Tag Archive | peace

An Atheist and full of peace

It’s so interesting being on this side of a belief system. To go from absolute Mormonism to atheism has been a complete surprise to me. I would never have thought I would feel this way at 51. That’s what I love about life. Just when I think I’ve got all this figured out, my experience shows me something I didn’t even dream about.

I’m surprised about how happy I am without having faith in an afterlife now. I’m surprised how much ownership I feel now for my feelings, behaviors and choices in my life. I’m surprised how peaceful I feel not knowing what happens to life when death occurs. I’m surprised that for ten years now, I haven’t even had an inkling urge, thought or desire to pray to some voodoo magical man in the sky for help, assistance or comfort. Not once. It’s something I don’t even think of and every once in a while I remember that I just don’t go “there” anymore. I don’t feel like a victim that needs saving in any way nor do I believe in the most foundational way, that there is any circumstance where I think something “out there” could possibly help in any circumstance.

I’ve come to swim in the certainty of science, as far as we have come.  I love the open ended answers that it brings. No absolutes, not really, and an openness that things can change with new information.

I love not believing in magical thinking anymore. The confusion and game of “what is the answer” is gone. Having to guess at a possible answer to a prayer is now, thankfully, removed from my existence and it feels so good. The mental and emotional effort that was focused on  wondering, anguishing and searching for truth for answers from above; for begging forgiveness and beating myself up metaphorically for not being spiritual enough, obedient enough, and humble enough to figure out the answers I was missing. It took precious time from me. The greatest value I have in life is time and so much of it was used up by a belief system that kept my focus mainly on how my life’s choices affected the ripples of eternity!!  No pressure there…GAADS!!  My behaviors and motives always had that question at the forefront, and now I wonder what true contributions could I have made to the planet, my community, my family and my education and career if I could have been less focused on magic and more on the reality of living on this planet, now,  with all these beautiful people around me, knowing this is all I get. Sure would have been nice to let go of all that thought baggage that religion brought to my  belief blueprint.

Now that I’m here and a belief in a god seems ridiculous to me, I am amazed at how grounded this mystical thinking still dictates this society. It’s as if, since I have found the freedom in letting those beliefs go, than why doesn’t everybody else? If I can do it, then surely so can everyone else, right?  LOL!!  Not necessarily.  In fact, it’s hard for me to find any one, especially a woman, who doesn’t believe in some kind of voodoo mojo, whether it’s Christianity, or some modern belief flavor of the month, energy voodoo or otherwise. It’s all bullshit as far as I’m concerned but to each his own. I know of what I speak as someone who went from being a Christian Mormon to a belief that there is a Universal energy that is in my favor and god is in all things, to now realizing that I’m made up of the same particles of stars and that energy changes and one day my energy will change with my death and my energy will be released back into space or the earth, depending where my body goes.

The thought that my mother is gone forever, never to be reunited again used to cause me great sadness, grief and despair. I remember consciously agreeing to believe that she lives on, so that I could live with some comfort of that knowledge. Now, however, I don’t believe I will continue after this life is over and thus, I will never see her again or be reunited. Yet, I do not feel despair or great sadness. I feel a great sense of gratitude that I was born in a time that I got to experience the beauty, love and grace that she brought to my life. The full gratitude of the gift that she was, is even greater to me now knowing that it’s more probable that consciousness ends in death. How blessed I was to have such a beautiful, loving mother in my life. How ripped off I was that she only lived to be 68! How tragic it was that she contracted some mysterious fatal disease called CJD and that it took my mother from this planet. What beautiful memories I get to have of this amazing woman and feel the love she poured on me everyday of my life. I still can live that love and I try and honor her by loving those around me in the way that she so gracefully taught me.

Here I sit, pleasantly aware that I once thought peace and atheism were mutually exclusive and now, much to my surprise, I live a life where those two worlds are constant and claimed. Who would have thought? Life is full of delights and I’m so grateful that I exist to discover them for as long as I can.

Wine, writing and Billy Joel

I came home from work today and decided that since I’m alone for just a bit, I would sip a glass of wine, listen to music and write. I feel so grown up. I’ve got this big beautiful house, money in the bank, wine on my lips, a job I enjoy and today, for a minute, I feel like a grownup. At 51, I wonder when I will ever feel truly grown up. I’ve always felt that I’m living a young life and never have I really grown into my big girl shoes. This age thing is quite a trip! I look in the mirror and I see that time has marched on but truly, I don’t see it all that much. I feel young inside, except my chronic back pain. That doesn’t feel young! But my body still looks good as far as I can tell. I’ve always tried to stay in shape and sometimes people think, I’m a bit crazy with it but I think, as long as I can do it, I’ll just keep doing it.

(Song in the background)

Billy Joel…wow, that takes me back. Marisha’s little talent show in 3rd grade. We worked so hard on that routine and her little body groovin to the music while she memorized all the words to “We didn’t start the fire”.  Who does that? What girl in 3rd grade can do that?  THAT girl, for sure 🙂  What a joy it has been being her momma! I have to say, I took some pride in her intelligence. Like somehow I was responsible for some of it…that’s funny to me now. The world is better because she’s in it.

Billy Joel was more around during my high school years. Can’t help but think of my teenage friends. We were so clueless but trying our best. Life was so open and full of possibilities. I had no idea how precious that was to feel back then. I see time shorter on what might be,  instead of what has been and it blows my mind. What am I leaving behind to show I was here? It’s strange to think that sometime in the future, no one will even know I existed. Wow!  I wish I could have impacted the world in a greater way than just being one of many that came and went. But I don’t know how else to be or what else to do to make a big difference. I’m so glad I had my children. At least for a time, I can live on through their memories. That will be nice and I better not out live any of them. That would destroy me. 😦  I’m so glad I met my Ex and we loved, once. He was so much of my first lifetime and I wish I could have made his life happier. My heart will always see his sad eyes and weep. I wish I could have been his view of joy, instead of regret.

I’m so glad I get to live another lifetime in this one. One in which I can be honest, authentic and truly be all of me, accepted and loved fully. So many others just don’t get that chance and I know it. I wish everyone could be taught what true love is really about. Not the false possession and control that is modeled so much. Okay, so here’s one of my greatest wishes. I wish I could have been a brilliant writer and speaker that shares my story about finding oneself and accepting, with compassion, one’s mere existence as worthy. I wish others heard my story and felt like they could also do the same. I would go and speak all over the country, meeting others who also share my passion about relationships and the road from religion, spirituality to agnostic/atheism and they realize they are not alone. I would have liked to look back on my life and see a lifetime of education and work to mark my path and passion. That I could leave a legacy for others to follow. How grand that would have been. I would see a life full of exposure to intelligence and educators as mentors and leaders. What a path that would have been. One pursued in excellence of academia. I would be called Dr. Susan, with tons of experience and knowledge to back it up. My life has been amazing, don’t get me wrong. But it seems to have been so small. My experience, so narrow. I’ve lived in one place and my world seems so small sometimes. I realize i must like it, for I choose it this way. I’ve always followed my energy and now I see that some of my energy has waned. What to do with the time I have left?  That’s the question, isn’t it? Where do I go from here? Who knows….for now I’ll just sit and sip and listen to Billy Joel for a while.   🙂

 

 

C.S. Lewis and a Mountain of Faith

“The time when there is nothing at all in your soul except a cry for help may be just that time when God can’t give it: you are like the drowning man who can’t be helped because he clutches and grabs. Perhaps your own reiterated cries deafen you to the voice you hoped to hear.”
C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

When I was 32 years of age, I found myself alone, dehydrated, exhausted and desperately attempting to climb down the face of a large mountain on the hottest day of the year. My water had run out, the lack of shade was everywhere and yet as I looked to the distant west, I could vaguely see the area where I knew my house was sitting, waiting for me.

That was 19 years ago and now as a 51 year old woman, I once again find myself staring at this quote that I read many years ago, after my mother passed away. She died a few years after my adventure on that mountain and C. S. Lewis’s book was the only book that I found any similarity to my grief, any resemblance to the pit of darkness that was found at my core of her loss. But this quote, hit a different nerve today. This quote was the description of my desperate heart that described my spiritual journey on that mountain that day. I had prayed over and over, hour upon hour, pleading to my god and yearning for an answer to guide me down that mountain, to inspire my mind and find the path that leads to my salvation. Over and over, I heard noises and saw patches of dirt that I thought might be my answers. I continually followed the promptings that must be from god. Each time, I was led to a dead end or a dangerous direction that led to no path, no answers, no guidance, no safety.

Where was the calming, warm  feelings that have always washed  over me in the past? Where was the inspiration of heart and mind to be guided down a safe and nearby path? Where was the loving feelings from a god that had always burst from within me, like before? This was life or death for me now! I wasn’t huddled in a warm church house praying with a congregation, or praying over food with my family. I was here, alone, exhausted with 15 hours of traversing under my belt! It was so hot, not even an animal or insect was out in these conditions. Where was god then? Where was his tender mercies then? Pleading eventually changed to hopelessness, than to giving up, than to anger and fueled by that anger  a rebuking of an absent god.  It was if I saw myself lay down on the hard, hot ground and wonder to myself….this is it? this is how I end? I felt each thought, each inquiry. What did I want? What was I waiting for? Was there no entity, no person, no divine creature to save me? A deep burning bubbled up from the center of me as I realized that there would be no one, no “thing”, no savior to rescue me. If I wanted to live, then I would take the anger, confusion and pleading energy within me and get off the ground and get myself off that mountain! No longer would I wait for anything to save me again. I traversed and traveled through thick piercing  oak and hot rocky dry land until I  heard the faint sound of a stream. I quenched my anger and replaced it with gratitude as I swallowed the cold liquid of life and eventually, a worn path and hours later,  to the arms of my loved ones.

As I was driven home, I remember the shock of experiencing something I had not experienced before. Not only did I become lost, confused and endure a test of my strength and endurance but  I had begged and pleaded with god and got nothing in return. Not a goose bump, not a tingle, not anything from within to ease my pleading soul and comfort my asking heart. I had always felt “something”. I couldn’t understand that when I needed my god the most, to guide me, to save me, to help me…I got nothing in return…nothing. What did I do wrong? Why did god abandon me? Here is when I could have inserted C. S. Lewis’s pattern of thought and choose to pick the “fill in the blanks” with how unworthy or too desperate I was to hear god’s promptings and peaceful spirit. I could once again give god the benefit of my  doubt and my questioning, like I had done previously, over and over again with issues where I questioned my faith.

As I returned into my house of safety, I found myself once again on my knees. I started to pray once again and almost immediately I felt the familiar warm sweeping peaceful waves flow over me. I realized at that moment, that god had not abandoned me, that he had not refused to save me. He wasn’t an unloving god that abandons his children when they need him the most. I wasn’t an undeserving sinner that wasn’t worthy of his love or guidance. No, not at all! I realized at that moment, that those peaceful, warm flowing feelings were not from god but generated by ME, by my own BODY and the chemicals that make up my bodily system!! I had produced them when I felt safe and watched over. I had produced them when I knew I was taken care of and my safe heart could welcome god’s love. I could produce them when I heard a beautiful song or a touching speech. I could replicate peace, warmth, tingles and goose bumps over and over ONLY when I knew I was safe, warm and loved. That’s how the body works! That’s how MINE works and many millions just like me. Only,  I had been taught by my religion, what those feelings were. I was taught to define “IT” as coming from god, something good, something “out there” watching over me, some divine, unique gift of the spirit, the holy ghost.

Sure, I could choose to follow C.S. Lewis and make up multiple reasons of why my answers to my prayers were not given on that mountain. I could tell myself that my answers were given, just not in the way I was accustomed.  I could give god another “out” for my denied expectations and once again blame myself for not being an open vessel for god to communicate efficiently within.

OR, I could realize that  our bodies secrete different hormones and chemicals that are based on our emotional and stressful states. When we are at rest, the pituitary secretes a parasympathetic response and when we are stressed, our bodies respond in a sympathetic way. One leads to peace, calming hearts, joy, feelings of euphoria and love, the other leads to restriction, fear, anger, stress and narrow focus.

The Holy Ghost didn’t abandon me! I defined the holy ghost by the perfectly natural feelings that happen when we are at peace and feel safe. Based on our chemical, genetic make up, these feelings are in everyone, generated by everyone and defined by everyone in unique  ways. How we define the reasons for these feelings are included and readily accepted as we grow up in our environments and are  taught by our teachers that surround our existence, either literally or by example within our communities.  I had attributed them to a god, a holy spirit, to basically  something external all my life! I hadn’t questioned the definition of those feelings until I experienced the extreme absence and the easily replicated feelings, once home safe and sound.

The totality of this revelation wasn’t fully embraced by me for years but this day marked the beginning of that path.  Now, when I see that C. S. Lewis quote, I’m reminded of how far I have come. I learned to get myself off that mountain. I learned that no one or thing that was external from myself  was going to save me and that I had all I needed within myself to get down that mountain. I saved myself and I am no longer a victim in my life, spiritually or physically.  I take full responsibility for the choices and decisions I make. I can fully embrace others as they are without the mesh of a mystic  god to blur my view. I have never felt more peace and authenticity since that day. That day,  I refused to offer up one more excuse for an absent god. I refused to pick up another self-created beating stick to hurt myself for not being  “good enough” for god to answer my prayers and  save my life.

There is no anger, no issue to deal with here. I am not full of resentment or have feelings of being abandoned by some unloving god, only enlightenment that I can and do define the experiences I have! That is the beauty of choice. When emotions are attached to my experiences, I have the freedom to define them, however they serve me and I have found that embracing science with its evidence and replicated results bring me a joy beyond I’ve ever experienced. There is a certainty there and yet there is still room for doubt, exploration and continued openness to new evidence and new discoveries to be found.

I have found a new sense of gratitude for my ancestors who have evolved so that I may experience my slice of consciousness in this life.  I am in awe of the beauty that surrounds me instead of wishing and hoping for something greater. This is great and it’s here now, with each breath. My heart and mind no longer hunger for the balm of Gilead. I find no comfort in believing that there may be something more after this life or that I will be reunited with loved ones that have gone on before. I can’t possibly know what happens after, it anything, but what I do know is that I have now, I have breath now. I see the faces of my children and my lover and I live in this moment, fully embracing them as they are… now. This life is all I have been given and I will embrace it for all it’s worth. Today is my eternity. There is nothing more promised. It is enough.

Some people may read this and become sad. They may think I’ve lost my faith and that I have refused to no longer reclaim it and in a way, they would be right. There is nothing revering to me when one claims they have faith without the realization that they have bought into the concepts that define that faith.  I have found that facts, research of evidence and an open mind to explore other explanations to be beautiful companions instead of faith.  In a way, I have a new faith. One where I need not look to be saved but to savor each breath as I walk, whether upon mountains or anywhere else this slice of consciousness takes me.

 

 

 

 

My learned and unlearned lessons of a religious dogma

Why I don’t consider myself a member of the LDS church or ANY church for that matter 🙂

I gave my power away at a young age to an organization that, with my believing heart, was God to me. “The Church”, as many people automatically mention in Utah, stands in authority as a governing body over people and requires full committed behavior and adherence to its rules, rituals and requirements. Growing up, there was no separation of God, Church and the connection of spirit within myself. It was all rolled up in one and the “Church” requires that type of immersion from its members. Many members would scoff at that idea of total immersion but those are the members who have chosen to live a life by picking and choosing the aspects of the church that “work” for them and disregard or limit the importance of the other aspects that do not “work” in their lives.

Some other members might nod their heads in agreement to the total immersion and think to themselves, “Of course the Church demands full commitment and if you don’t like it, leave it.” I would say that those members are the ones that either found little conflict in regards to the tenants laid out by the church or had such a rough, lost, or painful experience with their journey before  the Church, that by the time the teachings reached their ears, they were fully ripened with enthusiasm and nodding heads of agreement.  For both groups, a redundant  “Yes”, would be heard by those ready to rush up to the ample  regurgitated smorgasbord of teachings, year after year, conference after conference, tasting each morsel with delight until their bellies were full. Afterwards, some might still be left licking their lips in anticipation for any extra leftover tidbit that happened to fall to the ground, always with gleeful hopes and thankful hearts.  “Feast on My Words”, says the Lord.

Maybe that’s the reason we have such an obesity problem in the world. Instead of filling the spiritual hunger that we all desire for unconditional love and peace but only finding conditions, fear, blind obedience and guilt in the books claiming to be the “Word of God”, we turn to food instead. We consume to fill ourselves, in hopes of some kind of satisfaction that cannot be gained by our fruitless external search for worthiness and joy. When the table is cleared, all we are left with is an expanding waist line and an empty soul.

When will people wake up and finally see with spiritual eyes the beautiful divine perfection of themselves? That they,  themselves, hold the key to freedom, joy, unconditional love and the vision of a loving God that creates perfection. A perfection that grows without force and produces fruit with allowance and acceptance. The trees and the flowers don’t stand in the way of their perfect divinity, why do we? Why do we allow our beliefs, assumptions, principles, fears and guilt to stand in our view and obstruct our spiritual vision? When will we see that we can let go of all those theologies, beliefs and philosophies that claim I am “less than”, I am “never enough” and I need some “external salvation” in order to be saved. Saved from what? Saved from myself? Do the trees and flowers need to be saved? Do the grapes on the vine need to be saved from themselves? Are the fruits waiting to reach a destination? Are they hoping and yearning, in vain, for some state of completion where eternal bliss awaits? Or are they naturally, beautifully, fulfilling completely their purpose along the journey of beginnings, middles, and endings, with graceful allowance and knowing? Do they lack anything in each moment in time?Why must I be any different?

Why must I view myself condemned in order to claim that I feel God’s love, presence or power in my life? Why must I speak from the pulpit that I am somewhat of a “nothing” without God’s saving grace?  Sounds more like a  victim drowning in the ocean looking for some kind of floatation device to hold on to. I find my device, call it “God”, give thanks and hold on in the cold, dark waters with the fear of sharks at my every turn. Does that sound like a spiritual life to you? Does that even sound like a life? Yuck, no thanks 😦

A few people have said to me, “I don’t know where I’d be or what would happen to me, if I didn’t have the Church”. I would say to them, “Give it a try!”. You just might surprise yourself and find out who you are without the perceived “safety net” underneath you. You might find that as you stand alone, along a path that is not paved for you, that you can trust the divinity that is within and through you and can’t ever leave you. For it is YOU. You are a strong spirit that KNOWS what is best for you. The spirit of the divine flows through you, IS you and is in and through all those around you. The only separation is within your own chosen beliefs that you’ve bought into. Being able to Trust the journey of your own soul, without fear or guilt is the truest form of freedom and choice. It is a divine gift that you can give yourself or deny yourself. The beautiful thing is that You, yes YOU, create the world you see. The choice is yours. I choose to create authenticity, unconditional love, spirituality and freedom. What do you choose?

The Divorce of a Vision

Met a girlfriend today and found out that she has been through a divorce. My heart goes out to her. It’s not ever easy to transition from something that once was meant to be forever. It’s not easy to let go of the vision of what was once real.

As I stood at the alter with all the love in my eyes for a man who brought me to tears, to laughter, to a height of love that I thought would never be reached again, I can relive the joy of the moment. All I could feel was the joy of the moment. This was actually happening, I was marrying the man of my dreams, the one I saw myself with for always. I thought my heart would burst and rain down with joy upon our heads for all time. We played, we worked, we created children, we loved and we chose each day to share time witnessing each other, learning and leaning on one another.

What happened? Where did it turn? Was it all me? Was it all you? I can look back and come up with the stories that support my inquiry and bring me peace. I can justify my beliefs along the way and why I acted the way I did, but the truth is, it just “IS”. You reacted in your truth at the time and I did the same. There is no one to blame, the result is that we don’t share our time together anymore. I am a distant witness of the man I used to know. You have your stories and I have mine. In the end, my wish is that the stories you create about me will bring more smiles than tears. I realize this might take years or never.

My truth today is that I look at our children and grin. They sometimes smile like you, or tilt their heads like you. Their sarcastic funny words spill out upon me sometimes with the same delight as your words once did. They grab their hair with anxiety and look to the heavens at times which takes me back. I see all the beauty in them that is the beauty in you and I am grateful for their gentle intellect and joyous loving hearts.

My truth is that I am at peace. I can remember with smiles, acceptance and gratitude. For a time, we worked and we loved and we created together. Today, I fly free with love and witness those around me with awe. I live a blessed life and feel with an abundance that I never witnessed before. My life is now viewed through the eyes of full freedom, acceptance and a love that goes beyond the boundaries of human expectation.

I once looked into the eyes of a man who reflected a divine vision and as I say thank you and goodbye to that vision, my eyes behold a divine truth that is reflected in my own eyes…I am free, I am love, I am FLYING!