Thursday, October 10, 2013

Working on Some Posts

I haven't forgotten this blog. I'm currently working on two posts:

- Where does our idea of God come from?
- raising children outside of Mormonism (or any other orthodox or literalist religion)

Come back soon :)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Other Resources

Here is a list of some of the resources that have been helpful for me, as I've been working to peel off the layers of "programming" that I no longer feel are true or helpful. I use the word programming, not to be extreme or critical, but it's a word that describes well the experience. There are things that when I am in a peaceful, clear place I no longer believe (ie. "The LDS church is the ONE, TRUE church," "I can never be as happy outside the church as within the church," "That it is of Satan, or the dark side, to think critically of leaders, or doctrine" "God is a man whom my actions are offending," "If I am disloyal to the church I will end up in the telestial kingdom (where I am trapped in a place I can't progress, without my loved ones)," "that there even is a literal telestial kingdom (where other people can get trapped without their loved ones").

I don't believe these perspectives anymore. But, when I am feeling more vulnerable. When I'm feeling worn down, When I'm grieving a loss, esp. around leaving the church (i.e. realizing I can no longer attend the wedding of a friend who's preparing for marriage), when I'm longing for love and acceptance from the culture I've known, when I'm searching for certainty regarding something for which there may not be certainty, etc. then it's like a switch, and my mind starts running through the thoughts, and even though I know I don't believe them anymore, they run their "recording." They play through like a recorded tape...bringing up fear, confusion, etc.

After this happens, I usually have to take a little time, sometimes a few days, to re-center. To remember that it is just that...programmed thoughts, and that I can continue to think in a way that makes more sense to me now, and allows me to take more personal responsibility for my own life, and what I want to create here and now.

These resources have been helpful for me when I've gotten off center, they've provided a place where I've felt I'm not alone, I'm not crazy, and where I've been reminded that rebuilding a healthy, beautiful life isn't always easy, but it's possible. And, over time, it gets better :)

This list is in no certain order:

A website by Marleen Winell who has focused her mental health efforts on recovery from literalist or fundamentalist religion. I especially resonated with her thoughts on "religious trauma syndrome," simply a name for symptoms. I don't believe everyone experiences these same symptoms. Because I had based so much of my identity and so many of my life choices on the theology of Mormonism, I found myself experiencing a fair amount of distress upon leaving. Her book and website have helped me keep things in perspective when I was going through my "faith transition" and experiencing many of these symptoms, which often left me wondering if I was crazy and "what was wrong with me." There's also a link to a video of a talk she gave on recovering from a literalist or fundamentalist religion.

A website dedicated to helping those who are transitioning out of mormonism, but want to do so in a healthy way. While there may be anger during the grieving process, the idea is to move through it, and come to a place of peace where one allows oneself to be where they are. At the same time honoring that the religion was once a part of one's life, and that experience will most likely always have some influence on how our mind works. For me the most interesting part was reading the different "exit" stories.

Letter written by a man named Jeremy Runnels in April 2013 to a CES director about the how he lost his testimony. The letter summarizes points of history and deception that were troubling to this man when he discovered them. It's a long letter, but covers most of the points that are of concern for people who face the issues of dishonesty around the church claims of historicity. Many, if not most, of the references are from Church materials themselves.

A blog written by David Twede (a former managing editor, and current contributor and He was raised a 5th generation Mormon, and resigned his membership in Oct. 2012).

The blog of an LDS bishop (Steve Bloor) who resigned his church membership while he was Bishop of his ward.
His letter of resignation to the Stake Pres, and one to the ward can be found at this link:

“Remembering the wives of Joseph Smith.” a series that was written up on the different wives of Joseph Smith. I think it was written by mostly, or all, LDS authors. It was helpful for me to have some of the facts. One question I had for myself while reading was, if I'm going to give Joseph Smith this or that excuse for why he did what he did (or give him the benefit of the doubt), why am I not willing to give Warren Jeffs...or others who've used their power in a such a way to manipulate those who are in a place of submission due to the power differential, the benefit of the doubt?

Podcasts: : Podcast hosted by John Dehlin. The podcast was helpful for exposure to the facts in a forum that was attempting as best it could to be fair and balanced. I will say that I did sometimes sense some slight bias, due to where the host is with his own journey, but considering our humanness and the reality that as long as we have an emotional investment in something we're always biased, he does a pretty amazing job of staying open with his questions. It was also interesting to hear snapshots of people's stories or experiences, from a more “emotional” perspective. While I haven't kept up as regularly as I used to, I'm still interested in some of the podcasts, and it does still help me to go back and listen if I find myself dealing with hurt or anger again.

Living After Faith blog & podcast. For me, it was sometimes helpful to get out of reading and exploring ONLY the stories of those who had left mormonism. It was also helpful to read the stories of those from other faith traditions who had left their faith. This was helpful because I was able to see that the pain, fear, loss, confusion....I experienced in my process was very similar (sometimes identical in certain aspects) to the pain, fear, loss and confusion of someone leaving the baptist faith, or the presbyterian faith, or the Jehovah's Witnesses. I was able to see that the same tactics that held people in a belief pattern in other faiths, were the ones that were employed in the LDS church (I'm not saying it was intentional or conscious). Seeing the patterns outside of myself & my experiences has been helpful (because it's always more difficult to see it in myself).

Authentic Living
You can find this podcast free to download on iTunes. It's hosted by a therapist named Andrea Matthews, and while it's not focused on religion, it does cover on some interesting topics that I think can be influenced by our religious beliefs. She recently added an interesting on "who would you be without your morals," and an interesting one on shame...I forget the title. One that I also really liked was "what's the difference between spiritual thinking and magical thinking."
Mormon expression is hosted by John Larsen. He hosts a variety of different guests, from a vareity of perspectives. It's definitely more openly biased than mormon stories (and the hosts are upfront about that), but I found it a helpful resource for information, as well as a way to allow myself to experience some anger. Because I don't necessarily like feeling angry (and i've always believed it was a “bad” emotion. it's easy for me to put my anger under the rug, and give all the reasons why I forgive and don't feel angry, but for me to really get into a place that felt good for me, it was important to not ignore the things I was angry about (and should be angry about... if I'm wanting to get more clear with myself and what kind of a person I want to be. I have found that my anger has helped me see more clearly where I was closed-minded, hurtful and manipulative...and this has been helpful. When I can recognize this and forgive myself and others, realizing I was doing my best, I find more of the hurt releasing, and the anger then genuinely dissipates). Anyways, I find that when I need some humor and an outlet for my anger it's a good resource.

I also find I have to be balanced with all of this stuff. If I get “addicted” to the podcasts (which I sometimes have), then I start to feel an overflow of anger and confusion, and sometimes I need to break from it to process it and move beyond it, before returning. I also find the need to remind myself that just like the church isn't the authority on my life (like I had given it previously), neither are these people the authority on my life. I honor their work and am SO grateful, but it's always important to come back into my own center and be honest about what's presently helpful and what's not. To remember that above all, since I'm the one that gets to live my life, it's important I'm aware of how I want to experience it, and what I'm doing that's supporting those deepest dreams.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Church Does Not Own...

One thing I've been watching happen for people (myself, clients, friends, others I've met along the way) as they leave the church is that there's a feeling that when one leaves (esp. if they've been a literal believer & very loyal to the church) they need to give up ALL the things the church had claimed to "own." Thanks to all those who share their stories with me, I've been able to prepare for what was to come, and work out some of these problems before they became really problematic in my life. But, this is a REAL thing, esp. when the moments of hurt and betrayal are especially high. "I don't want to have anything to do with ANY of this." we may say. Not realizing that some of what the church claimed to own, was never was ours from the beginning (even if we loaned it to the church for awhile). Part of regaining our personal power, is taking back the parts we've always owned.


- The relationships with those I love. (it may not be easy to navigate the waters for some time, or even for the rest of your life, but being curious, compassionate and understanding, and working to have helpful conversations when it's safe to do so reminds us that doing OUR part in the relationship belongs to us. Remember THEY OWN their part in the relationship...not the church).

- Having a healthy lifestyle. while it can be part of the healing process to take a drink(s) of wine or coffee (and learn that it doesn't need to be dangerous or scary when done wisely and from an educated perspective), it can also be healthy to the body to educate ourselves and learn how things REALLY affect us. From there we can make decisions regarding food and drink, recreation, and emotional & mental health that are in alignment with the kind of health we are seeking.

- My sexuality. Oh, wow, what to do when you're a 30-something single and you leave the church having based your sexual choices on the perspectives of the church. Or, what to do when you're ANYONE...This one is especially confusing for a lot of people, myself included. I joined a book club that was reading a book called "Parenting Without Belief." While I joined for a few reasons, one of the main reasons was that I was attempting to find resources for how to parent that part of me that hadn't been parented. The part of me that OWNS MY OWN SEXUALITY. I wanted information on how to talk to my own children one day, as well as how to talk to the frightened girl inside myself. In the beginning, I hadn't a clue on how to begin going about making decisions in this area. Remember that just like our bodies, our sexuality is a part of us, and it does help to learn. While we can learn a lot from experience, there are some things that may be preferable to learn through other resources (education, books, science, experiences of others, etc.). so, know that you own your sexuality, and you don't have to be unhealthy or unwise with it, you can choose educating yourself, and getting clear about what decisions will foster what you're truly looking for in life (emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually).

- My spirituality. "Spirituality" is a somewhat vague word, and when I was going through periods where I felt especially "betrayed," and lied to, by the religion I'd belonged to, I sometimes wanted nothing to do with "spirituality." I often found those periods to be necessary, as part of the grieving process & learning I had a right to own my own spirituality, as well as dark, scary, and confusing. I'm working on a follow up post that's all on this topic, and includes examples, so I won't go into it more here, but know that if the word "spirituality" doesn't work you can also chose a more fitting phrase. "I own the right to chose what principles I live from." "I own the right to decide how I connect with things I want to respect."

- My happiness (& all my emotional states). The message that the church, or its doctrines, own happiness is reinforced often in the faith (as it is in any fundamentalist, or even moderate, religion). We hear things such as, "The choice to leave the church can only lead to greater misery." Or at least, "you can NEVER be as happy outside of the church," or never "fully happy"). This is one of the greatest confusers, and I think it cycles around on itself. The transformation out of the church can affect so many areas of our life that there's a real grieving process one goes through when the view of the church changes. It reminds me of working with spouses whose partners have cheated on them. In the beginning they often wish they didn't know the "new" information (even if it's true) because now they aren't as happy. Well, of course they're not, they're grieving a HUGE loss. It's similar when something that once looked a certain way, now due to new information or experience, looks a different way. There's a grieving of the old (even if the old was in-part an illusion, as in the case of a person whose "faithful" partner had been unfaithful for years).

The good news is that when we can go through the grieving process (including the stages of numbness, depression, anger, bargaining, acceptance, etc...) in a healthy way (often it takes good supports, and there are many helpful resources), that grieving process can transform us into a more understanding, compassionate, clear, knowing, human being than before. A nice myth (myth meaning "story" here) for working with this is the Phoenix Process described by Elizabeth Lesser in her book, "Broken Open." Here's a summary of it: . While painful, this process opens up space for beautiful experiences to show up in our lives. But yes, it can take time, and yes, it can feel very sad. Even in the fear & sadness, the grieving process can include moments of aliveness, exhilaration, adventure, and giddy anticipation of change. Let yourself be aware of all of these emotions, and know that emotions are ever-changing, like the waves of the ocean. They are information about what we're dealing with in that moment, and just like we were never always happy in the church, we will never be always happy outside of the church. Maybe we believed we were SUPPOSED to be always happy so we denied, buried or even stopped feeling things like confusion or anger, but a life in which we stay alive to our deepest essence is one in which we learn to feel what WE feel, and to gather that information in a helpful way to make necessary changes to create the kind of life we truly desire.

- My contributions/service. One question that would rise in me, often with fear, when I changed my relationship with the church was, "how will I be able to serve and give as effectively?" The church often claims to own our ability to effectively serve humankind. This is untrue...they do not own this. While the church may be an institute that presents us with opportunities to participate in pre-planned "service projects" or "callings" from which to serve, I have found that in leaving the church, my energy has continued to be drawn into developing the areas that are my greatest strengths and from which I can most effectively give to others. I believe that service/contributing isn't so much a moral issue, as it is an issue of energy. When we are emotionally balanced, and connected to our own love & personal power, the fullness of energy within us naturally flows-over looking for somewhere to give. And where love energy wants to offer itself, there is always someone/something there to receive...maybe it's physics or something beautiful of the sort. I don't know? but in my experience when the energy of giving organically rises, a receiver or an idea of where to go & give, shows up. When we give out of wornoutness, obligation, loneliness, or emptiness it can still be an experience of something, and can distract us from those unpleasant states for a period, but often we find ourselves experiencing the long run effects of the drain of energy (chronic illness or fatigue, depression, difficulty connecting with empathy or compassion, difficulty enjoying life...etc). These are so often offered by our body/mind as information that we're giving more energy than we're replenishing. It's's real, it has real effects, and yet, we're often fed messages (that we choose to swallow) that "service" is about morality and a ruler by which to measure ourselves in the eyes of "God."...and that without the church we will be lost as to how to find opportunities to enjoy the joy that comes from sharing love energy.

*There may be other principles, ways of thinking, or lifestyle habits that you want to add to this list. Feel free to write out your own list. Begin acknowledging that while the church may have been a teacher (helpful in certain ways, and unhelpful in others), the things that resonated never belonged TO them. Anytime we learn from something (a person, book, group) we are learning about ourselves, learning about the abilities that have always been potential in us.

If you've grown up in a family, religion, group, etc. that told you they owned any one or all of these, it can take some TIME to sort through it all. Know you don't have to make rash decisions...but that you can make decisions when you feel you've had the time to sort through the confusion and make a choice that feels right for you. Sometimes, it does take making some decisions to get enough experience to decide what YOU really want. But, be conscious...pride comes from pain (the pain of feeling hurt, misunderstood, betrayed), and that while it's an important emotion for deciding who/what we no longer want to emulate, it's not a great emotion from which to lead the decisions about our life. When I noticed myself feeling rebellious, I would often remind myself, "Jenny, pride comes from pain, where are you feeling not seen?" I would then dialogue with myself about what was hurting me, and from there, could remind myself that I didn't need to punish myself or my health for how others were choosing to see me (like I was scary, dead, a threat, "lost").

Sometimes this is where having a good mentor, therapist, sounding board, can be invaluable. Sometimes I didn't even know I was trying to sort something out until I said it out loud, and even then it took a few discussions to work through what would have taken awhile to do alone in my own head. The key is someone who doesn't judge (so really hears YOU), who asks helpful questions, who isn't afraid of uncomfortable emotions, who is willing to share what they're picking up on intuitively when you ask for their thoughts or opinions, and who you feel is curious and compassionate enough to acknowledge they don't have the answers for your life, but are here for you while you're thinking about & exploring areas of stuckness and the findings you're having for yourself.

"I saw that everything really was written there before me, and that the doors had only been closed before because I hadn't realized that I was the one person in the world with the authority to open them."

Paulo Coelho

"Every day we slaughter our finest impulses. That is why we get a heart-ache when we read those lines written by the hand of a master and recognize them as our own, as the tender shoots which we stifled because we lacked the faith to believe in our own powers, our own criterion of truth and beauty. Every man, when he gets quiet, when he gets desperately honest with himself, is capable of uttering profound truths. We all derive from the same source. There is no mystery about the origin of things. We are all part of creation, all kings, all poets, all musicians; we have only to open up to discover what is already there."

Henry Miller (1891 - 1980)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


I've been exploring ideas around the concept of commitment over the last few weeks. Questions about commitment have been mounting for a few years, and since a few things are bringing that confusion to the surface I've decided to investigate it more. So this post feels a little like a sharing, but also a little like a processing exercise for myself...enjoy :)!

While my questions around commitment include commitment within the context of a variety of areas, there are two areas I was taught commitment was esp. important. One was commitment to the "mormon" God, including commitment to the leaders of the church, to the promises made in ritual work, and to the values of "the church" doctrine & organization. The other was commitment to marriage. As a young woman, marriage was often emphasized as being the "most" important thing I could do in this life, and commitment to this relationship was of utmost importance.

Like I said, while these were "priority" commitments in my family, the principle of commitment was one that was stressed as being important across the board. Commitment to my word, to what I'd said I was going to work, at home, at school, etc.

When I began doing therapy I sometimes felt torn between my semi-tightly held belief that it was best to do whatever one could to keep an original commitment, in the original way, versus, in what ways might the structure of the commitment actually be contributing to problems, and what needed to change. Part of the fear was related to my belief that commitment was like a safety net. It bound someone into something. So...if someone promised me something it meant they would need to keep that promise even if they began having doubts, wanting something else, etc. This esp. seemed to add some kind of a "security" to the idea of marriage.

I noticed when I left church last year, and began thinking about dating people outside of the church, one of my fears was, "how do I know they'll be loyal to me?" At some level I knew the question came from a fear not based in reality (as many non-religious people are loyal and loving to their partners/spouses, and many religious people unloyal), but since I'd been TAUGHT that the church teachings, and the commitment the church facilitated, made it more likely that my spouse would never leave me or cheat on me I found myself carrying this background sense of fear, even amidst the experience of seeing a different reality.

Messages I've received about commitment

-If you make a commitment you do WHATEVER you need to do to keep that commitment
-Honoring a commitment means "keeping" it. Following through with it as originally agreed to
-Commitment means making a promise and not changing any of the conditions, until the originally agreed upon time to end it or change it. If there was no agreement to an ending it's meant to last "forever."

What I've learned about commitment from my own personal experiences:

-Just because someone says something, or speaks a "promise," does not make it so.
-Just because I say something, or speak a "promise," does not make it so.
-Sometimes what I feel or believe I'm committed to one moment, I feel uncommited to another. Emotions and beliefs are changable, and when I commit with either it seems there's a possibility of change. When we commit with changable parts of ourselves, it is possible the commitment may change.
-When someone has made a commitment to me, and then bails on that commitment I may be...angry, relieved, happy, neutral, seems that my reaction to a commitment breach from the other party has only to do with my emotional stance, beliefs and expectations around the experience.
-We tend to make the idea of commitment a moral issue, "keeping a commitment is good." "breaking a commitment is bad." or we may even make it a character value. "One of his strengths is he commits to things, and always keeps his commitments," "one of her flaws is she doesn't commit, or doesn't keep her commitments." From my experience, there are times that committing is wise (congruent with our truest desires) & times it is unwise. There are times committing creates more awareness of love and times it breaks down the awareness.
-I have experienced myself and others making commitments, or promises, that were never mine/theirs to make in the first place. (i.e. a literal emphasis on "I will never hurt you again" can be problematic. If somehow we magically had full control of our subconscious stuff, control of the world around us, and control over how someone else feels in response to certain things...maybe we could offer this, but to speak a promise of sorts, is speaking a promise that isn't fully within our control to keep. It's something that was never ours to give).

So...In what ways is commitment helpful, in what ways is it unhelpful? and how can I use the principle of commitment to benefit my life and relationships?

I'm still leaving lots of room for development within myself here. I feel like I'm just learning to walk with this. It feels a little scary and unsure and shakey, but I do have some thoughts and personal experiments I've been playing with. While I do NOT have regrets about "commitments" I have made in the past, as they have all been a part of my own learning, I also realize that some of these commitments have not stood up to reality. When a perspective changed (based on my experience with reality), eventually so did the commitment. It didn't have to. I could have pretended I was still "in it" (in regards to a relationship, the church, a goal...etc), but to do that I would have had to give up commitment to my own self, to my own understandings & experiences and I guess that shows above all else what I commit to. I penned a little something to myself a couple weeks ago...

"I have often misused the reality of the principle of commitment. I have used it as a false security believing that commitment would mean someone can't change their mind and hurt me. At the same time, I have sometimes found commitment scary. I suppose because I've believed it's a way to bind someone into something, on the flip side I've also been scared, scared i will be trapped, because when I begin to commit my heart to someone/something, it means I'm "bound" into something...and that the commitment is higher than all things...including my own intuitive self. If I see red flags or even a clear reality that what I've committed to is no longer healthy (as I gain more learning and experience), or is even harmful or dangerous I've wondered whether I'm supposed to stay. Maybe it's okay to WORK on things, but I've believed I HAVE to do that...and for how long? I've believed I have to use ALL the time and energy I have to change me, the person I'm committed to, or the institute or project I'm committed that I don't have to break the commitment. I've often found myself ignoring the red flags, or cues from myself when something isn't going okay. There was a fear in me that facing the rising dissonance or conflict would destroy the relationship to someone/something, so in order to keep the commitment bonded, I have to ignore me. "If I face the reality of this problem, they'll choose to leave me...or even worse, I'd need to leave them." So, maybe I ignore the cues, but then the commitment becomes false. It's no longer ME that's's my fears. My fears are commited to the person, to the institution, to the goals, to the situation. Why am I so afraid to change the conditions of commitment when needed, or change the form of the commitment all together?

What do I want commitment to be about? I choose first to be committed to me. To be aware of my feelings, to have my back, to never belittle myself, to be understanding and compassionate, even when I've made a mistake. I know that at my core I desire to experience real love, one that's not afraid. And so, when I am afraid, and I forget myself, and act out of my fears, I commit to notice it as soon as possible and to forgive myself, and to then allow myself to come back into loving, even if that means making a change in myself or my situation. I commit to be honest with myself and others about my needs. I commit to listening to myself, in both the good and the bad, with understanding and non-judgment. I commit to allow myself the "offerings" of reality, And from that place of honesty, compassion, & commitment to myself, I offer what commitment flows from there."

It seems to me, that commitment is most helpful when it originates from an honest desire, moment to moment. I've experienced that there are parts of me that sometimes feel tired, confused, and annoyed with a situation or person. I've found that I don't have to automatically react to these moments (just like I don't have to automatically react to the "positive" feelings of high energy, attraction, or an aluring proposition). I find that I am a changeable, sometimes fickle human being, but I trust that if I'm working on commitment to my own self honesty, I'll continue to build trust that the deepest, most knowing part of myself is aware when to stay and when to leave...that I've always known.

So...I commit to REALITY (as best I know it)...

Monday, April 8, 2013

But if You're Married You Don't...

But if you're married you don't...leave the church...

I've been thinking about something that came up in the first conversation I had with my parents about leaving the church. One of the questions they asked me was something to the effect of... "if you had married do you think you'd be stepping back from the church?" (I'm in my EARLY :) thirties and have never married). My reply: "I don't know, there's no way to really know, but I don't think so."

I've thought a lot about their question since then and a lot about my answer. When they asked it I purposely went back in my mind and tracked out what life would have been like, in my imagination, if I had married younger. I envisioned that I wouldn't have gone to grad school, I wouldn't have become a therapist, and I wouldn't have seen what I saw in my work...or faced my own stuff, I wouldn't have asked questions I'd been too afraid to ask before (or not even thought about asking before), and I wouldn't have ended up walking the path of study and learning that I did. So, no, I probably wouldn't have ever even thought to leave the church (unless life would have brought the same questions in a different way).

I remember something being said a little later in the conversation from one of my parents that if I was married this would be different, it wouldn't be okay to do this (step away from church activity), if I had a spouse that was active and I'd "committed" to. I remember not replying. I didn't resonate with this opinion, but didn't have the courage at the time to state otherwise. I think because I wasn't sure what I would have done. It scared me that if I were married this would have had added layers of pressure and confusion. What would I have done? What if my past had been different? What if I had married young, only somehow I ended up coming across the same questions that led me into the same line of study and questioning (or something similar)? Would I have just pretended? Or would I have never even allowed myself to really ask the questions? and really do the research? I've had this fear, since that conversation, that I wouldn't have allowed for myself as a married woman what I've allowed for myself as a single woman...the right to ask the questions that were most scary, the right to form my own opinion about things I'd believed I was supposed to "just obey", and the right for that opinion to be different from those I love most. (hmmm...maybe I really have been a little afraid of more than one person has suggested, and no wonder: I haven't yet fully been able to hold the trust that I can be me, and still be in a loving, committed relationship)

I've been thinking a lot about those that are married and going through this. While changing my relationship to the church hasn't always been easy, esp. as far as its effects on some of my relationships (even if it's just my own fear of being misunderstood or scaring people), I think if I had been married there would have been an added layer of pressure for me, pressure to hide what I was not be as honest with myself, or with my spouse. I remember meeting a couple last summer. He had left the church first, she was devasted, but eventually had her own experiences of things and left. When they related their story to me it felt really nice to know that there are some people out there who would dare to be honest with themselves & their spouse even at the risk of what that COULD mean for a marriage. I expressed my self-doubt to them, "That's amazing you were able to be true to what you needed to, for you, even though she was in a different place. I don't know that I could have done it if I were married." They couldn't have replied in a more helpful way..."don't give yourself so little credit. If you'd really gotten to where you are now, even with a spouse, you could have done it." I hoped they were right. I hope that if somehow I'd experienced with a spouse what I've experienced alone, I would have dared to be some point, even if that meant risking my marriage.

I've received so many messages about what "commitment" means, and in some ways I've just begun to realize that I understand very little about what "commitment" means to me, and what it's always meant to me (I'm currently working on some writings around it). I've never really dared to explore it. My parents were so loving to me in so many ways, and so committed to each other (in their way of commitment). However, one thing I think I feel is that in order to experience the depth of honesty I want to experience in a relationship, I need to be okay knowing that I have a right to my own experiences, however similar or different they may be, and to trust that if I'm honest (I can be compassionate with myself about when I'm ready to share things and in what ways), than I can really love from the space that is "me." And from there I can allow my partner/spouse their own experiences and we can make our decisions along the way about how we work with our own personal changes, and how we work with changes of the relationship.

Maybe I begin to trust that commitment doesn't mean losing me. rather I can stay with me, and from there can stay with another.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Movie

Just wanted to share the title of a movie I watched a couple of weeks ago. It's called "Paradise Recovered." It's a small, indie movie currently on Netflix. You can see the trailer on YouTube. For a small film I was impressed with the acting, and enjoyed the connection between the main characters. It's a story of how a woman comes to terms with questioning her fundamentalist beliefs, while working to find a balance of connecting with something that feels "spiritual."

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


TRUTH: It's a topic that fills up thousands of books. Here's just one post to add to the myriad of thoughts on this idea.

Throughout my process of deciding what to do about church, I would go through and still go through, roller coaster moments...trying to sort things out. "What is really true?" Because I just internalized what I was told I should believe, if something didn't fit for me I would stuff it, and often wonder "what's wrong with me? Why am I feeling so frustrated or rebellious or prideful inside myself?" I would feel guilty as though it was all my fault and I would attempt to swallow the feelings, and brush what didn't fit under the rug (because there was enough that did fit I suppose, and it helped me feel connected to those around me by keeping the waters calm, and not rocking the boat). The problem was that when I finally began to let myself question without the guilt, torrents of pain and anger rose from years of stuffing certain questions and things that hadn't made sense to me.

I would sometimes feel very confused..."I don't know what's true anymore," I would think. I couldn't deny certain "spiritual" experiences I had had, and still was having. I also couldn't deny some of the new awarenesses that were coming up, and the realities I was seeing that I had previously denied (i.e. someone could be genuinely at peace without any religious attachment).

I remember a moment of self-pity after I'd stopped attending confused about whether or not the church was really true. "WHAT'S REALLY TRUE?" I begged. I put it out there to the universe, or God, or intuition, or whatever/whomever it was that I had felt would sometimes show a presence of clarity when my confused self was genuinely ready to hear the answer.

In that moment I felt a presence of clarity, and a thought arose from it... "you're asking the wrong question." I had a flash of was so quick, it's difficult to put into words, but the sense was something like this... "it's the wrong question. It assumes an all-or-nothing thinking pattern. It doesn't allow for growth and evolution as it assumes that the meaning I made from what felt true to me last week or last year, would have to be the same meaning I would make of what feels true to me today. It assumes that my experiences are static. It also assumes that I cannot hold both truth (clarity) and untruth (unclarity) together in an experience.

I realized that there were PARTS of my perspectives from things I learned through the avenue of religion that still felt clear and important to me. There were also PARTS that no longer felt helpful to my process, and rather felt blocking to my growth, as they fed what I now perceived to be fear-based beliefs.

Awhile later I ran into this quote as I was reading:

"So we're pretty skittish about this God-is-my-source thing. And, perhaps rightly we should be. We don't want to swallow whole everything that others tell us, simply because they claim to carry a message from the Most High.

But how can we know for sure what is Divine Inspiration and what is not? How can we be certain who is speaking eternal truth?

Ah, that is the great question. But here is the great secret. WE DO NOT HAVE TO KNOW. All we have to know is OUR truth, not someone else's. When we understand this, we understand everything. We understand that what others are saying doesn't have to be The Truth; it only has to lead us to our own. And it will do that. It cannot help but do that, eventually. All things lead us to our innermost truth."

- Neale donald Walsch in "Communion With God."

So, now I watch for those moments...those moments I'm trying to decide, "Is what this person telling me right? or true?" I realize that in those moments I'm asking the wrong question. Instead I'm finding it more helpful to ask myself..."how do I feel about this or that? For me?" maybe it's not about being right or wrong...maybe it's about honoring what feels best to me in that moment...not because it's absolute truth, but because it's my truth, it's how I can best make meaning of the world from all I've experienced up to that point. In the same way, I get to honor others, and their experiences.

I'm going to use an example here:

I had a client come in for therapy. The first few sessions he told me what was going on, from his perspective. He'd had a history of addiction and hiding things, however, as he was sharing his story I felt what, as a mormon I had called "the spirit." I felt warmth in my body and goosebumps, as he explained how he had changed, was loving his wife, not hiding things, etc. I had learned to translate these feelings to mean that what he was telling me was TRUE.

The next week his wife came in. They sat there together as the wife explained the lies and deception that were still going on. I suddenly felt confused and disoriented. Had he lied to me? It couldn't be...I'd "felt" sure he was telling the truth. I looked over at him as he had his head down, eyes on the ground. When he looked up I asked if he was understanding where his wife was coming from. He said yes, admitting that he was still lying, deceiving, etc.

This was an opening moment for me. I realized that "my" feelings about what someone was saying had nothing to do with what that person's truth was. It did, however, guide me to my own truth. I resonated with the ideas of honesty, change, and love because those principles are beautiful principles to me. I realized that people may be honest or they may not, but I don't need to know whether or not someone is being honest with me. If the information I'm getting from someone else changes, then I can adjust my reaction as needed, but all I need to do is stay committed to what I feel, for me.

This has been helpful to remember as I've been sorting through understanding "the truth" of religious dogma. I grew up believing that someone's experience was what they had said it was (or what I had been taught it was). This was especially true with Joseph Smith and church history. When I started learning other aspects of the experience & history, the confusion set in. Because I had assumed what I'd been taught was the full and honest story, I reacted to it as such growing up. And if my own personal feelings didn't mesh with something, then I dismissed my feelings...believing that the story was more true than my own feelings.

I didn't step back from the church because of historical or doctrinal issues. I ran across those after I left. I stepped back because I decided to be honest with myself about MY own truth. To acknowledge that certain perspectives felt blocking to my own personal growth. I decided to honor my own story more than someone else's. So, when I began to find out parts of the church story I had previously not own personal story and the more dynamic, story of church history began to merge. This was a healing part of the process for me. It still is. and somehow I can't help but visualize this perfect merging happening as we really face with honesty all parts of our own experience.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Feeling Betrayed

Not too long after deciding to step back I was packing up my temple clothes (I had just washed them since I'd wanted to go through the temple one more time before I stopped attending). As I was packing everything up, tears began to come. I felt sad and confused, again feeling lost. "I'm so confused," I thought. "I don't understand why this decision to leave feels like the right thing to do when it's the only church where someone has actually conversed with God (thinking of Joseph Smith's grove experience). I also don't understand why a church that is God's 'one true church,' is not aligned with some of the things I've been learning about healing the human mind and heart."

It was not more than a week later when I came across information about the multiple accounts of the first vision. Now...some background for anyone reading...I was not LOOKING for information about this subject, in fact had never even heard about it before. I was not researching anti-mormon sites. I was listening to some podcasts that simply had the intent of supporting people wherever they were in their experience with mormonism (whether in, out, or anywhere in between). There were all sorts of topics, including information about church history. Basically the idea was to bring in researchers, historians, etc. who had done work directly with source material, and have them share their stories and experience. Some of the guests were members of the church (church historians & apologists), others were not.

I came across a podcast and the interviewee was talking about the multiple accounts of the first vision. "What?" I felt so confused. "I've never heard about this before." I began researching what other historians had said on the subject, both in and out of the church. As I found church historians, including Richard Bushman, confirming what I was hearing about the multiple accounts, I began to feel sick & betrayed. I also felt some weight lifting off my shoulders. It was both painful and helpful. The information seemed to make more sense in a lot of ways, but I was shocked! "Why don't they tell us that?" "Why do they paint a picture that's missing important pieces?" "It makes it look like it's something it isn't." (This was just one area of history/doctrine that this happened with...I'll post a future post on this).

Then I came across some quotes, that helped explain why important parts of the history were left out:

- Apostle Boyd K. Packer, "The Mantle is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect", 1981, BYU Studies, Vol. 21, No. 3, pp. 259-271

"You seminary teachers and some of you institute and BYU men will be teaching the history of the Church this school year. This is an unparalleled opportunity in the lives of your students to increase their faith and testimony of the divinity of this work. Your objective should be that they will see the hand of the Lord in every hour and every moment of the Church from its beginning till now.

Church history can be so interesting and so inspiring as to be a very powerful tool indeed for building faith. If not properly written or properly taught, it may be a faith destroyer.

There is a temptation for the writer or the teacher of Church history to want to tell everything, whether it is worthy or faith promoting or not.

Some things that are true are not very useful.

That historian or scholar who delights in pointing out the weaknesses and frailties of present or past leaders destroys faith. A destroyer of faith — particularly one within the Church, and more particularly one who is employed specifically to build faith — places himself in great spiritual jeopardy. He is serving the wrong master, and unless he repents, he will not be among the faithful in the eternities. ... Do not spread disease germs!" ...[end of quote]

- Apostle Dallin H. Oaks, "Reading Church History," CES Doctrine and Covenants Symposium, Brigham Young University, 16 Aug. 1985, page 25. also see Dallin H. Oaks, "Elder Decries Criticism of LDS Leaders," quoted in The Salt Lake Tribune, Sunday August 18, 1985, p. 2B

"It is one thing to depreciate a person who exercises corporate power or even government power. It is quite another thing to criticize or depreciate a person for the performance of an office to which he or she has been called of God. It does not matter that the criticism is true. As Elder George F. Richards, President of the Council of the Twelve, said in a conference address in April 1947, 'when we say anything bad about the leaders of the Church, whether true or false, we tend to impair their influence and their usefulness and are thus working against the Lord and his cause.' ... The Holy Ghost will not guide or confirm criticism of the Lord's anointed, or of Church leaders, local or general. This reality should be part of the spiritual evaluation that LDS readers and viewers apply to those things written about our history and those who made it."

- Apostle Russell M. Nelson, “Truth—and More,” Ensign, Jan. 1986, page 69

"Indeed, in some instances, the merciful companion to truth is silence. Some truths are best left unsaid.

Any who are tempted to rake through the annals of history, to use truth unrighteously, or to dig up facts with the intent to defame or destroy, should hearken to this warning of scripture:

'The righteousness of God [is] revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.' (Rom. 1:17-18.)

I repeat: 'The wrath of God is … against all … who hold the truth in unrighteousness.'

To anyone who, because of truth, may be tempted to become a dissenter against the Lord and his anointed, weigh carefully your action in light of this sacred scripture:

'These dissenters, having the same instruction and the same information … yea, having been instructed in the same knowledge of the Lord, nevertheless, it is strange to relate, not long after their dissensions they became more hardened and impenitent, and … wicked, … entirely forgetting the Lord their God.' (Alma 47:36.)" [end of quote]

It's me now

So, yeah, again...I was shocked. After reading these quotes, I felt shakey and weak. I felt betrayed. I realized how I'd made many decisions based on believing a story that was portrayed a certain way, and that the story that was in my mind wasn't even reality.

One thing I've learned in doing my own healing work and in doing therapy, is that facing things HONESTLY is one of the greatest, most healing, most beautiful experiences there is. Facing things honestly means looking at both the pleasant and painful, the good and the bad, the light and the dark. It means understanding all aspects of the experience, and seeing them for what they are. I do acknowledge that often we mistranslate things (example: that because we've done something bad...we are bad). We tend to believe in causations that aren't true, and end up suffering because of our own confusion. However, if we just pretend parts of the experience didn't exist then we don't give ourselves a chance to work through and understand what really happened, and why it played out as it did.

The interesting thing about having been a member of the church is that while I was educated to think critically, I simply didn't apply that learning to the areas of the church. And no wonder, I was taught not to! (this is not to say that some aren't taught to...but I wasn't. In fact, I was taught that as far as "church" issues go, if something I learned didn't fit with what leaders were telling me, it was best to defer to the leaders. Again, this was simply my experience). I think that as humans we have an innate desire to understand the truth (unless there is a block of fear or something). When you watch children they ask questions, even awkward ones, genuinely curious about the truth. I find that I most often want the information (sometimes really asking for honesty is scary), and want to be allowed to make the meaning from it that I will...from my own experience. To be manipulated into believing something a certain way (by someone purposely leaving out information) feels inauthentic and hurtful.

This topic of not hiding things to protect our ego needs is one I'm working on within myself, and one that I'm finding can release a great deal of we do it with compassion and awareness. I included a thought and definition of the word "Moksha" on the back of my business card...

Monday, January 7, 2013

It's Really A Choice!

A couple of months after stepping back from attending church I was going through one of my many "moments of terror." The moments I felt fear arise so strong that I was sure that God was going to "punish" me eternally for not enduring. I was laying on the floor crying, "why God...why would I feel okay about leaving church if it's the only true church?"

Then came the awareness from somewhere deep within (whether from my "higher self," what Einstein called, "the old self," my subconscious, a God, or a devil?...though I will say the message brought deep peace and feeling of clarity and freedom):

"Jenny I don't care what you doesn't matter to me AT ALL. My love for you, and your value and abilities are in NO WAY dependent upon whether or not you ever go back to church. But, know that anytime you make a decision out of fear you will suffer." and it wasn't like..."you'll suffer forever," it was just matter of fact, that if I make a choice from that place it will be difficult until I get it sorted out more and adjust any parts of the decision that need to be adjusted to get in line with what I truly desire.

Because I'd spent a few days triggered back into overwhelming fear, it was all around me. If I go back to church, I'd be going back out of fear (fear based on things I'd been told growing up: If you leave the church you lose the Spirit, you can never be "really" happy, you won't have as much meaning in your life, you won't be able to serve mankind as effectively, how will I raise children without the church?....), and if I didn't go back I'd be staying away out of fear (at least in that moment). Fear of being hurt by what was said, fear of having to conform to perspectives I didn't agree with, fear of going back just to feel more comfort, or connect socially because I was struggling to find community and others who could understand.

"What?" I replied to the inner voice that had come..."I don't have a clue how to do that right now!! All I can feel is fear." So, I spent the next few days imagining what it would be like if there was no fear...either way. What would I choose simply because it was what I WANTED to choose. I could actually see things I wanted out of both decisions, but as I sat with it I knew that what I wanted most was to continue to explore a new way, a new kind of life where I could open room for perspectives based on my own experiences rather than what others were telling me I was supposed to believe. For so many years, my experiences had matched up enough that being in the church had worked well for me. When my own experiences no longer matched up with certain expectations and perspectives of the institution, and doctrine, it became more difficult. Some people may have a similar experience in the church and decide to stay in...feeling they could do (or want to do) in the church what I felt I needed to leave the church for. I think it made a difference that I was such a literal believer for so many years. I'd spent three years trying to work with the cognitive dissonance, and I knew I'd done what I needed to, but that to really make room for myself it was now time for me to go a different way.

Then I felt calm again.

If you're going through this, know that it's not uncommon to have to work through the decision process over and over. Every time fear or anger comes back up I have to sort through another layer of confusion. I will say, those moments come less often, and more and more I'm able to remember in the fear and anger that I've processed it before and can do it again. I've found that it does get better.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Moment: Deciding to own my own spirituality

I wanted to share one of my decision moments...One of the moments that months of confusion, anger, fear, empowerment, ah-hah's, prayer, meditation, crying all culminated to. There were so many other moments before "this moment," and so many after. This moment didn't solve all the emotional/mental stuff that I'm still sorting through, but it was such a strong moment of clarity, and it provided an answer (not THE answer...many will have different answers to their confusion) to the question of what to do about all the emotional turmoil and stress I'd been feeling at church.

For about three years I'd been experiencing more and more confusion at church and more and more anger. I'm not saying there weren't a lot of beautiful, touching, loving moments...those were there too, but it was a little like a roller coaster. Up and down between feeling compassion and understanding, and then feeling judgment and condemnation. My pain, fear, and sadness in meetings, conferences, scripture reading, etc. seemed to be most often connected to how SOME things were languaged, and certain perspectives.

At the same time my frustration within the church was mounting, other resources were showing up that offered possible ways of holding my spirituality aside from whatever religious framework I did or didn't have. These resources showed up as I had more honest conversations with "my god" (whatever or whomever it was that I felt was more knowing than my confused and angry self). They also showed up as mentors, teachers, in books, in science, and in the "metaphors" of religion, mythology, etc. As some of my "old" perspectives were dying, and as new perspectives were showing up that made more sense to me, I began to feel frustrated that the church wasn't shifting and changing with me. "why does the church still see it this or that way?" I would think. or "letting go of 'that perspective' has been so much more helpful for me in releasing my own anxiety and addictive stuff," so why is the "true" church still seeing it that way. For me, it wasn't that the church wasn't perfect so much as that it had claimed to be the MOST true (or the ONLY true) church, and that I would get closer to God by abiding by ITS doctrines (its perspectives, etc.) than anything else, and that what church leaders (esp. the twelve apostles)said trumped my own perspectives, even for me, in my life.

At this point I had not done any research into church history, and was strictly working to decide what "spiritual" perspectives were still helpful to me and which ones weren't (as far as emotional and mental health). During an especially overwhelming week I went and saw a mentor. "I'm so angry," I said. I listed off my many frustrations, knowing I was speaking from a "victim" place, but also knowing it was how I really felt. He looked at me and said, "ah yes, whenever we're angry at someone else, it's because we're blaming them for something we're not yet willing to do for ourself." When he said it, I could feel it strike a chord down deep. What I had hoped for was someone who could say that my frustrations were valid, but to tell me it had to do with something I wasn't yet willing to do for myself felt so uncomfortable, and true!

What is it I'm not yet willing to do for myself I wondered. I was angry about so many things. I had decided to continue my attendance through those painful years because I still believed what I'd been taught growing up about it being the one true church and all. In fact, I never thought I would leave the church. Plus, I thought..."if what's taught does make me angry and sad maybe it'd be helpful for me to sit in meditation with it while at church and figure out why it makes me angry and sad (because it didn't used to)."

The following week I was sitting in sacrament meeting. I was feeling a greater sense of calm than I had for awhile. Something was said that felt like an emotional hit. I noticed the hurt and then frustration, and as I watched my mind responding to this frustration I suddenly realized..."I'm expecting the church to better care for my spirituality. I'm expecting them to understand the changes that have happened to me in the last few years, and am expecting them to adjust to my own changing self."

and yet, there I was...not willing to make the changes I needed to make to better care for my own spirituality, or to make a space that would better facilitate where I was in my own process. I had not been willing to leave a place that no longer felt supportive, and where it felt unsafe to be vulnerable and give of MYSELF fully (my perspectives and ways of navigating life). I was still giving the church ownership over my relationship with God and my spiritual learning. No wonder I was so angry. A wave of love washed over me...for the church and for myself. I realized that if I would offer myself what I was expecting them to offer me, the right to make a real change, then I could begin to heal. If I could really make space for me...where I was, and how I saw the world, then I could make space for others...where they are and how they see the world. I could forgive myself for the times I was judging, condemning and didn't understand someone else who was where I am now, because I could trust that we're all doing our best. If I could honor myself, and not keep putting myself in a position where I was continually getting emotional hits (stop attempting to make all of the church persepctives work for me (when they didn't feel like they did anymore), and stop going to church (so I wouldn't continue to be fed messages that to be acceptable to God I needed to make THOSE perspectives fit into my life), then I would have more energy to trust that we're all just doing our best. That was the moment I knew I was leaving.

Actually, I will say that was the moment I decided to "step back" from Church. I didn't feel like it was right timing to make a permanent decision, but I knew I needed to do some healing and recover from the pain of the last few years. I was still sorting through much of what I'd been taught about the Church, and so I didn't dare to entertain the thought of never going back. I was even nervous about just stepping back for awhile (since I still would have the fear rise..."what if they're right? What if I can't go to the "celestial kingdom" without being a member of THE CHURCH" since I'd had the light, I was in even more danger of judgment). I'd never skipped church just to skip...but I decided to take 4 months off, and then reassess. That was a little over a year ago, and I haven't gone back. I'll share more about other moments that brought more clarity for me, but for now that was the first moment of actual separation.

One thing I found was that even though I knew that to release anger it was important for me to leave (and stop feeling the hits every week), it didn't mean I couldn't be proactive in continuing to do my healing work around the issues of recovering from the pain of the last few years, and it didn't mean I couldn't help others. Writing down the story of your experience is one way that can help others. There are many other ways as well. But, attempting to get others to understand your experience when they don't want to, or when it wouldn't even be safe for them yet (to force others to break down their beliefs, is often an ego-based decision coming from our own fears and selfish needs, such as needing others to see things our way). However, if we can rebuild ourselves people will find us if they need our assistance, just as we will continue to find other helpers along our own way of life...when we're ready for help.

"Often, letting go of the old form of a relationship becomes a lesson in pure love much deeper than any that would have been learned had we stayed together. At the so-called end of relationships, I have sometimes felt like I was falling in love with the person [or institution] more deeply than I had been before. 'I love you so much that I can release you to be where you need to be, to go where you need to go.' This moment in a relationship is not about an ending. It's about the ultimate fulfillment of the purpose in any relationship: that we find the meaning of pure love.

Sometimes the lesson to be learned in a relationship is how to hang in there and try to work things out. Other times, the lesson to be learned is how to exit a situation that doesn't serve. NO ONE can determine for another person what principle applies in what circumstance."

- Marianne Williamson

Thursday, January 3, 2013


So...I've got another movie commentary post. holiday season = movie season. And art, music, relationships, or books, can be great ways for us to become more conscoius of aspects of ourselves. *NOTE: This post gives away some of the plot from Silver Linings Playbook, so if you're planning to see it, you may not want to read this post.

I've been thinking about the idea of perfectionism for awhile now. I've been watching the ways it plays out in my own life, and affects my relationships. I went and saw "Silver Linings Playbook," and while I enjoyed the movie on many levels, I also felt some inner conflict with the "craziness" the main characters displayed. (craziness to me in this situation meant: seemingly illogical, emotional reactions). While the examples in the movie may have been "extreme," as I was watching I noticed my own judgments of their craziness (in terms of it being problematic to their relationships), as well as a fear of my own potential craziness (in terms of it causing problems in my relationships).

While, I don't think it would benefit me to attempt acting more emotionally crazy just to add drama or excitement to life, or to my relationships, I do think it would benefit me to be honest with the crazy that is in there. As I'm writing I'm noticing that what really scares me are my emotions in the context of relationships. For most of my life I feel like I have either buried them, or used them manipulatively. There have been some shining moments...and I'm practicing being vulnerable, but I think where it's still especially hard to be vulnerable is being ok that I don't always understand my own emotions right away (or maybe ever), and until I do I look like a "crazy person." I think if I could really see the whole picture of all I've been through (and my emotional genes), even my "crazy" emotional reactions would make sense.

Trusting this may give me greater ability to not repress my feelings in the moment. Not that I'll have to stay stuck in anger, fear, frustration, etc., but that in that moment, if that's what I feel, to pretend otherwise dishonors me.

What really struck me was at the end there was acceptance and understanding. He said to her (paraphrasing), "you acted crazy, but you were only meeting my own craziness." It was ok because he understood. I noticed a deep fear that if I'm crazy it will never be understood.

I honor my own fear of my's real for me, and I don't know how much acceptance I'll be able to recover in this life, but I'm going to keep working on it...because it frees me to be honest.

I don't believe that only religious people deal with this idea of needing to be perfect (or that all religious people feel it), but I do know that for me, MY religious perspectives, for pretty much my whole life, kept the dysfunctional ideas of perfectionism alive.

Teacher/speaker, Osho, who in his own right says some crazy things :) said,

"You are being taught from the very beginning to be a perfectionist, and then naturally you go on applying your perfectionist ideas to everything, even to love.

Just the other day I came across a statement: 'A perfectionist is a person who takes great pains, and gives even greater pains to others.' And the outcome is just a miserable world!

Everybody is trying to be perfect. And the moment somebody starts trying to be perfect, he starts expecting everybody else to be perfect. He starts condemning people, he starts humiliating people.

Because you cannot be perfect, you start feeling guilty, you lose respect for yourself. And the man who has lost respect for himself has lost all the dignity of being human. Your pride has been crushed, your humanity has been destroyed by beautiful words like perfection.

Man cannot BE perfect. Yes, there is something that man can EXPERIENCE, but which is beyond the ordinary conception of man. Unless man also experiences something of the divine, he cannot know perfection.

Perfection is not something like a discipline; it is not something that you can practice. It is not something for which you have to go through rehearsals. But that is what is being taught to everybody, and the result is a world full of hypocrites, who know perfectly well that they are hollow and empty."


If Divine perfection (in any form) does exist, which I sense it does, it's not afraid of humanness, mistakes, imperfection, or anything else. It's not afraid of us "messing up" or "ruining" relationships, screwing up our jobs, hurting others or ourselves. It's not afraid of inadequacy, selfishness, darkness, ignorance, and destruction. How could it be? It understands all of these things perfectly. It can hold the dark as well as the's's whole, not dual.


INTRO: I went out with a darling man and ended up lying to him. Didn't mean to lie, at first I thought I was being honest. We'd walked into a place to hear some music...and immediately I felt disconnected from the ambience, and a longing to leave and continue our conversation which I'd been so enjoying. When I found out I needed my ID I went out to the car to get it. When I couldn't find my wallet in my purse I was kind of relieved, and mentioned to him as he stood by that I must have left my wallet by the computer earlier that day when I was paying bills online. Just as I was getting ready to zip my purse up I saw my wallet. Rather than letting him know I'd just found it, I let my story stand. I was working on a particular practice that week of honesty. I knew that yes, I'd not been honest about the wallet, but even prior, I hadn't been honest about not wanting to stay and hear the music. Why was I so afraid of sharing my opinion? If I would have at least had the courage to share my opinion, I don't think I would have minded if he'd felt different. From that place I could choose to stay and listen to music because I knew he was enjoying it, and probably enjoy it more myself, knowing that at least I'd been honest, and I knew it was what he really wanted. Rather than sitting there thinking, "I wonder if he even really wants to be here? Maybe we're both sitting here because we're too afraid to be honest with each other."

So...anyways, the next time we went out I decided I was going to fess up to both breaches of honesty. It made for me feeling super vulnerable throughout the date, and then at the end of the evening, I attempted to explain (somewhat like I just did above, but all shy and embarrassed like...just wanting to run away), and I have no idea what he thought or felt about it (he tried to be nice and understanding), but I felt like such a weirdo!! I felt crazy for having lied, then I felt crazy for deciding to tell him. Aside from whether or not he'd been able to accept my crazy in that moment, I was not even close to being able to accept it myself. He left, and the inner dialogue went something like this:

***(definition: perfect me = the real me that is whole...that can hold ALL of reality, the "good" and the "bad." Perfectionist me= the part that only accepts the good)

PERFECTIONIST ME: "I'm SO weird! He's going to think I'm weird, and he's right. Why do I feel I have to drag people into my own weirdness? It's my fault I'd lied, I should've just lived with it."

PERFECT ME: What are you feeling?

PERFECTIONIST ME: Anxious and sad

PERFECT ME: Why anxious?

PERFECTIONIST ME: I don't think he's ever going to call again, and it's because I messed it up. Why do I do stuff like that?

PERFECT ME: What do you mean you messed it up?

PERFECTIONIST ME: I'm too intense and I do intense things sometimes, and it weirds people out.

PERFECT ME: Hmmm...seems to me there are lots of people who act intense who are in relationships with someone who loves them.

As my perfectionist spoke with my perfect self (the part of me that allows for ALL of reality...the "good" and the "bad,"), my perfectionist realized just was being a perfectionist. And, if this man never called again, that was okay, whatever the reason. I felt more trust that I was doing the best I knew how in that moment, and even if I did "mess it up," I was just learning.

For me, not actively engaging in the literal, dogmatic religion (or the dogmatic perspectives) of my past, has been a helpful part of releasing the belief that I need to be perfect, or that to be fulfilled, life even needs to look a certain way. I will admit, however, that I'm coming to believe that perfectionism is in the "eye of the beholder," because I am quite able to transfer those tendancies to other areas of my life...even without the church being so involved. But, I do think it is helping to not hear the messages reinforced over and over...week after week.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Sharing The Blog

This is simply...a story, one of many stories.

When I began this blog, I knew I wasn't going to be the only one to read it. A part of me kept hoping I would never feel ready to share it...and I'm not sure I'll ever really feel "ready," but again I knew when I started it was not only for myself. This blog is not a chronological piecing together of the steps that led me out of the church (writing anything felt overwhelming enough...I couldn't even imagine being able to write it all out in order). Rather, it is little snapshots of the experience as I continue to experience it. The posts blend present thoughts and feelings, with things that have happened the last few years.

I'm so grateful to everyone who has shared with me their story, and it is from those who have been courageous that I have gained courage. I think it's so much easier for me to hear others share than it is for me to share myself, and yet I know that while some will feel angst and anger at my words, others will find comfort and understanding. And since it was what I needed in my lonliest times I want to offer that back.

Part of the difficulty in sharing is a fear of misunderstanding, judgment, and being perceived as unloyal to family, friends, and those who raised and taught me so many beautiful things. While I don't believe there's any way to avoid all of this, I do want to say that I honor ALL my experiences, and I honor those who have been a part of my growth...both in easy and difficult ways. I believe we're all doing the best we know to do moment to moment.

If reading this doesn't feel helpful, feel free to not read. And whether or not you agree with my perspectives, may you be led to better understand your own view of the world, as it stands presently. May my thoughts give you the courage to ask yourself the questions that can be scary to ask.

I get that my experience could be narrated from numerous angles. It's part of what makes it so difficult to make this blog public. Knowing that the meaning I make from a thought or experience today, may be different than the meaning I make of it tomorrow. But so be I am today...writing today...about today...and how I see the world today. I don't believe that anything I say is the "TRUTH." It's just a perspective.

"Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods."

"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed."

-Albert Einstein

(tag: This blog is about Life after religion. I grew up in the Mormon religion, and so this blog may be helpful for Disaffected or Post Mormons, Ex-Mormons, and anyone else working to rebuild life after leaving a strong religious tradition. It may also be helpful for those choosing religion or chuch activity, but who want to read about one person's experience in leaving.)