An Open Letter to the OneSpirit class of 2022

Oct 27, 2020


To the OneSpirit class of 2022, you are about to embark on an amazing adventure – grab it with both hands and allow yourself to truly be open to the experience!

My journey began in October 2018, when I travelled deep into a forest on the English – Welsh border to commence a ministry training programme with OneSpirit. My wider reasons were a drive to become a better celebrant, to deepen my knowledge about world religions, and broaden my spiritual horizons.

I was due to meet two others who were travelling over on the same flight to commence the same training, and who I would share a hired car to travel to the first retreat at the Asha Centre, in Gloucestershire. My plan was to avoid them as long as possible, and to have wine to relax me at the airport.

However As I sat waiting for my flight from Dublin to England, I considered how in truth, I had no idea what I was letting myself in for. I had no real idea what OneSpirit really represented – was I joining a cult, or a sect? Was this all going to be too whacky for me? I had lost a sense of spirituality a long time ago.

Despite my decision to embark on the OneSpirit training, I had an overwhelming sense of being at the lowest ebb in my life, and I wasn’t sure what to do next. My deep sense of despair touched very aspect of my life that autumn – from family bereavement to relationship difficulties.

I had no idea that I was about to encounter a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. I met my future classmates as I exited the plane at the other side, and commenced what would be the first of a number of road trips we would do together.

In that initial retreat I met my new classmates and tutors who would form the pioneering online OneSpirit class of 2020, the first time OneSpirit had primarily delivered the training online through Zoom. I really liked the group of people I was setting out on this journey with, which was was unusual as I often don’t take to new people easily.

I was originally due to attend the residential training programme in Northern Ireland but I couldn’t make the initial retreat for that programme and transferred to the online programme. I quickly realised that I ended up on the online programme for a reason, that it was my path and my place, and that I was with the right group, the right classmates, and the right tutors.

Some aspect of the initial retreat really took me out of my comfort zone – however I was struck by how my fellow classmates opened up and shared, that every single one had a story, no one had escaped traumatic events, and that my trauma was to become key to the liberation journey. I was particularly struck by one of the concepts suggested – that you can only start living a truly fulfilled life after 40 – as we are not fully equipped with enough life experience until then. This was the exact stage of life I found myself in at 42 years of age.

My core tutor gave the insight that at the start of the first retreat in 2018, I had been like a closed flower, and that slowly and gradually I began to open up.

We would continue our OneSpirit training programme by zoom every Wednesday night for the next two years, with in-person retreats in the autumn and summer of each year. I did learn about the world’s religions, enhanced my knowledge on ceremony and how to be a better celebrant. But this training programme also gave me things I never in my wildest dreams expected. It gave me the opportunity to talk, to share, to cry to heal.

Another very important aspect of OneSpirit training is the forming of Study Groups. Myself and three other Irish based students formed my study group, beginning in December 2018. It was a watershed moment for me. From that moment on the floodgates opened and I spent the next two years sharing my story, opening up and getting to a place of being truly honest with myself.

Before we can be truly honest with others in our life we have to be truly honest with ourselves.

I had anticipated that these online connections could be an ordeal – yet they turned out to be my saving grace. I ended up really appreciating each training experience, to looking forward to Wednesday nights – they not only supported me at a time of deep trauma and sadness in my life, they gave me hope and tools for my future. Through the core class group, the study group and individual spiritual accompaniment, both giving and receiving gave me the opportunity to talk and to heal, to listen to others and and to learn.

Being raised as a Catholic in rural Ireland and being a gay man were never going to go hand in hand, and I lost all interest in religion and spirituality. The greatest thing that this training programme has given me is the ability to be honest with myself, which in turn gave me the tools to be honest with others, and most importantly of all the ability to acknowledge my life trauma to heal and recover. The two year training programme with OneSpirit is one of the best things I have ever done in my life.

The training programme also brought me closer to my brother and other relatives and friends who have passed on, I feel their presence around me in a much stronger way. I’m much more open now and that makes a big difference.

Eighteen months down the road and I’m at peace with myself and I have had great support from family and friends. They say in life you can count your real friends on one hand. I feel incredibly lucky that I can reach a second hand. In life we all have free will. It brings truth and honesty ultimately, time can be a great healer, and people often look at things very differently further on up the road.

The key to the meaning of a happy and fulfilling life, doesn’t necessarily have any link to a specific religious tradition, and the distinction between religion and spirituality is a very important one for me! It took me a long time to discover that but I’m delighted that I have.

To this day, I would still not describe myself as ‘religious’. However I have rediscovered my spirituality, and how necessary and powerful spirituality is on any journey of healing and recovery. I’m still on that journey and I still have difficult days but I now have the tools to deal with that – I feel a sense of rediscovering life as a much wiser man.

So to all you new students who perhaps you resonate with the image of a closed flower, like I was. To make the most of this programme you have to truly open yourself up – if you do, it can be life changing!

Daragh Doyle
The Class of 2020

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