FOCUS visits Carapichaima
July 8, 2018
Giving Hope
July 8, 2018

Jacqui’s ‘becoming’

By Renée Smith,

Experiencing symptoms of any kind are often unwanted but for Jacqui-Theresa Leiba the symptoms of spiritual awakening have led her to a level of consciousness about God, herself and others that she can only best express through poetry.

Leiba however, prefers to describe her experience as “human becoming” which is also the title given to her collection of contemplative poetry launched last August.

“What do you do when the God of the Universe collapses the walls of your mind and enters the door of your heart with sudden swiftness and power of a gentle tsunami?” Leiba questioned. “You fall to the inner ground of your being and lie prostrate for a very, very long time; before you can accept the light of Truth that did not just hit your eyes but penetrated your mind, heart and soul.”

She explained that close to 20 years ago she had been struggling to accept the “truth” of her life. She was living in Maryland, USA, at the time, had her own business, a comfortable home and a happy family life but found herself craving “real joy” and constantly questioning the meaning of happiness. Though Catholic, she found even her prayer life had become empty and Mass attendance eventually stopped.

“Inner turmoil began to dim my world view and after a while, the mornings of silence and solitude were about all I could manage. I had begun writing a gratitude journal at that time but soon even that became too arduous,” she shared.

A day came when Leiba and a friend decided to visit a Christian minister who hosted a radio programme they listened to daily. They found his homilies inspiring and wanted to meet him at one of his prayer sessions.

The minister asked the newcomers to introduce themselves and Leiba’s response was the start of a series of life-changing events for her. “As I began, the sound of my voice seemed a bit strange like coming from a far-off place and at the same time taking on an acoustic quality. The voice was mine and yet, not my own.” She said an inexplicable fear gripped her as she wondered what was happening, asking herself, “Am I losing my mind?”. The ordeal inspired her first poem “Inner Quake”.

After that encounter, Leiba said she began to fall into “mystical chasms” that would finally set her on ‘On Solid Ground’ (title of the fifth poem). “I was plunged into a state of indescribable and profound darkness feeling as though death would have been a pleasurable alternative.”

Seeking to understand what was happening (depression seemed logical but did not quite fit) she called on counsel from Fr Henry Charles, now deceased.

“Fr Charles listened to me as I howled and sobbed on the phone explaining to him my feeling of being submerged underwater and only every once in a while I am able to get a breath of air and a little light. I told him that as soon as I got relief I feel like I was being pushed down again,” Leiba said.

Fr Charles’ advice was clear and simple: “Let go, surrender to God. Do not fight. He is leading”.

A vision

It was several months after the conversation with Fr Charles that Leiba felt she came out of a dark tunnel. “Though I still felt weak, tired and incredibly vulnerable; like a newborn… That morning I lay on my bed in a state of inner quiet and soothing realisation that dawn had come in more ways than one. I asked my heart, ‘Is this You (God)? What does it all mean?’.”

She experienced a vision that had her at the foot of a towering white billboard with two words written in black, giant letters “huMAN BEcomING”. It was her first vision and believing it to be a divine message but with no experience in such, she felt more confused as ever.

However, life continued for Leiba and she eventually developed a deep inner calm, while also experiencing visions of Christ which she described as her “new normal”. Though she was tested over the years that left her pondering life in the silence of her heart, being “dictated” by God to write poetry led to an opportunity to finally speak the Great Truth. “I thank God in all of this because He has held me together in His Love that I may be able to tell this story.”

Today, Leiba continues to be grounded in Catholic tradition and is the founder of the Community of the Contemplative Heart committed to helping others understand that the most important human relation is one grounded in Christ.

Leiba’s deeply intuitive poetry was recognised at the 2018 BOCAS Literature Festival held in April and alongside 44 first-time authors, she was awarded an honorary plaque by NALIS.

Her collection is available at the Dominican Bookstore & the Foundation for Human Development, Cascade.