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A U T O B I O G R A P H I C A L   S K E T C H
Doug Couch (a.k.a - altarlight)

When I was very young, my parents treated me well, except for the fact that corporal punishment was an occasional part of my life. They and my brother and I were a loving, close family. My parents drank and my mother was an alcoholic, although I had no clue what that meant. When I was about six, my great aunt coaxed my parents to start going to church with her at a Pentecostal Protestant church, and of course, I got to go along. They both became as devout a variety of Christians as they were able...not without faults, but my standard for "good people" in the world. Although neither of them ever became wealthy or even upper middle class, they shared with me something far greater than wealth in terms of money...themselves.

Of course, I was indoctrinated starting at that impressionable age...and "got saved" according to the beliefs we were involved with at the time. I could see that both my parents took their religion and "relationship to God" very seriously. Both of them spoke in "tongues" frequently, and within their world, this practice came to be considered as their measuring stick for who was truly saved and dedicated, and who was...less than that. I did not, and as far as I've ever heard, my brother did not ever speak in tongues. Although I believed as best I could, I found this and some other doctrines confusing, if not a bit crazy, and at least partly because of the gift of tongues issue, I never felt completely "in" with what was going on around me.

Gradually, desires repressed due to society and my belief system increased in their intensity and I found myself following after them, even to the point of what I myself considered "wrong", eventually behaving in illegal ways resulting in my arrest and conviction. By that time, I already hated myself, sometimes voicing my rage toward myself when no one else was around. But that anger and feeling of desperation did not help, and I thought of myself as worthless, "headed for hell" without hope, and basically at the bottom of the barrel...the dregs of society. After my arrest, the guilt involved with this became unbearable, and after awhile I began to have episodes where my body would feel physically numb, and that was a painful way to live my life. The staff at the mental health facility were nice to me mostly, and yet some voiced their negative, guilt-promoting opinions, and it hurt even more. At the time, it seemed cruel, and yet in my mind it was warranted.

Along the way of my journey into incarceration, I was beaten, but not too badly. I was setup to make sure my conviction was made known (along with a number of others), then pushed out into mainstream population in the county jail. I learned of a plot to murder me, but was rescued and put in a private protective custody cell until I left that jail (apparently someone had let the guards know, very possibly saving my life). One of the people I knew while incarcerated was transferred to prison, where he was thrown off the third tier to his death. Another arrived at prison and I heard he was beaten beyond recognition. Yet another, an older man who was a paraplegic, was finally released back into society, only to be murdered. So life for me was a fearful hell sometimes. Apparently the plot was to kill me during an escape, whether I chose to go with them, or to remain behind. It was a brand new jail and we were its first customers. The design of the windows was flawed and they discovered (unknown to me) that the concrete could be dug out along the edges of the vertical narrow windows. So the same night that I was rescued into protective custody, they had a riot, and while that was going on, several attempted to escape through the window in my cell...which of course would have made me a target no matter what my choice had been. Some escaped and one got stuck in the window, with all of them eventually being caught. Their being caught would not have helped me however. When I came back from jail after the murder plot, my hands always smelled as though I had dipped them in strong vinegar and washing didn't help...which condition lasted a few days. Then I developed IBS-D, which likely had been going to come along anyway, but apparently was triggered by the high stress during that period.

Light noticed toward the end of a dark tunnel:

My incarceration was the most painful thing I'd ever known, and yet, it got me to slow down, pause and begin to look at myself more and more closely. Of course, the way I did this initially was according to a combination of whatever came along in therapy, and from my religious background. There are many details and nuances, but this is supposed to be a relatively short bio (hmmm...really?). Aside from this type of looking at myself, before I'd even been transferred from the jail (where I'd spent about five months) to the state mental hospital, I began to notice things I'd never noticed before...little things that seemed to pop off the pages when reading ordinary books and articles of a secular nature. I counted this as an overactive imagination, and perhaps it was. However, over the years that were to come, from that time in 1977 until the present, these "little things" began to arise in mind spontaneously, without reading anything, and they got better and better. They were always deeply colored by my religious background for years, and still are somewhat today, and yet what I present today is in no way based on the religious training or related scriptures from my younger years (before age 30). These insights were often very exciting and I felt unworthy to be the person receiving them, as they seemed like a special dispensation in nature. Over time...about 16 years, I started realizing that my listening within had become a pure form of meditation (meaning it was not usually meditation upon or about anything in the temporal realm). Then it became clear to me that the source of these insights was more important to me, and to share with others, than the insights themselves (such as those shared on this site).

But what I really didn't expect was that it was brought to me to notice and understand that the source, which was within me...was me. If one could say it was God, that could be taken as true, and yet, just what is God? Is God as had been presented to me earlier? What I experienced within was gentle, never commanding or guilt-tripping, never pushy or suggesting I change my beliefs or give up my religion, etc. It was just unconditionally there, day and night, whenever I was willing to pause and listen. There were fairly long periods when I didn't participate in these insights or try to listen or pay attention within. But the very second I would shift back and begin to listen, there this presence was, right there, never left, and fully ready to provide more insights, and to align my thoughts and feelings in wonderful ways. Were these insights perfect? No. Are they perfect today? No...it is not possible for insights and intellectual sharing to be perfect. But I did discover that "I" am perfect...and that "EVERYONE" is perfect...just as we are, right now, without any purification or behavioral changes (even though such behavioral changes might be very much needed...just not as a condition for being there in the presence). There was and always is however, one single requirement: Each person must become willing to turn within and listen to whatever source is there, even if that source is clouded by erroneous inner voices...and become familiar enough with that which is within to be able to discern the truth (no mediators or saviors can accomplish this for anyone). The reality of each of us (which is the same reality in all) is there for us unconditionally, and will by its perfect nature, influence any willing mind that turns to it, and begin giving nudges to their beliefs and feelings, and self-esteem...leading them gently according to whatever they individually can and are willing to consider and perhaps receive fully. So that is the requirement and a birdseye view of the process, and what could be likened unto a promise to all who come. My downward-spiraling life that was bringing me and those around me pain, shifted and started a never-ending upward spiral. It is never-ending because once it becomes clear that this presence is there (whether thought of as one's own reality or as God or not), a certainty begins to form as confidence that grows. Today, I love myself and others, and have found a number of ways to share this wonder with others. I speak against institutionalized traditions, especially religions, even though it is not necessary to do so. I do this because so many, many people remain trapped in religions and do not realize it at all. If by doing this I assist even one person to reconsider, and to look within...beyond anything I might say, and discover this same presence for themselves, it will be worth my having included this type material, as well as the rest.

I needed desperately to know the truth within and the influence arising from it, and to have it assist me in changing my life. It is my belief that many other people also need to make this discovery. When reading anything I write, always remember that none of my insights and definitions are cast in concrete. They are not important in and of themselves. Their only value is in their potential to nudge a few people here and there to discover the presence within, and to discover it without religious ideation overlays molding it into something other than the pure truth that it is. People need to be free within, not bound by rules and allegedly authoritative dictates, whether from writers or from any entity alleging to be God itself. The "God" I met as this presence, and which I eventually came to call my reality and the reality of all, is not wrathful and never was, is not jealous and never was, is not changing from an Old Testament style God to a New Testament style God...but is irrefutably the same and only reality in and as eternity. And here in the temporal realm, each person discovering this presence may experience that encounter differently, according to whatever their background and colored glasses insists must be reconciled and released, and according to whatever their abilities and current state of willingness is, from moment to moment. But although their experience overall and the insights they experience from this may differ, at some point in time, down the road, all our differences will fade away, and our seeming need for intellectual correctness will also fade, as the living truth is noticed more and more, where intellectual discourse is not happening. Instead of communication and relationships, we find ourselves discovering literal oneness of ourselves throughout the infinite reality we share. In the words of the voice in the corn field ("Field of Dreams", the movie)..."If you build it, he will come." 'He' might be replaced in that line...and 'build it' might also be replaced...and technically, that which is already present cannot 'come'. But the metaphor holds. If you discover that which builds up within you the house built without hands (in lieu of an arbitrary belief system), the rediscovery of this shared presence and reality will seem as though the lord of that temple had come there to govern. The promise is unto you, and unto your children, as soon as any barriers to noticing that presence begin to fade and no longer interfere with the awareness that is your right, far beyond a birthright. You are perfect today, with no caveat or hidden symbolism...whether the evidence around you and in your beliefs and those of others agrees or not. Know this...know the truth, and be free within, for you are already free within, and are ready this moment to embark upon discovering that utter freedom...or of course, to continue that journey.

— Doug Couch

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