- One Woman’s Journey into Soul -
By Sonja van Wyk
Copyright 2012: Sonja van Wyk
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Editor: Win Phillips
This book is dedicated to my parents
It’s as old as the hills. It’s an archetypal thought embedded in our collective unconscious –
the idea of the old self transforming into the new. The idea is echoed in the image of the
phoenix that dies in the fire and rises anew from the ashes. It’s the story of Job who has
everything taken from him, and after a desperate struggle is given a new life. It’s Jonah being
swallowed by the whale and spewed out after three days. It’s Jesus dying and being
resurrected on the third day. It’s an idea that manifests in nature – the caterpillar transforms
into a butterfly, the death of winter prepares for the birth of spring.
But there is a space, a process, between the old self and the new. The old self does not die
and is miraculously born into the new. That would be like one, two... skip the rest... ten. It
takes nothing less than an excruciatingly painful process of transformation. When people
refer to the dark night of the soul, this is what they mean.
This is the space where we start to ask serious and meaningful questions. Who am I?
Why am I in this situation? What does this mean? How does life – my life – work? What am
I doing here? What is the point of it all? And we find ourselves in an uncomfortable,
uncertain, and deeply painful place.
Sometimes this chaotic inner turmoil is mirrored by a chaotic life situation during the
period of transformation. We watch as relationships disintegrate, we watch as secure jobs
vanish, we’re at odds with the people around us, we lose our financial security, and so the list
goes on. It feels as if everything is falling apart, which is true – everything is falling apart.
This is the story of my spiritual journey into the new self.
The First Day
An unusual conversation
The day my life spun into a new direction started normally enough. It was a Saturday, and a
lovely spring morning in Johannesburg; the kind of cool, sunny day when from the moment
of waking, you feel energised and ready and to tackle anything the day might bring.
My garden was well on its way to recovery after winter. The previous two years I had
spent an inordinate amount of time planting shrubs and flowers with the sole proviso that
whatever I planted needed to grow big and grow quickly. So come spring, there was not that
much to do, besides the routine feeding, watering and light pruning. The only problem that I
could see was that in my enthusiasm, I planted shrubs that had turned a little townhouse
garden into something that resembled a jungle. Everything was growing big and lush and
very little lawn was left. I lived alone and had been for years, mostly by choice. At thirty-
seven, I had made peace with the fact that love was not that easy to find. Maybe there was a
relationship somewhere waiting for me, but I got tired of looking. I figured if God wanted me
to have a relationship, he’d have to drop someone from the sky right in front of me.
I had a good life, good friends, and a good job as an employee benefits manager at a
manufacturing company. I’m a bit of a Jill of all trades, (and master of some, I think) but
unlike the majority of people that I’ve come across, I’ve never been interested in choosing a
profession and climbing the corporate ladder. I have always thought that when I retire, if I
ever do, I would sit rocking on my porch, thinking about the twenty different jobs I’d had in
my life. Not the same type of job in different companies, but twenty completely different
jobs, and I was right on target with about twelve. Granted, one or two of them lasted for only
a few weeks, but that’s another story.
Since my gardening craze had somewhat subsided, I had to find new ways of
entertaining myself at the weekends. I joined a gym with every good intention, but I’m not
really an exercise kind of girl, and I’ve never had to worry about my weight as I’m tall and
very skinny. More to my liking was a Tai Chi class offered at the gym. Even though the moves
confounded me, it left me nicely relaxed and a little spaced out.
So on that particular Saturday morning I had just finished with my Tai Chi class when I
remembered a little place around the corner from the gym where I could have breakfast.
Paging through the weekend newspaper I noticed an advertisement for a spiritual fair that
happened to be down the road from where I was. It seemed a good idea to pop in on my way
home – I like matters spiritual and I like crystals, which are usually for sale at this type of
fair. Besides, it seemed a pleasant way to spend the rest of the morning.
I had a few big pieces of rose quartz that I used as bookends. The thought that crystals
might have some unique or even healing properties intrigued me – not that I knew all that
much about it. But I figured they were pretty and who knows, perhaps they could even be
beneficial. It was enough reason for me to go hunt some more.
While browsing through the stalls, I saw a young woman sitting behind a table and I
picked up her business card. It simply said that she was a ‘channel’. “A channel?” I asked.
“What does a channel do?”
“I act as a channel between human beings and their spirit-guides,” she explained. “The
guides communicate with the clients through me.”
I had never heard of channelling, but the concept of spirit-guides or angels was familiar
even though I had very little knowledge on the subject.
In fact, not long before this incident I had investigated the idea that Spirit could manifest
in some form of spirit-guides because of the strange experiences I had been having. Many
incidents had occurred and they were increasing. For instance, a voice called my name in the
middle of the night; strong feelings of foreboding before each of my two car accidents, and I
even had the impression that ‘spiritual beings’ were laughing at me when I did something
Hoping for some explanation of what was going on, I went to see a psychic as they were
the only people I could think of who were thought to have direct access to the spirit world.
She confirmed that there were spirit-guides involved in my life. The possibility intrigued me
but I remained a little sceptical – how could I really know for sure?
I made a rough calculation of the money in my purse and thought I probably had enough
cash for the fee she charged. But I had more shopping to do, so decided to hold onto her
business card. Who knows? I thought I might want to contact her some time, and started
Suddenly, a rush of some kind of energy came at me and I stumbled and nearly fell
down. Surprised, I looked around, but there was no wind blowing and I didn’t feel as if I’d
had a sudden drop in blood pressure. It definitely came from outside of me. I glanced at the
woman who had witnessed my loss of balance. “Wow! I think I need to stop here,” I said. She
smiled and seemed completely unsurprised as she pulled out a chair for me to sit on. The
young woman – her name was Cari-Ann – informed me that my spirit-guide wanted to talk
So we started an extraordinary conversation. Cari-Ann spoke on behalf of the spirit-
guide. She fell quiet, listened to what he had to say, and then repeated it to me. The
interaction became so fluid that I hardly noticed her at all.
It was a deeply personal conversation. My spirit-guide, who presented himself as a
Russian with an unpronounceable name, knew everything: my insecurities, incidents and
events that happened in the past, the challenges I faced and the questions for which I sought
answers. I was having a conversation with someone who knew my deepest thoughts and
feelings – even those that I seldom express.
According to the spirit-guide, I was about to enter into a new phase of my life, and I
thought, ‘Not a moment too soon’. Despite my well-functioning life, I felt that I was simply
treading water, waiting for something to happen. I said to my new spirit-guide friend, “In a
way I suppose, I have always felt that I was being prepared for something, but I never knew
what for. Even at thirty I felt that I was going through some sort of crash course in life. There
had been so many intense experiences happening at a rapid pace, I felt as if I’d gone through
experiences that for most people would have taken a lifetime.”
"Yes," my spirit-guide confirmed, "you were being prepared for enlightenment."
The implications of this announcement had me silent for a long moment. Now there was
something I had never considered. I really didn’t know much about it, except that it was a
goal in the eastern religions to reach a level of understanding beyond the physical reality;
that it requires years of meditation and contemplation and that very few people manage to
reach that level. So why me? Was this real?
I had been on my own quest for several years, feeling almost driven to discover who and
what God was apart from the conventional religious understanding. I had read many books
by recognised spiritual writers and had spent hours thinking about ideas that resonated with
me. Granted, I had run out of accessible sources of information, and I still didn’t know nearly
enough. Or rather, I knew a lot of theory, a lot about other people’s accounts of God and
Spirit, but I had no way of knowing which was true and which wasn’t. I was as connected to
God as I could be in my limited way, but I had hit a wall.
Enlightenment or no enlightenment, here was a new opportunity for me to discover God
and Spirit. I had never thought that I might be able to communicate directly with spirit-
guides or Spirit. Now all that has suddenly and miraculously changed.
At the centre of my being excitement stirred. Something within me felt that this was
what I had been waiting for all my life. For the first time I made sense. My life made sense.
As we were closing our conversation, my spirit-guide told me to expect more of the
energy-interaction that I had experienced in our session, and of greater intensity. Even as we
were speaking, I was conscious of new sensations, for example, the palms of my hands were
tingling. I was simply enthralled and how could I not be? My spirit-guide also informed me
that the conversation was to continue and I needed to start meditating every day. He would
connect with me in that space. He also asked Cari-Ann to facilitate a session where my own
channelling abilities could be strengthened.
I went home and I was like a kid with a new toy. I’d learnt to meditate years ago, but I
wasn’t really serious about it then. Now, because it was necessary and I’d been instructed to
do it regularly, I continued practicing my meditation skills whenever I had the chance. It
turned out to be surprisingly easy but it was not so much because of my own skills as it was
about someone or something else who had taken over the process. I just needed to be
available and accessible. In the meantime I had my channelling training-session, which
greatly enhanced my abilities to hear my spirit-guide. The communication was still a bit hazy
and in its infancy but a whole new world had opened up to me.
I didn’t hear voices as we normally understand it. There was no sound, not in my ears
and neither in my head. Instead, words formed telepathically in my mind that I could ‘hear’
clearly. If I still thought that perhaps the words were my own thoughts, I was convinced
otherwise when occasionally my spirit-guide interrupted me as one would in a normal
conversation. I tested the idea by trying to interrupt myself with a stream of different
thoughts, but I couldn’t do it. These conversations mostly happened when I was in a
meditative state, and only when I was connecting directly with the spirit-guide. This wasn’t
always easy – it required serious focus and concentration.
Weird things were happening to my body, and this played a big role in convincing me
that I wasn’t making this all up. As if someone had thrown a switch, I was experiencing new
active connections that were growing daily. I developed extra senses and I could feel energy
flowing from crystals and stones. I could feel sensations at the top of my head, and at the
nape of my neck. Shivers ran down my entire body – almost like warming up in the sun when
you are cold, but the sensations were more prolonged. It’s difficult to describe these
sensations as they’re not the same as the normal senses we experience as human beings. It
was all very new to me, and the spinning and bouncing energies all around my body made
me feel as if I was in a circus ring.
Whenever I connected to my spirit-guide I experienced a strong locked-in sensation. It
felt similar to the energy one would feel when playing with the opposite poles of two
magnets. When my spirit-guide wanted to communicate to me outside of our mediation
session, he signalled a communication stream with a strong downward pressure at the top of
my head. I came to refer to it as a ‘download’, because shortly after that downward pressure,
new information or ideas would simply be there as part of my normal everyday thoughts. In
the beginning it was quite difficult and frustrating as I knew something was being
communicated to me, but I didn’t know what it was and I really struggled to understand.
Fortunately the ‘download’ didn’t happen all that often at the start of the process; only much
later did it start occurring regularly.
I was also beginning to experience the idea that my body and I were separate entities.
One mid-morning I was lying on the grass basking in the sun – sort of half asleep – when I
suddenly felt something shift. My whole body just disappeared. Not literally, but the sense of
having a body. I was left with a consciousness, an awareness that I am, I exist, but it was
outside of my normal physical self.
Little incidents continued to happen, and I was beginning to call this new consciousness
my ‘I am’ consciousness. Intellectually, I knew and understood the concept of the soul, but
now I was beginning to understand what the soul meant by experiencing it in real life.
A few years previously I had an experience where I awoke in the middle of the night and
suddenly found myself floating and looking down on my parents as they were sleeping in
their bed. I was absolutely terrified, and screamed ‘Mom, Mom’ but no sound came out, and
suddenly I was back in my own body in my own bed. After the incident I regretted very much
that I went into such a panic. Who knows what else I could have discovered.
The introduction into this type of consciousness was a little slower and more subtle, as
my spirit-guide probably knew how I had panicked before. I had the time to get used to each
new sensation and experience. Often I would take a nap in the afternoon. Just before waking
up completely I had little ‘I am’ sensations – an awareness of spinning quickly back into my
body before waking up fully. Once I became used to this new experience and my brain and
body no longer reacted in shock, I made a more leisurely return. Sometimes I spent a lovely
time in an in-between state, or more accurately, in both states. I would be aware of my ‘I am’
outside of the body and I would simultaneously be aware of lying on the bed.
I was still happily exploring, trying to figure out how best to connect and interact with
my new teacher, when things turned a little tricky.
A leap of faith
Late August 2005, a few weeks after the first conversation I had with my spirit-guide, I woke
up with a now familiar pressure at the top of my head. It felt like a block of lead balancing
there. ‘A bit early in the day for this type of interaction, and somewhat inconvenient,’ I
thought, as I was getting ready for work.
I was working my notice period at the manufacturing company where I had been
employed for the previous three years or so, and was about to join a health care consultancy.
I still had many final details to tie up to ensure a smooth hand-over process, and I was
preoccupied with planning the day ahead.
“What are you trying to communicate?” I asked my spirit-guide. “In any case, you’re
coming on a bit strong; it’s getting to be quite painful.” But as hard as I tried, or rather as
much as I was trying to relax, nothing flowed in and I was none the wiser as I got into my car
and left for work. Twenty minutes later I was stuck in traffic. There had been an accident
ahead and the cars in my lane were not moving. I resigned myself to the inevitable wait, so I
relaxed and listened to the morning show on the radio.
The message came through as clear as a bell.
Do not take the new job; take some time off.
There it was again. Do not take the new job; take some time off.
I was completely taken aback by this little gem of communication. What on earth! There
was no way I could do that. For starters, how would I support myself? I needed to work!
If you sell your house you’ll have the means to support yourself. You can always move
to the farm and stay with your parents.
“Are you guys crazy?”
But even more worrying was: am I crazy? Had I gone completely bonkers? Or even worse
– was I making this up?
I reached the office as soon as I could and phoned Cari-Ann. “I have an emergency – I
desperately need to see you today. I think I’ve lost my mind!” We scheduled a meeting for
My stomach was tied up in painful knots for the rest of the day. The idea of leaving my
job was not my biggest concern. I had done that about ten years before (when I freed myself
from a loving but claustrophobic early marriage and a dreadful job) to embark on a road to
‘find myself’. I ended up teaching English in Taiwan. That move helped me to make sense of
my life, but then I could at least explain my circumstances as it sounded reasonable enough,
if a tad unconventional. But leaving a job at the whim of an unseen spirit-guide (not even
God) was going to be impossible to explain; I had always been sceptical about people using a
call from God to go off on some tangent.
I rushed off to see Cari-Ann for another channelled meeting. I didn’t trust my own
abilities at that point, and I wanted a neutral party to confirm or deny these crazy ideas.
“No, you’re not losing your mind,” my spirit-guide chuckled (through Cari-Ann). “I
suggest you take the time off. There are things that we need to teach you. You don’t have to,
of course, but you know as well as I do that when you engage with an idea you become almost
single-minded and it takes up all your energy. It will be very difficult – not impossible – but
difficult to go through this process if you have a full time job.” I considered the idea, yet
knowing in my heart of hearts that he was right.
But what was it all about? What were we talking about here? I couldn’t imagine what it
was that we would be doing, and my teacher was frustratingly vague. I’d become used to the
idea of spirit-teachers the past few weeks, but I still had no real understanding of what it all
meant. Up till then it had been quite fun actually, but if I was expected to uproot my whole
life, then it was going beyond an interesting pastime. All I understood was that I was going
through a process where I would be taught, but had no idea what that would entail. Even
Cari-Ann had to admit that this particular instruction was the most radical that she had
come across in all the years she had been channelling for people.
There was no manual or ‘how-to’ book on the road I was about to embark on and I had
very little understanding of what I was signing myself up for. But now that I felt reassured
that I wasn’t crazy or making this all up, I allowed myself to settle into the idea, and to
absorb the exciting possibilities. Within me, I experienced a deep trust that this was right for
me; that I was doing the right thing. I would simply have to take a leap of faith, even if my
decisions were going to be very difficult to explain to everyone else – especially to my
parents. That certainty and trust remained my centre point in the next few years when my
life was falling apart. I turned to it again and again. It was all I had.
My family have been sheep farmers in the Karoo in the Northern Cape for generations. We
all have a great love for the farm and what it represented. It was a place of family history; for
children, a place of growing up and playing freely; a place of refuge for the world-weary; a
place of healing. Everything revolved around my parents. They were involved in the
community and with other people, and often somebody in need would end up on the farm,
perhaps for a week, perhaps for a few years.
As a family, we function as aware people. We question and analyse – ideas, the world
around us and especially ourselves. We would spend many late nights talking about life and
personal issues, while drinking copious amounts of wine or whatever was going. Since none
of us believe in protecting holy cows, any topic and anyone in the family was fair game. By
family I mean not only my parents and my younger brother, but my extended family of
uncles and aunts, cousins and their spouses and everyone else who cares to join in. Getting
excited and even angry is part for the course. So is laughing until it hurts.
At the centre of it is my mother who is passionate about life and people, and a very wise
woman. She spent most of her life being involved with other people, especially when it came
to children. For many years she taught at the local high school and acted as the school
psychologist. Whenever there was a child in need she would involve herself in the family’s
situation and would sometimes even bring the child home. Besides my brother and me, my
parents raised and supported quite a few other children and our little family was never a
My dad, who recently passed away, was a soft-spoken, very loving man. He spent his life
battling with a heart condition that should have left him dead at the age of twenty-five. But
he survived against all odds. Being a sickly child, he spent most of his time reading and
consequently he was a store of information. He also had a memory like an elephant. When
we were little children, and my cousins and I were arguing about something we would use
him as our definitive authority. We were all in agreement that whatever he said was correct.
My parents never settled for the conventional way of life even though they did all the
right things in the small-town community of Prieska. For example, we had no typical gender
stereotypes. My parents allowed each other to develop and grow in whatever direction their
hearts desired. There was always the understanding between my parents that my dad could
die at a young age, and that he wanted my mom to be as self-sufficient and independent as
possible. When my mother wanted to further her studies and afterwards decided to teach at
the local school, my dad encouraged her even when she had to drive forty kilometres each
way, everyday into town. But it cut both ways. When my dad turned forty, he was very keen
to go back to university. This he did with mom’s encouragement and blessing, even though it
meant that she had to keep the farm going as well as spend a full day teaching while he was
four hundred kilometres away in Bloemfontein. Three years later with a brand new degree in
administration in hand my dad started a new career. After a short stint as the administrator
at the local hospital, he joined an arms and ammunition testing facility just outside of town.
He continued working there and farming part-time until he was medically retired some ten
Changes at home were a regular feature. It wasn’t at all threatening, perhaps because my
parents’ relationship was so solid. We never felt insecure, not about them, not about where
we lived, and not about money.
I had a happy and normal childhood and was a well-loved little girl. Children growing up
on a farm usually have a particularly special time of it, I think mostly because both parents
are so easily accessible. We spent as much time with our fathers as with our mothers. The
farm was an open and safe place and especially for my brother who roamed freely. I often
look at my brother now as a grown man, all mellow and relaxed, and remember the wild
hyperactive little boy we had to scrub every evening to remove the day’s dirt. I was six years
old when he graced us with his presence, and I still count that day as one of the most
meaningful days in my life.
My parents, including my dad, loved to teach. My dad was all but horrified if I was
ignorant of something he thought I ought to have known. At the age of six I already knew
where babies came from (courtesy of my mother), and at ten also knew about Darwin's
evolutionary theory and reincarnation (my dad's doing). Life and its wisdom was my
mother’s domain, but my dad introduced a little rebelliousness into our home; not that you
would’ve noticed when you first met him. He had an underlying rebellion against the
limitations that his illness imposed upon him, and a hint of it spilled over into his ideas
about life and death, and especially about religion.
Religion was the one area in our family where we had serious differences that we just
couldn’t resolve. We have very different approaches to God. As open-minded as she was, to
my mother anything besides the established Christian view was unthinkable, even though
she was not a Bible thumping fundamentalist Christian. There was only one way to God and
that was through Jesus Christ, and that was not negotiable. My dad believed differently. He
took a more spiritual, as opposed to a religious approach, believing that God is accessible to
all, irrespective of a person’s religion. My dad and I had countless discussions about different
religious perspectives and we read widely from diverse sources. The more we read the more
we were convinced that a narrow approach to God was unnecessary, and the less afraid we
became to question and explore. Later in his life he came to the conclusion that God is
simply about love, and not what we believe and how we worship.
I always thought I was very privileged. From my mother I learned to have a deep love for
God; from my father, a questioning and fearless attitude where God was concerned. These
have served as a wonderful foundation for me in my spiritual life.
My dad and I exchanged ideas and shared books that we were reading, but we gave up
trying to bring my mom into the picture. My mother blamed my dad for her children
(especially me) being indifferent to the church. Because this religious issue was so sensitive
and because there was no way to resolve our differences, we simply didn’t discuss spiritual
matters for years.
But what was hidden and unresolved for so many years exploded into our lives with the
announcement of my new plans. I was prepared for a battle, and I got it. I’d done many
things in my life that my parents disapproved of, but none had so seriously challenged the
foundation of our family.
My parents (especially my mother) were less than thrilled with my new course of action.
Imagine a thirty-seven-year old daughter with the wild notion of giving up a perfectly good
job and functioning life, to follow an inexplicable and uncertain spiritual path because it was
suggested by some ‘spirit-guide’.
My mother immediately rejected all my weird ideas about spirit-guides, and energies,
and set out to find an alternative explanation. There were two options: one was that I was
suffering from a serious mental illness or mental breakdown because I was unable to deal
with what she regarded as the stress of my ‘lonely and isolated life’. The other option was
that this was an evil phenomenon, something to do with the devil. My dad was also
concerned, but was giving me the benefit of the doubt. The concepts that I was talking about
were at least not strange to him. These differences caused serious tension between the two of
them, and this time there was no hiding from it.
My parents and I came to an agreement that I would consult a psychiatrist, and they
would come with me to a channelled meeting with my spirit friend with the help of Cari-Ann.
After one visit, the psychiatrist (with no surprise to me) was of the opinion that I was either
bipolar (I had bouts of mild depression before, and this could be construed as a manic even
psychotic episode), or possibly had a tumour which could trigger the ‘psychic’ phenomenon.
She also prescribed anti-psychotic drugs. I refused to have a brain scan or any of the
proposed medication. Not because I was afraid of her diagnosis being correct, it wasn’t, but I
knew that once I started on this road, I would probably never be able to shake off the label of
being mentally ill.
As agreed my parents met Cari-Ann and through her, my spirit-guide. He basically
repeated our earlier conversations. My mother's main purpose was to see if this was evil, but
she came away from the meeting feeling relieved. She had asked God to show her if this was
evil, but she had no sense or feelings of evil during the meeting, at least then. However, the
visit didn’t change her mind about the validity of this spiritual process.
Not having much of a choice, my parents reluctantly agreed that I could come and live on
the farm with them. They love me very much and had supported me throughout my life
including some bad times. This would be no exception. If this were a mental illness, which
my mother strongly suspected, then they could at least keep an eye on me and step in when
I sold my house in record time, gave away my furniture to family, and kept only my
pretty, personal things. My mom and dad helped me move to the farm. I also kept my car –
my spirit-friend showed me a little movie clip in my mind’s eye criss-crossing the country in
my little red car. Little did I know that I was about to embark on a journey in more ways than
I now had two spirit-guides. In addition to my Russian guy, I connected with a teacher-angel.
It was quite easy to distinguish between the two, as each had a distinctive and different ‘feel’
to them. They also had different areas of focus. The Russian guy would primarily concern
himself with offering assistance and guidance on a personal level. He would be my go-to guy.
The teacher-angel would act as an instructor to facilitate my understanding of spiritual
matters and he appeared only during instruction time. His communication was crystal clear
and I had no problem understanding him.
The whole idea of Spirit and spirit-teachers or spirit-guides is somewhat problematic
and difficult to define or to describe.
I could refer to Spirit as the Holy Spirit, because that’s really what it is, but I immediately
run the risk of boxing it into a Christian context, as it is a concept that the Christian Church
has been hogging for itself and trying to explain for two thousand years, and not doing a very
good job of it. On the other hand, if I refer only to ‘spirit’ it conjures up the idea of ghosts or
spooks, or worse, evil spirits. It’s almost the same as people confusing spiritualism, (believed
to be calling up dead people) with spirituality, (the understanding that we are more than
physical bodies) which often includes the search for God.
So what is Spirit? There are different theories and experiences, but for me, Spirit has
always been part of the God-system, and as such indefinable. I knew from the beginning that
the personas Spirit presented to me weren’t real as such. It was as if they were characters in a
play. I wasn’t really talking to a Russian with a weird Russian name, or a master-angel with
violet eyes. In the years since that I have been working with Spirit, I have come to
understand that Spirit is quite adaptable and sensitive to what we need. It communicates
and reveals itself in a way that makes us comfortable as individual human beings, and it
communicates in whatever form or context we expect it to.
We often have connotations of certain images, depending on our religion or culture and
what we were taught. For example, some people will immediately connect the word ‘Spirit’
with the idea of angels, others with the idea of ancestral spirits, and Spirit will work with
those images. If you expect to experience angels, you will. If you expect to communicate with
your dead father, you will. If the idea of an Indian shaman works for you, an Indian shaman
will communicate with you. If you expect an evil spirit, you can get that too.
Sometimes Spirit will choose personas with specific aspects that have a particular
meaning for you, or that will resonate on a deep level with you. The persona is very personal
and can act as Guidance in itself if you care to look for the clues. It may reflect an aspect
within you that Spirit chooses to reinforce, or it may even reflect a deep-seated need which
Spirit may choose to address. For example, you may feel vulnerable, hurt by events in your
life, and Spirit may present itself in the persona of a strong warrior, intent on making you
feel more protected. You may have missed the experience of a father figure, and Sprit may
present itself to you as a loving father figure.
A big surprise to me was that Spirit shared my particular brand of humour. Between all
the serious discussions we shared many laughs and funny moments. I’d never previously
considered that we as humans derived our sense of humour and ability to laugh from God-
I had no expectations about what I was dealing with, especially not spirit ‘people’. Yet
especially in the beginning, I was grateful to work with an Intelligence that had something
‘human' about it. As I became more comfortable with the interactions, and as my
understanding grew, most of the temporary human side started receding.
Another aspect of Spirit was a part that I understood to be my own higher self, or my
soul. Especially in the beginning, I didn’t pay much attention to this component, because I
preferred to keep myself, and even my own soul, out of the picture. A part of me was still a
bit sceptical and I was concerned that I could be making all this up, or at least, that it was
some sort of weird manifestation of my own subconscious mind. Perhaps ‘my soul’ was
simply an extension of myself – a little wiser and more knowledgeable, but just plain old me.
My ideas about the soul would gradually change, but only much later in the process.
To make matters a little simpler, when I referred to the communication process with
Spirit, I referred to Spirit as ‘the teachers’, because for me, this was what the process was
The instruction process was initially in the form of dictation. I would connect with my
teacher in charge of my instruction process and I’d write down what came through to me. I
soon noticed that the information I was getting was tailored to what I already knew and
understood, so it was a continuation of what I had read or thought about during the years
previous to being directly connected to Spirit. Some of my impressions of spiritual matters or
life principles that I had not understood before were corrected and clarified. I soon began to
see that the information was presented in clear building blocks. On occasion my teacher
would stop the process and refer me to what we had covered before, saying that I needed to
understand a particular aspect more fully before we could continue.
The dictation process created tremendous trust in me. Not only was I receiving
information and insights that were new to me, but there were also new words that I had
never used or come across before. My own level of understanding of what was being taught
was remarkable – it was as if the information connected to the very core of my being.
The dictation process was extremely tiring. It required my utmost concentration to keep
my own mind blank and not to allow my own thoughts or impressions to distort what I was
receiving, and not to pre-empt anything we were working on. Also the energy in the space
that I was working in exhausted me physically. Especially in the beginning, I could do only
an hour or so at a time, and no more for the rest of the day.
To use an analogy, I was ice trying to connect and communicate with steam. The
intensity in the energy levels was on opposite sides of the continuum. My physical body
needed to get used to processing and holding a much faster and lighter energy than it was
used to. I started to spend more time – in fact hours and hours – in a meditative state, where
I simply did ‘energy’ work. It left me quite disconnected to my surroundings for hours.
Five or six months later, I started to compile my material in some sort of order. While
taking my notes, my teachers and I had not been concerned about grammatical structures;
we focused only on keeping the information flowing as easily as possible.
My teachers told me that I would be writing a book. I wasn’t entirely sure about what
(they were frustratingly vague about it), but thought perhaps it would be about the various
factors that cause or contribute to the HIV/AIDS epidemic so rife in our country.
I had spent many years working with HIV/AIDS related matters. In fact, it was probably
one of the few lasting passions that I had. During the past few years I came to realise that
none of the preventive interventions worked. We were missing something, but what? After a
couple of months with my teachers I learnt that there were serious and fundamental issues at
play. I tried to understand how the information that I was given and my own knowledge
about the epidemic could work together.
As I understood it, HIV/AIDS wasn’t a punishment of any kind from God. On the
contrary, the responsibility for the epidemic lies fully with us as humans. It isn’t an airborne
virus attacking people at random, but our own choices and actions foster the proliferation of
the virus and the immense suffering that follows. To help us in our spiritual evolution, Spirit
seems to encourage us to use it as an opportunity for us to take full responsibility for our own
lives and our choices. Leaving aside the children, we are not victims in this situation. We
have a choice to be infected or not and it is perhaps time we investigate why we don’t make
The main focus of my teachers during those months was to delve into the beliefs we
humans have about God and ourselves. We nit-picked every situation, every idea, and where
and how these beliefs manifested. I thought I’d never worked so hard in my life!
Yet, how did they all tie in together? And what was I supposed to do with this
I really struggled to connect the dots but realised something else about my teachers.
They don’t hand out information and solutions on a platter, no matter how connected or
tuned in you are. I needed to work for it and work at it, because I suppose only then true
understanding will come.
My blue heaven
Initially, I promised my parents that I would give myself a year for this whole process. Six
months later with a head full of new ideas and fresh insight, I was quite happy to wait and
see what else would unfold.
In the meantime, my parents had come to the difficult decision to sell the farm. On many
levels it made no sense to hold onto it anymore as neither my brother nor I had any plans to
farm. An offer from my dad’s cousin prompted this decision, and it meant that the farm
would stay in the family.
Selling the farm is one thing, moving is an entirely different story. For years everybody's
old stuff remained behind after family members removed the still good furniture and pretty
antiques as part of their inheritances. My parents had to pack up and get rid of rubbish and
unwanted items belonging to previous generations.
The day of the move was an eye-opener for me. This was community spirit at its best.
Neighbours and other farmer friends volunteered and arrived with their trucks, their pick-up
trucks, and their labourers. The women packed boxes, the men loaded furniture. We had tea
and coffee and conversation in-between the typical farmer efficiency. Once in town at our
house, everybody off-loaded, the women unpacked, washed and packed crockery away and
by that evening we had moved in.
But even if the move went off without any drama, it was difficult for us emotionally,
especially for my dad who had to let go of a part of his own history. We were all unsettled and
the new surroundings made my lying around the house all the more pronounced. The
pressure from my parents mounted. They were quite keen to see me go back to normal life
and to start working again. They were afraid that if I left it too long it would be very difficult
to get back into the mainstream.
I felt that I had not quite finished with whatever this process was. It didn’t make sense
that I had to uproot my whole life just for six months, and then return to work as if nothing
had happened. They pushed and prodded, I resisted.
A welcome respite from this tense impasse came through an invitation to a fortieth
birthday party of an old university friend in Plettenberg Bay – a popular holiday spot in the
Eastern Cape. After the weekend, my friend Michelle and her family invited me to Port
Elizabeth where they lived (a short drive from Plettenberg Bay). And because I had the time,
I made the effort to look up my cousin, Elana, who also stayed in Port Elizabeth and whom I
hadn’t seen for years.
I spent a night with Elana and her family and as two mature women, we just hit it off.
She had a flatlet attached to her home that they normally rented out to students, but which
was empty at the time. To me, the flatlet started looking like quite an attractive option.
What I was busy with could easily be done there, and the sun, the surf and the sea and
even the wind (in the case of Port Elizabeth) greatly appealed to me. Also, it was far from the
tension at home.
I arrived in Port Elizabeth, and moved into the flatlet and Elana's life. She and her
fiancé, Andre, opened their home to me and I immediately fell in love with her two amazing
daughters who were teenagers at that time. The family was open and exuberant, but more
importantly, nobody was fazed at my strange ideas or behaviour. Elana promptly instructed
me to stop apologising for what I had come to refer to as my ‘weird shit’. This introduced a
new freedom for me – I didn’t need to hide what I was doing, I was free to speak about
whatever I felt without measuring the impact and reaction on other people.
Whenever we had a chance, Elana and I found a restaurant with a sunny spot –
preferably with a sea view – where we drank numerous glasses of white wine and talked
about life. I also had the bonus of having my old university friend, and the whole of her
family in close proximity. With her I could draw on twenty years of friendship and there was
no need to explain too much.
The next six months proved to be a really rewarding. While the grown-ups were at work
and the girls at school or busy with all their sporting activities, I had long days I didn’t have
to account for, so my time was my own and nobody disturbed me. I could fully immerse
myself in my meditation and teachings, and could come to grips with the new concepts given
I had a lot of questions as there were many things I didn’t understand. The more
information I received and the more insight I gained, the more questions came to mind. I
discovered layers and angles that I couldn’t have conceived of a month or even a week
My communication abilities had grown with my lengthy meditations and I had become
more accustomed to the higher energies, so the method of instruction changed and was no
longer in the form of passive dictation. Instead, my time with my teachers turned into active
discussions, and frequently long periods of quiet contemplation while I mulled over the ideas
in my head.
I still kept in contact with Cari-Ann and I could run some of my new ideas past her. It
was interesting for us to see that her process and her information were similar to mine, yet
approached from a different angle. So when we discussed our ideas with each other our
individual perspectives grew as the result of working with the other's ideas. “This is what I'm
getting. What have you been receiving?” We had at least one teacher that overlapped, and
even if we had different life experiences and paradigms, many of our ideas matched. That
was simply extraordinary. We also had the bonus of our teachers frequently joining in the
discussions. They came through one of us at any given time, thereby enhancing our
understanding of the concept we were discussing.
Often Cari-Ann was able to validate some of the ideas and experiences I went through,
and she was quite used to me phoning her in a panic once again, concerned that I was losing
my mind. As my connections to Spirit grew and developed, so did my strange and weird
experiences. If I didn’t have Cari-Ann, I truly don’t know what I would have done. That
validation and support kept me going.
Port Elizabeth turned out to be the most perfect spot and my teachers and I got a lot
done. Concurrent with the spiritual lessons (which shaped my intellectual and spiritual
perspectives) my teachers and I needed to work on my emotional issues. Life and all its
blows left scars and we needed to work through all the hurts and hang-ups that I had
acquired through my (almost) forty years. My earlier little problems were not allowed to
distort and colour the new perspective and wisdom I needed to develop. So we systematically
went through all the hurts, which like many other people, caused me to build walls to protect
myself against the world.
This process stripped me to the core, and I discovered a number of little foetuses of
unfulfilled hopes and dreams that had died before they could grow to maturity. The
remaining disillusionment and cynicism had festered inside me, and I needed to wash it way,
clean it all out. I needed to heal all the old wounds that made me hard and inflexible. With
the help of my teacher’s prodding, all my defences were destroyed and all the old hidden pain
was exposed. There was no other way but to cry away the pain. It left me open and exposed
and very vulnerable, almost like a little snail without its shell.
Emotionally, I was starting life all over again. I needed to find a new way of dealing with
hurt and personal attacks, and not erect barriers that kept me locked in as much as they kept
others out. My teachers were allowing none of that. I learnt that it was all about keeping
perspective – my primary teacher was very good at teaching that. I thought there was
probably no more competent a therapist than Spirit who knew everything about me in any
case, and didn’t allow me to hide, especially from myself. The process was brutally honest
Whenever I went into a panic or off on a tangent, my teacher’s favourite comeback was
“Don’t be ridiculous!” Nothing sweet or spiritual-like there. Yet, underlying it all, which I had
previously not thought possible, was a loving kindness and acceptance of my faults. In fact,
one of the first admonishments I had was to stop my incessant self-criticism, as it served no
purpose. What an extraordinary gift.
As I removed the barriers between me and ‘life’, there was an unexpected spin-off, as
suddenly I was having unguarded conversations with people. I said things that I would never
in a million years have said in the past. The cringe factor was rather high while I struggled to
come to grips with this new ‘barrier-free’ me. I was fully aware that I had passed the limits of
what other people would consider ‘normal’, and as much as I tried to manage other people's
perceptions of me, it wasn’t working anymore.
In hindsight, there were many things I did wrongly during that time. In my over-
eagerness and in my excitement about all these wonderful things that were happening to me,
I failed to realise that some of the experiences and some of the information that I had was
not meant to be shared, and if at all, not in the format that I was receiving it. A little deeper
into the process I came to understand that there were more appropriate ways of explaining
things and I learnt to be more circumspect. At that stage I was dealing with two very
different perspectives, if I may put it that way. Only in time they would slowly merge and I'd
make the switch between them more easily and learn some much-needed prudence.
I was spending a lot of time in my head, and I decided a little exercise would do me no
harm. I had never been keen on jumping up and down, so I decided to try yoga. It was then
that I discovered my name should actually have been Tin Man the way I squeaked and
rattled. It was fun, though. I had a kind and gentle yoga teacher who had studied with a
master in India, so I had the impression that he knew what he was talking about. I was going
through so many experiences with the energy shifts in and around my body, and which I
struggled to make sense of, that I wondered if the yoga teacher could help clarify some of
So I arranged a coffee date with my yoga teacher, and I tried to explain what I was
grappling with, “So, what is the trick? What do you suggest I do to make my interaction with
these energies a little easier?”
His reaction? “I'm sorry; I'm not allowed to share this information with you. When we
study with our master we agree to keep this information closed and not to share it with
I was quite taken aback. I had been sharing rather deeply personal experiences, and yet
he thought he had the right to withhold rather crucial information from me. Wasn’t
information about God in any format supposed to be universal and accessible to everybody?
We talked about his objectives and where he wanted to go with his process. His goal was
to merge with the Godhead at which point he would be fully enlightened and the need for
endlessly repeating life in new incarnations would fall away.
Okay. I understood the concept, but I was thinking to myself, I had on occasion merged
with Source (which I suspected to be my name for his Godhead), not fully, but there was a
direct connection. However, as I understood it, if you merge fully with Source or the
Godhead as he called it, then you disappear as an individual soul and the whole soul journey
will be over, not only your cycle of incarnations here on Earth. My yoga teacher might have
been ready for the ‘merging’, but I wasn’t quite there. But perhaps I didn’t have sufficient
knowledge or understanding at the time, and I was prepared to accept that.
“What feelings do you have when you communicate with God and Spirit?” he asked me. I
was thinking of the best way to explain the almost inexplicable, when he prompted, “Is it a
feeling of bliss?” Yes, there was a feeling of bliss.
“Then you are not dealing with the real Godhead, only the god assigned to earth.”
Uhmm, I didn’t know so much about that one.
“And there is no way you can truly merge with the real God if it is not facilitated by a
master teacher.” But I have teachers... “No, such a teacher must be on earth. That teacher
paves the way to enlightenment.”
I wasn’t buying it. I didn’t accept Jesus as my way to God, nor would I accept any earthly
teacher as my ticket to God no matter how enlightened such a person may be. Even my
spirit-teachers didn’t set themselves up that way. Of course I accept guidance and of course I
accept their expertise. But nothing they had ever taught me left me with the feeling that they
were the path to God, or that I had any need for such an intermediary.
Becoming a yogi was not going to work for me in this lifetime. It would’ve been nice
though, to have a living, breathing human teacher, except for the fact that, as with all
religious thinking, you keep bumping into the limitations and prescriptions set by other
people, masters or no masters. I thought I preferred my way.
I still liked the yoga, even if I wasn’t really any good at it. But I made a promise to myself
that if one day I had sufficient understanding about these types of mystical processes, and
someone wanted to know how it all worked, I would freely share what I know.
So I asked one of my teachers what was going on with my body.
“Are you scientifically minded?” he asked, rather unnecessarily, knowing full well that I
was clueless. I’d never been interested in science and I hadn’t the faintest idea about how
different energies work.
“Well,” my teacher said, “Imagine that you're a tree. We're simply draping strings of light
around you and testing them as we go. At some point, we will switch them all on and you’ll
light up like a proper Christmas tree.”
And I had to be satisfied with that answer for the time being.
It's about power...
Spiritual writings on the concept of human creativity have been increasing of late, and I had
some knowledge of it. My teachers and I had been working on the topic of ‘creation and the
human creative abilities’ for some while and I was gaining a new perspective on how humans
create, I mean the mechanics of creation so to speak.
From my own experience, I have always understood that what we think or say or do has
its own consequences, and if you add them all together, they create a picture of your life. If I
say something mean to someone, then I know I create animosity toward myself. I know if I
do a favour for someone, I create cooperation. I have learnt to be mindful of my actions and
my words because of the impressions and spin-offs they create. In my more cynical moments
I call it ‘impression management’. I have also understood that my underlying thoughts
influence my life – they determine my attitudes and my belief systems, which in turn
influence what I am going to feel or say and do.
However, my experience of the creation process was rather passive. It meant mostly
recognising the results and consequences that flow from the choices I make. But, can I
actively create what I want?
How would that work? How much power do I really have? What are the limitations? For
me, a crucial question was where God fitted into my creative process. How do I reconcile the
idea that my life is mine to create and at the same time allow God's will to be done? Are they
not mutually exclusive?
Being taken into the heart of ‘creation’ at this point was startlingly new. Actually, it was a
bit of a mind-fuck. If I say to you that you can create anything you want and that there are no
limits except those you place upon yourself, how would you feel? Imagine redesigning your
whole life – from relationships, to your job, to what makes you happy, to what makes you
dream. Imagine that you can create exactly what you want in all these areas. What if you
wipe the slate clean and start from scratch from where you are right now?
I had an immediate resistance to the ‘no limits’ idea and I intensely feared the enormous
responsibility that came with it. If it were true, and the results weren’t quite what I wanted,
then I couldn’t say that it was God's will, or that it was fate, or even that suffering is simply
part of life. I'll never have excuses again.
As so many times before, I was rushing ahead of myself. Learning to create is a process
and as with any new skill it was going to take some time before I’d get the hang of it.
My teachers started with the basics.
Inner-power is more than an abstract idea; it is a real phenomenon. Through us flow
strong powerful energies that make us all creators. We’re dealing with two aspects or
components of those energies.
The first aspect is that we have a life force that propels us forward in life. This force
brings us what we work towards, what we want – it drives growth and introduces newness.
Let’s call it creative-energy. This force is not always smooth and cohesive and can be quite
chaotic, even destructive. It breaks up old patterns, old behaviours, and through this
destruction it paves the way for new creations.
Tomorrow is a new day, full of new beginnings and new opportunities. We continuously
have the opportunity to change things for the better, more in line with what we hope to have
in our lives. Change energies swirl around us. They are not always comfortable, and we often
fear them because we like our comfort zones. Life does not. It is simply the nature of
One way we experience this creative force is sexual energy. In fact, for most of us this is
our only physical, sensory experience of the creative-energy – the feel of it, so to speak. This
is the most basic form of expression of the creative-energies. We share this type of energy
with animals, but it is not animal-like at all. It's simply life energy. With no careful thought
or concentration or higher order thinking, we can create life – we can create another human
being. With a little thought, imagine what else we can create?
The second type of energy we're talking about is what my teachers and I have come to
call ‘love-energy’. As creative-energy breaks up and destroys the old to make way for the new,
so the love-energy keeps things together. It provides cohesion to the forceful, destructive
nature of the creative-energies.
The creative process is an inter-play between these two energies. Too much creative-
energy without the balancing power of love-energy creates chaos and unintended,
unanticipated results. Too much love-energy without the forward moving creative-energies
and nothing new will be created. Both are needed for a balanced creative process. In life, if
the creative-energy is the engine, then the love-energy is the guiding and steering
This was very new to me – the idea that love is more than a warm fuzzy feeling. It is an
actual force, a very powerful force that if you truly focus upon and connect with, steers your
creations where you want them to go.
Like an archer, I have the bow and the arrow and I'm ready, but for the active creation-
process to be set in motion I need to select a target. Deciding what I want to create opens this
purposeful and powerful creative process. It is not the same as wishful thinking. Wishful
thinking dreams up a dream, but there is no commitment. ‘One day I would like to... I would
love to have...’ doesn’t cut it. Creating means that we are purposeful, ‘This is what I want.
That is what I'm going to do.’ In the decisions that we make about what we want in our lives,
lie our most powerful abilities to create.
Intention is the magical formula. When we actively focus on what we want, we tell God
and the universe that we are now creating and that we expect matching results from the
decisions and choices we are making. We are telling the genie from Aladdin’s lamp what we
It is actually pretty amazing. I had a boss once who said to me, “I'm expecting some plan
or grand scheme from you. Tell me what you want and I will provide what you need to get it
done. Do you want money, resources? No problem – just tell me what you want.” This is
exactly what the God-Universe says.
The only thing my brother ever wanted to do in his life was to be a pilot. He was going
through a difficult time with his divorce and ended up in Port Elizabeth visiting me. My
brother and I talked about the idea of his creating a new life for himself, particularly because
he was in no man's land at the time. He was the one person I knew who had a very specific
dream. All of his life he wanted to fly. But like most people, he compromised and did the
realistic thing by becoming an electrician to earn a living. He worked for a rural municipality
in the district of Victoria West. But, his life had been turned upside down and he did not
have much to lose by listening to all my wild ideas, so he went along.
I instructed, “The most important thing is to make a mind shift. You need to move from
'Oh I wish I could fly' to 'Flying is what I want'. Feel it all the way down to the depths of your
being. We are setting the intention, and you have to be really, really serious about it.” To add
to his commitment, he took a sheet of paper and jotted down a few plans on how to make his
dream come true. Firstly, he needed money to pay for lessons and accumulate the required
number of flying hours for a private pilot’s licence. That would be the first step. The next
thing he needed was to be in the vicinity of a flight school, which in the rural Karoo is rather
impossible. So, for the two of us, the obvious plan of action would be for him to move to Port
Elizabeth or any other big city and earn more money. This would at least start the process.
With new resolve, he returned to Victoria West and we started keeping our eyes open for a
job in Port Elizabeth.
A few months later, my brother called in great excitement. Apparently a Port Elizabeth
flight school had opened a satellite campus in Victoria West where he lived. Not surprisingly,
my brother was at the airfield every spare moment and as a result became good friends with
the instructors. Before long, he had a contract with the owner of the flight school who agreed
to take him on as a cadet and employ him while studying towards his commercial licence. My
brother's sole financial commitment at that point was to pay for his private pilot’s licence.
My brother laughed, “If Mohammed won’t come to the mountain, the mountain will go to
him.” The flight school has since relocated to Port Elizabeth and my brother with it.
Could it be that easy? Then why aren't we creating what we want all the time?
And it’s about wisdom...
My teachers told me that the problem with human beings is not the lack of ability to create;
our problem is that we don’t know what we want, or that we change our minds all the time.
I bought that idea. It is tricky thing to do – deciding on what you want.
The big problem is that I only work from a limited perspective. What if I decide on
something that I want and it turns out to be wrong all together? What if there was something
a whole lot better that could come up later, and had I known about it beforehand, would I
have set a different intention? Is it not better to leave it to God to decide what I need and
trust that it would be the best thing for me? Why would I want to do God's job and botch it
up in the process?
Who is in charge of my life? Who makes the decisions?
And this is where I had huge problems with the idea that I could create anything I
It seemed to me a matter of responsibility. If I am the creator, then it becomes my
responsibility. If I leave it up to God, then it’s his responsibility, isn't it?
Trusting God and God’s plan for me had worked for me so far – everything happened
exactly the way it should have. If I look back over my life I can see the patterns and the
interventions brought about by what I regarded as God. Things turned out just perfectly.
Even the things I thought were bad at the time were just setting me up for the best way
possible. Why would I mess with a good thing?
Unless... it hadn’t been God, but me all along?
It was all very confusing.
Perhaps it was neither, or maybe there was another alternative? What if we make the
decisions and take responsibility for them, yet we unconsciously or consciously tap into some
higher guidance that influences our decision making process?
Like many people I pray sometimes. When we ask God for help or guidance, the whole
system kicks in. And by ‘system’ I mean the God-Spirit system.
For each person, there is a part of God-Spirit that provides individual guidance and
comfort or mentoring for that person alone. How we use it is up to us. How we try to access it
is up to us. So let’s call that individuated part ‘Guidance’ (as an over-arching term) and
regard teachers, angels etc., as little sub-sets of the whole God-Spirit concept.
So how does this interaction between our decision-making responsibility and Guidance
work in practice?
From what I understood at that point, was that Guidance would not interfere with our
right to choose for ourselves. But if we ask for help or guidance in a situation, it becomes a
different ball game and Guidance becomes seriously involved.
Say, for example, I decided to drive to a town in the north. I ask my Guidance-system to
act as navigator to help me get there.
As we start off, my navigator asks, “Are you sure you want to go to this town?” After
thinking for a moment and going through my decision-making process, I say, “Yes, I'm sure,”
so off we go. We drive for a short distance and my navigator says, “Turn left here.”
“Are you sure this road will get me where I want to go? It will take us West instead of
“Trust me,” says the navigator, so I do even though I have my reservations. After a while,
the road becomes a gravel road, something I hadn’t anticipated. We're on the wrong road.
Does this navigator even know what he’s doing?
“Trust me, just continue,” says the navigator again. The scenery is beautiful and we pass
through a quaint little town. I’d thought of relocating to the town up north but now I'm
wondering if this place isn't as good as, or perhaps even better than the one I had in mind.
“Do you still want to go to the town that you picked?” my navigator asks, as if he has read
I reconsider, but decide once more that the town in the north would probably be better.
“Okay,” the navigator says, “continue on this road. There will be a turn to the right some
I continue driving, and soon I spot a turn-off to the right onto a tarred road.
“Don’t take this tarred road,” my navigator says. “It’s not a good one and it won’t take
you where you want to go.”
But by now I'm not sure if I can trust this navigator as we've been on this road for hours,
and I'm tired of the gravel road. I'll ignore his advice and take the tarred road. The road is
excellent and my car is enjoying a little speed when I think: why did I ever listen to this dude
in the first place? The next moment I hit a huge pothole. Ouch. I continue, but slower this
time as the road is now dotted with holes.
My navigator who has been quiet for a while now comments, “Not such a great road is
it?” Shall I turn back? No, I'm not convinced yet, and right then I strike another hole in the
My car starts swerving slightly – a flat tyre. “Please will you change my tyre?” I ask the
navigator. He shakes his head. “It was your decision to take this road, you fix it.”
Fuming, I get out of the car to fix the wheel. What is the point of having a navigator if he
is not going to fix a stupid damn tyre? “At least, will you help me to fix the tyre?” I ask
“Of course I will. Now that is part of my job description.” With the tyre fixed, we
continue. But as I dodge the potholes, I'm not all that sure of my course anymore. A few
kilometres later, we hit a gravel road at an intersection, and I discover that it was the road we
had been on before. I had driven a full circle off the route and made a complete fool of
“It's okay,” says the navigator, “this is how you learn. Do you want to follow my advice
now?” A little more subdued, I do just that. As my navigator promised, after a few kilometres
‘his’ turn-off to the right appears and we hit a smooth highway that takes me straight to the
town in the north.
Except for one problem – the town isn’t nearly as attractive as I thought it was. In fact
the pretty little town that we drove through was much more to my liking. I think I'd rather
move there instead.
“How did you know?” I ask the navigator. “How did you know that I would like the town
that you showed me better than the one I had chosen initially?”
“That's my job and my pleasure.”
One of our biggest problems, and it really gets in the way of our ability to fully move into our
creative powers, is our unwillingness to accept responsibility for our choices, and I mean, all
our choices. There is still a part that wants to shift some of the responsibility onto God.
If we seriously want to create what we want, we have to understand that if we do not own
our choices, we do not own our power, and we will not create what we want.
The way I see it, there are stages that we go through as spiritual beings.
At first, people (especially very religious people) hand over their lives completely to God
and refuse to accept responsibility for any of their own choices, because everything that
happens is part of God’s plan or due to the devil’s interference.
Then awareness kicks in when people start recognising that it is not that easy, and that
they are responsible and accountable for the choices they make. They become increasingly
independent, almost like a three-year-old saying, “I can do it myself.”
After this stage, people accept full responsibility for their choices, but accept their
limitations and that they need help.
Eventually, the individual again surrenders completely to God, but this surrender is not
to be confused with the first stage. You cannot skip the middle stages, because you first have
to own yourself fully before you can surrender yourself again.
I seemed to be in the fourth stage as my teachers asked me to give up my right to self-
determination and control of my own life. It was hellishly difficult, in fact, I would say even
impossible. But I gained the impression that it wasn’t permanent. So, was there to be a fifth
For some people, it may seem as if surrendering to a Higher Will is quite an easy thing to
do. Yeah, if God-Spirit’s agenda is the same as yours. But I was discovering that it seldom is.
A matter of trust
Towards the end of that year in Port Elizabeth, things started changing for the worse. I was
running out of money and the means to support myself. It had been more than a year since
the process started, and I’d initially promised my mom that I would reconsider my sabbatical
after one year. Was I done? Would this be the end of my journey?
I didn’t want to leave Port Elizabeth as I really loved it there, so I started investigating
the possibilities of a job to support myself. I thought I had two options: either I could return
to my area of expertise in HIV/AIDS, or I could try and find a way to make a living from what
I had been taught by my teachers during the previous year. I thought I knew enough by now
to teach others who would be interested in this type of information.
Despite my investigations, nothing seemed to work out. I was left by my teachers to
discover this little fact all by myself. What bothered me was despite my knowing and
understanding how we create, and despite my teachers’ reassurances, I wasn’t able to create
a way out of the nowhere-zone I found myself in. My process didn’t seem so rosy anymore.
Whatever plans I tried to make were just a waste of time. This thing wasn’t going to end
before the time was right, and it was not right then.
Sometimes I felt overwhelmed. Basically my life was fucked. Nothing was turning out the
way I thought it would. I had no clear idea of what I was supposed to be doing and where I
needed to go. All I knew was that my money was running out and I had zip-zero control over
my life. I understood that I was required to surrender control over my life and leave it to the
process that had been set up, but how could I do that? My own sense of control was exactly
what had kept me floating and functioning all my life. I could always rely on myself to figure
out how to deal with situations and crises.
My teachers told me I was suffering from a serious case of distrust. No kidding. They
tried their best to reassure me, but pacifying me only worked up to a point. I’m still amazed
that people can so easily talk about giving their lives to God. In practice it looks completely
different. It's a good thing God doesn’t take us up on all the offers.
My friends Chris and Unali from Johannesburg checked in with me, wondering why they
hadn’t heard from me. They did that from time to time, so when I became too quiet they
worry, and would call to see how I was doing. I said to Chris, “I'm really happy to speak to
you, but if you want to know how I'm doing, then I don’t know. If you want to know what I'm
busy with, then I don’t know. If you want to know how much longer it's going to take, I don’t
know. If you can have a conversation with me that doesn’t include any of these questions I'm
happy to chat with you.” Chris and Unali could always work around that one.
It was difficult meeting new people or making new friends. It's quite a conversation killer
if you don’t know anything about your own life. A little later in the game, I managed to
perfect the art of vagueness; people hear what they want to hear. Still, it didn’t make for close
My cousin Elana, in whose flatlet I was still staying, always told me that I wasn’t very
pretty when I cry. And it’s all too true – unlike her youngest daughter who cries beautifully
and to great effect. Tears will slowly fill her big grey eyes, and then perfect drops would
slowly spill over and plop their way down her cheeks. When the crying bout was over, there
was no redness or even a hint of puffiness, and we are all left with the memory of the tragic
beauty. It’s all very touching. My eyes, on the other hand, scrunch up and stream tears,
leaving my eyelids swollen and puffy. Elana’s solution for this sight during a melt down was
to issue a command for the girls to cut cucumber slices for my eyes while I continued crying.
So, with a cucumber slice on each eye, I'd continue pouring out my sob story, blinded, and
interrupting my eye therapy only when I needed my hands to make a point. I wasn’t entirely
convinced that cucumbers worked, but the thought counted.
Elana endeared herself to me forever by trying to see things from my point of view. And
instead of doubting my Spirit-teacher stories, she took issue with the teachers, too,
demanding that they come to the party and sort out the situation!
In addition to the ugliness and tension between my parents and me, my life was falling
apart and I didn’t know which way to turn. I was basically screwed either way. I couldn’t turn
back – there was nothing left to go back to – and if the process that I was in turned out to be
a wild goose chase, I was screwed, too. Either way I was going down. I really had no choice
but say to myself, “Just let go of this incessant worrying, just let it go and see what happens.”
In a cloud of black humour, I found myself quite interested in seeing how completely a life
I had a little money left, and a couple of months to sort out myself and find a solution.
My teachers told me that they wouldn’t let me sink. But their idea and my idea of what that
meant turned out to be a universe apart. When my teachers told me at the start of the
process that it would require some sacrifices, I had no idea what that really meant. But I was
beginning to catch a glimpse. Not being able to support myself financially and having to go
back to my parents for financial assistance, would be sinking for me. In fact, it would be
more like drowning.
Just before Christmas in 2005, I met Ernest. As it turned out, he played a central role in
my life in the next two years. He was also one of the best teachers I could have hoped for,
although in a way neither of us expected.
About a year before my process started I had a dream. In hindsight it was actually quite
prophetic. In the dream I was travelling on long winding roads with unknown destinations
and with unknown travelling companions. We arrived at a little town in the middle of
nowhere just as the town fair was wrapping up. I met a psychic woman whom I consulted
and I paid her with the last of the money I had. A smoky spiral appeared with a man's head
at the top end. I recognised it as a spirit-guide. One question was uppermost in my mind.
What more do I need to know? What else do I need to learn? He pointed to his eyes and said,
“It's all in the perspective.”
The Second Day
An extraordinary experience begins
The New Year found me still in Port Elizabeth after spending a strained Christmas with my
parents in Prieska. Our disagreements remained unresolved, and I left as quickly as I could.
I was preparing for university. With no clear plan for the coming year, and not being
ready to go back to work, I decided to register for a few courses as part of an honours degree
in psychology. This was something that I had always wanted to do. Port Elizabeth had a good
university, and I was accepted as a student. At the very least, I figured, studying full time
would give me a legitimate cover while I continue with my process (whatever that might
Elana and her fiancé, Andre, had in the meantime bought a new house, which also had a
little garden flat, so we all spent some time moving. Their relationship was strained at that
point and had been for some time, so I wasn’t about to become too comfortable in my little
place. I didn’t have any alternatives for the time being, and I decided to take one day at a
I loved being part of their family, even though I was sucked into all the dramas of their
relationship. I had lived on my own for so long, and I found it wonderful to share the
everyday experiences with people that I really liked and loved. The girls were a delight, and
Elana involved me in all the fights and discussions that went with having teenagers in the
house. I was part of the family, and a valued member to boot.
My life in the meantime got a little more interesting, at least enough to take my mind off
some of my own angst.
A few days before I left to spend Christmas with my parents, Ernest picked me up in a
coffee shop. A large, attractive man, about my age, approached me with a young man in tow,
who looked as if he could be his son. “Do you mind if we sit down? There are no open tables
available, and there seems to be space at yours.”
It is rare for anyone to approach me in a public place such as a restaurant or a pub. I
spend a lot of time eating out since I don’t cook, and through the years I developed a ‘do not
approach’ aura, which only the very drunk, or the clueless, or the really daring ignored.
I was still considering being rude, when he seated himself unconcernedly. After a rather
cool start to the conversation, I discovered that it was impossible to remain standoffish with
this man. He was warm and funny, and actually quite interesting.
Ernest was also fairly new to Port Elizabeth and was a very busy man. He had spent most
of the previous year trying to establish a new enterprise, and had in fact built the first factory
as part of a new industrial development project. But that project hadn’t worked out with his
overseas business partner, so he started a new venture in conjunction with a large church
organisation. They hoped to develop a sports stadium for the local community.
At dinner a few weeks later, Ernest confided that he was a man with a past, which
included a criminal record and several years in prison. He didn’t feel the need to hide
anything from me and neither was I too shocked. I thought him to be quite an extraordinary
man, with deep and painful stories to tell, yet an almost childlike joy and warm delight
flowing from him, which I thought was surprising after what he had been through.
As a young man, Ernest joined the defence force. Great physical ability and natural
leadership saw him accepted in an advanced Special Forces unit – the Reconnaissance Unit.
It was a bit of a maverick unit, and most outsiders like me considered the ‘reccies’ a bit crazy.
A few years later he became captain in charge of the unit’s specialised training. It was a tough
course, which only the best of the best managed to complete. In those days the South African
Defence Force was still in active combat in South West Africa (now Namibia) and Angola,
and Ernest had been involved in some serious military action.
At twenty-eight, he had had enough of the army and set out to pursue his
entrepreneurial ambitions. His background didn’t exactly pave the way for a conventional
way of life and he was soon drawn in by a syndicate involved in money laundering and
trafficking. In hindsight, he realised that his military activities had provided an adrenalin
thrill that was sorely missing in his ordered and uneventful life so he found his ‘fix’
elsewhere. He had two small children, and for reasons of her own, his wife at the time
apparently informed on him. Ernest was arrested and convicted and sent to prison for
several years. Being the man he was, and not being happy to spend years in prison, Ernest
conspired with some of his old army buddies to help him escape. He staged a fake heart
attack and the prison authorities rushed him to hospital, which gave his mates the
opportunity to rescue him from hospital. In the process however, a gunfight ensued and a
prison guard was shot and wounded. His freedom was short-lived. He was re-arrested, again
convicted, this time for an even longer prison sentence. Eight or nine years later Ernest was
granted a surprisingly early parole and he had to start from scratch.
We spent one long evening where he told me about his prison experiences, which were
funny as well as brutally painful. But what amazed me was the absence of bitterness and
blame on his part. He made no excuses for his behaviour; all he wanted was to move on and
create a new life that was successful enough to live down his past. I was quite touched by his
openness and honesty despite the fact that we had known each other for so short a time. I
was as open as I could be about my process, bearing in mind that I wasn’t all that sure of
what I was doing, and Ernest, trying as hard as he could, didn’t really understand what I was
trying to explain. But through our honesty, as incomplete as it was on both sides, we
established a foundation of trust that would stand us in good stead in the months ahead.
We also discovered a common passion: he had designed and built a trailer with audio-
visual communication equipment and satellite communication abilities. The trailer was
equipped with solar power, and functioned independently of electricity. The idea was to use
the trailers to broadcast or communicate in rural areas, which lacked sophisticated
infrastructure. Our discussions led to the idea that I would develop the audio-visual
programmes that were needed to accompany the trailers.
I thought that Ernest was a creative genius with a true entrepreneurial spirit. He could
see the possibilities in an idea unlike anybody I had ever come across. And he was full of big
plans; nothing small would do.
A different perspective
Elana and I spent a lot of time at Ernest’s place. Often other people would be present –
houseguests, business associates, or just random people Ernest met and invited for dinner.
He loved cooking and entertaining, and we would find him in the kitchen where he was at his
One evening after a lovely meal, a group of us sat around the dining room table, drinking
wine, laughing and generally having a good time, when I suddenly felt a gentle shift in
consciousness. For a few minutes I was able to look at life and people through Ernest's eyes.
What an extraordinary perspective. I looked at everyone around me with complete
acceptance – I saw no difference between good and bad, right or wrong. I was completely
oblivious to any kind of rule or differentiation. I accepted all things and all people equally.
With the newly discovered perspective, came the knowledge that if I don’t allow wrong
or right or rules to feature, then there were no limitations. There were no barriers that
prevented me from setting about on a course of action. There is nothing to stop me –
everything is do-able.
My teachers had been talking a lot about the rules we create for ourselves, and the
judgments that go with them. They focused especially on how rules limit our creative
abilities. They encouraged me to let go of my preconceived ideas about right and wrong. A
little incident happened to illustrate their point. I lost my sunglasses, and not having any
money for such luxuries, I wondered how I was going to replace them. A few days later,
Elana came home with a pair of designer sunglasses, that for no particular reason she’d
bought on the street for forty bucks. They were probably stolen, or fell of a truck as
sunglasses are inclined to do, but would I like to have them?
This incident demonstrated to me that if you remove the rules in your mind how much
easier and effortless creating becomes. I am not saying stealing is fine. What I am saying is
that the Universe is neutral, even impersonal. We impose restrictions on how, and subject to
which conditions, it is allowed to bring us what we want.
We know that no society can function with people selfishly pleasing themselves by taking
what they want, even killing people when they cannot have their own way. These ‘rules’ are
fundamental to an ordered society, and normally people don’t go around messing with them.
But eighty percent of the rules we make everyday do not lie in the fundamental rules that
govern society. They lie in gray areas, and that was what my teachers were going on about.
There are many rules that we accept and abide by, but some of them we would be far
better off without. There are things we want or would like to do but are afraid of doing
because of rules made by people. What will my wife say? What will my family or my church
or society say? We accept others’ rules and opinions as law and make them our own, and this
is how we set our own limitations. We box ourselves in. And we place limits on the creative
forces of the universe, because it will not break our ‘rules’, or the conditions we impose.
I have always had an uneasy relationship with rules and people telling me what to do and
how to behave. Ever since I can remember, a clear refrain had run through my head: ‘rules
are designed to be broken’. To be honest, breaking rules was never my intention, it just sort
Even though I have always regarded rules as breakable, there was a difference between
Ernest's approach and mine. At least I see the rules and calculate the consequences and risks
if I break them. He doesn’t even see the rules to begin with. The problem with my approach
is that too often I create barriers and obstacles for myself by believing something cannot be
or should not be done. Ernest never has that problem, except for one small thing – his way
gets him into prison. So where does the answer lie?
This difference in approach to rules would come up again and again. At least now I had a
good understanding of what I was dealing with. And I had a good idea of whom I was dealing
with. Ernest’s creative genius thrives in a no-rules-no-limits environment.
Getting to know Ernest was an extraordinary experience. He was joyful, he was funny,
and he was larger than life. But he also introduced a new perspective into my life. And it
wasn’t as coincidental as one might have thought. Many of the ideas and principles my
teachers and I had been working on for the past year popped up in this new friendship. It
was almost as if my teachers said, “We’ve covered the theory; now do the practical
From my first few conversations with Ernest, I had an image, an impression of him as
the archetypical protector, and it was somehow connected to me. I felt I’d known him forever
and thought that when I came to earth in my past lives he had been here as my protector. I
wasn’t certain about the meaning of the idea and Ernest gave no constructive response. He
was just bemused by my weird shit.
Ernest was very caring and nurturing and these elements were sorely lacking in my life. I
was so alone, bereft of my normal support systems, and he stepped right into that space. He
was inclined to see how he could fix other people's problems, and for a little while I allowed
him to take care of me. It was so tempting to believe that he could fix everything and that
he’d protect me from the bad things, whatever the future may bring. I’d always been self-
sufficient and independent, but at this point I wanted to pass on the responsibility of having
to make all the decisions and of carrying all my burdens alone.
Perhaps I had been wrong all along, believing a woman should stand on her own two feet
and not rely on a man. Maybe I could pass all the responsibility (and especially my finances)
onto him. Ernest was the epitome of a man in his traditional role as the protector and the
breadwinner and the idea looked increasingly appealing.
Strangely enough, when the first real act of protectiveness came along, it was I who did
His arrangement with the church in which he had invested a considerable amount of
money, time and energy, turned sour. The pastor, on behalf of the church, publicly
denounced him in the local newspaper, and using his past as an excuse, distanced the church
and congregation from him. My back went up immediately, and I wrote a rather scathing and
sarcastic letter to the pastor where I made it quite clear that he was making a mockery of the
fundamental principles the church taught. The letter went like this:
It was with great interest that I read in the newspaper today about your position
regarding the proposed stadium. In particular, I was interested in your stance in
respect of Ernest and his involvement in your project.
One specific that concerns me however, is your position that while Ernest’s past
cannot be held against him if he is a changed man, he could no longer be allowed to
be associated with the church building project. Let us forget for the moment that you
knew about his past from the beginning and that you still welcomed him into your
Such conditional forgiveness to my mind goes against every teaching of Jesus, and
you are His earthly spokesman. It seems as if, when Jesus was dealing with sinners,
he said: “You are now forgiven. However, since you have been such a bad boy, it is
perhaps best for you to leave this community, because people will talk, you know. And
of course remember you will be paying for your sins for the rest of your life even if you
wanted to use your God-given abilities in the service of God. The fact that I have
forgiven you actually means nothing, but it sounds nice, doesn’t it?”
You could have positioned yourself differently. In your role as the teacher of Jesus’
truths, you could have said to yourself, to the members of your church, and to any
other interested parties, that perhaps you had been given the extraordinary
opportunity to show people what Jesus really meant when He challenged those who
thought they were without sin to throw the first stone. You could have used the
opportunity to teach about forgiveness and a divine grace that surpasses human
understanding. And do you know what? People would have respected your integrity
and the fact that you had the courage of your convictions. The same goes for your
congregation who must wonder about the incongruence between what you preach on
a Sunday, and what you say elsewhere when under pressure.
Ernest has paid his dues for the mistakes he made in the past, and he paid dearly.
Whatever problem you and your organisation may have with the way the business
proposals were structured, should be independent of what you profess as your faith.
Perhaps your church should reconsider your mandate from God. (Jesus had a reason
for chasing the moneylenders from the temple.) The role of the church, as I see it, is to
provide spiritual leadership to its members and not engage in business, however
altruistically it is positioned.
I wrote and faxed this letter without Ernest's knowledge and he was simply horrified. I had
no remorse. Today, I think it was perhaps a bit strongly worded, but my outrage at that time
knew no bounds. I learnt subsequently from Ernest that the pastor and some of the senior
members of the church had apologised to him several months later and expressed a
willingness to make amends. But by then the damage had been done.
Ernest was deeply hurt. Besides the public humiliation, I thought what hurt him most
was the loss of his almost childlike belief that because of the cleansing power of Jesus, he
would find a home without judgment in the Church. There is no doubt that God forgives, but
Christ's congregation is not that forgiving.
Ernest and I had a really destructive fight and my little you-are-my-protector bubble burst in
my face. All his pent up frustration exploded in my direction one night, and I saw a different
side to him, which left me a little afraid of him and of the rage of which he was capable. I
cried for a week until I decided the time had come for me to toughen up – I was a mature
woman and it was time for me to stop running like a scared little rabbit when I was in a
But this incident taught me something important; I had no safe place to run to. There
were people who supported me, but they could not fix my world and make everything all
right. I had to do it myself.
I let go of my need to look for help from other people. It was I who got myself into this
situation, and I needed to trust that I would find my way out of it again.
To me, the idea of a protector was simply an illusion – an attractive one, but not real in a
meaningful sense. Protection might have worked in past lifetimes when the environment
demanded that I needed physical protection, but since no-one is out to kill me and I wasn’t
in any physical danger, who could protect me from what? I have a brain, hands, skills... I can
It was a turning point for me in my relationship with Ernest. Never would I expect him,
or anyone else for that matter, to carry the responsibility of my well-being again, which was
exactly the lesson my teachers wanted me to learn. In the months to come we would share
resources, we would provide each other with a shoulder to cry on, but I would never ask him
to shoulder the responsibility of my life.
The jury was still out to decide if I could trust God to protect me. Which begged the
question, protection from what?
Because of so many past rejections and the latest debacle with the church, Ernest went
underground and tried doing business without telling people the truth about his past. I had
serious reservations about it, not only because I thought it was inherently dishonest, but
more pertinently, the truth inevitably has a habit of coming out in any case.
I noticed something about myself that somewhat amused me. In becoming open and
transparent myself with no barriers so to speak, I noticed a similar spin-off in my
environment. I couldn’t lie anymore; neither could other people who were connected to me.
It was not for the lack of trying – lies and fibs continued to be told. However, it was as if
there were a constant spotlight shining and showing up every untruth.
It was unfortunate for Ernest. Faxes were accidentally sent from his office to the wrong
people, which exposed the wheeling and dealing behind the scenes. These incidents derailed
potential business prospects. But information Ernest needed about people plotting against
him and discussing him behind his back, also came to light. So the new ‘transparency
syndrome’ favoured no one – it just happened. I warned Ernest, but he just didn’t believe
Some time in May it came to light that an old case of theft and fraud was still pending
against Ernest and an old friend and associate. Ernest was reluctant to discuss the matter
and didn’t seem worried about it, so I wasn’t immediately concerned. His financial
difficulties appeared to be more pressing.
It took me completely by surprise to discover that he and his partner had already been
convicted the previous year. All that remained was the sentence hearing which had been
postponed several times, as his co-accused (perhaps deliberately) didn’t attend the hearings.
On the day of the sentence hearing in June, Ernest phoned me from Pretoria in a state of
panic. Earlier in the day, the prosecution and magistrate had become impatient with the no-
shows of Ernest’s co-accused, and the court had decided to split the court docket into two,
which allowed the magistrate to sentence each of the accused on his own. Ernest’s sentence
hearing would take place the following day while the officials of the court tried to trace the
co-accused. I offered to appear as a character witness, and accompanied by his current
business partner, immediately caught a flight to Pretoria to appear in court the next day.
It was easily one of the worst days of my life. I had never been in court before, and to
make matters worse, I was on the wrong side of the law, supporting a man convicted of theft.
As we were waiting for the court proceedings to begin, I could feel the tension and sense the
fear that seemed to be permeating the place. Ernest and his attorney were talking in hushed
tones, discussing the possibility of an appeal against finding him guilty and the sentence that
was about to be handed down. They seemed confident – perhaps too confident.
Not only did the magistrate sentence him to serve effectively six months in prison, but
more significantly, denied him leave to appeal his conviction. Matter adjourned.
The court orderlies asked Ernest to turn around and they handcuffed him. He glanced
back at me, his face screaming panic and helplessness. I stood frozen in shock and utter
disbelief and watched as they marched him off towards the holding cells.
I was allowed to see him briefly before they transported him to prison and I arranged
with the guards to quickly run to the car to fetch his toiletries. Ernest tried to give me some
instructions, but he was barely coherent. We were both in shock and so totally unprepared
for what was happening.
Trying to be reassuring, the attorney kept talking about other legal remedies, such as
bringing an application before the high court to apply for leave to appeal. According to him it
would take only a week or so, but even one day was too long.
Lost and very confused, I returned to Port Elizabeth and found that burglars had broken
into my little flat and stolen almost everything I owned. I still had my laptop though, but the
place was no longer safe. As I had to look after Ernest's dogs – there were seven of them at
his home – I moved into his place temporarily. I started going to his office premises during
the day, which doubled up as a secondary residence where his brother and nephew lived,
(Ernest supported them financially) and thirteen more dogs.
In my rush to grab his things from the car I forgot his hair-brush (big mistake) and the
insulin he needed for his diabetes. By then Ernest's sugar levels was dangerously high
because of a combination of factors, with stress playing the largest part. Fortunately, soon
after his incarceration, the prison authorities arranged for him to transfer to the on-site
hospital, and there he spent the first three weeks of his sentence.
Being in prison hospital made it easier for Ernest to call and so the daily calls started, to
me and to the office. By then things were starting to go seriously wrong at all levels and
everyone was panicking.
It became my job to track the leave-to-appeal process with the attorneys, and it became
quickly apparent that it wasn’t going to take a week or two. One morning, after a week of
platitudes by everyone, Ernest asked me “Just tell me the truth about what is going on. Not
what you think I want to hear, but the truth. Then I’ll know how to position myself, and I’ll
know what needs to be done.” I think this turned out to be the single most important favour I
could ever have done for Ernest. Not that it was easy – often the messenger of bad tidings is
the person who faces the rap, and this was no exception. Being screamed at, even if it came
from a deeply frustrated place, wasn’t doing it for me.
One by one the people at the office started leaving. There was no money to pay salaries,
and there hadn’t been for some time. Creditors started knocking on the doors; everything
was under threat – the furniture, the house, the car. Understanding exactly what was
happening and being up to speed on everything, Ernest tried to save what could be saved –
but with insufficient resources, we on the outside acting on his instructions couldn’t do
On the home front there were serious needs. Soon there was no money left, not even for
food. I didn’t have any money left either. Rudi, one of Ernest's long-time employees, said, “I
don’t have any money. And you know what? I'm not even ashamed to say so because it is
what it is: I do not have any money.”
So why was I feeling so ashamed and embarrassed?
Perhaps it was because we are taught to make our own way in life. We judge people by
how self-sufficient they are – how much financial resources they have been able to
accumulate – and we pride ourselves if we can say that we have no need to ask anybody for a
cent. We are quite disapproving of those who seem not to have their lives in order and whose
misfortune and neediness (for whatever reason) spill over into our lives and demand a
response from us.
But things go wrong. It might be a marriage that disintegrates, a business that collapses,
a breadwinner that died, medical bills, or as in Ernest’s case, a business owner and provider,
who finds himself in prison. Life is full of such surprises.
We now had to confront the fact that we were in desperate need of help and support.
Ernest's church group arrived a week after he’d been sent to prison and presented us
with an afternoon barbecue (or braai as it’s called in South Africa) at the office. This event
was in stark opposition to how we felt, as office braais are normally social events. People put
away their troubles for a while and take a little time off to relax and have a good time. Rudi
said he felt as if we were celebrating something, and it made him feel very awkward. We
didn’t want to be ungrateful, but uppermost in our minds was the fact that we had hardly any
food in the house, and we had no idea how to feed the dogs – all twenty of them. But the
church group was happy about doing their charitable bit, and when we saw them afterwards
it was mostly when they came to pray for us (which I actually found quite irritating). We had
enormous fires to put out and were fielding a lot of queries and calls. In the midst of all this
chaos, whoever was at the office would go into a prayer meeting for an hour or so to pray for
Ernest’s release. Prayer is great but their version of it was of little help, except to leave the
little prayer meeting feeling all pious because God was going to set Ernest free and
everything would return to normal.
Before the sheriff of the court came to repossess Ernest's furniture, we had a chance to
raid his deep freezers to make sure everybody had food to eat. Elana bought groceries and
dog food; Ernest's business partner pitched in with a little money here and there. On Ernest’s
instructions, we pawned some of the trailers one by one and so we struggled by. A little food
from many different sources goes a long, long way.
I was quite amazed at my discovery of a shared camaraderie – the few of us that were
left were all in the same boat by just trying to stay afloat. Nobody was too concerned about
paying house payments, or car payments, it was all about having enough food to eat.
Whatever money came into our little system would be stretched and broken into little pieces,
and we all took just enough for our basic needs. Food, a packet of cigarettes, some petrol for
the car to get around was sufficient. It was a flow, a stream that went around and around and
everybody shared, with no one taking more than was needed. But as time passed, the strain
began to tell. Some members of our little system started making their own plans, and slowly
they became unwilling to share with the group. When the hogging of resources started, our
little system fell apart.
About three weeks after Ernest went to prison, I went to Pretoria again for a meeting
with clients to discuss the trailers. Responding to a desperate request from Ernest, I decided
to stay for a few days to see if I could speed up Ernest's legal process which was taking far too
long. There were many documents to be prepared and moved between the clerks of the
different courts. I could do some of the legwork instead of leaving it to court couriers, and
intended to follow-up and put pressure on the officials to speed things along.
Ernest usually phoned me a couple a times a day to check on the process and to instruct
me on what more I could do. I had a natural respect for the law and due process, but soon
moved through my own reticence, even approaching the magistrate on his smoke break to
ask him to speed up his part of the process. He wasn’t charmed but I didn’t care. Every single
day counted, and each one was a day too long for Ernest to be in prison.
On weekends I could visit him on Saturdays and Sundays, and went through the tedious
process of gaining entry into the prison’s visiting area. Even though a visit lasted about an
hour, it would take an additional hour-and-a-half to get through the procedures for my visit
to him. I would watch all the families, the wives, little children, all waiting to see their loved
ones. It was similar to hospital waiting rooms. We all smiled at one another, except we didn’t
really talk and share our worries and fears as one would normally do in a hospital. How does
one even start the conversation? “What is he in for?” I burned to ask how they were coping at
home and how the children were dealing with a father in prison, but it seemed too personal
and I didn’t want to invade their privacy. Or perhaps the silence was a matter of collective
shame, and we all dealt with it as best we could.
Ernest wasn’t allowed contact visits for the first few months, so we had to chat through a
glass window and an intercom system that most of the time didn’t function very well. It was
incredibly frustrating, because what we both needed was physical contact, just the
reassurance that we were not quite as alone as we felt.
As always, Ernest had some really interesting stories to tell. He was reluctant to discuss
the conditions he was living in, except for brief comments about overcrowded cells and the
other prisoners smoking him to death. I wasn’t sure if he managed simply to disconnect from
his surroundings, or if he was trying to spare me the gory details. Perhaps both; I didn’t ask.
But even in prison he remained interested in other people and could always find quirky
stories to tell, and peculiar people to talk to. He made friends with one of the cooks in the
kitchen, and with food being a scarce commodity, I gathered it was important. I received a
call from Ernest, “My friend Simon in the kitchen is waiting for an appeal to come through.
He doesn’t have enough money to pay his attorney. Can you find out if the documentation
had been sent through and where they are in the process?”
Missing his own dogs desperately, Ernest took an interest in the guard dogs. Apparently
the dogs were released into the exercise yard in the morning, and to his horror, had to spend
the whole day without water until they were brought back for the night at three in the
afternoon. Ernest made it his mission to make sure they had water, and bones, which I
assumed were by courtesy of his friend Simon in the kitchen.
On one occasion Ernest arranged for a special face-to-face visit under the pretext of
discussing his business and family responsibilities. It was done through the social worker in
whose office we met. I entered through a side door not normally open to visitors, and Ernest,
released from his cell, waited in the passage for me and for the arrival of the social worker. It
was awkward. All around us were orange-clad prisoners staring, at me especially. We were
not allowed to touch because I was a ‘business associate’, and any hint of it being a personal
visit would kill off the carefully orchestrated plans. I took in the cold, steel bars sub-dividing
the passages, and smiled uncomfortably at the curious eyes. I glanced at Ernest, noting that
he had lost weight and looked a bit pale, like someone who hadn’t seen the sun for a while.
“Orange is not your colour,” I observed dryly. He just stared at me blankly, his sense of
humour momentarily displaced by the sheer desperation of his situation.
There is nothing funny about being in prison. Prison is designed to punish and humiliate
people, even if they euphemistically call it correctional services. It is not designed to
rehabilitate prisoners and ensure functional human beings by the time they get to leave
again. It is a belittling and demeaning system, and the guards get sucked into the same
mindset. They are small people with enormous power over human beings who happened to
be prisoners of the state, and who are not in a position to argue or take issue over arbitrary
After each visit I was allowed to buy Ernst some phone cards and cigarettes, even if he
didn’t smoke, but which he used to trade with on the inside. One Sunday morning after our
visiting time was over, Ernest asked me to buy him a diet coke. He wasn’t really allowed such
luxuries being at the start of his sentence, and he hadn’t earned enough good points or
something to that effect, but he was taking a chance. I bought the tin of coke, but when I
wanted to give it to him with the phone cards and cigarettes, the guards wanted none of it.
We asked nicely to allow him this small favour once, but they stuck to their guns. When we
got to the point where we were actually pleading for this one small favour, I suddenly got
incredibly angry. I refused to allow ourselves to be degraded to the point where we had to
beg and grovel for a tin of cool drink. I told Ernest to let it be.
I simply refused that we should sink into that mindset of shame. Whenever Ernest
started apologising for the situation or saying that he felt ashamed, I'd stop him in his tracks.
I’m not quite sure why I had such a strong reaction to the situation, but I was adamant. If in
any way I could prevent it I would not allow this man to walk out of prison ashamed of who
I had a lot of time on my hands to think and work through ideas about judgment and the
way we treat people who break the rules.
As a society we deal with the rule breakers by excluding and discarding them and in the
process we create in them a deep shame and embarrassment. We invalidate them. It is one
the cruellest and most unloving things we can ever do. We do it because we want to believe
that justice was served and to feel a little safer. We never even consider any alternatives to
deal with people who break the rules of society – making people feel ashamed is a sure-fire
way of keeping people in check. It is a good short-term solution. We all have a basic need to
belong, and only the threat of being excluded or shamed will keep most people in line. And
we start very early – we do it with children when we make them stand in the corner of the
classroom to make them behave.
But at what cost? What do we do with the rule breakers after having degraded and
shamed them? How do we make space for them in our society after they had done their time,
paid their dues, and finished their punishments?
For me, rules in general continue to be problematic, and for those who break them
A few weeks after Ernest was transferred from prison hospital to a real prison cell, I had a
call from one of the nursing sisters. Ernest had told her of my previous involvement in HIV/
AIDS programmes, and as it was a burning issue in prison, she wanted to have a quick chat
about programmes that could be run in prison. I met her briefly for coffee and we chatted
about the possibilities. They were dealing with several patients in prison who were dying of
AIDS. And that was not the really interesting part. She told me that Ernest, after a day or two
in recovery and still trying to stabilise his sugar levels, had been looking after the AIDS
patients, assisting them with taking their medication or a drink of water, but mostly just
spending time with them and comforting them in their last days and hours.
My brother’s keeper
My cousin Mike on my mother’s side and I come a long way. He and his wife opened their
home to me when I arrived in Pretoria when Ernest was in prison, and they generously
provided me with their time and resources. He is more of a soul brother than a cousin. He
understands my family, especially my mother, almost as well as I do as he lived with us
during his high school years in Prieska. We spent long evenings talking about Ernest and his
situation, about judgment, and about my new, weird ideas. Mike was of the opinion that I
was not crazy, but, as he put it delicately, perhaps a little misguided.
He did say one thing that meant a lot to me, and it also made me think. “You may have
no money, but you're not down and out.” So what was the difference between the beggar on
the street and me? Perhaps I was not yet at a point where I felt completely helpless and
hopeless. There were desperate moments when I wanted to give up, but my teachers didn’t
provide me with a soft place to fall. I was reminded that it was up to me. I was not powerless.
I’d get all the help I needed, but it wouldn’t replace my own efforts.
Up to this point, my parents had no idea what was going down in my life. Not telling
them was a deliberate decision on my part as my involvement with Ernest wasn’t a subject
that I wanted to deal with over the telephone. However, before I had the opportunity to
discuss the situation with my parents in person, events overtook me. By staying with my
cousin Mike and his family, I knew it was just a matter of time before the truth came out.
There have never been secrets in our family and I didn’t expect it to be different this time.
As anticipated, I started getting phone calls from my parents. Somehow their immediate
concern was that I was on the verge of going to prison. I explained carefully and deliberately,
but their panic knew no bounds. My dad wanted to know if I had now become dishonest and
crooked. My mother was convinced that I was in the grip of a dark evil force. “This is evil. I
pray to God that you go to someone who can cast out these demons in you,” she said.
The devil and evil talk had never been part of our family and for my mom suddenly to
revert to such a primal and archaic place was truly heartbreaking. I never wanted to speak to
her again in my entire life. How could a mother even think this about her child whom she has
known for almost forty years?
And to tell the truth, I have never believed in a devil and my mom knew it. We often had
discussions about this at home. I was of the opinion that the evil men do stems from the
absence of any love and compassion, and to me, believing in the devil is the ultimate idolatry.
Anyone believing in a godlike phenomenon that is powerful enough to undermine God has to
admit that he or she believes in two gods. The devil has always been a symbol for the things
that are wrong in the world; it is convenient place to park the responsibility for our own bad
I knew that the situation with my parents was going to be very uncomfortable for Mike,
and I didn’t want to impose on him and his family any longer. Yet, I needed to stay in
Pretoria for a while longer until Ernest’s legal process was done. Despite my misgivings and
reluctance to involve more people, my dad's sister, Aunt Marie, and her husband, Uncle
Mike, opened their home and their hearts when I arrived on their doorstep with my sordid
story. I asked God for a small place of safety and I was given a wonderfully nurturing place,
as well as all the support I could have wished for.
Throughout the weeks of alternatively waiting and running around with court papers,
the only thing that kept me sane and rational was writing. It was the only thing I had to help
me make sense of what was happening. I was an emotional mess, and lost weight that I could
ill afford. I couldn’t eat properly despite my aunt’s wonderful nurturing and my caring
environment. The stress of the estrangement from my parents, and the incredible pressure
and emotional needs from Ernest were taking their toll. The waiting, the uncertainty was
absolutely nerve-wracking. The legal process had to end at some point, but no one knew
In the meantime, ever the entrepreneur, Ernest started working on the idea of a world-
class exhibition centre. It was something he had had in mind for a while, but now with time
on his hands and nowhere to go he could develop the idea. In prison he had bumped into an
old friend from way back, who used to be an architect, and this man helped him design the
plans and the layout of the expo-centre. They took the idea a step further by constructing a
model made of X-ray plates which they cut-to-measure, and matches and other materials
they sourced from who knows where. They mounted their ‘expo-centre’ on a board and had
quite a professional-looking architect's model going. Ernest brought it as a show-and-tell one
Sunday when I visited him. While developing his business plan, Ernest could tap into the
skills on offer by several other prisoners, and he co-opted anybody who was willing and able.
By the time Ernest left prison he had made a good start on his new project.
To me, one of the most profound questions asked in the Bible is after Cain kills Able. The
Lord confronts Cain about Abel’s whereabouts. In return, Cain asks, ‘Am I my brother's
keeper?’ God does not provide a clear answer to that question. I think he left it up to us to
decide about that answer in various situations and at different times.
We hear people say that they trust God but not people. And it is sometimes true that
placing our trust in people leaves us disappointed and with feelings of betrayal. People have
their own agendas and paths and their objectives aren’t necessarily the same as ours.
Consequently, it may not be in their interest to conform to our expectations of what they
should be or what they should do.
Yet people are the instruments that God uses to send us the help we have asked for.
A few months earlier a lady pilgrim (or missionary) arrived in Prieska with no car and
very few belongings. She hung around at the local coffee shop all day. To cut a long story
short, my parents provided her with accommodation for the night. The next morning after
breakfast, and a short (let’s be generous here) inspirational message, my parents asked her
where she was going next. She told them she was heading for Cape Town, but was first
stopping over at a town about four hundred kilometres away. When they asked her how she
would get there, her answer was that God would provide.
Rather dumbfounded by this viewpoint, my parents had their own little conference on
the side. They decided that my dad would take the lady to a neighbouring town that was en
route to the town she had mentioned. A hundred-and-thirty kilometres later, they arrived at
the main petrol station in the neighbouring town. My dad spotted a big car filling up, so he
walked over to the driver and asked him where he was going. He told my dad that he was
driving to Cape Town. This was most fortunate, as it meant he would be driving through the
town the lady had in mind. So my dad explained about the pilgrim lady who was heading in
that direction. Then typically, almost cheekily, my dad added, “She said God would provide,
so I’m just helping God to do his job since He seems to be struggling. Will you please give
this lady a lift?”
I don’t think that being my ‘brother's keeper’ necessarily means forking out money every
time it’s asked for. It’s about seeing and acknowledging a need and responding
appropriately. And sometimes trying to fix the problem with money is not fixing it – it’s a
postponement of the inevitable collapse of financial resources that has an altogether
How much is one required to contribute? When is enough, enough? It was a question
that would haunt me for a long time. It would come up again and again, not only to me, but
also to my parents and other family members who helped and supported me. But at that
point, I wasn’t ready to give up on Ernest.
Exactly two months later, Ernest’s leave to appeal was granted by the court. After
struggling to raise the required funds, I posted bail, and fetched Ernest from prison.
Whose life am I living?
We returned to Port Elizabeth feeling a bit disoriented. The relief and euphoria we
experienced after Ernest’s release were short-lived. Ernest didn’t have his own home
anymore, but his brother and family were still staying in the house that formed part of the
office premises, so he moved in there. I returned to my flatlet at Elana’s house. I needed a bit
of space, and some breathing time just to come to grips with the events of the past two
months. I was completely drained of emotion and added to that, I had no financial resources.
My parents and I were still not speaking, so I was uncomfortable going to them for help. At
least Elana and her fiancé made sure I didn’t starve.
Things were not going very well for Ernest, either. He had to see if there were any pieces
left to pick up, but at least he had his plans for the expo-centre, and was determined to make
this new venture work.
Our relationship started developing problems. The time Ernest spent in prison
complicated matters between him and me. For two months we were solely focused on each
other, ensconced in a little bubble which only he and I occupied. Within such a deeply
connected space there were no barriers, no shame, just a deep love and commitment to each
other to get through the dark place we were in. So what do we do in the aftermath of such a
traumatic time? How would such involvement translate into normal life? The fundamental
problems remained unresolved, which made a normal relationship almost impossible.
I had loved Ernest from the very beginning, but I also knew my connection to him
stemmed from long before, in fact, long before we had our current physical bodies. It may
sound strange, but I knew that I’d known him forever. Despite the fact that I loved him as
much as I could love any human being, I didn’t want to box that love into a romantic
relationship. I wanted to frame our relationship in a friendship paradigm. This I made clear
to him in the beginning, even though the relationship turned out to be one of ‘friends with
benefits’ as time went by. In fact, we both still had emotional attachments to other people
when we first met.
In addition, I was in no position to make any commitment to a relationship. I didn’t
know what my plans were for the next month, or even the next year. I wasn’t in control of my
own life – not because I didn’t want to be, but because I felt my process demanded it of me.
To protect us both, I tried hard not to take our involvement too far, and I implored my
teachers to help me prevent us ending up with broken hearts.
Ernest’s time in prison changed everything. We were now dealing with a love and a deep
emotional bond between us that wasn’t going to simply disappear. It was impossible to
ignore what had happened during the previous two months, and go back to where we were
before. Yet that’s exactly what we tried to do.
Before we left Pretoria to return home, I took Ernest to Cari-Ann to meet his teachers
with the idea of helping him make sense of what was happening in his life. He didn’t talk to
me about the conversation afterwards, which I understood because a session like that is
deeply personal. The only thing he told me was that his teacher confirmed my story that the
two of us were meant to live parallel lives. Those were the exact words my teachers used
when I discussed Ernest with them when we first met. But I also remembered a quote from
Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet where he wrote about love: ‘And think not you can direct the
course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.’
We started to withdraw from each other. Ernest became increasingly upset with me, and
his irritation found relief in snapping and criticising me. I understood his frustration and the
source of it, because I was going through the same thing myself. What made it even more
difficult for me was that I was at the end of my emotional resources too. I had used up
everything during the past few months. I had to deal with Ernst and his crisis, with the
constant friction between my parents and me, my confusion about my own life, and the sheer
uncertainty around me. It had all taken its toll. Ernest knew very little of what had happened
to me, and what I had had to deal with while he was in prison, because I simply didn’t tell
him. I didn’t want to burden him even more; he had enough on his plate as it was.
Ernest made a point of reading a passage from the Bible to me. It was 1 Corinthians 13:
‘If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding
gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all
knowledge, and if I have faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do
not have love, I gain nothing.’
I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry.
One evening, we got to the heart of what was brewing between us. He said “I don’t know
how to love you. I don’t know if I'm even supposed to love you.” “Well,” I said willing it to be
true, “neither of us will come out of this with a broken heart.” I believe that one thoughtless,
dismissive comment I made changed everything between us.
After several weeks of no contact between my parents and me, my dad arrived
unexpectedly in Port Elizabeth, and asked me to go back home with him. He and my mom
were very worried about me and the family grapevine reported that I was looking terrible. As
he put it, they wanted to make sure I’d get all the help and support I might need. I knew my
mom put him up to this, probably because she knew I wouldn’t have spoken or responded to
her, but would to my dad. At the same time I knew that they loved me deeply and were
worried sick. I also knew I needed to give the three of us a chance to talk things through. I
had a lot of explaining to do.
I spent a month in Prieska with my parents and we spent hours discussing, arguing and
fighting about all our disagreements – my involvement with Ernest, my unwillingness to go
back to work, and my bizarre ideas and beliefs. It wasn’t something we could resolve easily –
the only way to heal the division would have been for me to stop the whole process and
return to work and a normal life. I wasn’t prepared to do it yet. But despite all the terrible
things we said to each other, my parents and I loved each other deeply and they weren’t
prepared to give up on me.
Ernest drove up to Prieska to fetch me and he met my parents. They were willing to keep
an open mind. Uppermost in my mom’s mind was the intention not to allow her family to
unravel to the point where we couldn’t be put back together again. Disinheriting or casting a
child off because of serious differences was not on the cards, even though tempting. I had the
idea that she took her cue from the parable Jesus taught about the father welcoming back his
prodigal son, and she and my dad would welcome me back time after time, even if the
situation took a turn for the worst.
I returned to Port Elizabeth only to discover that Ernest had started seeing other women.
I just couldn’t believe he was doing this. We hadn’t resolved anything yet. I knew I was a
little unreasonable, but for the life of me I couldn’t believe that he’d blithely move on without
at least giving us time to settle the unresolved problems between us. I have never felt so
For the first time I understood what Abraham went through when he had to sacrifice the
one person he loved above all, just to prove to God that he was an obedient and trusting
servant. The Bible makes us to understand that this was such an admirable thing, but I
discovered there was nothing sweet or even stoic about this exercise. In their eagerness to
make the point about Abraham's love and obedience to God, the one thing the old writers
conveniently left out was Isaac's reaction when he discovered what his father was up to.
Great for Abraham who proved his trust and commitment to God; bad for Isaac whose father
had offered him as a sacrifice. The story doesn’t tell us the part about Isaac storming down
the mountain with the intention of finding a new father – one who would love him enough to
refuse such a sacrifice just to prove a point.
I had already sacrificed almost everything – my life, my parents, my reputation, my
credibility, all my money. Why was this expected of me? Why did I need to let Ernest go if we
were both suffering so badly? I had no idea where our relationship would end up as we were
both in such dire straits with no clear way ahead. But life without him was just unthinkable,
and another woman in his life was simply unbearable.
I truly resented not being in charge of my own life, and it was not the first time. “Change
the plan,” my teacher told me.
“What?! What do you mean ‘change the plan'?”
“You designed it. You change it if you want. You know and understand enough by now;
you understand the implications. Change it if you want to.”
What the fuck was this now? What do you mean I designed it? I didn’t make the decision
to keep my relationship with Ernest one of friendship. Or did I?
Yes. No. My teachers and I had discussions about this, all based on this basic premise, so
where did I go wrong? What did I not understand? And what did the teacher mean when he
said I ‘designed the plan’? As a human being early in the relationship? Or as a soul before I
came to earth when we set up this whole process?
Understanding or not, I at least felt that I again had choices. I am not simply an
Abraham or a Jonah – I had some control over my own life again and over the decisions I
make. Even if they were the wrong ones, at least they were mine. For eighteen months I felt
as if I had no control over my own life, but something shifted at that point in my relationship
with Spirit. At the very least, I knew if I throw enough tantrums they would let me be!
“If we get married, could you give me as much space as I give you?” I asked Ernest.
He laughed softly. “Marriage isn’t going to solve anything.” He thought for a moment, “I
do give you enough space, I've always given you enough space, I think.” But we were talking
about two different things. Uppermost in my mind was the fact that I changed my whole
paradigm about life to include his way of doing things. Was he willing to do the same for me?
But I didn’t say anything, as he was continuing, “I’m really not good relationship material, I
do terrible things in a relationship. One day I'll tell you more about it. I love you too much to
do the same to you. Your friendship means everything to me. I never want to fuck it up, and a
relationship would do that. I'm actually protecting you from me.”
What could I say? Even though I recognised a nice manoeuvre when I saw one, I had a
sense that this came from a very deep place inside of him, or a very high place.
A few days passed, and I struggled to make peace with the implications of his rejection. I
felt the teachers had outplayed me once again and scored two goals this round. There would
still be no relationship with Ernest, but by giving me the freedom to do what I wanted for a
change, created a shift in my relationship with my teachers. I felt a little more empowered, a
little more in control of my life, and actually a lot more rebellious – which I suspected had
been the intention.
Ernest and I had come so far, that I thought it impossible just to slip into this little
friendship box in which Ernest wanted us to function, even if I had been the one to set the
parameters earlier on. This time I took the discussion a little further. “I understand that I
hurt you so much that you have now retreated behind a wall...” Ernest denied it, “It is exactly
as I told you before. You're my best friend and I never want to lose your friendship.” But he
added something, almost without thinking, “I want different things... a family... a Christian
home.” I ignored that for a moment. “It’s all or nothing Ernest, I cannot do this friendship
thing anymore. It's all or nothing.”
“I'm sorry you feel that way, I don’t want that,” he said. “I make a very good friend and I
don’t want to lose our friendship,” he repeated.
“Then it is nothing.” I was clear, and my mind was made up. I left.
I told my teachers, “I'm done. I'm getting out of this game called ‘Ernest’. There is
absolutely no reason why I should continue to put myself through this. It's done. I'm done.”
My teachers had a different idea. “You need to get back on the game board. We have not
As painful as it was, I did, and my great stand of ‘it’s all or nothing’ came to nought. I’d
come to appreciate the wisdom of my teachers positioning our relationship as friendship
instead of this big love affair, but only a year later. At the time I was deeply hurt. I first
needed some time to heal.
I met up with Ernest a few days later and we both pretended our conversation hadn’t
happened. He had me back, his friend, but he also had space for a new girlfriend. He was
going to Prieska for the day to continue discussions about a business he was looking into,
and would I like to go with him? I packed a little suitcase and I returned to my parents. In
keeping with my teachers’ instructions, I continued my involvement with him, this time
focusing on helping him to get the new business he wanted off the ground. And as the days
dragged by, it became quite clear that Ernest had started a new relationship.
My parents stood by helplessly watching the wheels came off. I developed a terrible bout
of flu and was really ill. My mother continuously wanted to drag me to the doctor, but I told
her to leave me be. In any case there was no pill for a broken heart. A part of me still believed
Ernest’s rebellion was only temporary, that if I gave it enough time, the situation would right
itself. But it never did.
Ernest had plans to come up to Prieska again the following week, and the plan was that I
would return to Port Elizabeth with him. But a month later he had still not arrived. Feeling
that I had waited senselessly for Godot long enough, I took my dad up on his offer to drive
me down to Port Elizabeth to pick up my car and the rest of my belongings. There was no
reason for me at that point to continue my stay in Port Elizabeth, and I couldn’t bear to be in
such close proximity to Ernest and his new girlfriend.
He who pays the piper calls the tune
My mother asked me the following question “Why, if this is the Holy Spirit, is it so
destructive? Why are so many people being destroyed in the process? Nothing that comes
from God can do so much harm.” She was referring to the intense suffering she and my dad
had gone through in trying to make sense of what I was doing, and which was so foreign to
the way that we normally live and behave as a family. I also suspected she referred to the
drain on their resources, and their growing fears that I was going to ruin them financially. To
her list, I could have added the hurt that Ernest and I had caused each other, and the sheer
unfairness of it all.
A good question, but no quick and simple answer.
As part of my course-work at the university a few months earlier, I came across the chaos
theory. Unsurprisingly, it resonated with me immediately. The basic idea is that a system –
like life itself – does not like equilibrium, and is very sensitive to triggers that might set it off.
The system explodes and turns into chaos. But the beauty of it is that even amidst the chaos
and destruction of the system, there is an inherent order to it, and the system inevitably
settles down again, but into a new form. It is a system – or life – renewing itself.
It seemed to me that if we as humans, or life itself, wants to create something new, the
old ‘system’ must first be destroyed. We first have to break down or loosen the old structures,
the old ideas, the old patterns, and from that point establish something new. Scientific
theories aside, life does not like us to repress and hide the problems that we should be facing,
as sooner or later they will surface and explode like a time bomb.
It is far better for us to confront them when we need to, than to wait for an outside
trigger to unleash the chaos. If we face our problems in time and if we were our own triggers,
we could perhaps control the size and the impact of the fall-out.
Sometimes things need to get worse before they can get better.
This part I understood especially, because by now I was familiar with the concept of the
sometimes chaotic creative-energies that my teachers explained earlier. But it was simply
impossible to explain this to my mother who was in no mood to hear that her life, (which was
being destroyed as she put it), resembled some arbitrary mathematical theory.
The fights between my parents and I had a certain rhythm to it. One moment (and I’m
saying moment but it could be a whole day or evening), all gloves were off. The words were
vicious and hurtful. Then, as if in a ceasefire, calm and peace would settle on us, and we
recognised that we actually loved one another deeply. Granted, it would only last until, say,
the following evening, when we would continue where the fight left off.
These arguments centred around one crucial aspect, that of who was in control of my
life. My idea and my parents' idea of how I should live my life were poles apart. They wanted
me to go back to work. I wasn’t ready yet to give up my process. I accused my mother of
being a control freak, which of course she denied.
I was in a very difficult position. I understood the idea of ‘He who pays the piper calls the
tune.’ I grew up with this notion and this was what I was up against. I had no money and
only a germ of an idea of what I wanted to do during the course of the next six months. My
parents were willing to lend me the money to pay off the debts I had accumulated, on
condition that I return to work. My negotiations centred on the fact that I could use the same
amount of money to keep myself afloat while I put some of my ideas about the trailers into
practice and hopefully start a business that way.
Their money. My life.
I expected them, if they were willing to help me, to let me decide what was good for me,
and to discover my way forward, even if they didn’t agree on the course I intended taking. It
was a tall order for any parents. Then again, I was almost forty years old and clever and
experienced enough to know what would work for me even if it went against conventional
wisdom. But they had lost their trust in my abilities to make good choices for myself –
nothing in the past two years had convinced them that I knew what I was doing. Fair enough.
I didn’t know what I was doing, although I would never have admitted that to them. That
would have provided them with a foothold to manoeuvre me into a corner.
But I had another need. I wanted them to love me and support me even though I didn’t
live the life they liked or approved of. I felt almost as if I couldn’t trust the love someone had
for me, if that love couldn’t accept me as I was. I couldn’t trust a love that didn’t allow me to
The fights of the past months were taking their toll. My parents perceived that I had a
wall of stubbornness and obstinacy about me. If they could break through and destroy it,
perhaps I would see reason. But there was no wall and I felt each and every blow of their
constant battering. Between Ernest and my parents I had run out of defences, and I didn’t
have the strength to absorb any more punches. There was a moment when I had a mental
picture of myself on my knees, with blood dripping out of big open wounds. “Dear God, they
are finally going to get their way, I have nothing left.”
Almost immediately I had another thought. They can take everything away from me,
but not my right to choose for myself. Nobody can make me change my mind if I don’t want
to. This was the first time I truly understood the fundamental, intrinsic right that we all have
– the right to choose.
I underestimated my parents. Then again, maybe I didn’t. They agreed to lend me the
money for whatever purpose I felt was needed.
Outside the city walls
I turned forty early in 2007. I was still staying with my parents, and my mom decided we
should have a party. We invited all the people in Prieska that had been important to me
during my childhood, and who were still close to me. Elana, her fiancé and her youngest
daughter drove up from Port Elizabeth, and brought Ernest as a surprise. My cousin Mike,
his daughter, and his parents also drove down from Pretoria for the weekend.
We spent a great day on the river, floating on two big polystyrene rafts, going with the
current, and getting really sunburnt and rather tipsy. Ernest was philosophical. “Life is like a
river, with ebbs and flows and currents; you just need to bring your drinks.” Mike
interjected, “As long as you don’t ask your parents to pay for them!” His main contribution
was his GPS telling us how long we would take to reach our destination. The speed we were
travelling at was about five hundred metres an hour – we settled in for a long day in the sun.
In my speech at the party later that evening, I paid tribute to all who were there and
explained what contribution they had made and why I valued them. The speech took some
time, and since then I have been forbidden by my cousins ever to make a speech again.
A few weeks later and still in Prieska, I received a call from Ernest saying that he had
scheduled a meeting with an organisation that was interested in purchasing a couple of the
trailers and they were coming to see us. I drove down to Port Elizabeth, happy that we were
finally getting somewhere and eager to get started. The meeting went very well and they
ordered two trailers from us.
However, there was one hurdle. In our business plan we had anticipated that we would
ask for a fifty percent deposit when the client placed an order. This would provide us with
working capital. We had no money ourselves, and we were unable to raise any of the
necessary funds. But the new client had no intention of providing us with the deposit we
required, saying that their order was as good as a deposit. We had no doubt about their
ability to pay, but we had no money to make the trailers.
I wasn’t too worried, because I thought that the trailers were part of a bigger plan and
things would happen as intended. Also, I trusted Ernest's ability to devise a plan. Ernest
decided that we had a better chance of making something happen in Pretoria as he had
plenty of contacts there, so we drove up to Pretoria.
The business plan of the expo-centre was virtually ready and the business plan of the
trailers was ready, so with a bunch of documents under his arm Ernest started rounding up
everyone he knew – which I was convinced was the whole of Pretoria. He had meetings with
serious investors, with bankers, with empowerment groups, anybody who could possibly be
interested or knew of someone that might be interested. Legitimate potential investors
mingled and merged with illegitimate contacts in Ernest’s world. Money, and a lot of it where
the expo-centre was concerned, seemed to be the common denominator.
I was quite amazed at this dealmaker's side of life. I discovered that quite often, people
trade in what looked to me like virtual reality. There is no real money, only ‘contacts’, and for
every contact that was made or linked up, somebody expected some money or a share of the
potential, or virtual, business.
I couldn’t even begin to count how many times Ernest had meetings with people or their
‘contacts’. After the fifth one or so I began to tune out and left him to what he does best –
selling an idea. We still had no money, but Ernest had some old friends who helped here and
there, and my parents helped me to stay afloat while we worked on making our plans a
Driving around with Ernest created an incredible sense of freedom within me. We had
no fixed schedules, our time was our own, and we were free to explore whatever
opportunities were out there. There were no rules anymore, and on the face of it, no
limitations. We could do anything we wanted to. It was a heady feeling.
Most of the people whom Ernest met up with didn’t seem to play by the rules either.
After a while, I saw that the lack of rules meant there were no rules of engagement either.
You couldn’t bank on anybody’s word. You couldn’t trust that they would act the way you’d
expect them to. Nobody trusted anybody. The only thing that could be trusted was that
everybody would put themselves first, and that they wouldn’t care who they disappointed or
damaged in the process. It was a terrible way to live; it seemed as if it were just a matter of
time before you were damaged and destroyed as well. This unlimited do-what-you-want,
take-what-you-want type of freedom wasn’t the answer. On the other hand, the thought of
going back to the normal over-regulated environment made me feel claustrophobic. Fitting
into all the do’s and don’ts just did not make sense either. There had to be another way.
When we were children, we used to play cops and robbers. The players were divided into two
groups. When a robber got killed, he had to roll over and play dead and was out of the game.
But when you have players like Ernest, who refuses to play dead and who gets up and
continues playing, it badly distresses the group members who killed him. He was playing
against the rules. Even if they try to kick him out of the game, he just ignores them and their
objections and continues playing. Other robbers notice that he is getting away with it, and
they then also refuse to play dead. Pretty soon the whole game is screwed, and a whole new
game is required.
So, what is the alternative to the old game? I didn’t know, and I asked Ernest.
“All your talking makes me very tired,” he sighed.
“What’s tiring is the effort it takes to pull your fingers from your ears,” I retorted.
Finally, Ernest made a deal to sell some trailers with the required fifty percent deposit to a
government-linked group from Malawi. They wanted fifty trailers, with the possibility of
purchasing another fifty after the initial rollout. They had money available that would be
transferred from a UK based bank. We were, of course, quite excited. I phoned my bank
manager telling her that it looked as if we were finally going to make it, and that we were
expecting a large sum of money. A few days later, the payment was transferred into my bank
In hindsight, all the signs were there: the ease with which this deal went through, the
ready money, the quick transfer, but it took my bank manager in Port Elizabeth to smell a rat
and investigate. I told her that the payment was coming from overseas. What made her
suspicious was that the money was a cool round figure, which, if it had been subject to
exchange rates, was almost impossible to get to. By checking the source, she discovered that
the money had been stolen via the internet from a client at the same bank.
All my accounts were frozen, and suddenly I was knee deep in a serious case of theft and
fraud. I was not a happy camper, having to lay a charge of fraud against whom the fuck
knows and preparing affidavits for the bank's fraud department. How was I going to explain
this to my parents who were absolutely going to freak out as they were already deeply
worried about my involvement with Ernest? It wasn’t something I could hide or keep quiet
about – my dad still deposited money into my account. Who knows what else was going to
develop from this little episode? So, none of our worries were resolved – we still didn’t have
money for the trailers that we were supposed to manufacture, and the situation got
considerably worse now that I was stuck with frozen bank accounts and possibly a case of
fraud against me.
One thing was very clear to me. I had left the normal, conventional life and was way
outside the city walls. I wasn’t just a spectator anymore. The fear that accompanied that little
insight was enormous. In addition to being virtually penniless, had I to end up in prison?
What possible purpose could there be in this experience, except to destroy my parents as
they had feared? I was less concerned about me – I hardly had a reputation left to protect.
My teachers were unperturbed, but calming me down took some doing.
Out in the cold
In a whimsical moment I remembered the fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson about the
Snow Queen. The story is about two best friends, a boy and a little girl who lived next door to
each other. In another realm, mischievous trolls broke a magical mirror that had the power
to distort anything reflected in it: nothing was good and beautiful; even the bad and ugly
were magnified and looked even worse than they were. A splinter of this magic mirror got
into the boy’s eye, and turned him nasty and mean. So, when the Snow Queen set her sights
on the boy and asked him to come away with her, he was unable to see her for what she was.
The rest of the story tells how the little girl went looking for her best friend. After a long and
arduous journey she eventually found him in the Snow Queen’s ice palace, all frozen, with his
heart a lump of ice, and with no memories of the people that he loved. Only when the girl
cried did his heart melt and his own tears washed the splinter out of his eye. He could see the
truth once again.
Some key components in the expo-centre business plan relied on overseas participation and
investment and Ernest left for Switzerland to meet up with an old contact the following week.
I had time on my hands to consider what I needed to do next. I could start looking for a job,
but I hadn’t yet given up on my ideas for the trailers. I was also beginning to realize that if I
was going to make this work, I was going to have to do it my way. Ernest's priority in any
event was the expo-centre. The trailer business came a good second. Hopefully, he would
return from Switzerland with the means to get us out of our cash flow difficulties and we
could finish the order for our client.
There was one other possibility before I would altogether give up the trailers. Ernest had
an old friend, Carien, who had a company that specialised in community development
projects. These projects tied in with my ideas about what the trailers could be used for.
Before he left, Ernest spoke to her and told Carien that I would be going to see her.
I arranged for a meeting and I pitched my ideas for the trailers. Carien liked the concept,
but was sceptical about a business arrangement that would involve Ernest. She was an old
friend and very fond of Ernest, but she had experienced his wild streak and preferred not to
do business with him.
I was legally in control of the trailer business. All the business interests had been
transferred to my name to protect the new business from Ernest's old creditors, and from my
perspective, to prevent Ernest's criminal record from spoiling our chance of getting social
investment funds into our business.
But it was becoming clear to me that there was a fundamental difference in how Ernest
and I approached the trailers. For Ernest, it was about how quickly he could get his money
back after spending a substantial amount of time and money on building the prototypes. I
took a more holistic approach. The trailers were part of community development
programmes. We were not just selling trailers; it was a means to an end. I had visions of
trailers scattered all over the country. The whole concept in my mind was built around three
components that had to work together. We had the trailers (the hardware) but we needed
programmes to broadcast through the trailers, and we also needed a project management
component to systematically roll out the trailers and the development programmes.
I had no real interest in the manufacturing side of the trailers, but had to be in control of
it, because it was our starting point. Also, I was now legally responsible for the trailers, yet I
knew that they were Ernest's brainchild and that the money that flowed from the business
would be his. That knowledge rested with Ernest and me alone – I would be in front, the face
of it so to speak, but focusing on the audiovisual production, and with Carien’s help,
developing the project management section.
When Ernest returned from Switzerland the basic plans were in place. He was quite
enthusiastic and encouraging but left me to it while he continued with his pet project, the
expo-centre. We never clearly and definitively discussed how we would operate the trailer
manufacturing in practice, but we had come a long way. I thought we trusted each other and
would work out the details as we went along.
Our deal with the large organisation still needed to be sorted out, and it was becoming
quite critical to find a way to resolve the cash crisis. Ernest had his own problems to deal
with, not only financially, but his relationship with the Snow Queen (my name for the
woman he became involved with) had fallen apart, and she was on the warpath. He had not
been honest with her about his past, about his recent time in prison, and not about his
financial status. She found out anyway. In addition, he had borrowed a substantial amount of
money from her, and hadn’t paid her back yet. There was hell to pay, and Ernest was under a
vengeful and spiteful attack.
We hardly ever discussed their relationship or what it had turned into. I didn’t want to
hear how much he was hurting; I was still dealing with my own hurt from being replaced so
easily. I couldn’t be his ‘best friend’ when it came to his love life, nor could I lower myself
into the morass they were in. I didn’t understand that level of spitefulness and mudslinging.
All I could see was how distorted his outlook on life was becoming. There was a hardness
that was developing from all the hurt and humiliation she was inflicting on him, and for
Ernest, everything was beginning to revolve around money and yet more money. He was in a
space where I couldn’t reach him and nothing I said connected with him. I found his fuck-
everyone-else-attitude difficult to deal with.
Ernest had in the meantime persuaded our client to accept the one demonstration-model
trailer we still had. They had paid in full for both trailers with the understanding that we
would deliver the two new trailers six weeks later. When the cheque cleared, Ernest
instructed me to go to the bank and draw half the amount. I immediately refused, thinking
about the money we still needed to manufacture the trailers before the deadline. After a
heated and lengthy argument, Ernest explained to me what the true problem was. The Snow
Queen demanded money or she would instigate insolvency procedures. In that case all
Ernest's plans would be sunk. His cars were critical too, and so on and so on. I understood
the seriousness of his financial situation, but I had serious reservations. Ernest didn’t seem
to understand the difference (perhaps he didn’t want to) between business funds and
personal funds – it was one and the same to him. I only relented when he assured me that he
would personally pay for the trailers from imminent funds that he was expecting from
overseas. In any case, I could see that he was adamant about it, and I suspected (legalities
aside) that in his mind the business was his. And so the money that should have been used to
pay for the manufacture of the trailers was used to pay off some of Ernest’s personal debts.
Ernest once again left for Switzerland. In the meantime, quite excitedly, I started on my
project with Carien, and it was really going well. We had preliminary discussions with a few
clients, and the whole concept was starting to take shape. She had a wonderful company
going, and we understood what needed to happen. Everything was going according to plan,
except for the fact that our business hadn’t yet manufactured our existing client’s trailers,
and the pressure was on.
On his return from Switzerland a few weeks later, minus any money, I started to
pressurise Ernest into fulfilling his part of the bargain. Our relationship started to
deteriorate. Still in a dysfunctional type of relationship with the Snow Queen, who refused to
speak to him or accept any of his calls, Ernest was in a bad place emotionally, and I wasn’t
helping. All my plans evolved around getting our existing deal sorted out, and I wasn’t
interested in any of his girlfriend troubles. One evening, quite despondently, he told me that
he was prepared to withdraw from the whole trailer business idea, and leave it all to me. I
wasn’t having it; there was no way in hell that he was going to leave me with the mess he’d
caused. But I could see that the more pressure I put on him, the more he withdrew.
In desperate need of funds, Ernest realised that he had one asset of value – the trailer
business. Now that Carien could see the value of it, he could sell it to her and not have to wait
for us to get clients before he could get money. It would take too long and his needs were
immediate. There was just one snag however – I was in the way. I had been a good and
supportive friend in the past, so how would he get around me?
I should have seen it coming, but it still caught me quite unprepared.
Late one evening and quite excitedly, I called Ernest to tell him about some business
discussions I had earlier, but he was hardly interested. All he wanted was for me to intercede
with Snow Queen who refused to speak to him. He had already asked a few other people, but
nobody had any luck. I really didn’t want to do that and told him if she didn’t want to speak
to him he needed to let it be. It was her choice not to, and he needed to respect that.
“You’re not worth being called a friend! The one time that I ask you to do something for
me you refuse!” he raged. I sent him a text message telling him that I really didn’t want to
fight about this – it had nothing to do with me. He responded with a ‘Fuck you’.
The next morning Ernest phoned to make arrangement for us to meet before he went
back to Port Elizabeth. We met at a coffee shop. He was cold and clearly still angry with me.
He said I was to make some sort of an offer to buy him out and email the details to him. I
truly didn’t understand what the hell was going on, and I left the meeting very confused.
The implications were staggering, and I was slowly building up to quite a nice little
temper tantrum myself. Getting to the office, I wrote a snide email listing our assets and
liabilities (which far outweighed the assets) and added that the one client we had thought we
were unethical. How much did he actually expect to get for this business?
I received a cool and polite email the following day, asking me to resign from managing
the business, but before I could even respond, I had the first of a series of phone calls from
Ernest that continued for the rest of the day, and none of them were constructive. Mostly he
screamed at me, and as the day progressed, and he realised that I had told Carien about our
unfinished deal, the worse he got. He wasn’t in the mood for a reasonable discussion and
nothing I said could make any difference. Ernest in that state doesn’t listen to anything
anybody says. The last of the calls ended around eleven that night, but not before I was called
By not being the ‘good friend,’ I gave Ernest the excuse he was looking for to move me
out of the way. Without feeling any guilt towards me he got what he wanted – control of the
trailer business once again. He could now sell it to Carien, without taking me into
consideration. Except that, even if she wanted to, Carien didn’t have the funds available to
buy the business.
Carien and I both realized how much shit I was in. Even if Ernest took back his business
and ‘fired’ me, I knew that I was legally accountable for the transaction with our existing
client. If I failed to deliver, there would be no way I could prevent my downfall. And as I was
no longer involved in the business, I could not continue working with Carien on our plans.
We had to end our business arrangement.
I couldn’t believe that Ernest had done this to me. He destroyed a potentially good
business and then left me hanging out to dry. Surely he couldn’t expect me to take
responsibility for the unholy mess he caused? I told him so in no uncertain terms. To get me
off his back, he offered to sign an indemnity, which would absolve me from any comebacks,
and he would take full responsibility for any past business dealings. In return, he wanted the
original shareholding documents and my resignation as the only member of the closed
I might have been gullible and too trusting, but I am not stupid. I consulted an attorney
and she told me that the indemnity (which she would prepare) was only good if Ernest had
money, which he may or may not have. But to me, despite the fact that the indemnity wasn’t
really worth much, it was still a symbol of attributing the responsibility to where it belonged.
We had a meeting and it felt like a divorce. Ernest was cold and scathing, “You have a sly
streak which few people are aware of. You have nothing of your own and you have to use
other people’s ideas to serve your own purposes. You’ll still come to appreciate what loyalty
is. And don’t ever think that you can take me on – you’ll never win,” he said and the final
shot was, “I will never ever do business with you again!”
I didn’t say anything. I just stared at him, thinking that we were so out of sync at that
moment, and that our perspectives on the whole matter so different, that it was as if we came
from two different planets.
As he saw me out to my car he asked, “Does the business owe you anything?” No, the
business didn’t owe me anything. Neither did he.
He signed the indemnity. I gave him the shareholding certificate and my signed
resignation, and that was that. As to my involvement in the business, I was still as much
exposed as I ever was, but there was nothing I could do but hope and trust that Ernest would
sort out the deal with our existing client.
Back to square one.
I didn’t know what else to do, so once again I went home to my parents. As I expected,
they weren’t impressed by any of it. My mother had asked me before, and asked me again:
why, if this is from God, is it so destructive? I couldn’t answer. I didn’t know. I needed to
understand this myself. I was so convinced that this was the path to go. Everything had been
working out exactly as I had planned it. So why was it destroyed?
Another of Ernest's opinions about me was that I was filled with demons and I was on a
self-destructive course. It is hardly worth mentioning except for the irritation value, but
perhaps Ernest was right in one way – the trailer business was not my own. I was ploughing
with someone else's oxen.
Perhaps I had been taking on a responsibility that wasn’t mine to start off with. I
understood that it wasn’t my responsibility to get him back on his feet, but perhaps I had
become so zealous in my attempts to help him, that I assumed his responsibilities instead of
remaining just a helping hand. Perhaps it suited my own purposes, as it provided direction
for me when my own life came to a standstill.
My teachers, when they thought I was being too hard on myself, provided me with this
little picture, and it related to one of Ernest's stories about his earlier life as a soldier.
There are people, including Ernest in his young days, doing what they call ‘fire control’.
When cannons or missiles are fired at the enemy, a few very brave soldiers or, very stupid
ones, depending on your perspective, would be at the place of the target, and would provide
feedback on whether the target was struck or not. On their advice, the soldiers handling the
cannon would shoot a little to the left, or to the right, to position the firepower correctly.
It was almost similar to what I was doing in Ernest's life. I merely played the observer or
the ‘fire control’, pointing out the consequences of going this way or that. I didn’t make his
decisions about whom or what he was to ‘shoot’. It wasn’t my job to teach him, or any other
grown-up, norms to live by. He had to figure out for himself what would work for him or not
– even if he had to discover it the hard way. The problem came when ‘I don’t like what you're
saying’ turned into ‘I don’t like you!’ and he turned his missiles on me. Kaboom!
My teachers and I had quite a good chuckle about that. Humour aside, the
reverberations, the shock waves of driving around with Ernest in his free-for-all zone, would
continue well into the future. And I had to face the fact that sometimes, despite my well-
planned intentions, a situation derails and it’s out of my control.
Back to normality
It was time for me to get a real job again. After the debacle with the trailer business, I’d
finally had enough. After spending a few weeks with my parents, I returned to Pretoria to
look for a job. I spent a fruitless two months sending off emails and CV’s. There was nothing.
It wasn’t that there were no jobs, it was just not happening. Week after week I was hitting a
A couple of months after our big fight, I had a call from Ernest. Apparently he went
looking for me at the Lost and Found, but couldn’t find me. Humour does it every time, and
there he was back in my life. Neither of us was exactly overflowing with love and goodwill,
but bit by bit we put our friendship together again. This was the first real break-up we ever
had, and it was distressful for both of us. When Ernest was not in my life, a lot of joy and
excitement was gone. The joy especially, always outweighed any stress and anxiety for which
he was also responsible.
We never discussed what happened with the trailer business, but from what I
understood nothing had happened since we last saw each other. Nothing else had changed in
the two months or so. He still had no money, he’d had yet another girlfriend and another
breakup, and his plans had gone nowhere. In the meantime the new (now ex) girlfriend
teamed up with Snow Queen and between the two of them wreaked havoc in Ernest's life.
They unearthed the whole of Ernest's past complete with all the newspaper clippings, and
emailed all the old news to everyone with whom Ernest had business discussions.
Ernest made a printout of the email and all the attachments, and handed them to me
to read. In essence there was nothing new that I hadn’t known right from the beginning. But
by being with Ernest, I discovered one very important thing: you never get away from your
past. People will not let you forget. If I borrow money from you and I don’t pay you back
immediately you wouldn’t run to the police, but they do when Ernest is involved. If I scream
at you because I’m angry, you’re not going to the police to get a restraining order against me.
But in Ernest's life people always run off to the police, even if their complaints turn out to be
groundless, and sometimes they are.
Ernest never gets the benefit of the doubt. He once told me a story. Just after he had
come out of prison all those years ago, he and his wife attended a family wedding. While
seated around a table, eating and drinking as is done normally at weddings, an elderly lady at
the table suddenly turned to him and said, “I knew you took it. Just give it back and I'll leave
it at that.” What was she saying? Ernest wondered. “My handbag – I know you took it. Just
give it back.” Ernest wanted to sink into the ground. Before it became a really ugly scene, the
lady's small granddaughter waltzed up with the handbag draped over her shoulder.
There is no apology under the sun that can undo the damage.
It was a frustrating few months for me, with no clear way ahead. Within myself I was
adamant though. I wanted some stability again, a sense of normality, my own money and my
own independence. I had no idea of what I was supposed to do with all of the teachings and
writing that I did, but right then all I wanted was a job.
I had a hobby that I enjoyed and was rather good at. I compiled photo slide shows with
appropriate music, and I had the idea of doing this for people with the aim of adding some
money to my cash flow and taking the pressure off my family. Ernest had always loved the
idea, but not on the small scale I had in mind. Before I knew it, he had conceptualised this
whole idea into a big commercial venture, and was talking about buying premises, employing
people, computers, and scanners. But once again we didn’t have money to start up, and we’d
have to borrow everything we needed.
I was really reluctant and still smarting from the failure of the trailer business. I didn’t
think I was up to taking such risks again, and especially to do business with Ernest. I didn’t
want to make big financial commitments and told Ernest so, but he was on a roll, and there
was no stopping him when once he gets his teeth into an idea. He probably thought he would
be able to convince me to join him as he had always been able to do in the past.
Out of the blue, my mother called saying there was a vacancy at a school in Prieska for
the last quarter of the year. The previous teacher had resigned to go overseas, and they were
rather desperate to find a substitute teacher until the end of the year. Would I consider it?
I found the idea quite appealing. I had always enjoyed working with children, and taking
the teaching post would allow me to get my feet wet in a normal workplace again. Although I
had been training adults for most of my working life, I had some experience in teaching
children during my year as an English teacher in Taiwan. But even more appealing, was that
the job in Prieska would allow me to move out of Ernest’s sphere and gain some much-
needed perspective. It would give me enough space to work out my confused feelings.
I am told that there are grown-ups who are scared of me but nobody informed these
children. They ran circles around me. The primary school children especially, were a wild
and exuberant bunch. In the first week I realised that enforcing my will and my discipline on
them wasn’t going to work. It was me against thirty children in a class, and it was just too
tiring. I spent eighty percent of my time trying to get them to sit still and keep quiet and too
little time on teaching. What I remembered about school and what I was dealing with were
poles apart. In the past, we disciplined children using the tools of fear – hidings and shame –
to keep them in check. But these children didn’t suffer from either, and I had no intention of
creating such negative emotions where they hadn’t existed before. Deliberately humiliating a
child is something I would never do. (Poking a little fun at them was different.)
When I was about nine years old, I came face to face with shame. In my class there was
girl called Angela who really struggled with her schoolwork. We were learning the rudiments
of English, our second language, and the piece of reading we were dealing with contained the
word 'jump'. Angela truly did not understand the teacher, and eventually the exasperated
teacher called her to the front of the class and tried to get Angela ‘to jump’. The girl didn’t
understand and the teacher kept on repeating the instruction to jump, and still Angela didn’t
get it. Eventually the whole ridiculous situation got to everyone in class and we all laughed,
me included. The shame and humiliation on that girl's face was something I have never
forgotten. In fact, years afterwards, even as grown-ups I struggled to look her in the eye. She
died of cancer in her early thirties.
I wasn’t keen on screaming at my class, which I suppose was an option. I could threaten
them with visits to the principal's office or notes to the parents, but that would just be
passing the buck, and it wasn’t effective in any case. I had to find a solution that would work
So what was a teacher to do? This question intrigued my mother and me, and for the
next few months we spent hours thinking up ways to control the children for me to actually
teach them. I very much enjoyed being with them and that didn’t help my cause. They
quickly realised that it was very easy to make me laugh, and that encouraged them even
It was wonderful to be part of such joy and goodwill. Prieska had seen me come and
go for years, but this was the first time that I really felt part of the town community.
Overnight I became Juffrou and everybody on the street would greet me and know who I
was. I had to clean up all my bad habits, especially my language, to make sure I didn't set a
bad example. The bad language I mostly managed except when I forgot I was talking to a
thirteen or fourteen year old and the odd swear word would slip out. I only realised what I
had said once I saw the wide-eyed expression on the child's face. This was just too good to be
My mom had been a schoolteacher at the same school for more than twenty years, and
the same children she taught were now the parents of the children I was teaching. There was
a sense of continuity and I was following in her footprints. When the children ran home to
tell stories about their day in class, their moms and dads could reminisce about their days in
class with my mom. It became a warm circle of old and new memories. I loved being part of
I started to change the language in my class. When the children became too boisterous,
or talked too much or didn’t do their homework, I'd remind them that they knew how to
behave, that they were not babies anymore and that they knew how to be quiet and sit down
when told to. Reluctantly, they’d agree. I encouraged them to assess their behaviour and I
asked them to choose their own punishments when they broke the rules. They were not very
imaginative: they stood in the classroom corners, wrote out lines, ran three times around the
school building after school, all the punishment they had been exposed to up to that point.
But they never chose to be sent to the principal's office or had me involve their parents! The
beauty of my new system was when they chose to write out a piece five times, they couldn’t
be angry with anybody but themselves. It was interesting to see that the choice to stand in
the corner was becoming less popular by the day. At first glance it looked as if it was easy
punishment, but nobody chose it the second time around. I watched them squirm and make
funny noises and jokes to cover their embarrassment.
The idea was to move the responsibility for their discipline back to them. Instead of my
working so hard to enforce the rules I tried to encourage some self-regulatory behaviour. I
imagined the process would take a little longer, probably with a lot of bumpy in-betweens,
but it could just be worth it. It seemed that my little system was working because as the term
progressed, I was beginning to notice that instead of blaming this or that friend for whatever
went wrong, they were acknowledging their own part in the noise levels or arguments.
I had the grade five children, after placing the class in groups, design a board game
based on all the right and wrong things they could do in class. According to the ten and
eleven year olds, the right things included keeping quiet and listening to the teacher, helping
a friend with her school work, buying the teacher flowers and telling her that she looks nice.
The wrong things were much more imaginative and included spitting, pea shooting, jumping
on the desks, and running naked. One group designed a card that read, ‘Alicia kissed Colin.
You decide if you want to move one space forward or one space back.’
The high school children were slightly more manageable and I connected with them on a
different level. I was teaching life skills to grades eight and nine. Quite early in the term, I
had talked to the grade eight learners about stereotypes. After the discussions in class, they
wanted to know when they were going to have the physical education part of their
curriculum. I had been postponing it, hoping they wouldn’t notice! I was a bit daunted since
I was really clueless about sports and most other physical activities.
On the spur of the moment, and in keeping with my theme on stereotypes and how to
move beyond it, I decided to have the boys play netball and the girls play touch rugby. Two of
the star rugby payers in class would act as coach and referee, and similarly, two girls would
act as coach and referee for the boys playing netball. To my surprise, they were quite
enthusiastic about the idea. I was developing some reservations, but I had started the ball
rolling, so to speak, and I couldn’t back out.
A couple of days later, I had the balls organised and we were picking teams. Being part of
a small-town school and mindful that it was important to integrate all the race groups (it was
still a sensitive issue), I made sure that each team was represented and that all the teams
were nicely mixed. The boys were quite enthusiastic and surprisingly agile. Only one boy
refused to play because of the sissy connotation and no cajoling or any attempts at bribery
worked, so I let him be. (Fair enough, I tried to bribe him with a milkshake, so perhaps I
shouldn’t have been surprised.)
All the girls, on the other hand, got into the spirit of things with lots of screaming and
yelling, but with passion and surprising aggression. The referees tried to keep up with plenty
of head shaking and despairing glances coming my way.
I rushed between the boys on the netball field and the girls on the rugby field. I had
plenty of exercise myself and completely ruined my heels in the process. About halfway
through the period, I returned to the din on the rugby field and discovered that the girls had
re-divided their teams along racial lines. They were now playing white against coloured, and
the game had started to take on a different tone. I stopped play, called them over and told
them the colour thing wasn’t doing it for me and to get back into their original mixed teams.
Then one girl asked, "But then, how will we know who belongs to which team? That was the
problem earlier on!”
Oops. I’d forgotten to organise two sets of sports bands in ‘team’ colours for the players
to distinguish between the two teams.
Being in small town and being involved in the school and the community, made my own
process a bit more problematic. If I had been discouraged before from talking about my
spiritual journey, it had now become unthinkable, if not impossible. I was so deep into the
process (which had become so complicated and multi-dimensional) that I couldn’t find any
words to express what I was going through without sounding as if I’d gone off my head. That
self-imposed silence, coupled with my attempts to protect Ernest by hiding his desperate
situation and my involvement with him from everyone I knew, turned my life into one of
secrecy. I became increasingly aware that my embarrassment and shame about my
dysfunctional life and inability to pay my own way, were creating an almost insurmountable
barrier between the people I love and me.
My parents and I still had unresolved problems, but when they saw at first-hand how
well and ‘normal’ I was at work, my parents finally let go of the idea that I was mentally ill.
There was nothing wrong with the way my brain worked. I was grounded and normal, except
for the apparent abnormal interaction that I had with Spirit. I was hiding it as best as I could,
but the suspicion remained that my connection with Spirit was not God at work.
A couple of weeks before Christmas, my parents’ bedroom accidently caught fire. My
brother and I played firemen and managed to limit the damage by containing the fire to the
bedroom, but everything was pitch black from the smoke, especially the spider webs in the
forgotten corners. My mom was quite embarrassed about that, and promptly hauled out the
feather duster to flick them away in case visitors arrived.
On the Sunday afternoon, a week after the fire incident, a small tornado hit our town. I
watched the trees bending and the branches breaking by the strength of the wind. There was
a large fifty-foot cypress right in front of the house that was whiplashing to and fro until it
was uprooted and fell down right in front of the window where I was standing.
The wind toppled several trees and destroyed many roofs in the town. After it died down,
everybody drove around, checking out and discussing the damage. When people stopped at
our house I invited them in with, “Welcome to the Van Wyk Disaster Zone. Would you like to
see a) an uprooted tree, or b) a charred bedroom?” I contemplated charging an entrance fee;
we were going to need a holiday after all of this.
Another big electric storm followed a few days later, and we had the feeling of being
in the grip of a huge outside force. What meaning could we derive from all of this
destruction? Suddenly I had empathy for the people in biblical times who attributed natural
disasters to God’s displeasure, instead of natural phenomena like El Ninos and shifting
tectonic plates. Have we displeased God? Hardly. But the thought must have crossed my
mom’s mind too, considering the possible evil forces at work through her daughter, because
she decided that we all should go to church for a change.
With the school term over, the topic at home turned again to what I would be doing next. The
school hadn’t found a permanent teacher but I wasn’t sure about wanting to continue with
teaching. I thought I’d used up all my capacity to discipline and it was somebody else's turn
to give it a try.
In the meantime I had made the decision not to get involved with Ernest’s new business
that he had built around the slideshow idea. I went to Pretoria during the school break for a
job interview and discovered that he was making an offer on a house in one of the most
expensive suburbs in Pretoria to use as business premises. This was to double-up as a place
for me and other people to live. He had bought hundreds-of-thousands of rands’ worth of
computer equipment on credit and had lined up people to train for the new business. And
who was supposed to be the front man for this new business – again? Moi. Not a chance. I
offered to train his new employees, but I would have no part of the business.
Ernest didn’t quite believe me, or rather, couldn’t afford to believe me. He had set up the
whole business, made all the plans, got all the contacts, and all of a sudden the key person
was not in the picture.
The situation seemed somewhat familiar and then I realised it was the trailer business all
over again – except that this time the shoe was on the other foot. Inadvertently, I had set up
a situation for the whole drama to be repeated. The one thing Ernest accused me of when he
fired me from the trailer business was that I used other people’s ideas for my own benefit – I
had none of my own. The irony is that history was repeating itself, but this time he was the
one to use my idea for his new business – and I killed it off.
I wasn’t so naive as to think that he understood this hidden ‘life lesson’ – that we were
supposed to see things from the other person’s point of view. In his desperate attempts to
make something work, Ernest didn’t want to, or couldn’t afford to see anyone else’s point of
view. If, for a second, he’d turned back and seen the wake of destruction following him, he
wouldn’t have been able to continue.
Out of the blue my job hunting came to an end. About six months earlier, my uncle Mike
had lobbied on my behalf for a position at a government agency with which he still had work-
related ties. Nothing came of it at that time, but they called again and suddenly I was in the
process of being employed.
There was one problem however, and it was a big one. I needed an impeccable record to
get a security clearance. Already my three-year hiatus had been difficult to explain, which
luckily my new would-be boss decided to ignore. The security clearance, on the other hand
would be a different kettle of fish. It is a long and involved process. The agency's security
vetting officers delve into one’s life so deeply that nothing can remain hidden. They interview
your family and people that know you, they check criminal records, credit records,
fingerprints, a polygraph, you name it.
I had been judged so often and for so long by the people I was closest to; did I now want
to allow a whole organisation to judge me? It wasn’t a case of deciding whether I could or
couldn’t do the job as employers are entitled to determine. It was never an issue; my
previous experience and abilities fitted the job perfectly. But now my life would be judged. It
felt as if I were being evaluated as a human being. Was I good enough to be working for this
In principle, I rejected other people's judgement of me and of my life, but that was an
intellectual process. On an emotional level, it was a different story. And I wasn't just being
oversensitive; I strongly suspected that in terms of their criteria I was going to come short.
I had to make a decision. Do I continue with this process? It would mean either opening
my life and everything I had been through during the past three years, or stopping the
process and saving everybody (especially my uncle Mike) the embarrassment if I were
refused a security clearance.
I didn’t have much of a choice. It was the only option on the table.
The final break with Ernest came because of the one legitimate client we had managed to
sell trailers to. Almost a year after the deal, the organisation decided that they had had
enough of waiting for their trailers, which had still not been delivered. Instead of a civil suit,
(which Ernest had anticipated and would’ve ignored in any case as he wasn’t the front man
of the business) they decided the deal was fraudulent. They even doubted that there had been
such a business in the first place. The first person on the list, because I was the owner and
the bank account signatory at the time of the deal, was me.
Ernest was again in Switzerland. I was desperate to speak to him, and managed to get
him on the phone, but he didn’t believe the urgency of it and thought it was only scare
mongering. Because of the discussions I’d had with the organisation, I knew differently. I
had to make some serious decisions and make them quickly. The ramifications of just a hint
of fraud in my life were enormous, and to top it all, I was expecting the vetting officer from
the government agency to arrive within a few days.
I was responsible for getting myself involved in this mess and it was up to me get myself
out of it. I had open and frank discussions with the client and explained exactly what had
happened (who did what and who said what) and I prepared an affidavit. Coupled with the
indemnity that Ernest signed and other supporting documentation, they believed me and
undertook to leave me out of any discussions and actions they planned taking in the future.
When Ernest finally understood how serious the situation was, and what I’d done, he
was livid and I think deeply hurt. He has serious issues with women betraying him, and what
I had done now was the ultimate betrayal. I understood that and I knew how much this
would hurt him, yet I didn’t see any other option. By that time I’d known Ernest long enough
to understand how he operated: he’d always pick a person to front his business interests –
the shareholding, the bank accounts, signature on contracts and so on. I suppose in a way it
was necessary because of his inability to do those things himself because of his criminal
record, but I think, in the process, he discovered that it gave him the freedom to do what he
wanted without being accountable to anyone. If he couldn’t meet his financial commitments,
or if he conducted some underhand dealings, he could simply walk away and leave his front
person holding the can. To me, the whole mess was Ernest's responsibility and for once he
needed to face the consequences. Even if I had money to repay the client, I wouldn’t have
done it. He had created the predicament and he needed to fix it. As the person in front, I
simply stepped out of the way.
No matter how much I loved him, I would not sacrifice myself, my life, and those who
loved me, for him or anyone else. Love doesn’t require self-sacrifice and self-destruction to
Ernest was adamant that he did nothing wrong. As far as Ernest was concerned, the
payment for the trailers went into his (forget about me, for the moment) business funds and
he could do as he damn well pleased with it. Nobody could tell him how to run his own
business accounts. And perhaps he was technically correct, but he simply couldn’t see that if
he used a client’s payments for purposes other than it was intended, the client would take a
dim view if the product wasn’t delivered.
During Ernest’s time in prison, I discussed his case (which strongly resembled the
current situation) with his advocate. I wanted to know if it made any sense appealing his
conviction. The advocate sketched the following scenario. If you have ten people watching an
accident, you get ten versions of what actually happened – it depends on the perspective and
the interpretation of the event. It could be that the high court would have a different
interpretation, and could overturn the verdict. Anything was possible.
I thought that Ernest still believed he had done nothing wrong. But I also thought he
made his legal defence his own truth.
The security clearance process started. Right from the start I decided to be open and
transparent about my world and what I had done during the previous three years. Even if I
tried to hide it, someone, somewhere was going to refer to Ernest and I wasn’t prepared to
phone everyone to be interviewed and ask them not to say speak about him. And besides, the
people I know and who had always been close to me didn’t function that way. I decided not
to discuss the more spiritual aspects of my life – my relationship with God and Spirit was
mine and had nothing to do with my prospective employers or their security requirements. I
didn’t anticipate that God or my teachers would require me to sell state secrets!
Even though the employment process might amount to nothing, a part of me was
relieved and ready to let go of the secrecy and the embarrassment my life had become. It was
bound to be a cleansing process.
It started off reasonably enough. My vetting officer was a clear-thinking woman and she
couldn’t find any legitimate reason to deny me a security clearance. The fact that I was open
and disclosed the details made me even less of a risk; nobody would be able to blackmail me
with my ‘secret life’. The head of her department was less tolerant and my vetting officer was
sent back time and again to get one more little detail, to ask more questions until there was
nothing left to say. One of their concerns and reasons they refused to clear me was that I
refused to distance myself from Ernest. Even if he and I weren’t on speaking terms and I had
no idea if we would ever speak again, I refused to dismiss him as irrelevant past. That would
be dismissing my own past as irrelevant and unwanted. It had become a matter of principle
for me, and in addition, nobody on this planet earth was going to tell me who I was allowed
to have in my life and who not.
The other reasons for not clearing me had little to do with my past situation or with me.
The head of the department's husband was going through a very public trial and
consequently I seriously doubted her objectivity. One of the interesting things about being in
a situation where you are being judged by society at large is that you almost feel as if you
have to take a stand and become judgmental towards others, or people may think that you
have no values. If you become tolerant of other peoples' mistakes you may be seen as
somebody who doesn’t know right from wrong.
The department head was now starting to play the person and not the ball. Different
sources within the department told me that the security department had no grounds to deny
me the clearance, yet they weren’t clearing me, and probably hoped I’d go away and forget
about it. I was staying with my uncle and aunt in Pretoria and it was becoming a stressful
time for all of us. My uncle Mike told me one morning that, at the risk of sounding
pessimistic, perhaps I should consider looking out for something else. I considered it, but
then told him “It isn’t over until I say it’s over, and I'm not at that point yet.”
Long ago my teachers had taught me how to deal with obstacles. If you were a river or a
stream and big rocks appear right in front of you, it is pointless beating against them to make
them disappear. Eventually, maybe in a million years, you will have carved your way through
them, but there was an easier way. You simply move around it, and find a different angle to
To break the impasse, I started phoning the decision-makers in the department and
firmly pushed my way in and confronted them. “I believe that there are still doubts about my
security clearance. Could I make an appointment to come and see you so that we can discuss
the concerns you may still have?” They were quite shocked and flustered – what I proposed
was unheard of. That didn’t get me anywhere, so I decided on a different tactic. There was an
appeal process in place in the event of my security clearance being denied. I would be able to
lodge an appeal with the powers that be by progressively going three levels up. My plan was
to phone the office of the first big chief and inform them that there were problems with my
security clearance, which if denied, was going to end up on his desk anyway, so perhaps he
should investigate what the problems were?
My uncle Mike, who still had a lot of clout and knew all the chiefs, told me to leave it to
him. He phoned the first big chief’s office and explained the situation. He set up an
appointment, but also informed them that he was simultaneously making appointments with
the more senior chiefs. The next morning I got my security clearance and I started working
the following week.
Spitefully, my clearance had a caveat. Whilst on my first year of the standard probation
time, I should be watched for any involvement with Ernest, since I would be vulnerable in a
relationship with him. I was irritated but not too troubled. I would deal with it when the time
comes in the same way as I had dealt with the process so far – with honesty and
Two years later I came face to face with the same spiteful department head in a chance
meeting on the same day that her husband who had been convicted heard his sentence, and
the newspaper headlines proclaimed his guilt on every second street pole. We shook hands,
and looked at each other, remembering the time when I was judged because of the
association with the man that I loved who had a criminal record. (Isn't it funny how the
wheel turns? Almost as if your harshest judgements curl back on you, and you become the
one being judged.) I got some pleasure from the situation, but I also remembered how
painful it was, and thought how much she must be suffering while pretending that everything
was normal and okay. There was a loss of innocence and a shame acquired through no fault
of her own. I hoped she could see in my eyes the compassion I felt for her, because there was
nothing to say, really.
Old self, new self
Just before I started working in Pretoria, my parents and I had a discussion about the
destructiveness of my process, which by then was a recurring theme. My mom was still
waiting for an acknowledgement from me that my decisions were delusional, and an apology
for everything I put them through the previous three and a half years. But I had no intention
of saying, I'm sorry, I was wrong all this time, although I felt enormous regret for their
suffering as a consequence of the process I was going through. Still, a part of me felt that they
had brought about their suffering themselves. In their unwillingness to believe me, they
excluded themselves from an extraordinary experience. It was their insistence in believing
that I was evil or insane that caused them to suffer, not me. I knew it was not as simplistic as
that, but I had to deal with my own hurt and disappointments because of their judgment.
At the time of the discussion, I was irritated and in no mood to listen to any of the
mental-breakdown or evil-stories again. So I made it very clear, “No more talk of my being
mentally ill or of having a nervous breakdown. We're all in agreement by now that there is
nothing wrong with my brain or my ability to function normally. And I’m not evil. Have you
ever come across an evil person?” I asked my mom. She admitted that she had not. “So on
what basis do you find that I'm filled with evil? What in me is evil?” She didn’t have an
answer to that. “So, okay, if I'm not insane and I'm not evil, then what have I been doing
these past three-and-a-half years? Could the possibility actually exist that I have been telling
I was tired of trying to explain the process and tired of taking the responsibility for a
divine plan that as the ‘human’ Sonja, I felt I had no part in designing. “You know what, if
you have a problem with these last few years and my process, then you take it up with God.
You tell the boss that you're unhappy with the way he made you suffer.” I knew I was being
unfair calling in the big guns, but my irritation levels knew no bounds.
Getting all worked up again was getting us nowhere, so I tried a different approach. “The
process is very similar to what Job in the Bible went through. There was a divine wager going
on between God and the devil. Job, who was completely ignorant of that little fact, was put
through a painful process of having his trust in God tested. Everything he had was taken
away. His friends had plenty of well-meaning advice and opinions on how he could perhaps
have displeased God. But Job knew that this process was between him and God. He didn’t
quite understand it, but there it was. Not that he was taking his suffering stoically and
uncomplainingly – he had his own fights with God and what God was putting him through.”
My dad had a question, “What was our role in this whole story then?”
“Somebody had to feed Job while he was sitting in the ashes with sores on his face,” I
said somewhat facetiously, not altogether untruthfully.
My mom had a problem with my analogy. “You don’t even believe in the Bible, but when
it suits you, you liken yourself to Job. It’s a bit arrogant, I think.”
Perhaps, but I thought that my analogy of Job, despite my mom's objections, was quite
apt. Not that I was particularly ‘righteous’ or that important, but Job’s story tells of a man’s
suffering and being clueless as to the reasons for it. It is also the story of a relationship
between a man and God that was built on trust, and a space between a human being and God
where no one else can go.
But for me, more importantly, Job tells the story of the death of the old self, and the re-
birth of the new. It’s a process that is often referred to in terms of three days – the day of
death and the day of the rebirth or resurrection on the third. Nobody, however, ever talks
about the second day. But being ‘dead’ or in limbo is pretty excruciating.
Imagine three years of your life during most of which you had no idea about what you
were doing, where it was leading, and what the end result would be. Imagine that during
most of that time you didn’t know where you would be the following week, or even the
following year. Imagine that for a great part of those three years you had no money and your
efforts to earn some turned to nothing. Imagine that for most of that time you are dependent
on other people to feed you and clothe you, and provide you with a home.
Elana told me I was one of the most patient people she had come across. I had no choice
but to become patient. At some point I gave up trying to ram my head against a brick wall, I
stopped complaining, and surrendered to the fact that I was exactly where I needed to be.
The second day – the process – takes as long as it needs to.
For me, it took that long to clean up outdated thoughts, beliefs and patterns – those that
didn’t serve me anymore. Life as we know it is full of rules and regulations, some written,
and some based on ‘this is how we do things’, dictated by our family, our society, our
religions, and our government. Every time I allowed someone to tell me what choices to
make, I relinquished my own responsibility for my life, and gave away my power.
To help me move into full ownership of my life, all the certainties and structures that
provided those certainties, were taken away or shifted, so my dependency on external
answers were shaken. I had to go within to find my own wisdom and guidance, and in the
process discover my own truth. I am ultimately responsible for my own life, my own choices.
I have to confront the consequences of the decisions I made and will continue to make. There
is always accountability, and mostly to myself.
It would take as long as it needed for me to heal old hurts and find forgiveness for myself
and for others; it would take time to shine a light on all the creepy crawlies and force them to
disintegrate and disappear.
Before we can get to the new self we have to dismantle and destroy the old. If it’s not
destroyed, it is not truly a new self, just a renovated one.
And that is why it was so destructive, Mom.
The ‘second day’ left me with a brand new awareness of who I was, and slowly, and a
little hesitantly, I started integrating my new self into my life.
The Third Day
A different perspective
My family heaved a great sigh of relief when at long last I was ensconced in a job and in my
own place in Pretoria. I started working for a small government department. My new boss
and most of my colleagues knew my uncle who recommended me for the position. They
helped me to settle in and provided me with a comforting space. The job wasn’t too
demanding, and I had time on my hands – to think, to mull over what the past few years
“You travel light,” said my friend Chris one evening, removing a small overnight bag
from the boot of my car. I had to smile, because it was so true. I was starting from scratch in
a literal sense. Thanks to the goodwill of family and friends, at least I had some decent
clothes, and my basic needs had always been met. But I owned nothing and I was
surprisingly okay with it. My teachers told me they wouldn’t let me sink, and despite my
fears and misgivings, I somehow survived. I can’t say that I was necessarily happy or content,
or that I didn’t feel profoundly embarrassed at times when I had to stand with cupped hands.
But because of all the help I had I never went down so deeply that I was unable to recover.
More significantly for me, was the discovery that my ego had all but disappeared. I was
stripped of any pretentions and so-called ‘false pride’, which in itself I suppose wasn’t a bad
thing. Yet, when I compared my life then with who I was previously and where I had come
from, I couldn’t help but feel a profound loss.
In my past life, I had a good career, a close relationship with my parents, my uncles and
aunts and cousins and I knew where I fitted in. I had a circle of friends based on mutual
interests and shared experiences. I had a life. I had certain roles to play by which I defined
myself and how others perceived me. It was gone now, and I was in mourning.
Yet, despite the emptiness, I was in no mood to start rebuilding what I had lost. I was
tired down to the depths of my being. Now that all the drama and the sheer survival struggles
were over, I discovered that the process had taken quite a toll. There was also a deep hurt left
after the dramatic events with Ernest and the confrontations with the people I loved.
Those involved on the periphery of my process were still waiting for answers, and I
didn’t know what tell them. Now that I was back at work, and nothing to show for it, what
was it all about? I didn’t know. I understood the bit about the old self, new self, but I hadn’t
yet discovered what the ‘new’ was. All I knew at that stage was that I was extremely relieved
and grateful that I had a job again and my life had reverted to a semblance of normality.
Before rebuilding my life, I first needed to let go of the baggage of the past few years – all
the anger, the frustration, the feelings of loss, the hurt, the disappointment. I needed to work
through all those emotions with the hope of gaining some perspective and discovering some
I was enormously relieved that a continued friendship with Ernest had been outlawed
because of the caveat on my security clearance. It offered me protection against his
continuous demands for help and assistance, which he had a knack of manipulating out of
me. I needed to move out of his life and the inevitable crises. He had an endless capacity for
attracting shit that I didn’t have, and I just couldn't see how his problems could be resolved
anytime soon. In fact, I thought they’d probably get far worse before they got better. To put
my life back together again, I had to set aside the love and worry that I still felt, and pretend
that I didn’t care.
I was mulling over the idea of forgiveness, and wondered if I should forgive Ernest. He
hurt me, he used me, and almost destroyed my name and reputation in the process. Yet, I
had to ask myself the question: what is there to forgive? I couldn’t dismiss my part in the
whole debacle. I made the decision to become as involved as I did, I could’ve made several
different choices along the way, but I didn’t. I had a good idea of why he operated the way he
did and what informed his decisions, and that he did the best he could within the limitations
of his own understanding at any given point. As my mother always says, “We walk by the
light that we have.”
Also, I gained extraordinary insight into aspects of life which otherwise I wouldn’t have
been able to develop.
I still had to deal with the remaining fall-out and the hurts that had to heal, but there
was really nothing to forgive. Staying angry and playing the blame game would just turn me
into a victim, and I had no intention of becoming one. It would just diminish an
extraordinary experience. How he dealt with his feelings of betrayal was his problem, but I
wasn’t going to take responsibility for them.
By sifting through the events of the past few years, I tried to make sense of the right or
wrong questions I had to confront. Did I lose my moral compass along the way? I was still
struggling with the idea that I ought to let go of any judgment. But if I didn’t judge, did that
mean I didn’t know what was right and what was wrong? Did it mean I had to accept that
everything was right and fine even if I could see it was clearly not? Did I have to allow
someone to destroy my life?
During the time I spent with Ernest, I discovered something in particular that I didn’t
understand. Ernest is one of the most connected-to-Spirit people I know. I’m not referring to
his being a devout Christian, I’m saying the separation between him and his higher-self or
Spirit is very, very thin. On several occasions I would have a conversation with my teachers,
and the next day or so, Ernest would repeat what my teachers had said, sometimes verbatim,
to the point of it becoming freaky.
The connection intrigued me, but even more it confused me. How could somebody so
connected to Spirit do such stupid and ill-advised things?
If he is so connected, and I know this from my own experience with the teachers, it is
very easy to steer a situation in a new direction with a simple thought or a hint of awareness.
So why is Ernest being allowed, perhaps even assisted in doing the things he does? I’d have
thought the whole purpose of being on earth was to become more perfect in love, more
loving, more holy if you will. Is this not what we are all supposed to strive towards?
As it turned out, no.
I was very confused, and clarity didn’t come for some time. To understand this, I had to
throw out a whole paradigm and start from scratch. I discovered that the spirit perspective is
radically different from my human understanding of things.
Imagine that God-Spirit is a white light – the sum of everything that is – which projects
through a prism and breaks up into all the colours we know – from violet to blue, all across
green, orange right through to red. God opens and spreads in a range of creative potential,
and we get to play across the spectrum. The violet is not better than red, the yellow is not
favoured and the blue is not damned. All the colours are equally there, all equally accessible
to us. In fact, the different colours are all necessary.
While painting my newly rented townhouse, I reflected on the different colours it was
possible for me to choose. It wasn’t that the one colour was better or uglier than the next.
Another colour would have just given a different feel to the place. For the life of me I couldn’t
imagine anybody wanting to paint their walls a puce, mustardy-yellow colour, or even black,
but then, if some people like that – they have to live between those walls. And I suppose
people having different tastes in colour is not the paint company's problem – it does its best
to give everybody a choice. Fundamentally, it’s about choice.
There is no absolute wrong colour or absolute right colour. The same goes for our
choices. Every choice brings its own consequences, and a combination of choices creates its
own life painting. It’s all about what I want my painting to look like. The same goes for
everyone else. This is essentially being non-judgmental. Someone else's choices are not
better or worse, good or bad. You are perfectly allowed to make your choices, and I have the
right to make mine, and we both have to deal with the consequences of those decisions.
My job and responsibility, and this goes for Ernest and everyone else, is to sift through
the options. We have to anticipate and calculate if our choices are going to bring us what we
want, and how it would affect other people and the world around us. The ability to discern
and differentiate is not the same thing as judgment.
Judgment means setting myself up as morally superior. I know what is wrong and right,
or worse; my way (or my colour) is the one God favours and you are out of the loop. By being
judgemental, I create shame and embarrassment in you for not being right, or good or
From a spirit perspective, different lifetimes provide unique opportunities to experience
all the colours. That is ultimately the whole purpose of it all – to develop insight and
perspective into everything that is God-Spirit – even those experiences we consider bad,
wrong and ugly. It reminded me of the advocate’s analogy of watching a scene of an accident
– we take turns standing at different vantage points, and in the process develop a full and
complete understanding of the event.
At some stage, an individual soul has so much experience across the range that it
becomes inevitable for the colours to start merging and blending and combining again. We’ll
understand and remember the white light while in a physical body on earth. That is the
whole idea of enlightenment. And once this idea is understood, our judgment of others and
the colours they choose to experience, need to go. All the colours are necessary, not only the
colours that we might consider to be Godly or higher-minded or spiritual. In fact, to fully
understand the white light, we have to resonate with all colours – we have to be in it, own it,
and fully immerse ourselves in each and every colour and the experience and perspective it
Okay. I understood the non-judgment part. I am not allowed to judge. Do I leave it to
God then? Because surely we cannot do what we like and expect no repercussions?
Within the freedom of choice there is a built-in accountability. We are accountable to
others and to God, but mostly to ourselves. There are only so many dramas and problems
and pain we can create for ourselves before we take a hard look at our choices, and decide
that we have to start doing things differently. At some point, in this lifetime or after we die,
we will come face to face with the consequences of the choices that we made, and we cannot
escape that. We cannot even pray it away.
But we need to let go of the ideas of judgment and punishment as there are none of those
when we return home after a lifetime on earth. Instead, there is an assessment process, and
full, brutal understanding of the consequences of our choices. We will understand the full
scope of the joy and love we brought to others, and we will understand the full scope of the
pain that we caused for ourselves and others. We will feel it, we will experience it, we will
This realisation invokes a pain so deep and excruciating within ourselves that it is simply
beyond our human understanding. We will be filled with a great fundamental need to make
things right; to clean up the mess we made; to alleviate the pain and suffering we caused.
And we will be given the opportunity to do so.
There is no need for a judge outside of us. There is no need to inflict any punishment; we
will take care of it ourselves.
Ernest was my guide into some of the colours I needed to remember. There were some
colours I wouldn’t have entertained in this lifetime if it hadn’t been for him – mostly because
of the circumstances of my birth, my upbringing and the way that I made decisions about my
life. If the objective was to prepare me for enlightenment I needed those experiences; I
needed the insight and the new perspectives. How could I be anything but profoundly
But that was the spiritual perspective. What bothered me most from a more down-to-
earth human perspective, was that getting involved with Ernest showed such bad judgement,
or discernment, on my part. And I’m normally quite a good judge of character. That mistake
spilled over into my whole process; it had the potential to sour everything for me. If one of
the most significant relationships I could form during this process was with a man devoid of
any sense of accountability, weren’t all my decisions clouded? I felt extreme conflict between
my normal functioning perspective – the way I had always lived my life – and this new
supposedly spiritual perspective.
I knew I was not the only person on this planet who made bad choices, especially when it
came to men, but I expected more from myself. I wasn’t perfect, but I used to trust my own
judgement. Now I came face to face with more of my own imperfections.
After serious soul searching, I realised I had bought into the expectation that I needed to
be perfect, yet does perfection even exist? If it does, what is perfection? Come to think of it,
your idea and my idea of perfect beauty will differ, so will our ideas about the perfect job, the
perfect love, the perfect life. So what is absolute perfection? Who defined it? Yet,
unconsciously I had placed a tremendous burden on myself to be just that – perfect, and I
was left with deep-seated feelings of inadequacy and disappointment in myself.
My human perspective versus the spirit perspective continued to seesaw in my mind,
until I finally came to a solution: I made peace with my own failings, I accepted the different
colours in me, and I let go of the need to criticise or judge any of them.
I am a kind person. I can also be a mean bitch. So which one am I? Actually, I'm both.
I'm not always nice, I'm not always fair, and I’m not always loving. Different people bring out
different aspects in me as there is a whole range of emotions and behaviours (or colours) in
me, all living side by side. I like being the kind person better and I try to find her inside me,
but I've made peace with the mean bitch who will emerge when a situation triggers her. If I
can make peace with the fact that I’m not perfect and will never be, then strangely enough, I
can make peace with other people who are also imperfect.
A softness develops and grows when I don’t judge myself. When I treat myself a little
more kindly, and when I accept the mistakes or the wrong things I say and do, then that
same softness, a loving kindness, seems to extend to others of its own accord. Today I look at
myself and own the wrong things and the hurt I caused myself and other people. Tomorrow
is another day; tomorrow I'll do a little better.
I’m a creator?
Elana and I shared a town house in the eastern part of the city, not too far from where I
worked. Her engagement had ended in the meantime, and her daughters had finished school
and started their own lives. She left Port Elizabeth to pursue a new life and other options in
Pretoria, and soon found a new circle of friends. She seldom spent time at home, which left
me alone in a self-imposed isolation.
I wasn’t really interested in pursuing a new social life and to Elana’s great despair, took
up knitting instead. “You look like an old spinster sitting here on your own every night. All
you need is a cat!” I was unperturbed. It kept me busy and out of any new dramas and the
necessity of talking to people. Knitting was an old passion, and something I hadn’t done for
years. It wasn’t that I was very good at it, but I liked to see how the colours and textures of
the wool combined, and I would knit and knit, without a pattern, sometimes not even
bothering to sew up the garment. I did want a cat though (even if it would have perfected the
image Elana was so disparaging about) but I wasn’t allowed to. My town house complex had
strict rules about bringing in new cats.
It worked out well enough about a year later, just after Elana moved out and on with her
life. I was watching television and knitting – it must have been my twenty-fifth jersey – and
saw an advertisement for cat food featuring a pretty striped cat. With a heartfelt wish I
thought to myself, “I’d love to have a cat just like that” and forgot about it. About a week
later, sitting in my usual spot with my knitting, I heard a soft meow, and looked up to
discover a cat in my lounge. It was similar to the one I’d seen on television, and it was shyly
rubbing its little body against a chair. The cat visited me regularly for a few evenings. I
thought she (I checked) might be hungry, so I bought a little packet of cat food, then a bigger
bag, and pretty soon she had moved in. I asked around, but nobody knew where she came
from, so I simply kept her. And since I couldn’t be blamed for bringing in the new cat, she
was allowed to stay. Nobody in my complex was heartless enough to insist I put her out. I
named her Luna as her white and silvery stripes reminded me of the moon. I got the cat I
wanted, albeit in a sneaky way, and Elana’s picture was complete.
The cat incident enforced a growing suspicion that I was witnessing a new, still
undefined, ability to create what I want. It started with small things, nothing earth
shattering, and nothing life changing, but nonetheless noticeable.
I needed to replace the windscreen of my car, and I wondered where to go for the
cheapest price and the least effort. While waiting at a red robot, someone knocked on my
window and handed me a pamphlet with the details of a windscreen company offering very
reasonable rates, and even did the job on site.
There were many such examples.
I have never believed in coincidences; there had to be some a Higher Force with enough
intelligence to bring about a result from apparent random events. But now I began
considering whether those ‘coincidences’ had something to do with me. After some
consideration, I found I could trace all these clever random occurrences back to thoughts I
had, sometimes consciously and sometimes not. Perhaps I wanted something (like the cat),
or I needed information, like the windscreen company. It wasn’t necessarily something that I
fretted over or tried to force. I just had the thought or the desire, and it happened easily and
Sometimes it worked even more subtly.
In my efforts to decorate my home a little, I bought a few scatter cushions in shades of
peach and salmon from a shop specialising in mohair products. About six months later, my
mom gave me two paintings for my new home, and I decided on a few more scatter cushions
in similar shades. As I walked into the mohair shop, the shop assistant said, “How much of a
coincidence is this? Just yesterday I decided to sort out the cushion covers by colour, and I
thought of you as I stacked the peach-coloured ones, and here you are.”
Then the idea occurred: if this was the case with results I liked and enjoyed what about
results I didn’t like? Could the unpleasant or unwanted events be traced back to me as well,
even if I didn’t deliberately set out to create them? It was an unsettling thought.
One specific problem kept me preoccupied. In the previous four years thieves stole from
me about ten times. It happened in Port Elizabeth, it happened in Prieska, and now in
Pretoria. If it were only once or twice I could still attribute it to arbitrary events (South Africa
has a bit of a crime problem) but when it happened to me so often and so regularly, I had to
look within myself and check what I was thinking that made the thefts possible.
As I saw it, there were two options. I didn’t have proper boundaries in place, and this
sent out the vibe that ‘my stuff is your stuff so help yourself’. But the problem went deeper
than that. I realised that I had put no boundaries in place where Ernest was concerned, and I
realised that I had no boundaries in place with Elana either. In sharing a house with her, I
allowed her to live all over my space. I discovered I found it difficult to draw the line, to
square off my little space where no one else was allowed without an invitation. Perhaps it
had something to do with all the barriers my teachers and I worked at so hard to destroy.
Then there was fear. As my world disintegrated around me during the previous few years
I was stripped of almost everything. As my resources went, and my belongings disappeared,
the fear of losing everything kept growing until it became a constant hum accompanying me
wherever I went. Despite rebuilding my life and my resources, I still had that fear of losing
everything. It was taking me much longer than I thought to believe that I was safe, and that
there would be no more upheavals in my life. I hadn’t yet let go of that fear, and my thoughts
still focused on the loss of my belongings. This fear continued creating its own reality. In the
end I simply made the decision to disconnect from that fear. Actually, just discovering and
owning what I was afraid of made all the difference.
So how far did this creative ability stretch? And now that I was aware of it, how do I do it
consciously and deliberately? I mean, I know the theory, but how do I apply it to create life-
changing events, you know, the big stuff? Truth be told, it wasn’t so much that I was not able
to create anything, I didn’t know what to create. That seemed to me my biggest problem.
Whenever I tried to think about what I would do next, I hit a blank, or worse, a dreaded
ambivalence. So the first step in my creative process, deciding what I wanted, was missing.
I discovered that timing played its own sweet part when it came to deciding what I
wanted. But I was about to discover that in the soul business the timing was not mine. When
the time was right the ideas of what to do and where to go flowed easily and simply into my
everyday conscious mind. Until then, waiting and patience was the name of the game.
Good-bye teachers, hello soul
Besides coming to grips with the previous few years, I had a feeling that I wasn’t quite done
with my process. I wasn’t sure why I felt that way, and I had no plans to go anywhere soon,
but the idea lingered.
My teachers were of no help. In fact, their playing an active role in my life had gradually
been diminishing. In my determination to regain control of my life, and because my world
had become quite uneventful, I had less need for the advice and opinions my teachers
offered. And now that I’d settled down again, I wasn’t so keen on asking anymore as a small
part of me was apprehensive that I might receive new instructions that would upset my life
all over again. I’ve had more than enough of wild schemes; I was still recovering from the
Instead, I developed an increasing compulsion to look for answers and insight in myself.
I didn’t find the idea daunting or strange in any way, perhaps because my teachers had often
encouraged me in that direction. At the same time, though, something else, something
different, was happening. There was a new and distinct higher consciousness that was
invading my normal thought processes and day-to-day functioning.
The first inkling of what this new phenomenon meant was about the way I dealt with
time – simple clock-time. I noticed I was unconsciously being steered to manage my time
perfectly. I had a growing suspicion that I was in the grip, or under the control, of some
higher force or intelligence. This ‘control’ was a novel experience because never in all the
years that I worked with the teachers did I have the feeling that I wasn’t my own person.
Even when they asked me to set out on a strange or unattractive course of action, I never felt
that I was being controlled by an outside force. I could argue or resist, and even if I
invariably gave in, it wasn’t for the lack of choice. It was because I trusted them,
My insight into situations and people grew, and I was beginning to realise that I had
access to anything I wanted to know. I had a question and the answer materialised.
Previously, I had to go into my meditation space to get what I was receiving now in the
normal course of events.
As intriguing as this new experience was, I resisted it at first. I had just settled into a
safe, secure emotional space and frankly, I was not about to give it up again. Gradually I
became used to the idea, but I only accepted it because it seemed to work in tandem with me,
and not against me.
The problem I had faced in the past was that the Spirit-perspective and the human-
perspective were very different, and I had to switch between the two. Whenever I observed
something, or wanted to form an opinion, I had to entertain both, and I found it difficult to
express myself. Two streams of consciousness bumped and bounced into each other and it
was quite challenging and tiresome to manage.
Now as I slowly became aware of this new higher consciousness finding its way into my
life, the two perspectives started merging. It was a slow and gradual process, and with good
reason as it wasn’t easy.
It wasn’t something that I was consciously in charge of. It happened on its own, or
rather, it was sort of orchestrated by a higher-intelligence. It created a tremendous strain on
my body and my brain. It often felt as if I was vibrating to two different frequencies, or two
different pictures that were fusing, and during the process it created an incredible
dissonance or white noise, which I found extremely stressful and uncomfortable.
There were days when I didn’t know whether I was coming or going. I had conversations,
pitched up for work, but I wasn’t really present. I was in my body, but in an altered state at
the same time. Sometimes I felt as if my mind was fracturing, and for the first time I
wondered if in fact I was losing my mind, but as soon as a hint of panic started, I would shift
back into my normal state of reality. It became very clear that this process was managed by
an intelligence so connected to me it immediately knew how far I could be pushed, or when it
became unbearably stressful. As the integration process continued I finally understood. I was
merging with my own soul-consciousness. It was not an outside force or intelligence, but the
essence of who I really was and always have been. This new self that I was discovering was in
fact my eternal self. How awesome was that?
I had previously struggled with the question of who was in charge of my life, and it had
been confusing to differentiate between my agenda, my teachers’ agenda, my soul’s agenda,
or God’s plan. Who was calling the shots? Whose pawn was I? Whose tune was I dancing to?
It turned out that the answer was surprisingly simple. It was all about the soul, the
higher-self. Replace all the words such as ‘God’s will’ and ‘God’s plan’ with the ‘soul’s will’,
and the ‘soul’s plan’, and we move closer to the truth.
How to make sense of it? Well, that’s a different story – one that will probably keep me
busy for the next few years.
I still sense the teachers, but it’s different now. They form part of a bigger and wider
connection with Spirit. I have access to the wisdom and guidance I received from them in the
past, but there is no longer an observable separation between us.
I had to ask myself a very brutal and profound question. Were they ever really separate
beings – the ones I called teachers – or was it my higher-self that differentiated itself into
different illusionary personas?
In hindsight, if it were my higher-self, I could see why the different ‘spirit-teacher’
personas might have been necessary. If in the beginning with my limited understanding, I’d
thought that it was me (or even a part of me) who was in charge of the process, I would
vehemently have resisted the situation. As a human I would never have made the choices
that created such trouble and painful upheaval. I simply didn’t function that way. It was only
through the trust I had in my external guides or teachers that I overcame my natural
resistance. Only because of that trust could I move into a higher place of understanding and
insight. If I had thought it was my doing, I simply would not, or could not have accepted the
The big surprise was that by trusting my teachers, be they separate beings or not, I was
guided straight back to myself, or Myself, in the end.
I had to settle for my favourite way of dealing with God and Spirit. When I ask if it’s this
way or that way, then the answer is invariably both, and then some. There were teachers and
the higher self, and a part that I probably still didn’t understand.
My concept of God has changed radically over the years. When I was surrounded by the
unfamiliarity of a strange culture, during my time in Taiwan, and without people who spoke
my God-language, I made a deliberate decision to wipe my spiritual slate clean. I thought I’d
let go of old ideas about life and God and start afresh. I didn’t know who (or what) God was,
or how he or she or it functioned. All I knew from experience was that some sort of a higher-
intelligence was interacting with me and was involved in my life.
Letting go of my childhood-God and father figure that my religion provided, opened up
the door to explore God in a new way. Instead of the fear I anticipated, I felt an incredible
freedom. The connection and awareness of ‘God’ was still there; in fact, it became stronger
the more I focused on exploring what it meant.
Underlying all my interaction with my Spirit-teachers, was the knowledge and awareness
that they were part of something bigger. They were part of the interaction and connection
with the Source of all things, but this Source was not the super being I would have
anticipated him or her to be. Instead of a judge or a father, I discovered that beyond our
physical reality lies a vast, rich and complicated system, made up of infinite dimensions and
experiences, and simply too big for my human brain to process and box into words and
explanations. For my own understanding, I think of this ‘God system’ as concentric rings,
with us in our physical bodies as ice cubes on the outskirts, and when out of our bodies,
slowly moving inwards through water and then steam until we reach the deepest and purest
core, or Source. By then, there is no form, no substance, simply the purest of energy, or fire if
We are always part of the God-system. We are all manifestations of the same underlying
nature or principles. Like a hologram, we reflect the infinite perspectives of divine love and
creative potential. If we want to, we can allow ourselves to ‘melt’ a little like ice cubes and
discover who we really are.
But this I know, as difficult as it is to explain, so easy it is to make the connection to that
which is outside our human bodies. It is just a thought away.
We look at earth and the infinite universe, the star and planets light years away, and
sometimes we think God in his heaven is beyond all that we can see, and that is really, really
far. But in fact, God-Spirit is a dimension away. There is a little ‘black hole’ in our personal
space that opens directly into the divine realms. This portal is provided by our own souls,
and it is directly linked to our heart spaces. The more open and loving our heart spaces are,
the wider the portal opens.
As I moved deeper into the spirit dimensions, I discovered a vast, super intelligent, all
knowing, loving Presence. No beginning, no end. But I also discovered the constraints of my
own physical reality. The deeper I moved into the divine realms, the less my body could
process and hold the energy of that divine space. It literally felt as if my body was breaking
apart. It was as if my little ice cube was encountering the most intense heat, and there could
not be a prolonged contact or I’d simply melt completely. It took months and months of
practice for my body to process the faster and higher energies that enabled me to continue
with the journey beyond. Finally, I was able to connect directly with Source.
As impersonal as this all sounds, it is anything but. There is a part of this God-system,
this Presence, the Source, and the Guidance (which I’d come to realise includes my own
higher self) that individuates just for me, as it does for anybody else. I visualise it as beam of
light streaming from the most inner core through all the multi-dimensional concentric rings
until it reaches me and envelops me. It’s a special and divine channel – designed for each of
us individually. For me, the only difficulty (as stupid as this may sound) is what to call the
God-system in my prayers. ‘Dear Lord’ doesn’t work so well anymore because I no longer
think of God as the Big Guy and ‘Hey you’ seems a bit disrespectful. I guess God doesn’t
really mind what I call him or her or it, not having an ego as we humans do. And I believe
that ‘a rose by any other name is still a rose’.
But somehow this enlightenment business turned out to be quite different to what I had
imagined. I don’t want to minimise this extraordinary experience, but my version of it
doesn’t quite resemble the experiences of all those enlightened perfect sages that I read
about. I understand something of the God-Universe – at least that which is possible to
understand considering the capacity of the human brain (which isn’t all that much despite
our arrogance). But here’s the kicker – it’s a bit boring. Not boring in the sense that there is
nothing going on – there are infinite manifestations, but I think mostly the boredom comes
from the fact that beyond, in Spirit, there are no emotions. This was quite difficult for me to
understand, but emotions are essentially a human construct. If I want to stay in Spirit, it
means I need to let go of emotions, the highs and the lows. Love and joy is an innate Spirit
experience, but it is a state of being, it is not emotional. Being human, we translate those
states of being into feelings of love, compassion, happiness, joy and excitement. And we
recognise them only because we are familiar with the opposite – hate, heartlessness, sadness,
hurt, fear, anger.
I am still working from a human perspective, with a human need for all the emotional
dramas and interesting differences that make up what being human is all about. I’m not
ready – perhaps I’ll never be – for the perfect stillness and all knowing consciousness; that
is, the Whiteness before it splits into the earth colour spectrum. There is plenty of time for all
that when I leave this body and return home.
For now, I intend to navigate my way through life’s ups and downs consciously, and not
get caught up and dragged down by unnecessary dramas. At best, I want to maintain a kind
of equilibrium, and enjoy the best of life’s experiences offered to me as a human here on
earth. Perhaps the greatest gift to me has been this: a new perspective.
If you’d asked me say, ten years ago what ‘travelling light’ meant to me, I would probably
have said that I preferred not to accumulate too many possessions. It allowed me the
freedom to pack up and leave easily should I wish to go off somewhere in pursuit of a new
goal or dream. This hasn’t changed.
Also, I would have told you that I like relationships that can accommodate time and
distance, not the type that ties and binds. And it is still true to some extent. Despite
disappearing for a while from my old life and the lives of the people that loved me, (except
for some old connections like my parents and Chris and Unali who travelled the journey with
me) I was able to reconnect with them again. A little older, a little wiser, but there once more.
Yet, as I discovered, some of my greatest joy came from the relationships that involved me on
a deep and profound level – the type that demands, that ties down, that even hurts. I
developed my greatest insight and wisdom in those relationships.
I saw Ernst a couple of times during the past few years. Nothing has changed – another
big scheme, still no money and the usual hangers on. His appeal against his conviction and
sentence was not successful and he had to serve the remaining four months of his prison
sentence. This time I wasn’t involved and left it to the people in his life at the time to support
him. I was infinitely relieved as I couldn’t, I think, have gone through another round.
We never had heart-to-heart talks again, so I wasn’t able to gauge how much of the
magic-mirror splinters remained. Certainly, I didn’t rescue him from the Snow Queen’s
palace but I’ve since realised it was never my role. In time he will complete his own process,
and move out of his own second day when he is ready. Or not.
My parents and I have long since made peace. What I found amazing was that through
all the bitter fights and misunderstandings, the love we have as family and the love my
parents have for their daughter never waned. I discovered I was less afraid of speaking my
truth, because despite my fears that our family would not survive the ugliness, it somehow
did, and we managed to deal with many of our unresolved issues in the process. We have
developed a gentle tolerance for one another’s point of view and perspectives, something we
had thought impossible a few years earlier.
Towards the end of 2009, my dad who hadn’t been well for several years became
seriously ill. He’d become old and frail, and we watched him shrinking before our eyes. He
had his heart set on getting to seventy, which was in December of that year. We made plans
to celebrate his birthday with something really special, so we organised a weekend for my
brother and I, and all the other children that he and my mom had raised, to come for a visit.
After spending a week in hospital he was very weak and we nearly called it off. But my
mother pointed out that he was ‘not dead yet’, and he could rest as much as he wanted and
no one would mind. After a lifetime of dealing with his serious heart condition, we were all a
little irreverent – including my dad.
He managed to get to his seventieth birthday, and two days later died at home. My mom
and I spent those last few hours at his bedside, just being there for him whilst he struggled
with this age-old rite of passage. As emotionally prepared as he was for his death, he fought it
to end, and didn’t quite ‘go gently into that good night’. It was excruciatingly difficult to
witness, but in a strange way, I felt honoured and privileged to be part of the experience.
There was no more fitting way to show him how much I loved him, and how much I
appreciated his unconditional love for me. But the shocks were not over yet.
Two weeks later, my beloved uncle Mike also died unexpectedly. The two men in my life
who had supported me, worried on my behalf, carried me through really difficult times, were
both gone. I mourned deeply for them both.
The death of my dad brought the two different streams of belief head to head. It is one thing
to argue and disagree on the different religious and spiritual perspectives, it’s another when
someone you love very much dies and the question stares you in the face: what happened to
my dad now that he is dead? It was simply unthinkable that such a gentle and loving man
wouldn’t be welcomed home by God, even if his beliefs didn’t conform to a prescribed
religious path. My mom found peace knowing that ultimately, God was all about amazing
A month or two before my dad died, he wrote down some of his most profound ideas on
a piece of paper. I think he had a suspicion that the end of his life was finally at hand, and he
left us with these final thoughts:
‘The journey through life can be compared to a train journey. Contrary to what most
people think, it is a spiritual journey. The physical aspect is simply there to anchor the
soul, because the soul on its own cannot grow or learn lessons: the soul cannot
divorce, or be imprisoned, or go bankrupt. Along the way you stop at various stations
and pick up provisions – experiences, insights. When you get to the last station, you
get off the train and send it to the scrap yard. Then you take your little bundle of
provisions on your back, and you walk on to your destination – eternity.’
What a great gift to us, especially me.
I think the only challenge is not to pick up unnecessary baggage at each station, which is
so easy to do. Each difficult life experience leaves scars – hurt, anger, disillusionment. But
the trick is to leave those emotions behind and carry forward only the memory and meaning
derived from them. Leaving the baggage behind, or carrying it going forward, makes all the
Sometimes, a whole range of experiences and situations are set up in quick succession by
our own souls. It enables us to heal all our underlying little hurts and personal issues that we
had been hiding from but that are of no service to us anymore. This series of events is what I
have come to understand as ‘the process’. It is a crash course, so to speak.
All the experiences of the past few years were designed as part of a curriculum that
Spirit, my soul, deemed necessary – even when their ramifications were serious, as I needed
to gain a better understanding. Yet, there was always protection, a loving grace that
prevented the full consequences before a situation became irreversible. I wondered if there
was protection from God, and I got my answer.
It required of me, for a while, to suspend my own free will, to trust and surrender to a
process designed from a much higher and larger perspective to get me where I needed to go.
There was no way in hell I would’ve gone through the experiences of past few years if it were
my choice. Yet, ultimately it was my choice to stay in the process, kicking and screaming at
times, but allowing it to take me where it was needed. There were several occasions when I
nearly gave up. What stopped me was the question to myself ‘What then? How do I happily
continue with my life as if nothing had happened? How do I define my concept of God and
Spirit for the rest of my life?’ God has always been a fundamental part of me, and I was too
far gone in the process that would reveal the answers that I was searching for. I would always
have regretted not following the process through to the end.
The process had an unexpected conclusion by erasing the boundaries between my soul
and me. Gradually and gently I was shifted from my dependence on my teachers for wisdom
and guidance, to my own higher-wisdom and self-guidance.
I still have no idea what the rest of my life will be like, and what this all means, and it’s
okay. I have become comfortable living with uncertainty and taking one step at a time.
Looking back, for every event and insight and experience that I gained along the way, I
choose a coloured light that I associate with that experience. I string the lights into different
necklaces, and drape them around myself, from head to toe. If I catch a glimpse of myself in
the mirror with all the different-coloured lights switched on, I actually do resemble a
Christmas tree. And if I squint just so, allowing the coloured lights to blend and blur, they
seem to merge into a shimmering whiteness.
When I remove all the emotions, the dramas, and my ideas of suffering and pain, I am
left with a deep state of joy and love. It is a lightness of spirit that lifts up and expands. It
becomes an incandescent candyfloss, which envelops me and fills me up. I become
untouchable, simply floating through and above life’s everyday worries and challenges. It is a
special state of being; it is the pure essence of who I really am.
I’m travelling light.
This book started off in a completely different format. Because the subject matter is so weird
and far out, I wanted to position the information in a way that would be credible enough,
whilst divorcing the process of why and how I have come to these specific ideas completely
from the information. The insight I wanted to share had to stand alone, separate from me. It
didn’t turn out the way I anticipated as my experiences, as with everyone else, shaped my
perspectives and the insight I have gained.
After completing the manuscript, I was concerned how the publishing of my story
would affect the other role players. It is one thing for me to work up the courage to put
myself in the public domain, but did I have the right to expose everybody else to the same
scrutiny? Also, since this is ultimately my story and my perspective on the events, it might
not match some of the other people's interpretation and recall of what had happened.
Despite these concerns, I wanted to use the real names of the people involved. I
wanted everything in the story be authentic. My experiences might sound so fanciful that I
didn't want to add to the incredulity by using fake names. My mother didn't exactly have a
choice, because she would always be identified as such, but other people did, especially
Their reactions surprised me. I expected my own embarrassment about the events to
have rubbed off on other people, but somehow it didn't and all agreed to be named and
identified as themselves. Ernest read the manuscript and gave me the freedom to do what I
wanted, for which I'm infinitely grateful. My mother read the manuscript and penned down
her special response to my story:
“My reaction to reading this book is that God works in mysterious ways and ‘writes
straight on our crooked lines’. I deeply regret the misunderstandings and for being so
judgemental, but I also needed to understand it according to the norms by which I
live and govern my life.
I thank God for a love that surpasses all understanding and that He laid something
of that into our hearts – otherwise we might have destroyed a beautiful relationship
that had been built up for forty years.
My only wish is that when finally that White Light shines onto me, my life will act
as a prism to reflect the many colours that make up all of us and our experiences.
Thank you for making me aware of that Light. May God use you to illuminate His
Light on our world. I’m proud to have been part of your process and of being your
I'm eternally grateful to all the people who played their parts in my story, especially those
who opposed and disagreed with me because without them, it wouldn't have been much of a
story. And I never would have reached the level of understanding that I did. I also cannot
thank enough those people who supported and carried me through the difficult times, some
of whom I named in my book, but you all know who you are.
There were also new people that came into my life during the time that I was writing this
story and provided me with a brand new support system. Thank you Minda, Lorette, Kate,
Gerhard and Karen – you supported me, encouraged me and, in the case of the two
Ettiennes, you also made sure I had a great meal every night!
A big, heartfelt thank you to my great editor, Win Philips, who turned my sloppy writing
into decent sentences and whose advice was invaluable, even if I ignored it on occasion. For
any mistakes and awkward sentences I take full responsibility.
Finally, I thank all teachers - young and old; male and female; friend and adversary; past
and future; in life and in Spirit.
For more information about the author, please visit sonjavanwyk.com