisdom. The difference is now I know I have a part of God inside me. I am no longer trapped by family history or personal failure, and I don’t need to look elsewhere for my answers. We have the unique ability to hear the messages from Spirit through meditation, intuition, and our own innate sense of being. The definition of intuition is “the ability to know and sense that which is unknown and unseen.” Our gut feelings are not necessarily intuition. Our gut feelings are based upon experience, history, emotions, and even social norms. I struggled with this new direction because it conflicted with all I had been taught, and learned myself, about God, right and wrong, blasphemy, the “devil’s work,” and other such things. I brought my children up “in the church” and knew they were going to challenge me on this new path. I have extended family who I knew would find my enlightenment to be downright sinful. Yet my intuition told me that a measured and well-thought response to all I was learning, governed by love and compassion, would render me more powerful than anything I had ever done before. 

Has it made me perfect? That’s a big fat NO. I’m human. Yet it has given me a renewed sense of self that is at peace, regardless of what comes my way. I used to believe and say I was strong and could handle anything. That was false because I couldn’t really handle anything that came along. I may have managed to weather the storm better than many, but the storm’s aftermath had the ability to blow me completely off my foundation. And, quite frequently, it did. Now I understand that I and my foundation are one. There is nothing to be blown off because my peace, happiness, and joy come from within, not from people, places, or things that can provide temporary contentment. It is this simple contentment that I want others to achieve. 

As I began to recognize the universal truths of science and spirituality, I wanted to sprint down the path to understanding. I wanted to read the book that would give me all the answers. I wanted to find the guru who could show me the way during a weekend retreat, because I was looking for the instant-potato-version of true perception. Let me just tell you now, there is no instant-potato-method to personal growth. Healing, true healing, comes over time and through a deep honesty that opens doors to self-forgiveness, emotional tranquility, and spiritual freedom. And there is nothing like it. It’s a process that is personal for each person. No two experiences are alike. What works for me may not work for you. The basic tenets of spirituality are defined differently by each of us and enhancing our beliefs with new ideas, definitions, and thought processes is not always easy. I had to open my mind to the possibility that there is something else out there. I struggled with the idea of “eternity” as a child and even through adulthood. I couldn’t get my hands around what that meant, and it scared me. Faith is beautiful, yet God gave us a mind and an intellect above all other creatures, and mine is an inquiring one. 

I heard it put this way, “When you upgrade the operating system on your computer, you don’t lose all the capabilities you have become accustomed to. The upgrade enhances your computer’s abilities and takes you to a higher level of computing, regardless of how you use your computer.” My spirituality has been enhanced though an understanding of universal and scientific truths that I had previously rejected because of my Western cultural world view. I didn’t have to stop believing in God because God exists and is real. My perception of who God is (or what God is) now understands that humans tend to place templates on spirituality that are formed by the human conscious. God is not to be contained in human form nor is God limited by human emotion. There is no anger, judgment, punishment, penance, or vengeance in God. Those are human emotions, they do not belong to the divine. There is only love and compassion. That is the key to life. And the expression of our love and compassion must first be directed toward ourselves. By listening to the lessons I was learning, and seeking higher truths, I found I was the one who needed to receive love and compassion, from myself first. I had allowed my psyche to become the judge, jury, and jailer for all my errors over my lifetime. I could forgive others, but not myself. I told everyone else how deserving they were of all the blessings of life, yet held myself back from believing the same for me. This misguided path is now closed, forever. I live in control, and in-step with, my own Higher Power, and no longer look for the escape hatch. I’ve got this. 

When I showed my oldest grandchild a picture of my beautiful Amazonian butterfly he laughingly said, “Grandma, that’s not a butterfly, it’s a moth!” At first, I was devastated. Holy cow, all my self-realizations were triggered by a moth? Then I realized, a moth is a variety of butterfly, just like I am a variety of human. I ignored and denied my own “beauty” as a person for years because I was focused on the external. My moth had redirected my focus from the external to the internal. I had begun to see beauty in all people, places, beliefs, and expressions, regardless of their ancestry or origin. It is in this natural state of love and compassion, where we can finally realize the truth of the spiritual beings we are destined to become. Find your moth, search for its beauty and begin to love yourself RIGHT WHERE YOU’RE AT!

This article was originally featured in The Akashic Magazine. You can subscribe to The Akashic Magazine to get all the articles in high-quality color PDF format totally free at: https://theakashicacademy.com/magazine

Jennifer Soto is an aspiring author and member of The Akashic Academy (soon to be a Certified Reader of the Akashic Records.) As a 2017 alumni of California State University at Fullerton, her degree in Anthropology opened her eyes to the myriad cultural beliefs and religious practices worldwide. With a firm desire for things to make sense, Jennifer is pursuing studies in quantum theory where she is discovering the plausible explanations for all that exists in our universe. She recently moved to Quito, Ecuador with her husband, Guillermo, where she is writing and fine-tuning the story shared here. Together they have six children and 9.6 grandchildren. They plan to make regular visits to their stateside tribe a priority beginning in March 2020 when grandchild .6 is due to arrive. 

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