Monday, December 31, 2012

Javert's Suicide

I saw the new Les Mis movie today. One part that stood out in a way it never has before was Javert's suicide. Javert addmitted to Jean Valjean that he had grown up amidst thieves and "scum," therefore claiming to really know and understand Valjean. My heart was drawn out to Javert who I imagined had likely grown up in a painful, chaotic situation and decided to become part of the law to see justice done (for those things that had hurt him as a child).

The problem was there had been no experience for Javert of a "thief" being a good person, having a soul and a heart, and the ability to change. When I used to see the play I figured he was committing suicide because he felt so much shame and guilt for chasing Valjean all those years, only to be met with compassion from Valjean. However, this time, while watching the movie, I experienced his desire to die from a different angle.

It connected with the moments in the last year that I have felt something similar to what Javert described...

"And must I now begin to doubt,
who never doubted all these years?
.....the world I have known is
lost in shadow."

"I am reaching, but I fall
and the stars are black and cold
as I stare into the void of a
world that cannot hold"

There were a few dark moments, where all I could see was a void. The world I had known no longer existed, and the stars (those "solid," shining beliefs) were black and cold. It was like nothing I had felt before as "all my thoughts flew apart."

Our brain is programmed to make sense of the world, based on what we take in through our five senses when we're experiencing life, and how we then translate that information and feel emotions. Javert truly couldn't imagine a world where a thief could have a good heart and was not something he had personally experienced (he had likely experienced the opposite, and/or been told the opposite: that thieves and "scum" could only cause problems and could NEVER do good), so to be faced with a thief that didn't do what he expected one to do literally short circuited the neurological pathways he'd built in his brain to make sense of the world. It reminds me of a fuse being blown, and suddenly everything goes dark.

In those moments that my own fuse was blown, I saw a reality that was not only what I had never expected, but one for which I had no framework. There was no story, or experience, to hold what I was seeing, hearing, etc. And, in those moments everything went dark, and it was a terror like I'd never known. And those were the moments I thought to die would be better than to feel what I was feeling...the nothingness...the void. In a way, that moment was a death, and if I no longer existed (if I was so deconstructed that the way I saw the world no longer existed) why stay? Plus, when I felt that emptiness I thought I was maybe losing my mind, or would go crazy.

In my own study of those who have been along this kind of a path, this can be a normal part of the experience. What I have found was that those who've seen more of reality may be more likely to be able to work effectively through what could be terrifying moments. Example of realities some may be more exposed to than others: that people can be moral and not believe in God, that people can be unsure of an afterlife and still feel meaning in their lives, that the history of the church you've heard all your life may not reflect all the events...even the "important" they actually occurred, that you can be a single woman of 32 and be just as fulfilled and happy as a married woman of 32, that someone living in a gay partnership may feel just as joyful in their love and be just as valuable to society as someone in a heterosexual relationship.

It seems that in these moments when a belief is blown up, by seeing or experiencing a reality that is different than the previously held belief, if there is some way to anchor yourself to that reality it can be ok. If you can anchor to something (or to someone who can hold what you cannot on your own yet), you can allow the belief to break open (it's old form to die) and then eventually expand, and trust that you'll still exist, because you're actually kept alive by reality, not by your beliefs.

And possibly Valjean represents a greater experience of what is possible (a reality we'd never before known). When these Valjean's show up in our lives we may wonder much like Javert..."Is he from heaven or from hell? and does he know that granting me my life today, this man has killed me even so." How true it is that these moments that blow up our ego (beliefs that are not reality) to smithereens, are also the moments that give us back our lives, that set us free and grant us access to the freedom we forgot was ours.

NOTE: * If you are going through an experience like this, and are having a hard time finding something to anchor to, it may be helpful to seek help. If suicidal ideation gets to the place where it feels like a possibility, know there are other ways. Find someone to talk to immediately (someone safe). If you don't know anyone a therapist, or two, or three, until you can find someone who can understand. If worse comes to worse know you can always call 9-1-1, or go to the emergency room. When the brain short circuits there's no shame in keeping ourselves safe until we can rebuild safety within ourselves. I found it helpful when I had no holding place for a reality that was unexpected, to talk with someone who did have a story or a way to hold it. Even though, over time, I've found I've needed to form my own story (since no ones will perfectly resonate with our own), there are many resources offered by those who have walked the path before. One website that may be helpful for understanding the "trauma symptoms" that can accompany a faith crisis or fath transition is:

"Do you believe in God?"

"Do you still believe in God?"

It's been a popular question I've received since leaving church. I've never been able to settle on a solid answer, and I usually offer some sort of explanation...listening to myself as curiously as the one who questioned me is listening, because each time I answer it comes out differently. I've decided that part of the reason it's so difficult to answer is that the question itself is not clear.

So from now on if you ask "do you still believe in God?" I will ask what you mean. What is it you are really asking...?

QUESTION: "Do you believe there's one man, whose form is solid and never changing, with a white beard that is in charge of everything?"

ME: What is it you're really asking here? Why does this matter to you? How does your experience with this belief influence you?

QUESTIONER MAY REPLY: Well, it seems that it's important for me to know this because it helps me feel like I'm loved by a personal being.

ME: Yes, sometimes I feel that same need. To know I'm loved by something that makes sense to me. This is especially true when I feel like I'm facing problems I can't make sense of and/or I don't have another human that day I feel understands me and I can be close to. Because I sense that whatever/whomever "God" is is much bigger than I can make sense of, I Sometimes like to visualize it/he/she in form. I practice both using a form that has always represented pure love to me, as well as opening space for a feminine form that also can represent pure love to me. The picture or story seems to give me something to more clearly relate to from my own form-based experience. Other times, it feels more helpful to feel this omniscent love and knowing in all things...the smile of a friend, the stars and greater universe, a plant, animal, piece of furniture, bite of food. Sometimes studying science feels like God to me. Sometimes, it feels like it's within me. Since I've found that I can experience that love and support in many ways, I no longer feel it necessary to assume that the picture I grew up with is an absolute and literal truth.

The Baghavad Gita (a Vedic scripture) explains that the impersonal nature of "God" is the absolute and unmanifested, but that we can't make sense of that through our manifested self...our senses, and it can be helpful therefore to have a connection to something that feels personal. I think the problem comes when we assume our story of meaning & truth, or "God," if we call it that, to be literal and the only "true" or acceptable story (ps. everyone has a story...whether we call ourselves Christians, Atheists, Agnostics, Muslims, etc). From that place of having to be right and absolute, we have no option but to compare our story with others, becoming judgmental as we have to assume that ours is more right and we know more, have more answers, or are happier than others.

OR QUESTIONER MAY REPLY: It's important to know I can become like God...that my mortal self will be able to take up its body again, that the end is not really the end.

---Ok, so I just wrote out a long response to this under "ME:" based on possible replies to this, but it got way to long and convoluted, and complex, so I deleted it. I realized that for me there are enough hidden meanings, and fears, in this statement that I would need to break it down more. Maybe one day I'll take time to do a post on this, but for now I'll just list one follow up question I have to this statement.

- Why does it feel scary that who you think you are (your gender, motivations, family, career, church testimony) might end or change forms?

My FOLLOW UP RESPONSE: This feels so difficult to address with words because it's still a newer experience for me so I don't have much language to explain yet, but I was pleasantly surprised when some things I thought were ME had died, and I found that I was still there...not the "I" I had known before, but a deeper, older "I." It was like a memory of the me I had long forgotten. And it didn't seem to have anything to do with being human, my gender, my relationships, my beliefs, and so on...

OR QUESTIONER MAY REPLY: My belief in God as a man in form motivates me to know there is someone actually aware of when I'm doing "good" things & "bad" things. If there wasn't someone there I'm afraid I wouldn't have any direction and would not be as fulfilled in life. "If I didn't believe in God I don't know where I'd be."

ME: In that case, experience with a form-based God may be very helpful. I think it's why religions have been such a helpful part of the healing process for so many people. They've given a story of love and forgiveness that one can (maybe) wrap their head around. Example...If you see God as a father, and you've been a father, or know how your father was with you (or at least how you wanted him to be) it may help you bring in attributes of protection, compassion, understanding, strength, etc. to your own process of learning/healing to visualize a "father God."

The flip side is that whomever you would see a "parent-God" to be, would be a projection of your own experiences of who your own parents were, who you wanted them to be, and who you yourself, as a father or mother, want to be. So, again to believe that your perceptions signify an absolute can be problematic, esp. for someone with an abusive parent. But, even for those of us with "loving" & "safe" parents, this can prove problematic because all human parents have their own humanness, and we may assume some of their attributes to be the best or right way...not knowing there even could be another way. When we put these attributes on God believing that is what judges us, it can get quite sticky.

So, while believing in a "loving father God" for the majority of my life did prove a way to "keep me in line," it didn't leave room for the whole process of building trust with myself. Because in the areas that I just couldn't "keep in line," I was feeling guilty and beating myself up, or just numbing out (which is precursor to out-of balanced behaviors, and addictive cravings). Thinking...I just needed to try harder (read more scriptures, pray or fast more). I felt weak, inadequate, and was always petitioning something outside myself to give me more strength. When my belief in a literal "man" as my creator and judge began to drop gave me a chance to sit in my "weaknesses," "cravings," etc. without judgement and see what it was they were really all about. It also gave me a chance to begin to watch what I'd judged others for (drinking, coffee, sex before marriage, secular sundays, etc.) without judgement so that I could watch what my own fears of these things were really about, and begin to think about making choices based on understanding cause and effect (which are often circumstantial and based on intention).

I'm learning that I can choose health for me, because I love myself and honor my life. I don't need to love and appease someone outside me (though again...a helpful part of the process when we're going through moments that we don't remember our goodness or that we're worthy of self-love). So I thank all of those that have been my "Gods" (and sometimes still are) when I feel empty inside and am in process of rebuilding from a hurt or parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, friends, boyfriends, teachers, mentors, healers, pets, clients, the picture of my mormon God, yoga, the mountains....thank you all for remembering who I am when I didn't know how to remember myself.

If you were to ask if I believe in God I would look into your eyes. I would want to see all the things that made you forget that you were "God" of your experiences. Maybe then we'd remember each other, and there probably wouldn't be anything to say.

"A medieval Christian proverb says, 'To search for God is to insult God.' This saying implies that God is always present and any search for him is a refusal of this fact. We are westerners and have to search in order to learn that there is no search."

- Robert A. Johnson in "HE."

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Trapeze

(post originally written on Dec. 9th)

I began a post earlier today, and just felt numbness as I wrote. As I slowed myself down and noticed the numbness, I thought, "What is it I really need right now?" I've been a bit behind on writing and have wanted to get around to a post for a couple of weeks, but I realized that as much as I wanted to give and share, what I really needed was something to feed me. I feel like I've been needing more often than I've been able to give the last few weeks. Perhaps when we're in transition with something, and feeling the weight of the stress, it's helpful to honor our need for more rest, more downtime, and more help from those around us. I watched my roommate get ready for Church, and felt a longing to go simply to have some company and something to do. And yet, I knew I didn't really want to be there. Mostly I was lonely and longing for some company and connection.

I got on netflix to find a movie that might offer a sense of communion and connection with something greater than what I felt connected to at that moment (loneliness, confusion, boredom). I ended up watching a movie called, "Raw Faith." It was interesting and offered some parallels and understanding. I especially connected with Marilyn (the main character) taking a risk to let go of something MAJOR in her life (her position as leader of her church), not knowing what would follow, to make space for the the kind of life & love she was now ready for. She talked about it being like swinging from one trapeze to another. As you let go of the trapeze you're holding, there is a moment when you're suspended mid-air, not knowing for sure that something else will show up to hold you. But if you're willing to take the risk and follow the inner guidance, you have a great opportunity for the next experience of growth to show up.

"Life is a labor pain, we are here to give birth to ourself."
- Bernie Siegel

Who I Am (part 3 of 3) I almost wanted to abandon this "Who I Am" 3-part series because it's so long and wordy, but decided to finish what I started,

Two more verses of commentary:

"See I thought love was black and white
That it was wrong or it was right
But you ain't leaving without a fight
And I think I am just as torn inside"

This continues to be a trap for me...Seeing things as black and white. I think I've been doing it for so long, it's sometimes like an automatic programming in my brain. I don't know what else to say about this one right now except that there have been two ways that the black and white, have been balanced and bridged in my life: My own experiences, or being with another in their experiences. experience :)

Even moving away from the Church felt like this. When the sadness or anger got big enough and I hadn't yet processed something, I would feel a reactive trigger inside me: "I'm out of here," I would think. But it would come from a place of anger, and a feeling of pulling away my love from the Church. While these moments still come up when I find out more about the Church history I didn't previously know, or experience another layer of awareness of how a perspective I've held for so long has hurt myself, I've realized that any time I feel the black and white's something to look at more closely. The black and white sensation for me is a feeling of all-or-nothing...example: "it's either true or it isn't," "it's either right or wrong," "it's either good or bad," "I'm either loving towards the Church or I'm angry." Usually neither extreme is as helpful as taking time to be able to see the reality of both sides.


And I won't be far from where you are if ever you should call
You meant more to me than anyone I ever loved at all
But you taught me how to trust myself and so I say to you
This is what I have to do"

Many people who are also struggling at church have confided in me that part, or all, of the reason they stay is to help others who are struggling with how to hold a more nuanced view. I can relate, as I worried that when I left the church I would no longer be trusted by those I felt I "helped" that were in the church but struggling with it. I have found that leaving church has left me with no less to do as far as helping others. It doesn't matter where we are in any process of any experience. There will always be others around us who will be seeking love and understanding. Because I spent so many years in the church, and had many ignorant and judgmental thoughts, and hurt people with ignorant comments (and still do because I'm human), I do feel a particular desire to be there to help others who call for help and understanding.

As I think about it, it wasn't really the church that had my greatest love, it was the people. It was the teachers, ward members, and neighbors who loved me.

"You taught me how to trust myself." While part of leaving is to continue this journey of learning to trust myself, I have also found that many of the things I learned through the avenue of religion, have been helpful in me following through with my readiness to leave it. Teachings about trusting my "spiritual promptings," about honesty, integrity, responsibility and courage.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Who I Am (part 2)

(a continuation of the previous application of the lyrics from "Where I Stood" by Missy Higgins)

"There were sounds in my head
Little voices whispering
That I should go and this should end
Oh and I found myself listening"

- I just talked about this similar idea in the last post. For a little more clarification, growing up I really didn't ever feel anxious at church. In fact, I quite enjoyed the contemplation time...even when younger, to be in my own head thinking about principles of love and some of the greater existential questions of life. And going to classes was great... I've always been naturally studious, so I "knew" all the right answers ;) and I felt very "successful" at church. Looking back, I did feel some blocks in discussing spirituality with my parents. I just noticed that if I got uncomfortable about something they were saying I sort of withdrew. I think there was a fear of being misunderstood, or seen as prideful or rebellious if I had a different perspective. So, it really wasn't until I started practicing therapy and I saw pain & situations that were outside of my perfectly formed framework of answers (and those of the bishops, stake Presidents, etc. would send people to me to work with things they didn't know how to assist with), that I began to feel anxiety, anger and pain at church, and the God I'd been taught to believe in. I realized I didn't know squat, and I was angry everyone else was "pretending" to have answers (I don't believe this was done maliciously or even knowingly, and I'm sure many reading this may feel offended and misunderstood by that statement, but it's what I felt)...I felt like I knew they were "pretending" because it's what I had done for so long, without even knowing it. I'd often said "I know..." this or that because a leader of the Church had said it, or it had "felt" good, or I'd observed something and created the correlation in my min. In research it's important to control for variables so that when something is observed (through experience), we get the correlation correct. (i.e. "after a blessing someone experienced immediate healing."). The answer to that would be, "then the church must be true." While drawing this conclusion makes sense, it doesn't hold up against the reality that in many cases blessings don't lead to immediate healing, and in many cases blessings given in other religions also may lead to immediate healing. Assumptions and "I knows..." were made without really getting clear on the correlations. It wasn't until situations for which the church doctrine, as I knew it, couldn't offer an answer (and which I couldn't just put on the shelf labeled, "figure out later because it's not essential to your salvation to know this..."...that I really began to ask the questions with an "open" heart :)...without believing I had the answers or knew things I didn't really know.

I hadn't realized that I'd been lying to myself in believing I knew all the important answers, or that at least I belonged to the ONE organization in the world that had more answers than anywhere else, because my church was the one organization that God was most likely to communicate with. While there were certain experiences and feelings that I'd interepreted in certain ways, I didn't KNOW. That awareness for me has lifted a lot of weight (weight I didn't know I was carrying)'s also left me open to receive answers through my intuition, in a myriad of places. And what I've found for me is that it isn't really about the answers for which there are currently no answers. It's about love. It's about understanding each situation for it's own uniqueness and supporting a path of self-discovery, an understanding of cause and effect based on actual reality, and authentic expression.

"Cause I don't know who I am, who I am without you
All I know is that I should
And I don't know if I could stand another hand upon you
All I know is that I should
'Cos she will love you more than I could
She who dares to stand where I stood"

This piece...this really is a BIG one..."I don't know who I am, who I am without you." I had NO idea until the last few years how much of my identity was the church. I'm not talking my relationship with a higher love...i'm talking the church...the organization, the doctrines, the culture. When I decided to step back from church, I would go through moments of contemplating that would sometimes end up down the path of fear and panick. "What kind of a person am I?" "What DO I believe?" The panick would bring on more questions..."who is God...what is real? Who will I become without the mormon church?"... and I would feel the fear of disappearing into the black hole. In those moments I would remember the meditation techniques I'd been working with...I'd slow my breath, and I'd let go of the analyzing mind, and just say, "Jenny, in this moment what do you know?" When I'd sit with that I'd often feel that I knew that who I REALLY was was still there. "I believe in love," I'd acknowldege. "I've felt what it's like to love something/someone. I believe in that," I'd say in my mind. Sometimes I'd have to keep breathing with it, and just stay focused on that...just stay focused on what I knew...from my experience...not from what anyone had ever told me.

I went on a road trip with a good friend about 4 months ago. She'd had a really difficult time when I told her I was leaving the church. Mostly it really scared her. She'd been following similar lines of questions and thinking as I over the prior couple years. She's been studying therapy and so would often call to discuss our humanness, the meaning of life, etc...and we would always go back and couch it into the framework of the church since that's the language we both spoke. On our road trip one of the things she said on our drive out to Colorado was, "it's nice to be here with you, it makes me realize that you're still you, you're still the same person." While I was grateful to hear that, as it validated what I was also realizing about myself, I felt a tinge of sadness & anger towards all cultures, religions, groups, etc. that place themselves in such a way as to be above the big "S" Self. That the identity of the organization is what stands as the head. Rather than the identity of the person. Again, coming from the space of the religion and culture, I never would have realized or been able to acknowledge that without experiencing it. "I know I'm separate from the church," I would say, or "I know my relationship with God is separate from my relationship with the church." But, really I'd formed so many beliefs about who I was around the church, that it's taken some time...still working on it, to separate who I really am from the church. And, I suppose in a way, I will always be connected to the church because it was a part of my experience for so long.

If you're reading this and thinking, "no...I don't feel that way," ask yourself if you've ever said, "I don't know who I'd be without the church?" or "I don't know where I'd be without the church?" If so, it's an identity (an identity to something outside of yourself). It's one thing to acknowledge that my experiences have been influenced by the church, but quite strange to realize that without it, I'M STILL ME!!! I am still me!! I still have a conscience, I can still feel Love and "the spirit." I haven't just wanted to go out and get drunk, do crazy things have sex with whomever...and even if I did, and even if I'd wanted to more drastically change my experiences (ok...I have done a few things I wouldn't have expected of myself...part of my process I suppose), I don't believe our experiences ARE us. I believe they're our experiences. Again, I acknowledge that the church is a framework of language and perpectives, and community that can influence our experiences, and that may be helpful to us at any point along the way (as are many religions for many people), but there's nothing that is TRULY me and no principle of love based on my true identity as a being of love, that isn't as real and present in me from outside of the church as it is from within. I didn't know how to even begin trusting this until I stepped back.

It's also interesting to look at how I'd use it to identify others as well. I can clearly think about times that I met people who weren't in the church and I could hold the relationship much easier if I created an energetic separation between me and them, however subtle and unconsciously I did this. I can be their friend, I can talk with them, enjoy them, but I can't really get close to them...unless they want to hear "my" message of "truth." I felt it just wouldn't be safe. Again, there wasn't a way to conceptualize this until stepping back. When I did I began to realize that what I didn't even realize as walls to those outside of the church weren't there as much (it's a slow process). I noticed that I began to give more equal attention to the opinions of those outside the church, that I saw that they had just as much to offer me about understanding life, as I did them. I suddenly felt that I could begin to let myself feel "close" and "vulnerable" with people outside the church. That I didn't have to pretend to be this super human who had all the answers and never did anything wrong (to show my example of why the church was true). That I could be a human, that some of my thoughts and opinions would be similar, and some would be different...just like they were with anyone else, even in the church.

This has actually been one of my favorite parts of the notice myself open my heart and be more authentic not only with my "tribe," but with anyone I feel safe enough to be close to. I still notice some fear of dating outside the church. It's like there's some kind of false safety set up. If they're not in the church I have a fear that they will not hold their relationship to me as sacred, that they might be more likely to be an addict, that they'll be more likely to want divorce. I say this is a "false" safety, because as I've observed marriages both inside and outside of my office, I realize that church membership doesn't have anything to do with a good, close, loving marriage. The principles the church teaches (at least the love based ones) may definately be a benefit to relationships, but those principles are all found outside of the church as well. I have yet to find any principle of love that was important to me inside the church that is exclusive to the church. I'm now working to connect with others based on principles, not culture.

and above all, I'm now learning who I am, who I am without you.

"You are the Tree of Life. Beware of fractioning yourselves. Set not a fruit against a fruit, a leaf against a leaf, a bough against a bough; nor set the stem againsts the roots; nor set the tree against the mother-soil. That is precisely what you do when you love one part more than the rest, or to the exclusion of the rest."
-Mikhail Naimy

Who I am (part 1)

This ended up being a LONG I've decided to divide it up into three different posts. It incorporates many of the aspects of the experience that I've wanted to write, hence the divions into a verse 1, verse 2, etc...

A couple of months ago I went walking on a Sunday morning, as I had begun doing regularly this last year, to help prepare me to cope with a day of possible "mind games." I wrote a blog post about Sundays a little while back. While panic and fear about my doubts, and the information I was coming across, could surface any day of the week, Sunday was especially triggering. I found that I still wanted Sunday to be a day of contemplation. A moment to step out of the "drama" of the literal, day-to-day world, but this quieting of the mind could bring all sorts of strange fears & thoughts to the surface. I would often download podcasts from Mormon Stories and later from Mormon Expressions. It seemed they helped bring me back to the reality of my experiences and I found a sense of validation and okayness for what I was going through.

This is a side note, but it feels important to share: After I decided to stop attending church things were both good and bad. It really did feel like the right decision for me and so I felt strengthened by that, but when the confusion and fear would rise things would get so dark and overwhelming that I would sometimes feel panicky. It was like I was dying, and I feared falling into a blackhole and being swallowed up forever. One night when I was feeling particularly overwhelmed I ran into an acquaintance-friend at a dinner party. We got to talking about the church and I shared a little of the lonliness, confusion & overwhelm I was feeling. He mentioned "Mormon Stories" podcasts and that they might be somewhat helpful. I went home that night and looked them up, still feeling the fear of the blackhole, and of course feeling somewhat secretive as I was at that time internalizing shame for looking up information about the church outside of church sanctioned materials (this was before I had yet learned about the historical/doctrinal issues that later helped solidify my place "outside" the church). I don't remember the podcast I listened to that night, but I do remember laying there in bed, in the dark, and feeling my chest get lighter and lighter. I could relate to what was being talked about...and here they were talking about doubts and questions in the open. It felt so freeing to hear someone speaking honestly, without fear, the same words that were in my head. A few tears moved through as the tightness released from my body, and I felt I was cradled in a cacoon that night. Like a mother had lovingly wrapped a blanket around me, and knew what I was feeling, and was aware of what the whole picture was really about. In her cradling I knew I would be okay.

So...back to my walk. This particular day after listening to whatever podcast I had listened to I decided to pull up my music, and on came a song that I didn't know much about and I think had gotten on my playlist as a nice stretch song to play for a cycling class I'd been teaching. Ok...just one more side note...the same time I decided to leave the church I quite teaching my cycling class. Really, it's so strange to look back. But it was almost as if there was so much intensity happening in my mind and body day-to-day with the shifting, that to go teach a high energy cycling class, with high energy music was more than I could take. Just like I never thought I'd leave the church, I never thought I'd quit teaching, but one day I just knew I was done. I haven't been back since (it's been about a year). I found that more meditative exercise experiences were needed at this time, and so I focused on yoga and walking. Lots of tangents here, but I figure it may be helpful for anyone who wonders if going through this is supposed to feel so difficult in so many ways, even life shifting. May not be for everyone, but it was for me.

Ok, so truly...back to the walk and the song. This was the song I began listening to, and as I did it hit on so many things I was feeling. And so, I write it out here. First I list the lyrics, then I list the lyrics with the application to my own experience at the time. Before reading through the rest of the post, it may add to go look it up...even if you're not into popular mainstream music, it's a nice song...and you may get a feel for some of the emotion that was working its way through me at the it all felt so big and serious at this point

"Where I Stood" (by Missy Higgins)

I don't know what I've done
Or if I like what I've begun
But something told me to run
And honey you know me it's all or none

There were sounds in my head
Little voices whispering
That I should go and this should end
Oh and I found myself listening

Cause I dont know who I am, who I am without you
All I know is that I should
And I don't know if I could stand another hand upon you
All I know is that I should
'Cos she will love you more than I could
She who dares to stand where I stood

See I thought love was black and white
That it was wrong or it was right
But you ain't leaving without a fight
And I think I am just as torn inside

Cause I dont know who I am, who I am without you
All I know is that I should
And I don't know if I could stand another hand upon you
All I know is that I should
Cause she will love you more than I could
She who dares to stand where I stood

And I won't be far from where you are if ever you should call
You meant more to me than anyone I ever loved at all
But you taught me how to trust myself and so I say to you
This is what I have to do

Cause I dont know who I am, who I am without you
All I know is that I should
And I don't know if I could stand another hand upon you
All I know is that I should
Cause she will love you more than I could
She who dares to stand where I stood
Oh, she who dares to stand where I stood


"I don't know what I've done"
- At this time it was still like a dream. I had been so solid in the church, I had loved the church, I had NEVER expected to leave, and so the experience was often as surreal as a dream. Sometimes I felt as though there was no longer any reality, and I really didn't know what had hit me, or what I'd done in deciding to step back...I didn't know how I'd gotten to where I was, and hadn't really been able to process my decision fully yet. It's also interesting to look back because I have more answers and clarity than I did at that time, but I knew it was time for me to be done. It was a similar feeling to certain aspects of my life I'd felt strongly to move on prior (sometimes quickly and without a lot of warning, such as leaving the therapy agency I'd been with to start my own practice, or the first condo I purchased). I had some reasoning, but for how strong I'd been in the church all my life, it didn't seem to make a lot of sense was just a knowing. And one thing I'd really built some experience with in the few years prior was that if there's that feeling...just move on it. The bits of information may not all be pieced together in a logical looking way yet, but they're there, encouraging the action, and so the message was to move. In a way, moments like this don't feel much like a decision in that something deep inside already knows it's moving, and in a way I felt like I was simply along for the ride.

It reminds me of Malcolm Gladwell's book, "Blink." He discusses how, depending on our experiences, or expertise, with certain areas of life we can know something before we know it. In some ways it felt like that. I remember having conversations with intution/ or "God" later on..."God if this is true, or if I experienced this or that spiritual experience in the church, why did it feel right to step back?" You may relate anytime you've made a decision you just knew deep inside that you needed to make for you, then without having all the answers, you go through the rough patches, and the grieving and confusion, and think..."why did I feel right about that?" So, again, I did have enough reasoning for the first move I made in stepping back, but just barely!

"Or if I like what I've begun"
- While I felt a freedom and peace like never before, I also felt waves of fear,anger, and confusion that I had never experienced. I was used to being a "happy person," and had prided myself on not being "too" emotional (when I
was young, my mom had mentioned she had been scared of having girls because they were so emotional. She reassured me, I was loved and wanted, and this had just been her experience as a young woman, but I remember thinking...I'll
never be too emotional, I don't want to be one of "those girls" that my mother wouldn't want). So, in some ways to be feeling anger was a new experience for me. Prior, I think if I felt anger about something I would just brush it under the rug so I wouldn't feel it, and I could put the perma- "happy" face back on...the emotion that I perceived was most acceptable.

I remember not too long before this experience I had just begun dating someone who was very active in the church. I'd been afraid to tell him where I was with things. We'd met the year prior at which time I was still fully active, and not anticipating otherwise (though frustrations and anxieties had been there for a couple of years). Before I decided to tell him I wasn't active anymore I thought, "maybe I can do this, maybe I can make the church work for me. It was a Sat. evening...the evening of Fall 2011 pristhood session. I was driving through the neighorhood, seeing men in suits and ties loading into cars, and feeling such a deep love for these men. They were like my dad and my brother...trying to do their best to love and serve & feel a connection with something more divine in this seemingly chaotic world. I longed to connect to the culture that had always felt so safe. I could do this, I could make this work. I really liked the man I'd started dating and thought about how I'd always wanted this. I remembered again the next morning why I couldn't make it work, and it was all so painful, so tough, that I often didn't like what I'd begun.

"But something told me to run
And honey you know me it's all or none"
- I remember the moment I was sitting in sacrament meeting. While there were moments of feeling "the Spirit," love and connection, there were also so many moments of grief and pain, which would bring up anger. "If it's true, why does the Church still see things this way (ways I knew from my psychological training, and then my own personal experiments with healing, were damaging to the psyche). I remembered what a mentor had said to me earlier in the week when I explained to him the anger that was rising towards the church ("Jenny, if you're angry with someone, it means you're blaming them for something you're not yet willing to do for yourself.") I thought about this, and realized I was expecting the Church to change, I was expecting the Church to take responsibility for my spirituality, and provide more "fitting" soil for my spiritual growth based on my current needs, but I wasn't willing to do that for myself. I wasn't willing to make a change, to step back from the church, and to go out and find more useful soil for what I was needing at the time. I wasn't willing to do for myself what I wanted the church to do for me, and so I realized that the fear and anger I was carrying was a sign that I wasn't moving forward with what I needed to for me. That I could love the church, and where it was, and all the experiences it had made space for in my life up to that point...I could love it if I left. If I did what I needed to do for me, I wouldn't need to be angry at the church for not doing it for me. And so I "ran," kind of slowly in my heart, though at that point I went from being a 100% attender since birth, to a 0% attender at 32. And yes, the all or nothing, black and white church teachings aided me in making it an all or none ;) I did have to be careful of this, and still do (on an emotional level), but I did feel it would be best to commit to not going back for 3 months and then I could reevaluate from there (it really was like my past relationship break-ups. Sometimes when you've been connected for a long time you have to make a clean break while some of the wounds heal, otherwise, it's easy to get back together just because it's habitual, and feels comfortable, even if it's not in your highest interest to stay in that relationship any longer.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Awareness...The Mirror of the Other last post was written about ways I connect awareness and spirituality. I've continued to think about awareness. When I first started feeling hurt and frustrated at Church, and when I first decided to step back from attending (there is a three year span between the beginning of the frustration and choosing inactivity), this was really the main issue...awareness of how certain perspectives & world views were affecting my life, and my ability to love.

When I decided to step back, it was simply this...that I felt I needed space from a place where certain perspectives were encouraged. For the three difficult years prior to leaving, I would go to work during the week, and I would see the pain & suffering of good, loving individuals. Then I would go to Church and I would feel triggered into pain & anger as I heard others share (as I so often had before) the rigid beliefs that were the exact beliefs that were so harmful to those clients I was getting to know. I also realized as I began to explore my own areas of suffering, that many of the beliefs that were causing me so much unnecessary pain & harm, were reinforced at Church. I don't blame the Church...I'm the one that chose to internalize these beliefs in the ways I did. It just felt so good for my ego to be "right." it felt so good to have all the answers(or at least more than the rest of the world), to believe that I knew more than others, that I was chosen. It felt good, and it felt safe.

Some specific examples of how this all happened for me:

It started with my clients. I had just become a Marriage & Family Therapist. I was doing a lot of work at the time with pornography addiction, issues around homosexuality, depression, anxiety, and past traumas. Now, it may help to really imagine this to better understand what this part was like for me...people are coming in to see you. They are smart, usually well educated people, often from religious homes, and usually loving families. You are young, late twenties. You've been to grad school, you've had your own life experiences, but other than that...what do you know? You don't understand everything. Some of the people coming to see you are much older, some not, but they are all seeking the same thing. Peace, joy, a sense of connection with their loved ones, with themselves, with God. Some have been through obvious abuse, stressors and traumas, some seem to have had a perfectly easy life. Yet there is pain, suffering, depression, addictions. Bishops would send people from their congregations that they didn't know how to assist. Growing up how did I manage things that were problematic? I prayed, read scriptures, talked with friends (except for those few things that were really shameful that I didn't want to share with anyone), talked with Bishops. If those things didn't work, I compartmentalized, felt guilty, felt I just needed to keep trying harder, or I'd bury it...or distract myself with perfectionism, socializing or over-achieving.

I was never much of a diagnostician in my therapy work. It may help to organize symptoms that people experience, but diagnoses don't do much to explain why someone is where they are with a particular issue, and therefore how to change. For example, someone who has committed multiple affairs may be considered as having "impulse control disorder." While this term describes the symptoms it doesn't answer any of the why's. Why is this person unable to control the impulse. They're here paying a lot of money to see me, they're smart, why are they unable to just not be impulsive? Why is someone anxious, depressed, addicted, continuing to play out unhelpful patterns in a relationship? To some extent it seemed to matter how much I really understood about what they were going through and what the reality of why & how it came about could be understood. I learned early on in my addiction work and research that shame is a major driving force in any addiction. So getting to the understandable part of a person's shame was important for releasing the shame energy, and therefore the addictive impulses, or problematic patterns.

For example, there were techniques for managing addictions, with the assumption that the craving would always be an issue, and there were ways to manage life so that one could resist the craving, often this included picking up "safer" addictions. For some reason I just felt drawn to understand more. It seemed that cravings or anxiety or any mental struggles were like a sign post signifying that something was amiss, something was out of balance. If things were able to be balanced perhaps the craving and struggle could actually be undone. And so, I began to study the experiences of those who had found that possibility to be a reality in their lives.

I began to blend traditional talk therapy with mindfulness & meditation techniques, and everything began to shift...even for me. What I found was that it was not our circumstances or illnesses that create the suffering, it was our mental processing around our experiences. I wasn't ready to dive into my own stuff...I mean, I did to a degree, but to be honest I felt I was doing ok, and plus as far as my own pain and struggles "I was doing everything I could do." I had let go of all I could let go of (so I thought). So, it really began with my clients. It was easier to see how this could all work through them. They were my mirrors.

To have people coming in and sharing their deepest, darkest secrets, pain, etc. is quite an experience. Truly, it's like nothing else. I found that I was getting to know my clients more than I knew anyone, more than I knew my family and closest friends. Many clients trusted me, and opened up in vulnerable, authentic ways that are not really even allowed in our culture (unless you're a therapist....I have a dream that one day we will all speak with each other this way, this authentically). My goal was to see them, to really hear where they were coming from. Because if I could understand, perhaps I could help.

And this is what I found...that my own judgements and many of my own beliefs were contributing to the pain of these people I felt deep care for. I had a client in one day. He was gay, had grown up in the Church, his parents didn't know he was gay (this actually describes more than one client) and he wanted to die. He had contemplated suicide many times, and even put a gun to his head at one time. He was beautiful, so incredibly loving, talented, intelligent...why, why would he choose to die? When he had finally admitted to himself he was gay and didn't want to marry a woman, ever, he realized, according to church doctrine, he would have to be alone. No dating, no physcial, romantic touch. This idea of romantic aloneness brought up a dark hopelessness. And then there were the fears of not fitting the picture. People would wonder why he wasn't dating, marrying. He would feel the judgements of others, of his family, of himself. At first I thought, "just don't let what others think affect you :)," which is kind of like saying, "if your father hits you just don't let it hurt you." These were his people, the only people and culture he knew.

I began to listen to clients trails of thoughts. I remember speaking with single women (older and younger), feeling depression due to the fact that they couldn't move "forward in life" because the "truest" happiness came from a family. This was one I could personally relate to. I had often just re-worded something I heard at Church to be less hurtful, and plus I assumed, "it'll happen eventually." But, I began to see how even though I was generally happy. My happiness was limited, because I believed it was supposed to be, until I married. I saw it in them, and then was able to see it in me. They were my mirrors.

Then I'd go to Church and I'd hear someone say something with a loving intention about marriage, the importance of a heterosexual relationship, of having children, of depression & how to be more happy, and my heart would feel twisted with pain. I would begin to cry and/or boil with frustration. What people were saying in ignorance (with good intentions)were the things I had once said, thought, and believed. They were the things my clients themselves were believing. How were they supposed to release a toxic belief when it was being reinforced in the very place that they saw as sacred, as the "most true." I remember sometimes watching clients in their most despairing times. As they sobbed. I would sometimes cry with them, and through the cleansing of the tears, and the quiet moments of contemplation with these clients, came the questions from deep within me. Coming from the Church perspective, when I would experience this previously I called it "God speaking to me."

- "Jenny, do you really think the only option I'm giving this man is to find a woman or else put all romantic longings on hold? Do you think it matters to me if he decides to be loving and give to the world his gifts from a relationship with another man?"

- "Do you think that the married woman you know are truly any more happy and fulfilled than this single woman could be if the single woman were to follow her heart and dreams, even if she never married?"

and from deep within, where the questions came from, the answers came..."no, my dear God, I don't believe that you're like that. Thank you for not being like that."

I remember listening to a lesbian client once explaining why she had chosen for years to be celibate (she had been quite influential in the lesbian LDS church community) and I felt the spirit, then I listened to her explain why she was now choosing not to be celibate, to find a female partner, and I felt the Spirit. These moments were so intriguing to me. How could I feel the "spirit" (that's what I perceived it to be, and the label I'd given that goose bumpy, warm, opening sensation all my life) when she explained that she now felt good and right about finding a partner? I'm not supposed to feel peace about something like that...but I did. I could feel the truth of it. "yes, as she's sharing that makes sense, that during that time it was good for her to be celibate. It was the place from which she could best work through things, best learn how to find peace and joy. And now, yes, it is good for her to have a partner, it is the place from which she can now best work through things, best learn how to find peace and joy."

I began to look at reality and the evidence of things...Getting to know my clients, the deeper parts of their lives and who was truly content and at peace. I found that some married people were at peace, some weren't. Some heterosexuals were happy, some weren't. Some gay people, even those in a gay relationship, felt deep joy, some didn't. Some religious people were happy, some weren't. Some LDS people felt at peace, some didn't. Some atheists were connected to a deep peace, some weren't. Some people who prayed, read their scriptures and served were content and joyful, some wanted to die.

It was as though it didn't matter the path of learning and experience. It was as though, none of these factors were what really provided true peace and joy. What mattered was accepting ourselves, having compassion for whatever path, in the present, allowed us to love more fully, be ourselves more clearly.

Over time, my allegiance to the organization of the Church faded, and my loyalty to what I saw as principles of love increased. It's funny though...principles of love. They are what they are to us depending on our path, and where we are in our experiences. I would have said before leaving the Church that the reason I didn't believe a man should marry a gay man was due to a principle of love from God, or the reason someone shouldn't leave their spouse..even if they said they felt right about it, was because it couldn't possibly come from an intention of true, pure love. While I honor that I truly believed those perspectives at the time based on what I understood, I also honor that I had very little experience and understanding of what someone in those situations experienced. Now I believe it doesn't matter, that only that person and God (whoever/whatever God is, or their "intuition" if the word God doesn't work) know what will bring them the most joy, and I call that a principle of love. I look forward to 10 years from now, where hopefully I will continue to increase in awareness of my own fears & judgments, and where I can open up to greater trust in love and truth and reality. What a ride!

"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I'll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase 'each other'
doesn't make any sense."


Spirituality and awareness

I've been thinking about the idea of spirituality and what it means to me at this point of my experience. Even since stepping back from church, I've connected spirituality with "sacred" activities: prayer, contemplation, meditation, reading a sacred text, etc. While I still think these activities can provide a vehicle for connecting with the spiritual (greater awareness), more and more I perceive that spirituality is awareness. No wonder some of my most spiritual moments were in intense sessions with clients. It was in those moments that I became more aware of how my own judgements, and closed-mindedness was contributing to the pain and suffering of the world. I could also see that my judgments and closed-mindedness came from fears, from things I didn't understand and so, looked scary. What spiritual moments to see the reality of how my own limited understanding hurt myself and others, and how despite that, my limited understanding was that...ignorance...not a reflection of me being a "bad person."

", I'm enough, I'm enough because I'm me doing the best I know how to do, and even in that I still hurt myself and others with my ignorance" To me, that feels like spirituality. Seeing the reality of my own limitations, and yet my value as a human. And as our awareness grows, so to does our ability to change.

May I open my spiritual eyes, may I see things as they really are.

"For me, the word God means “reality.”
Reality is God, because it rules."
-Byron Katie

Sunday, July 22, 2012

My Own Confusion

This is only my second post, but just a heads up. I'm not posting my story chronologically. As I discuss different topics of thought, contemplation, study, and reading I've experienced over the last few years, they're not necessarily posted in the order of when I experienced them.

My own shift of the last year had seeds planted at a young age. I think that's why I see the changes of the last few years as simply a continuation of a path I've always been on. Different vistas, different perspectives, same path. I remember being about 9-11, and I was out running errands with my mom. She was telling me a story about someone who didn't have the Mormon church standards to protect them, and was now suffering. From my perspective the story was being explained and then attempted to be used as a point to illustrate how the Church keeps us "safe" from doing and experiencing bad things, and so is evidence why the Church is true. As she was tying the story into proof for the truth of the Church I began to feel hot and aggitated inside. A thought arose, something like, "It seems like that doesn't have anything to do with the church. There are "good," happy, people outside of the church, and "bad," unhappy people in the church, so that doesn't make any sense."

Rather than mentioning my disagreement or discomfort. I nodded and pretended to agree. I think the reason I remember this particular incident when there were many of these kinds of moments growing up is that my mom followed up by saying..."you're such a good girl, so teachable." She even asked if I knew what that meant and explained the difference between being "prideful" and being "teachable." Being teachable had something to do with listening and accepting without getting defensive. I remember at this point feeling like a pressure cooker inside. She was "complimenting" me on something that I was currently angry at myself about, that I couldn't speak up...that I didn't dare to share my hurt and anger and confusion. It was in this moment, like many others, that the hurt and anger and shame was enough for me to shut down. I would withdraw emotionally. At one point in my late twenties my mom shared something to the effect, "of all the children, you're the one I feel I know the least." Strange, being that I'm the oldest, and have been around about 10 years longer than my youngest sibling, and yet am the least known. And no wonder, I've always been so afraid to speak up.

It was never my mom's fault that I did this. I still don't connect with connections she was making as proof that the Church was true, but I was the one who chose to pretend I agreed, to not share my opinion. I was the one who was afraid of being seen as "rebellious" or "wrong" or "bad" or "lost." My mom never forced me to agree, and though I can offer my child-self compassion and understanding of why I believed I had to agree to be safe & loved, it was my own confusion that affected me. Later on, I watched my younger sisters being more open and vocal than I, and I realize now that I was the one always cautious of being hurt, or being misunderstood. I was also afraid of hurting someone else. I didn't want my mom to feel that her efforts at mothering weren't good enough. And so, as I focused my energy into "protecting" her and "protecting" me, I learned to shut down.

My grandmother passed away about a month ago, and I have thought much of her since then. I knew she was an orphan and had lived with a foster family, but that's all I knew. During her funeral I learned that she was three years old when her mother gave her up, due to mental and emotional struggles that kept her from being able to care for my grandmother. My heart broke when I learned this. I'd always assumed she'd never known her mother, but to think of being a three year old child and having your mother give you up...whew...I had no idea. From there, my grandmother lived with over over 10 different foster families, never being adopted into any one family.

In my research I have come upon theories that we carry genetic memory in our cells. If so, this may explain my unexplainable fear of abandonment. Whether or not that's why I feel the way I do, hearing this story made it more clear that a child deep inside me believes that if I do something wrong or I'm not perfect I'll be given up, I'll be unwanted. And so, I've never learned to speak up. I am practicing awareness of this fear and how it affects me, and am learning to trust that I am lovable, that it's okay for me to not be perfect, and that when someone says something that doesn't fit for me, I have the right to express a difference of opinion or experience, and can do so with love and without having to be afraid, defensive, or angry. I feel I've got a ways to go with this practice, and while I still tremor with fear (literally) when I do make efforts, what a cool feeling to be sharing my voice, and ME with those I love.

Sundays...becoming a difficult day

Sundays have been the more difficult day of the week for some time now. It started about seven years ago. I had left a ward I loved...I was well known, admired, in leadership positions, felt I was able to use my Church positions as a channel for offering love and support. I had lived in the area and been in the ward for so long that the many of the relationships there were long standing, deep connections with people I knew well. During this time, Sundays felt full, social and joyful.

When I went to graduate school I found Sundays feeling very lonely. Where they had been a day to revel in being with friends and family, they were now a day where I went to a ward where I knew no one (at least in the my roommates were not members of the Church), and where it was difficult to develop the deeper connections I had in the ward before. Mostly because I simply didn't have the years to back up the new relationships.

Also, with graduate school and simply lack of desire, I made little time in this new ward for extra activities (Family Home Evenings, other ward activities, etc.). Being in a singles ward and not knowing people is a strange experience. Often people (myself included) would say things like, "well, you get what you put into it." "It's your own fault if you're not getting to know people." While I still acknowledge there's some truth to both of those statements, I also have an experience that offers understanding that putting a certain amount of energy into seeking friends and acceptance in a space where you know NO ONE can be extremely overwhelming. It can be rewarding and wonderful some days, and draining and awful on others. It's like going on a blind date every time you venture out to an activity or meeting. Rather than being with known people where there's some predictability to how you'll relate with them and how the moment will go, it's such an unknown. Some days I simply didn't have or want to risk all the energy of a "blind date" experience, even though it could have turned out well. I've noticed that even having ONE person you trust be present to support the experience and the risk can make a big difference, but going alone has both advantages and disadvantages. And, being in Mormon singles ward where you initially know no one, it isn't that you take a risk every once in's weekly, multi-weekly even. It became too much for me, too draining.

Plus, you have the piece of managing all of that with the fact that you're all near the same age, and single. There can be a feeling of needing to "make an impression." Esp. as it is part of the purpose of singles get single people together and married. It can feel pressuring & competative, while at the same time, nice to connect with others in a similar life experience. So this mixed-bag experience was interesting. Even though a difficult transition, I decided that I was going to Church to go to Church, not just for social reasons.

I had always loved the Gospel growing up. It felt like a place of protection & safety. A place where people knew and loved me. A place where I knew I was special. Where I had something others didn't, and that I could find joy in getting those "others" to see true what I saw to be true. That I'd been especially strong and valiant before this life. It was a place that included the "fulness," all the answers to life's most challenging questions (and up to this point it really did serve that for me, except for the places it didn't which were stuffed away). A place where if I followed the principles of the Gospel I could not be led astray, which to me meant...I would not be harmed or hurt (at least not badly) or marry the "wrong" person, or end up in hell (okay, Mormons don't use the word hell, but the tellestial kingdom, which sounded like hell to me. "It's really beautiful there, but you cannot progess and you cannot be with your family." At least that was the gist I got, whether or not that's really the truth of the teaching.

Sometimes I think of how I felt during those most wonderful times in my Church experience and, in a way, it was like living in Hawaii. It was beautiful, warm, mellow & calm. During difficult moments of my faith transition there was a longing to go back. Times I've attempted to pull the blissful naivety of what I felt in the past in the Church into the present (to pretend I hadn't become aware of what I had, to pretend I hadn't asked the questions I had) and damn it...denial of what I was learning just didn't work. And so, then I'd work to readjust. To fit the "new" information and the "new" perspectives within the faith, but it still didn't feel like Hawaii felt like Antarctica. It's like the weather patterns of the whole earth had changed. No offense to any lovers of the winter, but for a thin-framed woman the cold is a tricky thing to work with. What once was warm and mild, was now cold, painful, cloudy, and numbing.

Now, nearly 7 years after that first experience with painful Sundays, I find Sundays to still be more difficult days, but in different ways. Since deciding to step back from Church a year ago, I am now working to maintain a space where Sundays are a day in which I can feel connected to the highest space of love within me, and therefore feel connected to the highest space of love all around me. For so much of my life, Church was a helpful aid for this, and when it changed...that was difficult. and yet, I wouldn't change it, I wouldn't go back...I'm opening to new experiences, to different ways of creating space for the experience of love, and there I find God on Sundays...for now.

Thomas Merton's words:

"Yesterday, in Louisville, at the corner of 4th and Walnut, suddenly realized that I loved all the people and that none of them were, or, could be totally alien to me. As if waking from a dream — the dream of separateness, of the “special” vocation to be different. My vocation does not really make me different from the rest of men or put me is a special category except artificially, juridically. I am still a member of the human race — and what more glorious destiny is there for man, since the Word was made flesh and became, too, a member of the Human Race!

Thank God! Thank God! I am only another member of the human race, like all the rest of them. I have the immense joy of being a man! As if the sorrows of our condition could really matter, once we begin to realize who and what we are — as if we could ever begin to realize it on earth."

"Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed…I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other."

tags: religious confusion, new order mormon, post-mormon, ex-mormon, life after religion, addiction