Thursday, May 14, 2009

laying on of hands

(posted at the exponent.)
The first time that I went through the temple, I knew that I would come back and become a worker there. I knew this the moment that a woman parted a white veil to usher me into a room and laid her hands upon my head.

Backing up a few years, I was one of those beehives who was fairly ticked off at the system that promoted boys to the priesthood and me to lessons on getting married in the temple. There was all this hype about having the power to act in God's name, lots of talk about "privilege" and "power" and "being God's agent" etc... and my 12 year old heart really wished I could be more a part of it then just getting one of those chosen ones to marry me when I came of age.

So when I went to the temple and experienced this space where women laid their hands upon other women to bless them, where they ceremoniously washed and anointed and blessed... I knew I would have to do that too. And so I did, after my mission. And it was amazing. Memorizing the blessings came easy for me and I had some very powerful experiences with the patrons and the other women I worked with. I loved using my hands to do this spiritual work.

Then life got busy and I got married and eventually had to let my time as a temple worker go, but the real question this raised for me was "Why?" "Why can't women perform this work outside of the temple?" Especially when I found that early in the church women were instructed in the blessing and healing of others, I felt it as a painful slight.

So years have past and my view of the church as the exclusive receptacle of the true priesthood power has changed. As have my views on faith healings, miracles and God too. What hasn't changed is that desire to use my hands for spiritual work. I've lost my connection to the memorized blessings and the carefully laid out instructions, even to the notion of channeling some higher power through this act... but I do still have this sense of there being powerful value in these actions we make; human touch, hope, love... I really don't know even exactly how to explain it. I liked the post fmhLisa wrote a while back about blessing sick children because that is a lot like what I feel and experience. With intention I lay my hands on my child when he is sick or hurt or troubled. And I hope it helps.

Do you have experiences where you have felt moved to perform some sort of spiritual act? (I use that term loosely, and for lack of a better one.) If you wouldn't mind sharing, I'd love to hear others thoughts and experiences with this.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Aweism [and labeling within the secular humanist community]

In the latest issue of Free Inquiry Phil Zuckerman seeks to create a new label within the Secular Humanist community: Aweism.

A brief overview of his thoughts:

"'Atheist Is Fine, But...

Of course I am an atheist; I don't believe that any of the gods that have been created by humans actually exist... But it's not [a label] I feel comfortable using when people ask me to label myself. Here's why. First off, the term is one of negation rather than affirmation... Second, the label 'atheist' doesn't adequately capture the joy of living that I often experience... I find that the self-designation of 'atheist' simply falls short....

'Agnostic' Is O.K., But...
"Is [agnosticism] really even a position? It is actually more like the absence of a position, for it entails nothing more than admitted indecisiveness or embraced fence sitting... In sympathy with the agnostic position, I believe that there are just some eternal unknowns out there. The God question is not one of them, but other questions do persist that may ultimately be unanswerable... But when I ponder the existence of certain existential questions and cosmic mysteries, I often have an emotional reaction beyond that of mere dry puzzlement or cold contemplation...

'Secular Humanist' Is Better, But...
I do find the designation of 'secular humanist' useful and appropriate now and then... [But] I find that that secular humanism is more accurately a position or agenda that I support... a set of values, ideas, and practices that I advocate... [But] when I first heard my eldest daughter's heartbeat in that small doctors office in Eugene, Oregon, I didn't feel like a 'secular humanist.' What I felt was a tearful joy and wonder...

Yes, I am an atheist. Yes I am an agnostic- at least the version that suspects that there may be limits to human knowledge. Yes, I support and advocate the sane and noble goals of secular humanism. But I am something more. I am often full of a profound feeling. And the word that comes closest to describing that profound feeling is awe...

Aweism is the belief that existence is ultimately a beautiful mystery, that being alive is a wellspring of wonder, and that the deepest questions of life, death, time, and space are so powerful as to inspire deep feelings of joy, poignancy, and sublime awe... There are literally hundreds of words to describe the religious... and yet when we consider the labels and self-designations available to secular folk we can count them on one or two hands... We should not shy away from articulating the various shades of secularity that we may experience, for it is important to others as well as to ourselves, to accurately describe the numerous ways in which one can be godless..."

Okay, now that I have cut and spliced, sliced and diced Zuckerman's article for you, the reason it stuck out to me is that I am somewhat up in the air as far as a belief in deity is concerned and one of the reasons I have been conflicted about discarding a profession in the divine is that I experience moments of strong tangible physiological responses to certain situations that I have always associated as "Spiritual". So it was intriguing to read his thoughts (recounting experiences where he has felt things similar to what I feel) on how his "lack of theism does not render this world any less wondrous, lush, mystifying, or amazing."

Just something interesting to chew on.

Now I am curious to wait for the next issue and see the livid letters to the editor about his treatment of their various chosen labels.

Friday, May 8, 2009

coming out over candle-light

I think it's time.
Time I had "the talk" with my parents.
Time I answered some of their questions.
(Btw, I have contemplated 'coming out' before, but never did.)

Why now? Why not before?
They have asked multiple times in the past, "What is up with you?". But always my response was "I can't talk about it right now."

Now I feel different. See, before, I was still in an uncomfortable and unstable transitional phase. My body, my emotions were still trying to cope and come to terms with the crisis of faith, with the loss of the familiar foundation of my life and I knew that I was in no place to be able to discuss it without either a) becoming an emotional wreck and/or b) becoming aggressive or confrontational. Because I think that genetically my family is wired towards emotionally aggressive confrontational "discussions" about politics and/or religion. That's just how we are. A confrontation is what I expect from their side; perhaps an interrogation, an attempt to demean my views and experiences. I had to get to a zen place where I could be cool with this, not return the hostilities, and most especially, be fine with the fact that I don't have all the answers.

Maybe that's the clincher, what changed for me; coming to grips with living in ambiguity, living without certainty, without all the answers. I think that may be why I feel more zen now. (Or maybe just because it's Spring. I Dunno.)

So here's the anticipated scenario I'm creating in my head. Me and Hubby will invite them to dinner at our house. (Home court advantage?) We'll let them know ahead of time (a week's notice at least) that this will be an opportunity to sit down and answer some of their questions about my relationship with the church. We'll also let them know that there will be ground rules, kinda like the comment policy on some of the LDS blogs (cuz, like I said, that whole genetic thing... we do tend to fight mean.)

And I am seriously considering offering to let them read some of the things I have written about my journey through (and around and out of ) the church before we get together for our little dinner. Only if they are interested. Which means they will know about this blog. Could even be reading this. (/Waves! Hi mom, dad!) I waver back and forth about this part, Hubby and several friends have said it isn't a good idea. But this blog IS the place where I have discussed these things already and show the "real me" and a part of me really wants to share that with my family. Then all the other parts of me get sad and morose about how the "real me" is going to be very disturbing and disapointing (and infuriating) to my family. We'll see.

Anyhoo... in the fantasy scenario in my head at the end of the dinner we will all group hug and all be okay with having differing viewpoints about certain things (okay, almost everything) but be able to respect each other and each other's decisions.

And then I'll be officially out of the closet as a non-believer in my family.
[And then I wake up]
[HA! No, seriously, this is really going to happen. It is time for it to happen. At last. Whew.]

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A month of Sundays

Last weekend our family went to the lake for church. Two weeks previous we visited the First Congregational United Church of Christ together. This up and coming Sunday (mothers day) we will be attending our LDS ward.
It's kind of a work in progress, but when I made the decision to attend church again, this is what my Lover and I negotiated concerning how our Sundays would look. Two Sundays a month we go to our ward. One Sunday a month we attend another faith. And one Sunday a month we do some non-church family activity/outing.
The main emphasis here is being together. Making Sunday a family day.
And so far, it has been quite the success.
Like I said, it's a work in progress. (For example, if Lover gets a calling that requires his weekly attendance we'll have to re-negotiate.)
It has been a nice change from the stressful tension and disjointed fracturing of what Sundays used to be.
Just thought I'd share.

a day in the life of G (spring 2009)

This is getting to be a bit of a annual habit, but I thought I'd revisit my "day in the life of" thing again. Here is what a day in my life looked like about a year ago, and here is what a day in my life looked like two years ago.
(wow, life in fast forward.)

Anyhow, here's what it looks like now:

Mon - Wed:

6 or 6:30 am: Get son ready for school, Help hubby get ready for work (on a good day one of us packed the lunches the night before. on a bad day, well... rush rush rush.)

7:15 Leave to drive son to kindergarten. It's a 30 min drive, which is tedious. At first I would drive him to school then drive home to try to get stuff done then drive back to pick him up, etc... and that was 2 hrs of driving in a day. Totally sucked.
Now I do things differently. After dropping off son, I stay "in town". Initially I would do all sorts of things trying to be creative with the time. But now I know what works perfectly: First I work out. Then I go to the library and draw. I have decided it's time to be an artist again, and I find I get too distracted trying to work in my home-studio. So I draw at the library for 2 to 4 hours. I no longer bring the laptop or books to read; this is me being serious about starting to draw again.

1:45 I pick up son from kindergarten and drive the long drive home.

2:30 we're home and do the whole snack and homework and play with friends thing and I also starting thinking about dinner.

5:30 or 6 Hubby comes home from work, we have dinner and enjoy the last rays of sunlight (work in the back yard, take a walk, whatever.)

7:30 to 8:30 somewhere in here we get son to bed.

8:30 to 10:30 cleaning up, hot baths, reading books, hanging out, getting ready for the next day, hubby and I may watch a show or a movie together (recently we watched all 7 seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer together. That provided for plenty evenings of entertainment.)

10:30 Bedtime. Except lying there together we usually end up having sex.
11:30 Bedtime. For real this time.

Ready to do it all again the next day.

Oh, Thursdays and Fridays I work as a receptionist in a nice low-stress family-run office and so those have become my days to be online, catch up with friends/blogs, write blog posts etc. Today is Thursday. Which is why I am writing this post. Maybe I'll write a couple while I'm at it.

(And, btw, I am not looking forward to summer and having this nice routine I have established be shot to hell. But o-well.)

Friday, May 1, 2009

Food, Flesh and Spirit

(also posted at The Exponent.)

This is going to be a little sensitive to talk about, but it's been on my mind lately so here goes.

I used to have some serious issues with my body and with food. For most of my teens and 20s I was pinging back and forth between thin and thick, either starving or stuffed, but never satisfied. And my mind was utterly and completely preoccupied with it all; what I was eating, what I wasn't and how it translated on my hips and tummy. (It took a good chunk of brain space for all that obsession. Aside from the bad health, I miss all the other things I could have been putting my mind to.)

What has been interesting for me is to trace back and try to mine my history of eating disorders. Inevitably, the worst spikes in the disorder corresponded to my times of heaviest activity in the church. In high school when I was deeply involved in the seminary counsel. During my mission. At BYU while holding a calling as RS pres (and working at the temple and teaching at the MTC).

These disorders were spiritually distressing to me, I viewed them as a sin that kept me from God and made overcoming them a spiritual quest of worthiness. To no avail. That just made it worse.

This isn't a universal experience. Not all LDS women experience this. (And PLENTY of non-LDS women experience it.) However from many personal conversations and from the plethora of anecdotal evidence I get the sense that I was not an anomaly among Mormon women. In fact, I was in good company.

Happily, I think that depression and eating disorders (etc) among Mormon women are being recognized and addressed by the leadership much more than they were before.

But I sat in Sunday School last week and had an epiphany. The teacher was talking about service in the church and kept using the term "swallowed up". "Swallowed up in the work of the Lord". And how we should strive to achieve being "swallowed up" and what things keep us from being "swallowed up" and as everyone else around me gave faith promoting answers to the problem of why we aren't "swallowed up" the answer in my head was "Because humans are hardwired for SELF PRESERVATION."

My epiphany was this: when I was starving myself perhaps I was trying to disappear, to erase myself, to be swallowed up (and cease to exist).

And when I was stuffing myself perhaps it was my sense of self preservation refusing to let myself disappear, increasing my area of circumference as protection against being swallowed up.

Who knows? Maybe Freud would.

Me, I'm just happy to have that behind me thank you very much. It is nice to finally have a healthy navel, (and strong loins?) and to have my mind (relatively) free from a preoccupation with food and my flesh.

Just some of my thoughts on the subject at the moment.