Enlightened-ish is one of the most approachable, down-to-Earth books for anyone seeking a self-guided spiritual awakening. Gail’s work is honest, inspiring and undoubtedly a refreshing read in a market of deeply esoteric and trite testimonies about spiritual enlightenment and self-empowerment. Gail’s story begins with the unexpected death of her father. She dedicates herself to writing Enlightened-ish and the belief that this event will guide her to confront death and loss in a way that few have had the courage to do. She comes forward with experiences from childhood and adulthood in a way that would make Anne Frank’s diary look like a yawn-fest. With an outrageous audacity and authenticity, she confronts the death of her father, the loss of a spiritual community and the effects of witnessing a violent suicide, a health crisis and a break-up - all events which occurred in an 10-month period! Her ability to use storytelling as a means of identifying the universal truths that she calls the “Twelve Freedoms of Enlightened-ish Living” keeps the reader engaged in a polite spiritual voyeurism that has not been matched. Without exception, her tenacity about being fully human and fully “enlightened-ish” will change the trajectory of spiritualists in every religion. Never before has a memoir been written with so much conviction and humility, then packaged so powerfully that readers everywhere will be awakened to the power of storytelling. Enlightened-ish is raw, conversational and unforgettable!
I turned my back on every creative outlet in order to tell the story of my spiritual awakening. For two years, I was diligently stirring a cauldron of creative ideas. I had a bubbling blog called For Gail So Loved the World and an active Facebook community where I urged others to engage in the power of storytelling and to live in authentic relationships with one another, oneself and the planet. Also, I was writing a follow-up book to my 2004 coming out memoir. This sequel was going to explain my hiatus from activism and the changes I experienced in love, life and leadership. Everything was moving along quite well with spoken word performances, outreach to LGBTQ youth and media coverage which provided an audience of over 1 million people to catch a glimpse of why I do what I do. Then, at 3 a.m. on September 16, 2011, I received the call and came face-to-face with mortality. It wasn’t about being an author. It wasn’t about being an advocate for equality. It wasn’t about being a minister or an ally for church reform. This call, that changed my life, was the call that informed me that a part of me was gone. “Is this Gail Dickert?” The woman’s voice was soft and sullen. The sound in the background felt like how darkness might sound, as if everyone was inhaling uncertainty and exhaling nothingness. So, I knew it wasn’t a call from a hospital but when I recognized the area code, I assumed it was a call from my hometown; the place I visited my old friends and… my Dad. Knowingly I answered, “This is Gail. I’m Chuck Dickert’s daughter.” “Gail, I’m calling from the police and we are standing in your father’s apartment.” My hand went to my face and I started to weep as soon as she followed with the words, “I never know how to say this. Your father passed away. Is someone with you?” The days that followed were the kind of blur that great artists catch when photographing the speed of light. You’ve seen those pictures: the long streaks of red, white, orange and blue smudges stretched across streets or bridges as if they tried to stop time but Light refuses to be held too closely, for it is always designed for movement, change and freedom. My soul has felt like the Light in those photographs, since that call that informed me the Light in my father’s eyes had gone out. Everything started moving so quickly that the stillness I knew in meditation and reflection prior became a distant memory. I wanted everything to stop so I could anchor in silent consolation until the grief passed. But as Light traveled through me and around me, I could not sit in stillness and wait for the tears to stop. I was compelled to write it all out, regardless of how much sense it made to me at the time. Forsaking the blog and the new book, I embarked on a pathway through the grief that ushered me to the most luminous place on Earth: The Light within me. This is an uncomfortable journey mainly because part of the risk involves revealing dark places of my upbringing. It also leaves me open to criticism for being yet another self-identified guru. What I’m about to share involves heightened spiritual awareness, psychic connections and experiences of intuitive, self-guided healing. Nothing is more uncomfortable than having people call you crazy or at best, arrogant. Who would wish this journey on herself? However, I have been investing in my awakening with fervor since I was 9 years old, reading the Serenity Prayer, reciting my rosaries and frequently talking with what I understood to be a Guardian Angel. My work on this Earth is certainly married to spirituality but it was literally in a series of short moments after posting my perspective about the Buddhist principle of attachment on For Gail So Loved the World, that I “awakened.” Hours after that post, I received the phone call from police officer who unknowingly became the voice that challenged everything I had just written about in regard to attachment. I wasn’t meditating with Thich Nhat Hanh, visiting the Dali Lama, waiting for a hug from Amma, or reading the sacred texts from the Torah. There was no “conversion” experience that I classify other than willingness to trust my own voice combined with the synchronicity of tragic events. I was willing to be enlightened and then “Wham!” I awakened to an overwhelming sense of doom, like being the first grader who showed up late on the morning of the much-anticipated field trip. The bus is packed and ready to go. The driver is ready. The kids are seated with their lunches in hand as the parents sit in their cars waiting for the caravan of adventure-minded children to pull away. And everyone is looking at me like I did something wrong. Who do I think I am, taking this spiritual tangent and claiming to have arrived? Christians still behave with hatred in their hearts towards people who are not like them, zealous wars are being fought, Michele Bachmann still has a megaphone and places like Exodus International are still molesting minds with their lie about becoming “ex-gay.” Worse still, inequality for members of the LGBTQ community rages on like wildfires in small towns across the country and on a global scale it’s preposterous how some may face a death penalty for being homosexual. Enlightenment? In this climate? Who am I kidding? Enlightenment leads to brilliant discoveries about nature, the Universe, the Self, the Divine and appears to answer all of Life’s questions. But what about the baby steps of enlightenment and the power of those initial epiphanies? Who among us is willing to give voice to the infants of enlightenment? I’m compelled to be that voice.
Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose first book, "Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams" was published in 2004. She has appeared in FOX DC News as an advocate for former ex-gays and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine and Outlook Weekly. "For Gail So Loved the World" is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Gail is one of the only known lesbians to hold a Bachelor's Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.
Enlightened-ish has been one of the best reads for me in a very long time. I haven't picked up a book in well over a decade (and I read a lot!) that spoke to me in the way that Enlightened-ish did. The author does a fantastic job at telling her own story, while at the same time making her story universal and allowing each reader to see a bit of themselves in her. There is deep wisdom on every page and it is masterfully written. Each chapter is more insightful than the next and each can stand alone in its content and relevance. Ms. Dickert speaks a universal language of grief and love and was able to make difficult moments digestible for all readers. In her moments of discovery, struggle and deep strength, she inspires others to reach deep within to get through any tough moment. I could not put Englightened-ish down and it will always be one of those books I will keep by my bedside to continue to read over and over again. It's a book for everyone and anyone who picks it up will surely benefit from its content and the beautiful, honest and powerful writing.