Monday, 13 August 2012

The Beginning Of My Spiritual Awakening and Journey

Every person will find the voice of their heart in different ways, in different places, at different times and in the most unlikely of circumstances.  This is my own story.

My journey began on a very cold winters day in Budapest, Hungary.  It was 3rd January 2002.  Eastern Europe at the time, was still developing.  Hungary was not yet part of the European Union and it was common place to see Trabant, Yugo and Skoda cars on the streets, a sure sign that this was a former Soviet communist state. 

Back then, I was employed by a large global IT corporation, which had offices in most countries of the world.  I worked for a part of the business that re-engineered accounting processes, making them more efficient by utilising cutting edge technology, standardising processes and off-shoring those processes to a centralised hub.  A by-product of the centralisation process had resulted in my manager being responsible not only for the re-engineering side of the business, but also for the centralised processing hub, which was based in the UK.  As part of global changes that occurred in our business unit, my manager also acquired a satellite office in Budapest, which performed a similar function for Eastern and Central Europe, Middle East and Africa.  It was considered a 'small' operation of only 40 staff and was very much still in its infancy.  My manager decided that he wanted one of his 'own men' managing the remote operation in Budapest and as a result, I had been offered the position.

So I found myself in Budapest, performing a 'look see' visit, so that I could determine whether I would accept the position.  Also along on the trip were my manager and a couple of other colleagues.  It was necessary to go and visit the office and the city prior to accepting the position, since the role would be on an international assignment basis for two years.  Effectively, I would be signing up to stay in Budapest for a two year duration and my employment would temporarily be moved to the Hungarian subsidiary of the corporation.  This was no easy decision and one that was further complicated by being in a relationship back in the UK.  Lisa and I had discussed the situation together and I had informed her that there was a 99% certainty that I would not take the job, but I felt it was necessary to go and visit and put any doubts completely out of my mind.  Lisa had told me that if I took the job in Budapest, she would come out there with me.  At the time that I discussed things with Lisa and before my first visit, Hungary seemed like a cold, grey, miserable place, a long way from home.  Why would I want to go and live there?

My first day in Budapest confirmed everything that I had expected.  The skies were overcast and grey, it was bitterly cold and a light drizzle fell.  That first evening, we all went out for dinner with another colleague who had been spending a few months in Budapest on an extended business trip.  After the dinner, we walked around the city a little and then she showed us the apartment she had been renting.  I can vividly remember being impressed by the apartment and the feeling of beginning to think that maybe this could be a way of life.  But still, this was cold and grey Eastern Europe, a thousand miles away from my family and my friends.  I called Lisa from the hotel later that evening and told her that tomorrow I would be telling my manager that I would not be taking the job. 

The next morning I woke early, knowing that I had to give my answer to my manager before the close of that business day.  I walked across to the windows of my hotel room to pull back the curtains.  As I did so, I was greeted by the most amazing sight.  The sky was a clear blue and the sun was shining brightly, not a cloud was in the sky.  The Marriott Hotel was situated on the Pest side of the city and all of the rooms overlooked the Danube river, each enjoying uninterrupted views of this great European river and across to Buda on the other side of its banks.  I had not known this the evening before, because it was dark when we arrived at the hotel to check-in, I had not opened my curtains until this morning, and quite honestly, I had not been the least bit interested.  Across from the river, on the Buda side, rising almost vertically upwards some 235 metres (771 feet), was Gellert Hegy (Hill).  The river side of this hill is rocky and very steep. Perched on the top of the hill is the imposing structure of the Freedom Statue (Szabadság Szobor).  I love the pure beauty of nature and in particular mountains and water.  Here, I was looking out onto both, with a sun shining down and lighting up the city.  Not only this, but to the right of Gellert Hegy was the Castle District, with its castle, St Matthias Church and Fisherman's Bastion all in view.  And then there were the bridges over the Danube.  Looking out of my hotel bedroom window, I felt something very subtle change inside of me.  

Our office location was in a business park on the outskirts of the city, and later that day, I asked my manager if I could be excused for  a couple of hours, so that I might head back into downtown and take a walk around in my own time.  I think he was growing a little impatient that I had not yet given him an answer on taking the job, so I told him that I would give him my decision on my return to appease him.  I took a taxi back to downtown Pest and with no real plan in mind, I began to wander aimlessly around the city.

I wandered around not really knowing where I was going.  Although the sun was shining, I can vividly remember the cold permeating through the soles of my shoes.  I looked in shop windows, I saw cafes, bars and restaurants, I noticed the amazing architecture, I found squares with fountains covered over to protect them from the damaging ice and cold, and all the while I kept on asking myself these questions: what should I do?  Should I take the job?  Should I move to Budapest?  Will I like it here?  Can I make it here?  What will Lisa say?  How will life be without my family and friends close by?  Will I make new friends here?  It was almost as though with each step that I took, another question came into my head.  I was in a torment.  My head was spinning.  I could not make any decision and this was the biggest decision of my life.  I knew that whatever I decided, there would be no going back.  If I said no to Budapest, then it was a door closed that would never open again.  If I said yes, then, well, I didn't really know what that would mean and that was the problem.

I looked at my watch.  Like always when we have a deadline and a decision to make, the speed of time seems to increase relentlessly, mercilessly.  I was quickly running out of minutes in which to make my decision and I was no nearer to knowing the answer, than I was when I arrived here in the taxi almost two hours previously.  I came to Vorosmarty Ter (Vorosmarty Square), a large square at the end of Vaci Utca (Vaci Street) and here I sat on a cold bench and looked around me.  As I sat alone on this bench, freezing my backside through the thin trousers of my suit, I heard a voice.  It spoke with a loud, confident voice, that silenced all of the whirling voices and questions in my head.  I listened to this voice and this is what it told me: "This is right for you.  You can do this.  You must do this.  Everything will be okay."  And as soon as I heard those words, I knew the truth of them.  They came from my heart.  The confusion in my head was all because deep inside, I wanted to take the job, in this strange and unknown city, and I had been fighting against my true feelings.  I had perfect clarity and vision and I was able to see how life would be here and I felt positive and happy about it.  Decision made.  Time to let Lisa know.     

I walked to a payphone, dialled her work number and received her voice messaging system.  I waited a few minutes and tried again, only to  receive the same response.  I felt a panic rising but I told myself that Lisa had said she would come with me, so it would be okay.  I was out of time and had to go back to the office where my manager was waiting for my answer.  On arrival, I avoided him and went to my laptop so that I could send an instant message to Lisa and to send her an e-mail.  I did not tell her the decision because I wanted to tell her in person, so I asked her to contact me urgently.  I telephoned her at work a few times more and every time I received the voice messaging system.  I felt the panic increasing but still I told myself it will be okay.  And then the time came to tell my manager my decision.  I would take the job in Budapest.

That evening, from my hotel room, I called Lisa at home and finally got through to her.  I told her my decision and received this response: "Well, I won't be coming with you."  It was unexpected but I hoped to be able to persuade her in person.  For me, there was now no going back.  My decision was made and it was final.  I was committed.

Lisa never did change her mind and my leaving for Budapest was the end of the relationship.  I cannot regret this, because what happened after completely changed my life.  It was for me, the beginning of my spiritual awakening.  I had shared a profound moment with the voice of my heart and I had followed its urging.  My life would never be the same again and I would never stop listening to my heart from that moment on.

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