07 November 2011

Feeling Truth for the First Time, at Age 30


 
Several years ago, I didn't really feel spiritual.  In fact, I hadn't felt spiritual most of my life.  Part of me didn't want to...cause it just seemed a little weird & questionable.  It seemed spiritual people were either "new agey" or they were religious fanatics who seemed to blindly believe in things. 

But, many people around me acted like they knew something of value.  I didn't get it.  How is it that they could know something, but those same concepts weren't really doing anything for me?  I realized I was WAITING for "spirituality" to come to me.  And when it came to religion, I was WAITING for some undeniable, overwhelming feeling that there was some "truth" in whatever religion or concept I was thinking about at the time.

This led to years of me thinking, "I just don't feel anything.  I don't know what I believe.  I'm just going to do the best I can until something comes to me." 

In high school, apparently I had fooled everyone because they chose me out of hundreds to be one of the keynote speakers at seminary graduation.  (Mormon kids usually take a religion class as part of their curriculum.)  I was 18 years old.  And I finally had the guts to say no.  I just couldn't fake it anymore.

I stopped going to church at all after that... for about 5 years.  I dated someone during that time and lived a life that couldn't have been further from being spiritually empowered.  After that, I moved to New York and actually decided to give the Mormon church a try again, so I showed my face at the chapel at Lincoln Center.  They have a congregation there made up of smiling & attractive single professionals, bankers, lawyers, designers, musicians, Broadway performers, and ballet dancers.  Part of me still had a desire to "feel" something spiritual.  But mostly, I was going just to check out this scene & meet people, as I didn't know anyone in this big city.

I started barely attending church here and there.  But I still felt unconvicted about my beliefs & so the motivation was slim (church for 3 hours?  Serving other people regularly?  mmm....no thanks).  Regardless, I began associating with some Mormons and soon became engaged to one, thinking that this would surely take me on a positive path.  We got married & attended church in Brooklyn regularly.  During all that time, I felt some glimpses of spirituality.  But, it was mostly hit or miss.  I certainly wasn't deliberately applying any of it or handing my heart over to anything, cause I was always waiting and wallowing back & forth with the same question from my youth:  "Is this a true church?"  "Does this stuff matter?" ugh.  What anguish I felt for so long (since about age 12-13), wondering if any of this was "true" and waiting for an "answer" (ha). 

It wasn't until I was faced with infertility & years of feeling hurt in my marriage that I felt desperate enough to really seek some healing, self-worth, and more meaning in my life.

But, at that point in my life, I didn't seek it in the Mormon church.  No thank you.  That hadn't worked for me.  I had not yet received any real or lasting peace from it.  I was done hoping that it could do anything for me, besides provide a great network of great people.  I was ready to find something that really worked. 

About that time, I started seeing an infertility acupuncturist, Angela Le, in Manhattan.  It turns out that her greatest goal was to not only help women get pregnant, but to help them TRANSFORM their lives & learn to live with abundance and happiness, with or without the baby.  She says when people are experiencing their darkest moments (divorce, cancer, infertility, death of loved one, etc.), they are the most vulnerable & therefore the most motivated to seek relief.  And so she has dedicated her life to reaching these downtrodden, infertile women before they embark on the most influential job they will ever have: motherhood.  She feels if she can change a mother, she can change the world.

Each week, I met with Angela for acupuncture.  And before each session, we would talk and she would share every bit of wisdom with me that she could about life/love/peace/happiness/inner strength/reactions/choices/etc.  As Angela was teaching me all of this amazing wisdom and as I was reading other books on spirituality, which she recommended (Eckart Tolle, etc.), it all just made so much sense to me!  For the first time in my life, in that very, very dark & desperate time...

I was seeing glimpses of TRUTH.

 I was seeing how all of it actually could apply to my life and how I could heal and be happy if I started to apply this.  And....it turns out..... that the whole time I kept sitting there thinking....

"HOLY CRAP - everything she is teaching me is stuff I already know from growing up in the Mormon Church!!!"

I had been hearing the same stuff (& more) my whole life, but had been brain dead to it until then and had never internalized the power of it.

And here is the real kicker....Even though Angela was teaching these universal truths in a way that many people could understand (regardless of their background) one day she said to me, "You realize, the person who taught people how to react in the best way was Jesus Christ.  He was on a cross, yet in that moment had forgiveness and love and peace in His heart."  I was dying.  Did she just say Jesus Christ???   Until then, he really didn't mean anything to me.  But suddenly I started to connect the dots about what it really means to have spiritual power....it means to have LOVE.  Love for others, even those that offend me.  Love for myself, as a daughter of God who is capable of improvement & overcoming my trials, even if nothing is going my way.  And love for God, the source of all strength. 

With Angela's support each week, I started to embrace & apply some spiritual truths for the first time in my entire life.  It rocked my world.  It was the most empowering thing I've ever done.
And I finally realized that I didn't have to wait for spirituality to fall in my lap.  I could choose it. 

I hope you guys don't think I'm a nutcase for telling you all of this.  haha.  Even if you do, I guess it's ok.  I just have to share this anyway.  My life shifted permanently when I made these realizations & started making changes!  The way I experienced my life & my trials changed SO dramatically that I couldn't believe it!  It was kinda sad to me that I lived so long without that empowerment.  And so I just have to let this rip and share away with all of you.  Cause if I can change my life completely at age 30, I know that you can, too.

This week I'll have a very specific list of things you can do to cultivate spirituality....no matter what religion you associate with.   Hoping that it can help some of you on your own paths.

Wanting the very best for you all.

Mara

(That picture, above, was taken in Central Park just after this last winter, which was the worst winter I had experienced here in New York in 12 years.   The photo captured the very beginning of Spring when the blossoms were ready to burst.  It reminds of the life that was bursting inside me when I was learning truth for the first time.) 

19 comments:

  1. This is a BEAUTIFUL post! Thank you so much for sharing, as a teenager I'm trying to figure out my faith and this was incredibly inspiring that it can't be rushed!

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  2. I think a lot of people, especially young people raised in the church, feel this way at some point in their life. Your post shows that it is normal to take time and effort to getting a testimony--in this case in the Mormon church. And most importantly, that it's worth it to not give up!

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  3. Mara, I found your blog last week through Stephmodo. I have been reading blogs a long time and I can't tell you how different and refreshing and life-affirming yours is. I have been through all of your posts now. I really feel like I came across your blog for a reason....I hope that doesn't sound too corny! xo

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  4. Thanks for being so open about your experiences. I teach the Young Women in our ward and I tell them that if they don't internalize the lessons it won't change their hearts and help them to become like Christ, which is the whole point of coming to this earth.

    I think, from my own experience, that each person needs to find their connection outside of the church experience. I had that while I was in college (even though it was BYU). I questioned everything about God and the church, but found the biggest variable to be me. What was I doing to follow Christ?

    An example that struck me was an article that talked about how the apostles at the last supper didn't point fingers at Judas when Christ said "one of you will betray me". They asked, "Is it I?" That humility struck me because I was pretty sure that what I did was right (immature self concept). This example made me start to evaluate myself more honestly.

    And then I was able to look past cultural annoyances or to stop judging others harshly and work more on becoming a better person myself (still working on it!)

    Sorry for the sermon!

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  5. Thank-you for your blog!! I love it!

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  6. All I want to say is AMEN! Like Jora I KNOW I came across your blog for a reason. Seriously changing some of the self talk I've had going on. Happiness is a choice. Spirituality is a choice. Yes, yes! It's all sinking in. So thanks for writing what you do.

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  7. To all of you - I can't tell you how much you've made my day. So glad to see that anything I'm sharing is helpful. Thanks for ALL your kind words.

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  8. this was great! and a reminder that many people need - even ones who feel strong in their faith - it helps us understand others who may not be.

    I read somewhere this week where a person was saying they were questioning their faith, belief etc (not LDS) and a person wrote an answer saying that questioning and doubting is a perfect way of being religious.I thought the answer was a bit weird/not so good but they said to question you know that you are working on it, you are trying to come to terms etc and that its totally fine. I thought it was interesting.

    I also laughed at your opening line as I often cringe when people are overly religious in facebook status and in 'praise the lord' type talking. As a LDS person who tries to live a good life and be a good example of a saint I feel badly that I cringe when others are overly religious :)and its not that I'm embarrassed ( I dont think) anyway you gave me a smile and a pause to think!!

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  9. You write about spirituality in the most easy to understand, yet profound way. I really value what you share, thank you for being so open. Always.

    Having been raised in a Christian faith it was not really until this fall (so, 24 years) that I've realized why were truly needed a savior. Simple truth, yes, hard for me to grasp? Absolutely.

    It's good to know I wasn't alone.

    I'm sure you get 100s of e-mails a day, but I sent you one a while back. Hoping you got it.

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  10. Mara, you really are amazing. this is beautiful! I am so glad you are blogging!

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  11. Thanks for your story, Mara. I often look back and think that I'm a lucky person that my "rock bottom, I must change now" moment happened when I was 16 years old. It was at that moment, and not before, that I became Mormon for real.

    Spirituality, for me, has been tweaked and refined ever since. I'm still not Amazingly Spiritual, but I'm trying every day, and I can look back over years and see the improvement. I'm learning to be patient with myself. The process is worth it.

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  12. Thank you for your openness! Reading your blog has given me so much power, and put words to a lot of what I've thought and felt. It has inspired me to be more open in my own (very small) blog. It is liberating and I feel we can all help each other so much more my sharing our own experiences of how we've come out stronger.

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  13. Thank you for sharing. I have attended church faithfully all my life, but my belief in the church wasn't shaken until just a few years ago. It's still not as rock solid as I wish it were, but it's something I'm choosing consciously. I never knew before how going through hard trials could anchor you to spirituality, but now I know. I'm still working on things, but I am so so so grateful for everything I learned growing up Mormon. Everything that your acupuncturist taught you. I do wish everyone could have that sort of outlook on life. Sometimes I wonder how people get through life without this outlook on life and choices and happiness and reactions to trials.

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  14. The post is so beautiful. Love has its own essence in everybody's life. Thanks for sharing.

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  15. Thank you for sharing your discovery of Truth through this post. It resonates greatly and encourages through that.

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  16. I wanted to be like those people with a strong faith. So I started going to church regularly - just committing to going, over the gym or groceries or a sleep in (come on, by 10.30am, I'm not sleeping, not when I'm usually at work at 7am!).

    What I've realised? I'm truly happy when I'm in church - either as a parishioner, or as a sides person (welcoming others) or as a Sunday school teacher, or counting the collection, or, now, as a Councillor. I feel loved, I feel part of a community, and I feel like this is the path to making me a better and loving person. And I no longer care if people think I'm new agey, or far gone or plain silly for believing in something that can't be proven (I'm an engineer... so v v rational friends). It's the right place for me. So much so, I've just started reading the bible - hoping to get it done in a year. And man do I enjoy it, can't believe I dreaded starting!

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    Replies
    1. Love it! Thanks for sharing. It's amazing what being part of a community and having a place to serve others does for our souls. Glad you've found a place where you belong.

      You'll totally get it done in a year, and I'm guessing you'll love it.

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    2. Thanks for the reply Danny - but... I'd be happy without one! Go celebrate that birthday!

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  17. This is such an interesting personal post! Are you and your husband active members of the LDS Church? I don't see a lot on this blog about it and wondered (and hoped you are) That would make your story extra great:)

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