Written by Zach Link
The Search for Connection
All my life, I have been searching for something to tell me I was good enough: to value me, to satisfy me, to guide me, to help me, to protect me, to see me, to love me. Something larger than myself. Surely, there is someone or something out there waiting for me to see them. As time has gone on, I’ve made my attempts.
The one that made a deep, lasting impression (some scars, some wounds, some enlightenment) was Christianity. Growing up in the Bible Belt, where there’s a church on every corner, I was bound to be involved in some way, of course. My immediate family and father’s side were Catholics while growing up. I didn’t buy into any of it for a long time until I was at the young age of 14…or 13…depending on the congregation (and I kind of stink at time specifics).
While growing up Catholic there were certain rituals/sacraments you had to do at certain age ranges – baptism when you’re an infant/toddler, eucharist/communion at about seven or eight, then confirmation around 13-15 (there are more sacraments but this is where little ol’ Zach Link stopped).
Confirmation is when my spiritual outlook shifted. Long story short (for now), we were required to go to Sunday school for a certain amount of weeks, pick a saint to be named after, go on a retreat, do a confession, then stay “pure” for the next week before the actual ceremony. On this retreat is where I had my first super spiritual experience, which convinced me that there was something a bit more to the larger picture. Mainly, my body was buzzing tremendously for a few days afterword from whatever energy I managed to connect to there.
I shall attempt to summarize the rest that lead me to where we are today, unless you are fully prepared for a mini autobiography (haha).
Southern Baptist Homeschool Program
I was homeschooled from fifth through 12th grade. So, while confirmation was going on for me, I had another homeschooler friend who instead of being solely taught by their mom, joined co-op program. After seeing how much they enjoyed now interacting with more than three people, I decided to join. Mind you this was a very deeply rooted Southern Baptist program (though they let other Protestants in – so inspiring). This led me to being very involved with the youth group where the program was hosted (but not affiliated with).
Now for the super summary, I had many spiritual experiences in the true essence of what the religion is founded in (love and connection) as well as many traumatic ones (because of what people have manipulated it to be).
Outed as Gay: Conversion College?
For my final year of high school, an American Sign Language (ASL) class was offered and I had credits that needed to be satisfied. Meanwhile, chaos galore was happening in the church realm once I was outed as gay and attempting to grapple with my queerness. I found a very strict, private, Southern Baptist university with an ASL interpreting degree that I decided to go to in order for it to help me “pray away the gay”.
Long story even shorter, that completely backfired, and while my intent was to go there to “un-gay” myself, I came back even more gay (lol – praise the Lamb almighty!)
Drawn to DC – Enter Meghan
In 2011, I came up to DC to finish my interpreting degree and hang around (since the area had a lot of work and I was developing an actual community and kinship with the gays here). By the time we hit 2017, I was hanging in high intensity, borderline traumatic interpreting jobs (the most memorable one being with this other interpreter I was assigned to as a team – we pulled off magic that day!)
After this, I continued working video phone services where I met Meghan Shannon Elder. We went out on smoke breaks and essentially tried to spend as much time together in order to survive the gruelingly long 10-12 hour shifts we’d decided to force upon ourselves (foolishness!) Out of that though, we began to play with the idea of actually hanging out around summer of 2018.
After an awkward back and forth of attempting to truly breaking the co-worker seal, we did it! While sitting there having a drink at the gay bar I brought her to, she talked about one traumatic interpreting job that she had experienced. To our disbelief, we’d been the ones paired together!!! I’m sure you might have read between the lines at this point but we were absolutely dying and still are that we had no idea for about nine months that we had already met.
If anyone has scraped the surface of Meghan (like saying, “hello tell me about yourself,”), you know about the spiritual path that she is on, and by this point I was fairly familiar. I had heard about the “higher self”, “inner children”, “energies”, etc. and thought it was cool but nothing I’d planned to be involved with.
Opening Up to Spiritual Development Work
By November of 2018, I was stagnant, angry, and panicking about my career choices and finances to a crippling degree. One day, she asked me if I wanted to try doing an energy ceremony and then meet every other week and do some spiritual development sessions. To her surprise I whipped out my calendar and was ready to take it on, which tells you how much my body and spirit were CRAVING some type of movement. It’s been a whirlwind ever since.
During our first session, we’d attempted to identify an energy that had emerged in full force (developing for months after a violent hate crime I’d experienced back in April 2018). After that assault, I’d ended up being on the receiving end of several physical altercations. So I had a bit of an urgency of confronting it.
When we first sat down, Meghan asked me if I had any fears, concerns, etc. about going into this discussion and ceremony I said, “I’m kinda thinking this might all be bullshit.” To which she replied, “Wanna find out for yourself?”
So, we talked for a bit and she walked me through how to connect to my Higher Self (which apparently doesn’t always happen on the initial attempt – though I didn’t know that at the time). First the first time in my life, I got direct spiritual feeds on some fears and was able to talk to and through them.
During the actual ceremony, Meghan sang Icaros (Medicine songs she’s learned during her shamanic apprenticeship in the Amazon) while I laid on the floor with my eyes closed. She had started by standing down near my feet, and apparently walked around me several times, (which I hadn’t realize this until she touched my head – which scared the crap out of me because it sounded like she was in the same place the whole time).
Shortly after that, I began to physically hear a small, quiet symphony of tiny voices singing along. Part of me was like, “ok where is the speaker,” but the other part was like, “holy shit this is like, actually magical.” I decided just to ride it out. With my eyes closed, I physically saw a bright-ass white light, then spiritually began to see my Higher Self and the bruised-up part of me separate from one another. They stood there, hand in hand.
Initially, I read it as the light and darkness within me, and I wanted to vilify the dark part. The darkness must have been what was causing all my problems, so I thought. Except, when I looked at it more deeply, I just saw myself. I know I’m not evil and there’s not something inside of me controlling me to do its bidding. It was just my pain and how I’ve been taught to walk through this life.
As you can see, that was just from the very first work we did together in November. March 1st 2019 is where all the fun truly began.
The Whirlwind Begins
Long story short(ish), Meghan and I were hanging out with a few drinks and a friend. After our friend left, Meghan started to purge, involuntarily expressing “extra” feelings she’d hidden from herself about me. She didn’t quiet realize it but, I intuitively knew what was going on and held the space for her. A good tell, I’ve since learned, is when she says, “I’m talking too much about myself and you’re probably annoyed!” you know she’s purging. I was just like, “Nope. All good.”
Honestly, it really didn’t bother me, because we’d already naturally talked and hung out (pretty regularly) for over a year at that point. Usually, I have a lot of walls up if an identifying female has feelings for me (I mean, guys too, but that’s another story). I tend to have an avoidance and all that, but that’s traditionally because they will hang all over me and wish I were straight and on and on. Wasn’t getting that from her at all, plus I knew that we had a strong-ass connection already.
I believe it was the next day (again, specific times are not my strengths) that we talked more about it, writing off as another iteration of the infamous “high school boy purge” (click for backstory) and figured it was the end of it. Naturally, we were not completely accurate.
At some point shortly after, I found myself wondering if I was actually developing feelings for her. After all this time coming into and accepting my gayness this is what’s going to happen?! So, I reluctantly checked in with my Higher Self and got the crystal clear feed that I was, in fact, super gay and that it was going to be something else that I didn’t quite see yet. (Click here for more on that process).
Originally, I had placed her on a pedestal. Certain I would never be on the same “level” spiritually as her, but after the first purge she had with me, I realized that she’s just as human as anyone. There aren’t really “levels”, per se, just how deep you are willing to go, even when it sucks. After her first one with me, I was able to have mine and it’s been a back and forth ever since.
The Space of Unconditional Love and Intimacy
We have come to a place of loving one another unconditionally. There is this higher spiritual connection that is really hard to put into words. A true space that holds unconditional love and intimacy for ourselves and each other. Plus, the parallels of our defense tendencies are insane (including both of our histories with relationship issues), which helps us work through our ego, defenses, structures, frames, and beliefs so much more efficiently. We’ve also found ways to lovingly alert the other one when one of us is potentially hitting a blind spot.
Even with the “crush”, (that has literally never been in my face, ever) she and I have been able to work through so many deep places within ourselves. Meghan sees me – like truly, viscerally sees me – as I do her. She doesn’t want me to not be gay or not be myself in any way whatsoever, which one of the many reasons this space is able to be maintained. I mean, we would likely be together romantically if I wasn’t gay as fuck and this wasn’t some higher level shit.
There is a vulnerability that we committed to that has kept us going through all the embarrassing conversations we’ve managed to have with each other. On top of that, getting Meghan’s language and tools (as well as the new ones we’ve learned together through this process), and healing crazy deep scars – many that I didn’t even realize I had – has been nothing short of life changing.
For example, I was able to heal deep roots: longing for my dad’s love in a way I hadn’t received, my perfectionism that continually prevented me from being my authentic self, keeping myself small so I couldn’t try new things and (potentially) fail. All of those things were supposed to keep me safe, which they did technically, but I still received the pain and exhaustion from holding those defenses in place (unconsciously). I’d also never realized the level of mental limitations they’d put on my life.
What I’ve Learned So Far
Overall, I’ve learned it’s the willingness and vulnerability you put into doing this work that’s the key. It’s not what you do or have done. It’s about seeing who you are and loving yourself through the process, with intent, to the best of your ability.
I realized that what I was searching for all this time was me. The authentic, unconditionally loving me.
Without all of the bullshit that has happened and all my defenses that have been built up for almost three decades. Who I truly am. The more I work through the pain, anger, guilt, judgement, sadness, expectations, worthlessness, lack of deserving, and whatever else may be uncovered, the more I find myself. I’ve never experienced anything like this. It all looks a bit different for everyone and my experience is my own, but that is why I want to be doing this work.
Well, that’s where I am so far! I can’t wait to hear about all of your experiences, work together, and truly see each other.
~ Zach Link (@zachshalack)
Ayahuasca Preparation and Integration Specialist at Beyond the Ceremony
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