Pillar No. 4: Spirituality
"Finding and working with spirit has completely changed the way I look at life and death."
Meet Amanda Drago. She is a psychic medium and reiki practitioner. She is a monthly guest on Unexplained Inc. in the psychic mailbag show. She answers all questions or recites stories related to psychic and spiritual experiences. I can say in the short time we've known each other she has become a guide, a true friend and I'm not sure the podcast which expanded into this Pillar series would have started without her help. Soon I will detail about how we first crossed paths in 2018 but first let me examine the term spirituality.
It is quite common for someone who doesn't actively go to church or practice an organized religion to say that they are 'not religious, but spiritual'. It sounds like a simple answer but it can become deeply complex so I will sum it up in my own perspective. To me, being religious is to have a set of beliefs that adheres to the teachings of a particular text or following a certain set of dogma. Being spiritual is to be open and attuned to the physical and metaphysical forces in our universe while remaining open to all possibility. By no means is this a concrete definition of either term, this is just Phantom Phil's perspective speaking. Growing up I never connected with any organized religion. The only times I went to church where when I had to go after sleeping over a friends' place or staying with grandparents. I found the whole process too rigid and stifling. It just wasn't something that was practiced or even talked about a whole lot in my household. However in mid high-school a friend told me that I had to make sure I took World Religions as it deepen my understanding of the world. This proved to be correct as not only was the class well put together and interesting I got entrenched in several Eastern philosophies like Buddhism, Taoism and possibly became connected with yoga and meditation for the very first time here. It was a step into a world that was larger than church on Sundays with what appeared to me continued to be stuck in a fixed mindset. Yet in true Universal fashion I would connect with someone who would broaden my horizons in this regard. My first few months working at GFS were a rough go. A lot of my coworkers reminded me of those guys from ninth grade gym class that I couldn't stand being around. However there was one man who was different and stood out from the rest. He stood out because he was well into his fifties and physically grinding it out alongside us youngsters, he had a thick accent, and had an unrivalled unconditional love for all things associated with the Toronto Maple Leafs. But above all else in a hectic and highly competitive environment nobody messed with the guy. He had the respect and adulation of every single person in the building. His name is Petar and he would become one of my most trusted mentors. I am proud to call this man my friend and was honoured to work side by side with him later on in my employment there.
Petar Nosic immigrated to Canada from Croatia in the early 1990's. He witnessed war time atrocities most of us could never even comprehend. He struggled to find employment once he got here because he hadn't fully learned English. But the most intriguing part of his past was that he was at one time a Catholic Priest. I never heard why he left the congregation behind but I'm sure it's quite a story. I would learn later on in our relationship that even though he left priesthood behind he never stopped going to church and reading the Bible. The more I got to know him the more I noticed his love for life and look of peace in his eyes. When my marriage was on its outs and things were looking very uncertain we ended up working a lot together. Once I told him about my issues we bonded and he would constantly recite Bible passages and share his beliefs with me. When I became entangled in a custody dispute months later he would always show up at the right time, put a hand on my shoulder and somehow provide the advice I would need in the moment. This man would help me shift into how I would look at the influence of a 'higher power' in one's life. If you're not sold on Petar's character as of yet I want to point out that GFS would anoint an employee with the Person of The Year award which was the company's highest honour at their annual general meeting. I don't remember the exact number of times he won the award but after a certain year he wasn't allowed to be nominated anymore because he won it too many times already. Also after getting home late from work on Sunday nights he would go online and lead a video prayer group around the world while depriving himself of sleep. It's that much of a priority for him. With all the accolades he remains humble to this day. He has his faith, his family, a place to live, Leafs hockey, Tim's coffee and a really strange affinity for Lotto tickets (we all have vices after all!). My point to all this is even though Petar practices a religion I neither follow or believe in whole-heartedly, he used its teachings to help me on numerous occasions without expecting anything in return. I also noticed that since he believed God had his back he had this vibe of inner peace about him that I just didn't see in a lot of others around me. It made me realize that no matter what you may believe in having a belief of any kind in a force greater than yourself can take you a long way. While Petar was teaching me life lessons on a week to week basis I slowly started to shift towards what I thought was really out in the universal cosmos. I had been fairly down on religion and questioning whether something greater than us was even out there. I was completely living in the physical realm two dimensionally. While I was grateful for what I had my life was relatively chaotic and lacked day-to-day meaning. It was nothing but a grind you had to break your back for to survive while occasionally savouring whatever good moments life would dish out to you. In autumn of 2013 I would get proven wrong in the best way possible.
That summer I knew certain aspects of my life were not adding up. Something needed to be done and I wasn't sure what. My details on this are a bit fuzzy but I must have stumbled upon this while combing through Youtube videos that would help me relax after a long night at work. Someway, somehow I came across a demonstration video of an energy healing process known as reiki. This looked not only intriguing but I felt like I needed it to decompress from my hectic lifestyle. I mentioned above that Amanda practices reiki however she is not the first practitioner I visited. Driving up to the clinic I started to have my doubts and resorted to a mindset along the lines of 'it won't help anyway...but let's do this....I'm already here'. After my hour long session was over my practitioner let me know that I really needed it. Then she went on to identify the issues she found with me through energy points called 'chakras'. At this point I didn't know what they were or where they were located but the issues called out after this were exactly what I was going through. I hadn't told this person anything about what was going on in my life and she got to the root causes and how to deal with it going forward. I'm going to say within thirty minutes or so after the appointment I came alive. I had felt like I had some sort of an exorcism. I finally woke up. I don't believe I was actually possessed by a negative entity but I had been carrying around years of stress, resentment, and hostility that were just buried somewhere within. This reiki session had cleaned all of that out and I felt like a new person. I could have walked on a cloud. It was an experience I can more than likely never duplicate again for the rest of my life. Having my energetic field finally clear and decluttered after polluting it for years felt invigorating. Then some really strange shit went down that would turn me further on my head...
What I am about to explain is something that will be revealed for the very first time. Most people close to me don't even know about what I am going to say but now is the time to let it out. Within the coming months after my first reiki session I was feeling pretty good having my energy centres clear and just beginning to do the Jillian Michaels workout I talked about in the last Pillar. While my self-care was going way up this is right around the time that I knew my marriage was likely about to come to an end. This would come true a few months down the road. However after being given clarity and new coping tools from my reiki treatment I had the confidence and power to give me the strength for whatever came my way during this difficult time. If that wasn't enough, almost completely out of the blue...I started having psychic premonitions.
These premonitions would only happen in my sleep. But have you ever heard someone describing a dream as feeling 'realer than real?' I understand it 100% as some of these premonitions and dreamlike states felt more vivid than the physical reality I was living in. It was frightening at first but then I realized something greater than my understanding was going on and that I should embrace it rather than fear it. I could not predict when these would happen or what they would be about. However a lot of them were about places and specific people. Most of them would be crystal clear and leave me feeling serene when I woke up. In fact a recurring one would be about a person whom I had met but didn't really know. I would find out down the road that this person was studying in the same field that I would eventually go on to study at The Harris Institute in Toronto. These were the most vivid out of all of them but the other ones I just can't legibly explain here. I'm not trying to be guarded but they truly only make sense to me and would navigate me through some hectic situations. I would begin to have other strange sensations that seemed to be connected to this. I would continue reiki sessions periodically for a long time and not only was I getting healing but I was beginning to look at life in a new way. My practitioner gave me lots of recommended readings and exercises and I devoured them. She also made sure to tell me that there were no accidents and that the more I had energy work done the more I will realized life is all connected and things happen for a reason. The premonitions would evolve into this strange tingling sensation that would come over my left hand and sometimes work its way up to my head. It only seemed to happen in certain locations and my practitioner casually said to me that it was just my guides. At this point in time the concept of a 'spirit guide' is completely alien to me. I literally had no idea what she was talking about at that moment and I realized that I had do some digging and figure out what was up. One of those locations I felt this sensation would be the studio I would learn hot yoga in Burlington. I'll get back to this shortly... In the summer of 2015 I set out anything I could get my hands of that had to do with psychic phenomena and all things spiritual. I found a wealth of information in books, Youtube and podcasts. I started downloading podcasts and listening to them on road trips around this time and I came across the Psychic Teachers podcast out of the USA. This podcast would almost single handedly solve the questions I had about these new 'happenings' and I slowly started to realize that life was now happening at a different level and I was ready to take that ride. When I finally began at Harris the following summer I regained an interest in studying things like aliens and unexplained phenomena. I started keeping up with alternative media and this was all highlighted to me through the podcasts I had chosen to begin listening to one year prior. I feel at this point I was going through a shift and an expansion of my own consciousness. I began to see the connection and synchronicity in all things and I realized finally that everything was happening for a reason, for better or worse. I made the connection that my 'guides' led me to the yoga studio in Burlington and that it was no accident. While I was still practicing there when passing through the area I was trying to connect the puzzle pieces as to why this wonderful blessing of a place came into my life. After some false alarms I would come to that realization at the end of 2017.
Dear reader if you read my last Pillar on fitness you will remember that I was going through a rough time here and a lot of it had to do with the state of my health. I had been on a CPAP Machine for a couple of months and was having a horrible time adjusting to it. It seemed to me like the cure was going to be almost worse than my symptoms of sleep apnea. I hadn't been by the yoga studio in a while but I was still getting their e-newsletter. In their December issue I noticed something called yoga nidra. It was a guided meditation to allegedly improve sleep. I couldn't make it to this session but I was on board to try and help alleviate my symptoms. I also took notice of who was putting this together...
Ariana Novak. I looked at her picture and bio on their website and something clicked with me. I intuitively knew that we had to meet at some point. It's hard to explain but it felt important and I started to wonder if this was why I was guided to find this studio in the first place. A couple of months later she would be hosting a meditation workshop which I would attend. The universe put me to the test that day as I almost didn't make it as the ignition on my car went and required a $600 emergency repair. Despite the hurdle I would not be deterred and after this session I got a flyer for a retreat her and her partner Dan were running later in the spring. After that urgent car repair I wasn't sure if I should be spending the money on this weekend retreat but again it intuitively felt important. So I went for it and it was truly an engaging experience. I learned a lot while I was there, met some nice people, learned about Hustle + Flow, and tried yoga nidra for the very first time. During this guided meditation though something happened and I experienced another shift. Once again this isn't one I can articulate here because it won't make any sense but it resonates deeply with me.
What I can say is that I had realigned with some goals that had been put on the back burner due to my health concerns. I decided long term that I wanted to be self employed. I wasn't sure how and when this was going to happen but I had had enough working for the man and it took this nidra session to help me realize this. If we can back up temporarily to the Risk Pillar (No. 2) this is how I discovered the work of Chris Guillebeau. Through several synchronicities I had decided to open a business on video production. I had dabbled in this at Harris and at the time it felt like the way to go. Another major event in late 2017 was conversing with my friend Nick over beers and him telling me about the horrendous time he was having with the videographer of his promotion Magnificent Championship Wrestling. It got so bad that I had to slam my pint down on the table and say enough is enough. He would end up hiring me for that role in late 2018 and is a part-time role I still enjoy doing to this very day. In the summer of 2018 I went to another nidra session organized by Ariana that took place in the middle of a forest. One of the messages I got in this session was that I was overdue for another reiki session. This was true as my previous practitioner had moved on from me. No explanation or apparent animosity but it was probably best to move on. I decided to find a new one and this would lead me to Amanda. This wouldn't happen for another couple of months but in the true form of divine timing it would end up being the right moment. Unlike my previous practitioner Amanda was different. More personable and would blend her gifts as a medium into her practice and would make for a unique experience. Her insight through our meetings would help me through some troubled waters and would provide insight into another quirk I inadvertently live with. Spirit animals. It's not enough to have guides and premonitions but I have an animal that literally follows me everywhere as a barometer of how things are going. That animal is the mourning dove. It symbolizes 'peace of the deepest kind. It soothes and quiets our worried or troubled thoughts, enabling us to find renewal in the silence of the mind.'...I see one or several of them walking near me or on power lines when I'm driving. They hardly move or make a sound, really neat. I have no idea why this animal is around me, but I'm not complaining. I see them when I'm about to get unexpected good fortune or if there is a tense situation that will work out the right way. I've also been seeing them a lot lately which has to count for something.
It took me a few years but I finally grasped how it truly is all connected. I believe in some form of a higher power even if I'm not sure what it is. It can be called God, Source, Infinite Consciousness, The Universe....to me it's no different than who Petar prays to on a daily basis. When we tune in to this power we can match the vibration of the life we want to live while putting in the work. If we are paying attention we can dream, desire and manifest the type of life we want to be living, even in these troubled times. I can relate to Amanda's opening quote because when I tuned into spirit from Petar's teachings, reiki sessions, meditation or yoga nidra I knew that this world offered more than meets the eye. In fact if you can plug into the universal energy that is in each and every one of us you can navigate through the ups and downs of life like a video game. You can level up but you can never truly beat the game as there is always another boss to be conquered.
In my own journey through my triumphs and tribulations I was able to finally see how the puzzle pieces are sliding together. Some of these connections may not have made themselves known as of yet but could very well be around the corner. After a socially awkward beginning to my high school years I found solace in the power of music. Through that same affinity I would find true friends. After trying to chase a career based around music whether it be in broadcasting or the business end I realized that to truly achieve greatness I will have to take leaps based on calculated risk. Whether its through entrepreneurship, poker or both I will have to carve my own niche to achieve the working life I desire. To maintain my energy level to achieve these goals I had to return to fitness. It would unexpectedly introduce me to some amazing people in the process. However the power of song wasn't enough to move me forward as had I not connected with my spiritual side that opened me up to premonitions and other amazing happenings I wouldn't have reconnected with fitness nor had the fortitude to take calculated risk. Videography never became a full time hustle for me because I found that outside of shooting wrestling the projects became too daunting and it didn't just feel like quite the right fit. However going down that path led me to doing some work with Amanda which would morph into the podcast that would eventually give birth to this blog series. The tools to build this podcast and blog series were learned at Harris while chasing my love of song and executed by the fire that was lit within through my reconnection to fitness that was all mapped out by getting in touch with my 'spiritual' side. If this isn't enough hard evidence that suggests that our experiences are all connected then I'm afraid nothing will. In conclusion I sincerely thank each and every one of you who read or contributed to this series and now I invite you to the next part of my journey... ********If you haven't already done so I highly recommend listening to the intro to the July 24th episode of Unexplained Inc. before reading this final passage********
Every aspect of my journey has lead me to this point. When the pandemic blows over and it is safe to do so I am taking the leap to become a Shamanic practitioner. In spring of 2019 I came across this book and it is this Pillar's recommended reading: The Lost Art Of Heart Navigation: A Modern Shaman's Field Manual by Jeff D. Nixa I called this blog series a 'path to purpose' for a reason. When I read about Nixa's journey it hit me really hard. He dropped out of law school in his first year and through a long winding road that included a stint as a hospital chaplain he ended up becoming a Shaman. Through his teachings he has cured people of many emotional ailments that were caused by having a lack of purpose in their life. Nixa's goal is to council and heal people to get them back on track to the life they were meant to live. I was in a professional tailspin of my own when I read this and I thought if only I could pack up and go to Indiana to see him and have a session. This inspired me to go on the web and see if anyone close to me could do the same thing. Luckily for me I found someone.
I went in for a Shamanic session known as soul retrieval. I suffered some major disappointments in 2018 despite having some bright spots in the year I mentioned earlier. For a brief period I was not myself. Friends and family wouldn't have noticed but I was going through a deep and profound existential crisis (all while keeping a daily gratitude journal no less). I had fallen off of my path and had no idea how to get back on. After this session I had a fire in my soul equivalent to the one lit up from Boxing 101. To sum it up a Shamanic journey is accompanied by drums and rattles, maybe even some chanting. It is meant to put you into a meditative state to connect with Spirit (there's that higher power concept again). You can ask specific questions or you will be shown what you need to see in specific visions. The cues are auditory or visual and if interpreted correctly can potentially change your life and put yourself on the path you were meant to be on. I decided to stop going to yoga nidra sessions because I found that I could do these journeys from home or in nature just by finding drum & rattle tracks on Spotify or Youtube. I would continue to see this practitioner a couple of more times until COVID shut everything down. But in that short span I would get told that I have the energy of someone who could be a healer. I was then constantly given recommendations of a teacher who instructs courses on Shamanic Studies and that I would be a perfect fit for them. I was a little perplexed when I was told this in the later stages of 2019 but then again I think this was divine timing in effect. I was on the fence about making this leap but after the damage of this pandemic all doubt was removed. This virus has thankfully not killed as many people as initially thought however the consequences are still devastating. The highest number of casualties are businesses, jobs, livelihoods, dreams and overall social morale. While many are adjusting their models to survive by becoming manufacturers of masks and bottles of hand sanitizer I am looking at a commodity a lot of the world is going to need coming out of this. Healing. Don't get me wrong I am not trying to be grandiose and say I can heal the planet but I believe all of these synchronicities have fallen into place to be of service and share the gift of my wisdom and energy force with those in my community. Many are being forced to reprioritize their lives without asking for it and I will be happy to be of service in terms of getting them back on their rightful heart-centred path. I have no timeline in place for this as I believe the opportunity to study these skills will present themselves when it is ready much in the same vein of my timing to go to Harris. It is a dream of mine to work from home on a number of projects that provide different income streams. This would just be one of them. I've been a Star Wars fan most of my life and it is a gift I have been able to pass along to my daughter. When I was really young I wanted to be Luke Skywalker for a moment in time. Now I am entering a realm that I will consider being the closest thing to a Jedi in our physical world. I hope you've enjoyed the path of purpose and if you are still struggling to find your own, who knows....we may cross paths again!