My name is Sebastian Hayball and this is the story of how I became a Bahá’í in October 2006.
When I discovered the Bahá’í Faith I had been living in the Foyer for two years. The Foyer is a housing project for young people between the ages of 16-25 who have fallen off the path that takes most people from being children to well-adjusted adults.
When I first moved into the Foyer I was diagnosed with Aspergers, which is on the Autistic Spectrum and for me personally it is not a disorder or syndrome but a label we have given to individuals whose souls are more spiritually attuned than the generality of the people and society that they have been born into, and find it difficult or impossible to adjust to an entirely materialistic society. By society I mean the spaces they spend their time in; the home, school, friends homes and so on.
At this point I’d like to drop in a quote for you to ponder; “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” ~ Jiddu Krishnamurti
When I was 10 years old, while on holiday in Spain with my family for the fifth or sixth time, I saw the endless cycle of my young years: go to school and be bullied, be at home and watch TV and play video games and eat dinner with my family and be given presents at Christmas and birthdays. I remember being in the bedroom that I and my sisters shared at my grandparents’ villa and feeling so empty and unfulfilled by this existence that I cried. My Mum came in to see me and when I explained how I felt, she responded with something along the lines of “OK hon, come down and join us for nibbles when you’re feeling better.”
I was 10 years old and had just told my mother I was profoundly unhappy and she had responded like I had just described a stomach ache. My parents and two sisters are very close. They connect with each other very well on a material level. They share the same outlook and are comfortable with their lifestyle, but I yearned for something more than that offered. I don’t blame my parents for not being able to help me; they could only share with me what had been shared with them and what they had learned. I don’t think I can blame them for lacking understanding and awareness. It’s not like they knew what would help me and kept it from me to make their lives easier; they actually just didn’t know.
So when I was 20 in October 2004, my parents took me to the Swindon Dyslexia Centre and I was diagnosed with Aspergers; this was when my journey toward a more fulfilling outlook and lifestyle began.
This told me that I was destined for some great, some awesome purpose. Now I know we all are unique and destined for something great if we work hard enough for long enough but I didn’t feel that this understanding had been promoted to my generation and to the 56 other young people who lived in the Foyer. So while I didn’t feel I was somehow better or more enlightened than everyone else, knowing the things I knew and understanding the concepts and insights that I was discovering told me I was seeking something no one else was. This awareness buoyed my confidence on the loneliest nights of boredom and starvation of true fulfilment throughout my time in the Foyer and ever since. I wasn’t clinically depressed but I was bored out of my skull and lonely beyond imagination. But at the same time I wasn’t so desperate for friendship that I would try to make friends with those who ridiculed and bullied me out of jealousy and fear of the unknown.
Also, during the first three weeks of moving into the Foyer, I met Marie Manser at the Friday Morning Breakfast Club. She was looking for young people to help her do some voluntary youth work with young people. I think this is the point where my life was changed. If anyone was a time traveller, someone who had travelled back there from the future to make sure I was here being the person I am now eight years later, it was Marie who gave me some balance and perspective amongst all of the chaos that was hurricaning around the Foyer and inside my head. It was Marie who gave those days of dreaming some meaning and eventually connected me to the best group of lifelong friends anyone could dream up for themselves – but we’ll get to that part of the story later on..
During those years I also emptied myself into around 17 notebooks discussing stuff I saw on the News and read in books and watched in movies. Corporations, the media, society, government, religion, the end of the world, (r)evolution, the beginning and possible endings of the universe, conspiracy theories, the possibility of other intelligent life in the universe and also a lot of discussion about the friction I encountered during that first year in the Foyer. Along with the knowledge of all the people who had shown characteristics of Aspergers, my all-encompassing interest in so many things going on in the world that no one I knew even approached being interested in, reiterated that I was on some sort of journey and these days in the Foyer wouldn’t last forever. I would live there for two years before my confidence in this higher purpose would be answered and fulfilled beyond my wildest dreams.
Those were the days of no responsibility and 24/7 day dreaming. From playing a video game to scribbling down 12 pages of some fantastic conspiracy theory until 3 am. These were how my days were spent and while I wouldn’t wanna do it again, I wouldn’t change it either.
Several times while living in the Foyer I would go into town, realise I had forgotten something, come back to get it and on the way back into town I would meet someone or somehow benefit from arriving a little bit later. Over time this gave me the sense that my life was being guided by forces that I didn’t understand and couldn’t control. I just had to accept. Notice I didn’t say my life was being controlled, just guided. I could choose to go against the guidance but more often than not when I fought against it, I ended up worse off.
During all of this time I had several ‘friendships’ three of which contributed significantly to my spiritual development. Through these friendships I learned a lot about fleeting friendships and the meaning of true friendship. If friends can’t handle you growing and changing and going through difficult and better phases then maybe your friendship isn’t what it used to be. I grew out of every friendship I ever made in the Foyer. I remember them with fondness, I had some good times and dreams with all my friends but none of them were destined to last. What I’ve realized is that true friendship isn’t based on mutual interest in video games, music, films, sports anything that comes from outside of us. How can it be? Surely it’s based on something deeper, more substantial and dependable than our changing interests, opinions and hobbies.
True friendship is based on attraction to qualities: enthusiasm, honesty, kindness, love, generosity, humility, and a sense of service to your friends, mankind, possibly even God, if you believe in one.
During a family holiday in Bermuda in the summer of 2005 I read David Icke’s The Biggest Secret and that book showed me what is beyond the edge of reason and faith: a rabbit warren of endless doubts and fears. Sometime, very early on in my life in the Foyer, I discovered a concept called synchronicity, others call it serendipity. Sceptics misuse the term coincidence. It’s the idea that behind our visible world is an invisible clockwork, a cosmic organizer that has the times, dates, places and/or situations when we are going to meet that special person or read that book or go through that experience that will change the course of our lives forever.
Maybe it’s not times, dates and places but a variation in frequency within our individual and collective consciousness and how these vibrations interact with the circumstances and how receptive we are to what might be possible for us if we are making an effort to be the best that we can be as people. I didn’t know, and I still don’t, but I did gain an awareness of its presence and by going with the flow, being humble to these ethereal forces that were greater than me or any one person and not being too attached to my own plans and what I wanted out of my day, I could connect to and align or submit my will to that which was guiding me to that which I was most fervently seeking. It was around this time that I drifted away from the negativity and anxiety of my conspiracy theories.
August to November 2005 was one of the darkest periods of my time in the Foyer. I know because I wrote several pages about how I felt. I was so tired of the endless cycle of self-destruction, back to life only to die again that my reality and state of mind was locked into, that I yearned for my purpose in being alive to be revealed to me. I was ready for whatever it was. I was prepared to arise and serve a cause greater than myself or fall and be deprived of all the blessings I sensed were waiting for me just beyond the perpetual next moment. Little did I know that a year later the former would be fulfilled and then filled up again.
Discovering my Purpose
At some point in 2005, on the bookshelf in the TV area in the reception of the Foyer I found a book called The Inner Reality by Dr Paul Brunton. He was a travelling orientalist and writer who travelled the East to learn and write down the wisdom of the yogis and sages and publish it for the man on the street. Dr Brunton published this book in 1937.
To this day I don’t know who put that book there, where they got it from or why they discarded it, but I’m convinced that book prepared me for one of the most significant evenings of my life in October 2006.
Eventually Marie called me up one day and, as she always did, asked me if I’d like to do something with her as she had many, many times since that first Breakfast Club in 2004. Remember those friends that I said she connected me to…
I said yes of course. On a Thursday night in early October me, Marie and some youngsters went to something called the Tranquillity Zone at the Health Hydro Fitness Centre on Faringdon Road in Swindon. An Irish lady, Fidelma Meehan, welcomed us and we entered what looked to me like an Eastern temple – drapes hanging from the ceiling, flowers and candles on the floor and huge comfy pillows. Once we were seated, Fidelma took us into a guided meditation that transported us to a jungle path that led to a boat and an amazing journey of self discovery that I hope everyone will be able to go on some day.
I went to as many Tranquillity Zones as I could after that first one in October 2006. They took place every Wednesday lunch time at 1 pm and every other Thursday at 7.30pm. After that first one Fidelma told me that many of the quotes used in the Zones were from the Bahá’í Writings and when she told me that the Bahá’í Faith stood for the oneness of the human race, the essential unity of religions and the oneness and unknowable essence of God, I was astonished as for the past few months I had come to believe in similar sentiments myself and was desperate to find others who believed as I did.
Over the next few months a whole new universe of possibilities opened up before my eyes as I delved deeper and deeper into this very young Faith that believed mankind’s history had only just begun and it was just our adolescence that was coming to a very painful end.
This answered so many of my questions about the state of our world and the future of our kind that people who knew me might say I’d joined a cult. However, I knew that these new friends of mine were for real and that’s all I needed to know.
I moved out of the Foyer on 27th March 2007 to another place in Old Town, where I am living at the moment.
Today I’m a member of the Bahá’í community in Swindon. I strive to balance my interest in video games and TV shows with being active in the community. My parents accepted the path I have chosen and are very happy that I am part of such a positive and friendly group of people.
Thank you for reading my story, I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed going through my bag of memories and emotions. I also hope you can see that neither the bright nor dark times last very long at all although it may seem like it when you’re going through them. Whether good or bad, I’ve learnt that the key is to keep going and keep trying to learn what life is trying to teach us.
Swindon, July 2012