Thursday, December 24, 2009

my christmas present....

Lately I've been thinking a lot about god. The thoughts are varied, from anger to confusion to amusement. If you read some of my recent posts you could see that I have been doing some soul searching and with that soul searching comes questions... lots of them.

I had a discussion with a friend a couple of weeks ago (well, an email discussion - a little different than in person but hey, he lives in Waco, it's kind of hard to meet face to face when he's 500 miles away. Although I wish he was closer, I miss him lots.) Sorry, got off on a tangent there but have to do a shout out to Kelly - thanks my friend.

What he said basically amounted to this: that there is a whole, big world out there beyond the usual confines of what evangelical Christianity offers, that god is bigger than any church or organization "and faith can be a new spiritual consciousness that can leave behind the tribal allegiances that less mature Christians cling to." Before this conversation, I was more inclined to say the opposite - that if there was a god he wasn't anyone I wanted to be a part of. Despite my many years of work in church and ministry, I have been increasingly disillusioned with what I saw as "god in a box" and never saw the results of what was suppose to be a life-transforming experience. It just never happened for me and for the most part, I never saw it happen in others either.

This persistent doubt has been nagging me for years, I just never said anything about it. Until now. The past few months I have finally "come out of the closet" to close friends. And my friend in Waco was one that I felt I could trust enough to say "I don't know about god anymore."

With this admittance has come a feeling of freedom. Despite what many believe, this isn't a spiritual crisis; it's a spiritual rebirth. I'm starting from scratch, rebuilding my past narrow view of what god is and how he relates to me. And with that, a freedom that I have never experienced before.

In some ways, this isn't easy to write, it's a huge thing to admit. But I decided that tonight, on Christmas Eve, I was going to give myself the best present in the world - peace. I'm tired of pretending; this has been a huge weight on my shoulders and I just can't carry it anymore. I hate hypocrites and I have honestly felt like one for many years.

Last week I had a moment a clarity. It was after a particularly intense prayer session; I was driving along when I looked up to see the mountains shrouded in clouds. At that moment my friends words popped into my head and I thought to myself "god made those mountains." And I believed it.

Even in the most unlikely and conservative of places, you can find sometimes this glimmering idea that God might be bigger than our limited religious doctrines have taught us. But doesn't that make sense? That the infinite would be, indeed... infinite? That even the most holy amongst us would only be able to see scattered pieces of the eternal picture at any given time? And that maybe if we could collect those pieces and compare them, a story about God would begin to emerge that resembles and includes everyone? And isn't our individual longing for transcendence all just part of this larger human search for divinity? Don't we each have the right to not stop seeking until we get as close to the source of wonder as possible? 

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

once a talker, always a talker...

I swear I was born talking. Really. Anyone who knows me knows this. I can keep a conversation going for hours just by my pure will and willingness to engage in all sorts of topics. I find absolute delight in engaging a 'non-talker' in conversation... and I succeed just about every time.

I've always loved this about myself. Well, for the most part. There were times when I had wished I was more like the quiet, calm girls in my class - they seemed to have an aura about them that I could never emulate. I was always loud or talked too much and whatever aura I had dissipated all too quickly when I opened my mouth.

There is a problem with us 'talkers' though - we aren't very good listeners. I fully recognize this about myself and have had to work hard to be someone who engages completely in a conversation. And after years of practice, I have succeeded fairly well.

Notice how I said "fairly well" and not "perfectly well?" Yeah, that's the rub of the true self, where there is a 'ying' there must be a 'yang.' And improving the yang in me is a constant struggle.

This morning I opened up one of my current reads ("Eat, Love, Pray") and saw this:

I'm never going to be a wallflower, but that doesn't mean I can't take a serious look at my talking habits and alter some aspects for the better - working within my personality. Yes, I like talking, but perhaps I don't have to curse so much, and perhaps I don't always have to go for the cheap laugh, and maybe I don't need to talk about myself so constantly. Or here's a radical concept - maybe I can stop interrupting others when they are speaking. Because no matter how creatively I try to look at my habit of interrupting, I can't find another way to see it than this: "I believe that what I am saying is more important then what you are saying." And I can't find another way to see that than "I believe that I am more important than you." And that must end.
If there was ever a better description of me, I can't think of it. I truly don't like this about myself and find it ironic that not minutes later I opened the second book I'm reading and saw this:
While engaged in conversation, instead of immediately responding when someone speaks, we pause for a moment, relax our body and mind and notice what we are experiencing... by pausing and paying attention, we become acutely aware of our patterns of reaction.

I do believe the universe is trying to tell me something. And I'm listening. I just pray I will actually hear what it's saying and take it to heart.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Sunday, December 6, 2009

change is a constant...

I haven't written much about my recent adventures lately. Mostly because there haven't been many, at least not in the typical way you might view an adventure. Lately my adventures have been more internal. I suppose that fits the season, the slowdown that comes with winter. Winter always has this affect on me - no more long bike rides or days hiking in the warm sun makes me a bit lethargic. But it's more than just the affect of winter.

My trip to California last month changed some things for me - amazing what the combination of lack of sleep and good conversation can do. I returned home with a challenge to change some things in my life, which is what I have spent the last month doing.

What have I done that is so life changing? Slowed down. That's it, nothing earth shattering, just slow down. This is not easy for me - I don't like to slow down. I like my 4:30 am workouts 6-7 days a week; my second job that keeps me working each night; my busy social life; my volunteer work; the hikes and bike rides and so on. They are fun and exciting and keep me very busy.

But now? My workouts are considerably less, maybe 2-3 times a week. My mornings are now spent reading and meditating, concentrating on the things inside me that need some work. And the evenings? Quietly spent on my computer (yes, I still spend way to much time on the thing) but also reading (that's two books at one time - a record!). I've concentrated on the outer me a long time, believing that the rest would follow. And that has happened to a certain extent. But what I was really doing was making my life so busy that I wouldn't have to deal with the parts of me I didn't like, the parts that only I saw. It was fun for a while, but not very healthy.

And here's the surprise - I like to slow down. I like to breathe deeply and search my heart and body daily for those things that, in the past, have created havoc in my life. It's the ultimate in my own personal 'radical acceptance' and I must admit, exhausting. But worth every minute.

There have been some amazing benefits from this slow down:
1. less stress - I just don't let things get to me. Part of being sick this year was due to stress; actually, most of it was. And the meds I was on did not help - they wrecked havoc with my body, causing weight gain and other fun issues. No more, I threw those puppies away and am managing it naturally and applying that to all areas of my life.

2. feel stronger physically - ironic, since my workouts have decreased. But I am more focused when I am working out and feel much more rested and relaxed.

3. better relationships - I always have to work on these, but I'm finding that my openness to share my struggles and challenges allows others to share theirs as well. Honestly, what would I do without people in my life who challenge and listen and love me no matter what? They make all the difference.

4. more rested - not just sleep wise, but mentally rested. My brain seems to function better and my concentration is much better. It's an overall feeling of peace and calm that has escaped me in the past.

This whole process hasn't been easy, at all. There are good days and bad days. But for now, this is my new adventure and it has been an even wilder ride than all the races or climbs or bike rides I've done the past 2 years.

I wouldn't have it any other way.