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Susan Galvan
Susan Galvan is a published author, speaker and facilitator with expertise in transpersonal psychotherapy, ministry, spiritual mentorship, and financial life planning. Seeking answers? Ask Susan a question via email asksusan@SBNR.org.

Who Am I?

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SBNR.org is pleased to introduce our new feature column “Ask Susan” hosted by Susan Galvan. Read a little about Susan, then ask her a question.

Who Am I?

My spiritual journey began at a very young age.

As a little girl growing up in Denver, I had to take 3 city buses each way to school and home every day (I went to a private school).  This made traveling around the city by bus – all by myself – seem like normal behavior to me, beginning about age six.  My parents slept in until noon on Sundays, so I got in the habit of getting on the bus on Sunday morning and going to church or Sunday school.  I tried out a different church every Sunday.  If I liked what I experienced, I might stay awhile and perhaps even memorize Bible verses so I could “win” a Bible.  Some churches would have a youth choir, so I would stay and sing hymns with the choir with great enthusiasm until it was time to explore further.  I even went to Jewish temple on Friday nights with one friend, and to a Wednesday night Christian Science service with another.  Finally, as I entered sixth grade, I landed at the Episcopalian church near my home.  I liked it.  It had all the mystery and ritual of the Catholic Church, but it was in English – and you were free to do whatever you pleased as opposed to being under the guidance of a priest.

I had found my own religious brew:  freedom of thought and action combined with mystery, ritual and ceremony.  I didn’t really understand the spiritual principles underlying it all, but one message became deeply imbedded:  God was temperamental.  You didn’t want to get on His Bad Side, because punishment would surely follow.  It seems now that I wasn’t so worried about going to hell when I died as I feared unthinkable punishments while still living – for being selfish, irresponsible, ornery, stubborn, sassy (“Mommy, you make me want to vomit!”) and other undesirable traits which my mother clearly saw in me and helpfully pointed out.  If I wasn’t careful, the Great Cosmic Thumb would descend from the sky and rub my face into the dirt until I learned my lesson of humility, subservience, selflessness.  I was on earth to do the will of God and others – certainly not my own.  But I was a willful child.

We moved to Santa Fe when I was in 6th grade.  I was baptized and confirmed at the Episcopalian church there – the first ever Episcopalian in my family.  Then, two years later, we moved to Albuquerque and my church life was suspended for many years.  I went to Catholic mass with boyfriends, but it was an occasional thing.

Internally, I continued to live in fear of Divine Wrath.  Unhappy in my first marriage, I feared God would strip me of everything because I wasn’t grateful enough for what I did have and was selfish enough to yearn for more.  I became agoraphobic – afraid to leave the house for fear God would strike me – or worse, my two little boys – dead, just to make a point.  Just before my third son was born, I awakened from my state of dread.  For some reason, one day I visualized my tombstone.  It was engraved as follows:

“She Stuck It Out”

That horrified me.  I did not want that to be the summary statement of my one and only life.  That was not what I wanted to teach or model for my children.  It was up to me to claim as rich and full a life as I could possibly encompass, rather than cowering in fear of divine punishment for being selfish and greedy.  So I risked.  Terrified, I told my husband I wanted a divorce…and waited for the Cosmic Thumb to Smush me.  Nothing happened.  My baby was born, and the divorce went through 5 weeks later.

One week to the day after that, I met my (highly improbable) second husband, who moved in three days later.  That was forty years ago, and he’s still with me.  The development of our relationship over time, along with many outside influences and experiences, has transformed my perception of God, of Divinity, of intimacy, and of union into one of Lover and Beloved rather than Temperamental Parent/Lord and Disobedient Child/Servant.  I guess you could say I grew up in all dimensions of being simultaneously.

During those years, there have been many profound and soul-transforming experiences.  A daughter was born.  I read deeply and widely.  I went to encounter groups, weekend workshops, seminars, enlightenment intensives.  I went to see the Mevlevi Dervishes turn.  I had an enormous spiritual opening that triggered a complete re-integration process for me in terms of who I am and what my life means.  My husband participated for years in the most traditional Native American ceremonies, which deeply moved and changed me.  I worked with a spiritual teacher in the Sufi tradition.  I traveled to Turkey and was received as a spiritual family member among the dervishes.   I found Unity Center of Walnut Creek and the Unity Movement, and became involved in church again every Sunday.  I graduated with an M.A. in Consciousness Studies, and then created and ran a graduate program in Interdisciplinary Consciousness Studies in the Bay Area for seven years, teaching a wide range of fairly esoteric courses.  My Unity minister was murdered one Sunday morning, and I was launched into ministry with her death.  I was minister of one of the first all-faith churches, which I pioneered – Unity of the Spirit – for 14 years.  Then I spent five years teaching financial planners and advisors in the US, Australia, UK and Netherlands how to listen deeply, connect at the heart, express empathy, and help their clients create a life of meaning and purpose – a life truly worth living.

It has been a long strange journey, and I’m immensely grateful for every moment of it.  There is much that I can share that may be of value to others who are also consciously, intentionally on this journey.

Enough about me.  Ask a question! You can reach me via email at asksusan@sbnr.org.

Share your thoughts. Leave a comment:

7 Responses to “Who Am I?”

  1. Zym Soljourn
    November 30, 2010 at 11:15 am #

    That was really nice to read, thank you for opening up to us.

    If some one sees them self as non-traditional in there life pursuits “Spiritually Minded and dedicated” what avenue of education could one follow to have a Currier in this world?

  2. Susan E Galvan
    December 8, 2010 at 2:07 pm #

    Hi Zym,

    I’m thinking English is a second language for you, and you are asking about what kind of CAREER you could pursue.

    There are two ways to look at your question: The first one is to be non-traditional in your approach to a traditional career; the second one is to find a non-traditional product or service to provide.

    The simplest way I know is to form the right question, such as: “As a unique individual, what is my best career choice for contributing to my world while also supporting myself by earning a living?” Once your question is clear and simple, then write it down and put it where you can see it every day. Then let it go. Don’t try to think up the right answer. Just carry the question in your heart,knowing that the answer will come. Then pay attention to possibilities that make your heart leap up or tingle or sing – even a little bit. That is how you find your path to full aliveness…it makes you feel more alive than before. Don’t be anxious or in a hurry. Just carry the question, don’t think about it, and notice what awakens your heart when you hear of it or see it. Then follow those clues until you know you’ve discovered your “right livelihood” as Buddha called it. Then find where you can be educated to accomplish that purpose by researching educational programs both near and far from where you are. If you are on the right path, all sorts of help will come to you to help you move toward your career goal.

  3. Zym Soljourn
    December 9, 2010 at 8:51 am #

    I don’t know if it is my choosing of a alias or the miss spelling of “Career” that gave you the idea i was not a English speaking person, but just to be honest so no one run with the thought that i may be from some where that i am not.. 🙂 I am an American born and raised in Tx.

    As to my question i was hoping for some thing more literal.

    Like a Collage or specific career where one might find acceptance as being more out of the norm, i had been a Substance abuse counselor for almost 15 years. i love helping ppl, My spiritual life could be fulfilled as a Minster of sorts but there is no one religion i can align my self with to pursue that idea.

    I would love a career where helping ppl find meaning and value in life and the tools to navigate it while maintaining there sanity and happiness as they live out driven by purpose.

    I have heard of Naropa collage and like every thing about it, alas it is a hard collage to get in to. and like most money if always an issue.

  4. Susan E Galvan
    December 10, 2010 at 5:16 pm #

    As to my question i was hoping for some thing more literal.

    Sorry, Zym – I don’t think I can be of much help to you in that regard. There are many avenues to ministry, as well as helping others – which you have already been doing. If Naropa feels like a good fit for you, talk with their student aid office. They can often come up with grants or scholarships in addition to loans that make all the difference. Whatever you choose to do, find some way to learn the skill set so that you can be truly effective.

  5. Paula
    January 15, 2011 at 6:50 pm #

    Zym, Pathways of Light (www.pathwaysoflight.org) has a correspondance course based on A Course in Miracles that results in an Ordained Ministerial Counselor certificate. It’s reputable and affordable. Hope this is useful.

  6. Zym Soljourn
    January 17, 2011 at 11:32 am #

    Thanks Paula, I did not know that A.C.M had gone mainstream.

    I am aware of the book, but still see it as one human’s best attempts turned sacred…Lots of good insight, but still short of hitting the mark. Some concepts not quite there.

    All in all a great book for any one looking to raise the bar.

    I have found Ms Williams Speaker tapes very motivating and helpful on many of life’s issue.

  7. Karen Jaenke
    January 28, 2016 at 5:49 pm #

    Dear Susan,

    I am reaching out to you as the current Chair of the Consciousness and Transformative Studies program at JFK University. Vernice Solimar gave me your name as a former program chair. I am currently working on a Self-Study Report for the CTS program, and wonder if you would be willing to talk with me and share your memories of the program from the 1980s.

    With regards,
    Karen Jaenke, PhD

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