Tag Archive: peace


Knowing Oneself

I’ve written a bit about knowing oneself, as a big part of my journey has been getting to know myself and being true to myself. As I’ve gone along, the process has seemed ever more simple, and actually less of a “process” and more of an “awareness”.

I wrote a post last Fall on “True Happiness”, for which I’ve received a considerable amount of feedback, both positive and negative. My own journey has given me greater clarity on the subject. Rather than expounding or amending the previous post to address all of the emails and my own evolution, I chose to just create another post on the subject: Knowing Oneself.

What does that mean: Knowing Oneself? I am no expert on the matter, by any means, but I will share what I’ve found to be true for myself. See my opinion, just as that: an opinion. Only you can find what resonates as truth for yourself.  One helpful thing I’ve learned is not to necessarily “seek truth”, but to let go of the importance that I assign to the opinions of others. Letting go of my “thinking” has allowed my true self to emerge.

As I go along (or life goes along), I’m finding that knowing myself and being true to myself involves giving up roles that define me. It also involves giving up finding peace in “the doing”. I’ve discovered that peace exists in “the being”, not “the doing”. Peace is in being fully present in the now. Life is in the now, not the past or the future. Now is life. Being aware of who I am now, not back then or later on, has been key for me. This is also an awareness of who I am independent of others feelings and opinions.  Becoming aware of where I am in the moment has helped set me free from the external pressures from others and my own mind. I’ve gained a greater sense of who I am as I’ve become more aware of the separation of who I am as a consciousness (true self) vs who I am as thinking brain (motivated by the external). I have shifted from thinking and being entangled in the reality of others, to separation, letting go, and becoming aware of my own consciousness in the moment.

As a young artist, I learned that the secret to my talent was in the seeing rather than the creating. When I ceased to see the subject as a familiar form and simply became objectively aware of light, shadow, and emotion, my talent was unleashed. Identification with form, however familiar and meaningful, can hold our inner peace hostage. Objective awareness is essential to gaining true peace and unleashing the beauty of our true self.

I am right-brained. I am artistic and very creative. Although I’ve been labeled “ADHD”, my IQ has tested as very high. I feel connected to others in a way that others might find unusual. I have a keen sense of foresight. I am extremely sensitive, both a blessing and a curse. I am spiritually sensitive.

Peeling back the illusion of self, has enabled me to see these parts of me, especially as a whole, more clearly. I am just beginning to understand, explore, and fully accept the uniqueness of me. For most of my life, these elements of myself have caused discomfort in others. My uniqueness has never really fit into any of the molds of expectation from others. This misfit has been labeled as me having problems with authority.

I feel as though I’m finally on the path of self-acceptance and self-love. Who knows what doors this will open for my own personal growth. Exciting!

It’s been nearly 4 years since I resigned my membership in the LDS church. Life is so much simpler. As I’ve let go of so much, I’ve found myself coming to know myself better. This has involved, at times, being painfully honest with myself. It has also involved some discomfort as I’ve looked at my life without the idealistic glasses of culture and religion. As a result, I’m casting off the old illusion of self and truly growing to know myself. I’m becoming more in tune with what I need and want to be happy. I’ve learned to listen to myself, to understand myself, and to accept and allow myself to be me, including my imperfections. I am me, and the me I’m coming to know is far more beautiful without being seen through the lens of religion and dysfunctional social pressures. I love me. For the first time in my life, I feel that I have something genuine to offer myself and others: the real me, a me that is whole and secure.

My feelings about “God” have also changed. As a product of religion and culture, I’ve always viewed God as an outsider, a being separate and distant from myself. Interestingly, as I’ve let go of these influences and become more in-tune with myself, I’ve felt more one with God. Now, I feel that God is less of an individual and more an energy that is a part of all things. This new epiphany has given me an alternate insight into Christ’s words when he referred to his oneness with the Father. I’ve come to see the divine differently. I feel one with the divine and see it as being at the center of my intuition and knowing. This new wholeness of self has helped me to continue to “let go”. I’m seeing myself let go of unhealthy relationships, expectations on myself and others, and the physical world, in other words, stuff in general. I find myself caring a lot less about the external: home, car, finances, the future and the past. Rather, I am finding that I am more present in the moment, and more appreciative of the now. Life is good.

True Happiness

True happiness comes from within. Its origins cannot be found in others. Try as we might, lasting happiness will never be found in anything outside ourselves. Fleeting happiness may be found in external sources, but can be nothing more than a temporary fix, a metaphorical band-aid on our soul. I have discovered so much about myself since I left the LDS church three years ago, and the greatest gem I’ve uncovered is my path to true and lasting happiness. Of all the searching for truth that I’ve done, the one universal truth that I stand by unequivocally is that true happiness only comes when:

  1. we genuinely know ourselves
  2. we are true to ourselves (no matter what opposition we face)
  3. we let go of any hope of an outside force (person, place or thing) providing happiness/peace for us

It may sound simple, but the more my eyes are opened to the world and the people in it, the more I see just how elusive this truth can be. I can only speak from my own experience, so I will share how my journey has brought me to this knowledge. Every one’s journey is different, but I believe that all journeys to true and lasting happiness will end in similar wisdom.

1- Genuinely Knowing Ourselves

My journey to know myself, like all humans, began at birth. And like all humans, I was immediately effected by the culture and society into which I was born. Most of the societal influences were harmless upon my emerging self and did little to hamper my growth. But, over time, certain pressures, teachings and influences (many of which came from my parents and the LDS church) came to distance me from my own self. For example, I was taught the extreme importance of unquestioning obedience by both the church and my parents. I was taught that adherence to a rigid code of conduct and checklist of works were necessary to win God’s love and eternal salvation. To some personalities, these influences might not be so rough, but for me, a questioner, a thinker, and a highly intelligent being, they were stifling. As I tried to shut down my own personality in order to comply with the expectations of my family and church, I became increasingly estranged from my own self. As an adult, this felt like a vague sense of dissatisfaction in my life, underlying frustration and a noticeable split between my private self and my public self. I found myself giving more and more energy to word choice and self-censoring.

A disassociation with oneself begins with a misfit between one’s true self and the expectations from others whom we see as meaningful in our lives. For some it may stem from a feeling of not living up to career expectations from parents or issues with being born homosexual into a family who is less than understanding.

Three years ago, I did not fully understand my dissatisfaction with life. The key to beginning the path to knowing oneself is to recognize the symptoms of living a life that is out of harmony with our innate selves. The symptoms can be depression, anxiety, dread, or anger. In extreme cases, symptoms can also look like acting-out behavior such as drug abuse, self-harm, and other risky behavior. Sometimes this disassociation can manifest as lying, bragging, or exaggerating.

Once we recognize the symptoms within, we can begin to take steps toward being true to ourselves. Even if we feel blind in the beginning, with every step of throwing off the chains which bind us, we will come closer to knowing ourselves. With this knowledge, we can cultivate a loyalty to ourselves that will result in true and lasting happiness.

2. Being True to Ourselves (no matter what opposition we face)

The first step in my journey involved throwing off one chain that had kept me in bondage for decades. That chain was a belief taught to me by the LDS church and strongly reinforced by my LDS family and friends. It was the belief that questioning church doctrine was evil.

I’d always been taught that God would not allow our prophets or other church leaders to lead us astray.  I was taught that Joseph Smith, and all the church leaders which came after him, were God’s mouthpieces. In other words, even the desire to question doctrine, could only derive from one source: the devil. This belief caused me guilt and agnst when I felt doubts about Joseph Smith, the book of Mormon, and other issues with the church surface. I’d prayed, studied, and even faked my way along for many years. I just didn’t feel that burning in my bosom that so many Mormons in my life talked about. I just couldn’t bring myself to publicly declare a testimony of these things. As my activity in the church became more active and broad in scope, I found myself increasingly dancing around certain doctrinal points, many of which were central to the church.

Hand in hand with the cultural norm of infallibility of church leaders, was the strict admonition to avoid any non-church sanctioned publication or source for information. Yes, it is taught and widely accepted in the church that it is only appropriate to seek information regarding church doctrine and history from the church, itself.

One day, I threw off this chain and began my process of questioning church doctrine. It began with buying a book (which was NOT a church sanctioned publication), and quickly exploded into a full-on investigation involving many books and internet sources. My journey brought my  doubts into the light. Since that time, I have learned not to stifle my doubts. I enjoy operating on all cylinders, so to speak. I no longer conform to any cultural norm which requires me to curtail my thinking or put on any type of mask (be fake, in other words).

I have faced opposition in the form of scorn and judgement from LDS family and friends. I have paid a price, but it is one I’d gladly pay again and again for the deep and gratifying peace that has come from being true to myself. There is much to be said, too, for learning to limit ones vulnerability to attempts to inflict pain, guilt or manipulation by those who disagree with our chosen path to peace. I’m still in the process of mastering this area of my life.

3- Letting Go of Any Hope of an Outside Force (person, place or thing) Providing Happiness/Peace

The only person I can control is me. Efforts to control another only end in frustration and in destruction of healthy relations. No matter how deep a love, peace and happiness can only come from within. When we know ourselves and are true to ourselves, then we are in a position of being ready for a healthy relationship with another. Only then, can our happiness stand on it’s own, independent of any outside influence. When we are true to ourselves, we will naturally gravitate to healthy relationships.

Happiness has to come from within to be of any real or lasting value. Listen to yourself. Know yourself and be true to yourself. When you do this, letting go of outside influences on your happiness will come naturally.

Why do we as humans seek first external verification of our self-worth before we can learn to love ourselves? Is is because we come into the world as helpless infants, completely dependent upon our parents? Why is it that this external love must come first before we are able to love and accept ourselves unconditionally? This is my general impression of humanity, one which, I’m sure, does not include all individuals. There may be those who escape or are immune to outside forces on their own self esteem, but I believe they are rare indeed.

Religion is such a big part of the external verification by which so many govern their own self worth. As created by man, God’s will can be twisted into a standard by which we measure our own worthiness for love and acceptance. In my experience, religion does far more damage than good in this regard. At an early age, many of us humans are taught strict guidelines for earning not only our parents approval but also the thing that matters most, God’s love. Unfortunately, sometimes these criteria reach far beyond simple behavior into what makes up the fiber of our souls. When this happens, we learn to push down our true selves. The longer we do this, the more distant we become from not only knowing ourselves but also being true to ourselves and living in peace. Guilt, rebellion, and self-harm are all by-products of the self-loathing religion can instill.

Now that I’m out of a legalistic church, I can clearly see that man-made religion is at the root of much of what is wrong in the world today. Much violence and hatred is perpetrated with the belief that one is doing God’s will. Likewise, there is much less visible suffering that is woven into the daily life of many who are striving for perfection in God’s eyes. In Mormonism it may look like a housewife juggling 6 kids, 2 church callings, being the perfect wife, and shouldering guilt for falling short with her temple attendance and visiting teaching. It may be a young gay teenager living with self-loathing and fear that he’ll be rejected by his family if they know the truth, or a middle-aged, single woman or man living with the feeling of ostracization from his church community simply for enjoying being single.

What would the world be without religion? I think it would be a better place. I find it ironic that Jesus went about his work, taking every opportunity to criticize organized religion. He left behind a simple concept: all we need is love. He taught that God loves us unconditionally and that salvation is a free gift for all. Again and again, he shot down the Judaic concept that salvation comes only after strict obedience to multiple laws. Although Mormons claim to follow Christ, the LDS religion is even more legalistic than Old Testament Judaism. Not only do you have the multiple laws to obey, but you have ritual upon ritual to complete as well. So many rituals and works, in fact, that the work does not end at death. I wonder what Christ would have to say about the frantic efforts of church members today.

Is religion really a good thing? Is it of God’s idea or man’s? I believe that God and religion are independent concepts, and that many will be surprised that Heaven may actually be a place devoid of religion.

I came across an article, “The Art of Endings”, today by psychologist and bestselling author, Dr. Henry Cloud. The following are excerpts from the article:

“In both the personal and professional life, there are times when reality dictates that a person must stand up and ‘end’ something. Either it’s time has passed, it’s season is over, or worse, continuing it would be destructive in some way.”

“But too many times, with clear evidence staring them in the face, people find it difficult to pull the trigger. Why is that?

“The reasons are varied, but understandable, especially in light of developmental psychology, our understanding of trauma, and cognitive mapping. Some people’s developmental path has not equipped them to stand up and let go of something. For example, if they did not develop what psychologists refer to as secure attachment or emotional object constancy, the separation and loss that ending a relationship triggers for them is too much, so they avoid it. In addition, in their development they may not have been taught the skills to confront situations like these.

“Or, if they have had traumatic losses in life, another ending represents a replay of those, and they shy away or frantically try to mend whatever is wrong, way past reason. Or they have internal maps that tell them that ending something is ‘mean’ or will cause someone harm. In any case, fears dominate their functioning, and they find themselves unable to do a ‘necessary ending.'”

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/t…

I left cultic Mormonism in 1992, a VERY needful personal ending, considering that the LDS Church had, from early childhood to adulthood, systematically abused not only my naïveté and trust, but also my mind and emotional ‘soul’ with its myriad of fear-, guilt- and shame-inducing ‘true’ doctrines and teachings (i.e., religious nonsense). Tragically, it’s done the same with millions of people since 1830. Thankfully, in the past 17 years of the Internet 100’s of 1,000’s people have ended their membership in the patriarchal/abusive Mormon Church and gone on to create healthy and happy lives.

Perhaps more difficult, many individuals have been married to a TBM or had parents, siblings or friends who refused to look at the mountain of facts that prove that Mormonism is a fraud. Pulling away from or ending relationships with psychologically dysfunctional and emotionally immature people (who refuse to grow up) is another important part of life that we should not avoid.

Dr. Cloud’s article is worth reading, IMO.

 
As I celebrate my 2 year anniversary of my resignation from the LDS church, I find myself increasingly in a place of peace with myself, the world around me and God. Looking back, I can see now how God prepared me for the transition that I went through 2 years ago. Being placed in a calling which I believed held great responsibility in my Stake was a catalyst not only for me to strengthen my own testimony, but to humble myself before God and to go to a deeper level of honesty within myself.

Before opening my mind to investigate my own shelved doubts and the church, I had spent many months in prayer, turning myself completely over to God. I placed myself completely in his hands and trusted him to deliver me into a closer relationship with Him. At the time, I fully expected my testimony of the LDS church to deepen, and it came as quite an unexpected surprise to uncover the errors of LDS theology. I had expected to come out of the process with greater commitment to obey all of God’s commandments (according to LDS theology). As was my spiritual progression up to that point, I fully expected this next step to take me into a deeper, more complex and more stringent understanding and adherence to the gospel.

What happened was quite the opposite. My position of humility and reaching out to God, instead took me to a place of simplicity: a place of communion with God. I came to understand the true meaning of Grace. I came to understand that salvation was simply a matter of releasing all that I’d been taught to cling to and to accept Christ’s unconditional gift of salvation.

More than anything, my journey has led me to a place of letting go. Fortunately, nearly at the same moment of my de-conversion from Mormonism, I was converted to a full understanding of God’s love for me. It was an amazing process which is still difficult for me to put into words. At that moment 2 years ago, I was filled with the love of God. It filled me up like an unquenchable fire. The most amazing thing is: it still burns just as brightly within me today as it did that day 2 years ago. I never dreamed that I could feel like this.

As time goes on, I feel increasingly disaffected from the world. I still see and feel what goes on around me, but my focus is so different now. I feel completely loved and accepted by God. Nothing can take that away from me. Bad stuff happens in the world. Relationships can cause us distress, but nothing compares to my perfect relationship with God. In this state, I no longer feel the need to judge myself or others. I finally understand what unconditional love is all about. I feel it from God. I feel it for myself and I feel it for others. It is a joyous freedom I never glimpsed as a Mormon. The fire that burns within me now drives me to reach out to others: to meet their reaching and help them as they investigate the church. I find great joy in this.

As a Mormon, I never really felt like I was enough. Never enough to be completely loved by God or anyone, for that matter. I think many Mormons struggle with feelings of inadequacy. Why? I believe that the more legalism that is involved in a religion, or rules and compliance expected of  followers, the more difficult it is to feel as if one has ‘arrived’. Salvation is always out of reach. One’s job is never complete. Even at death, as taught in Mormonism, we only enter into a new life of further work and earning of our salvation. Inherently, the culture instills a sense of futility and unworthiness. Reaching perfection is something often spoken of, but forever out of reach.

My views of institutionalized religion have evolved over the last 2 years. At first, I felt the need to ‘belong’ to another church. I searched high and low for a church where I felt comfortable and a church which was as basic a Christian church as I could find. I did find one, and I still attend occasionally. However, I no longer feel compelled to attend. As the remnants of Mormon belief have worked their way out of my system, I’ve come to focus less on my actions and more on my relationship with God. I believe it is good to assemble together with other believers. I enjoy it very much, but I do not feel that doing so is necessary for my salvation.

In a nutshell, I believe that relationship with God is a personal thing, not anything a religion can give you. I think that God’s truth is simple and the more man is involved (religion), the more complicated and distant from God’s purposes we tend to get. Mormonism was founded by a man, complicated by more men, and I believe, has taken its follows far from a relationship with God.

%d bloggers like this: