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You're Getting Closer: One Year of Finding God and a Few Good Friends

 

And so, I’ve decided: this is the year I am going to get friends. It is also the year I’m going to figure out how to pray without ceasing, to live in a state in which every action I take, every word I speak and every thought I think comes from the Source inside myself far beyond my conscious mind.

I am going to communicate with the Divine, and not just occasionally—I’m going to do it all day long.

I really don’t know if I will be successful but I do know this: if I’m not, it won’t be for lack of trying.

 

 

 

you’re getting closer

 

one year of finding god and a few good friends

 

 

by mollie player

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book One in the Mystical Memoir Series

 

You’re Getting Closer: One Year of Finding God and a Few Good Friends

 

Published by

Mollie Player, LLC

Bellevue, Washington, U.S.A.

 

Copyright © 2012 by Mollie Player

All rights reserved.

 

 

To contact the author, subscribe to her blog or discover your next great read, visit mollieplayer.com.

 

 

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING IN PUBLICATION DATA

Player, Mollie, 1978—

You’re Getting Closer / Mollie Player

 

ISBN-13: 978-1500624569

 

July 2014

Printed in the United States of America

 

also by mollie player:

The Power of Acceptance: One Year of Mindfulness and Meditation

 

The Emergency Diet: The Somewhat Hard, Very Controversial, Totally Unheard Of and Fastest Possible Way to Lose Weight

 

The Naked House: Five Principles for a More Peaceful Home

 

What I Learned from Jane

 

Happiness is the Truth: A Spiritual Manifesto

 

Alone and Together: A Very Short Primer on Happiness

 

 

 

 

 

For Shari, Hope, Jaime and Veronica

 

 

This book is only mostly true.

 

 

you’re

getting

closer

January 1

 

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Today is not day one

 

 

Dear reader,

My name is Mollie Player, and I am just a regular person. Of this, I—and the people who know me—are quite sure. (Okay, they are more sure than I am, but still.)

I look normal. I act normal. I take cream in my coffee and text at stoplights and organize my garage, much like anyone else. However, it’s my belief that just because I’m ordinary doesn’t mean I can’t do anything different. In fact, I think that in some ways it helps. After all, if whatever crazy thing I decide to do doesn’t work out, it doesn’t really matter—no one was paying attention anyway. I don’t have to worry about it, or feel bad about it, or answer a lot of questions. I don’t even have to admit that I did it at all.

I can just try something else.

And so, because of that—because no one is really paying attention anyway—and also because today is January first and I am in the mood for a resolution, I have decided to do an experiment. The experiment will have two parts, with the first part being this: Someday—maybe even someday soon—I will attempt to pray without ceasing.

Allow me to explain.

In the Holy Bible—I Thessalonians, to be more precise—there is a passage written by Paul the Apostle imploring early believers to “pray without ceasing,” and since the time that it was written (and possibly before that time as well) a few people have actually taken this advice seriously. One of these people was a seventeenth-century Catholic monk named Brother Lawrence.

Brother Lawrence was an unusually spiritual person and an unusually happy one—and also a pretty ordinary one as well. He worked as a cook at the monastery where he lived, the Discalced Carmelite Prior in Paris. Sometime during his time there, he decided to teach himself how to pray continually throughout the day—and as it turned out, he was quite successful. The journal he kept about his experience later became a popular book called The Practice of the Presence of God.

The first time I read this book I was in college (Bible College, no less). Because I have since a young age had a pretty optimistic view of my own capabilities, as I read it I vowed to myself that one day, I would do what he did. I held this idea somewhere in the back of my mind ever since, only abandoning it temporarily while on a break from spirituality a few years back.

Which brings me to today. As I said before, today is January first, and since I’m looking for a good goal for the year as well as a good idea for a book, it seems like a great year to begin.

Of course, there is one little problem with this idea, namely: I don’t believe in all the Bible’s ideas anymore; I am no longer a Christian. However, I don’t think this is much of a problem. I may not believe in Christianity, but I can still follow the Bible when I like what it has to say. And I like the idea of praying without ceasing. It has a certain extremist appeal. It is enough of a challenge to make it worth writing about but more than that, the outcome could just be amazing. If I am successful, I would be nearly guaranteed to make better decisions and live a better life—after all, I’d be receiving my instructions straight from God.

And that would just be awesome.

***

And so, this year I’m going to do what Brother Lawrence did. I’m going to figure out how to pray without ceasing, to live in a state in which every action I take, every word I speak and every thought I think comes from the Source inside myself far beyond my conscious mind. I am going to communicate with the Divine, and not just occasionally—I’m going to do it all day long.

Sound ambitious? It does to me. But I don’t think it’s out of reach—not for me and not for anyone else, either. Because after all, all I’m really talking about here is doing something that should come very naturally to us humans. It goes under various names: “listening to your intuition,” “being your own person” and “following your heart,” to name a few. Most people use at least one of these terms to describe something similar to what I plan to do. The difference is that because I believe that we humans are all a part of God, I think listening to myself (my deep down truest self, that is) is one way to listen to God, too.

***

So, that is what I plan to do. Now the question becomes: Why did I wait so long to begin?

Well, there are several answers to that question. One is that until now, I never felt inspired to. And though the importance of this cannot be understated, it goes hand-in-hand with the second answer to the question, the one that will likely become more apparent as this experiment proceeds, but which simply stated is this: I just never had the guts.

And, truth be told, I still don’t. Which is why as of today, I have not yet decided when this experiment will actually begin. See, I am ready to think about following my intuition. I’m ready to observe my inner dialogue on the subject, and to ponder the matter in depth. I’m even ready, right now, to make the decision that at some point this year, I will actually carry out this plan.

But unfortunately, I’m not yet ready to begin.

And actually, I’m kind of okay with that. In my experience, when considering a major change like this trying to force things is usually not only unproductive, but actually counterproductive. Thinking about it, though—considering it, mulling it over, picturing what it would be like—can be just the ticket—just the thing that helps you to notice when the right time does at long last arrive.

And so, today is the first day of my journal on this subject, but today is not day one.

***

All right, then. So much for the first part of my experiment for the year. The second part of the experiment is just as difficult and just as ambitious as the first, and it is this: I am going to find a few good friends.

See, there’s something I must admit to you, reader, as ashamed as I am to do so: I have like almost no friends. I mean, I see people. We have conversations. But in my life there is no one I can just call on a whim except one, and she lives pretty far away. Not so far that I never see her—but far enough that it’s a two-night, three-day adventure when I do.

And that’s unfortunate. Because the way I see it, there’s one little truth about friendship that no one ever seems to want to admit: It’s one thing to know a lot of people and call them “friends.” But it’s another thing—a very different thing indeed—to have a close friend. Someone you can call when you’re bored or angry or lonely or upset, or for no reason at all. Someone you can go have coffee with at her house, just for half an hour between errands. Someone you can watch TV with while you’re wearing pajamas. Not someone who schedules you out several weeks in advance as an activity to work in between all their other responsibilities, but someone who is often—not always, maybe, but often—just there.

When we were in high school and college, our friends were all like that. Friendship wasn’t on the back burner, something to enjoy only if you had time; it was an accepted, necessary part of your life. If you weren’t hanging out with people and doing something fun on a Friday or Saturday night, you felt bad about it. You felt like a loser. Your friends—assuming you had some—automatically assumed those would be the evenings and nights you’d spend together.

And the rest of the week they were there, too. You ate your meals with them in the cafeteria. You saw them in class, or between classes at the library where you all went to study together. You did something we as adults have all but given up on except with our immediate family: you hung out.

Now things are different. In my case—as in the case of many other people—my immediate family just isn’t big enough to make for a 100 percent satisfying “hanging out” kind of experience—right now, it’s just me, the baby, and my husband, and as much as I love these two other beautiful people, they will never be able to fulfill my need for companionship entirely.

And just in case you’re wondering, yes, I do know this from years of experience trying. At first it was just David and I, and for quite a while, that actually was almost enough. I had my writing and my hobbies and my husband and even though I wanted more friends, I allowed myself to put off looking for them to pursue other things instead.

But then the baby was born. And no longer did I have all the time I wanted for doing my own stuff—building my business, reading endless books, writing whenever I felt inspired and for hours and hours on end. No—for the first time in a long time, I had a schedule—a strict one, and one that wasn’t set by me. I had to wake up at a certain time every day, no matter how tired I was, and change diapers and wash faces and put my own projects on hold until naptime. I was working harder than I’d ever worked in my life, and at the same time the days were longer than they’d ever been, and so much harder to fill.

See, before the baby, I could do anything I wanted with my time, whereas with him I had to do only certain things that he could do, too. The list was short, and included the following: shopping (for me, just grocery shopping since I avoid most other kinds), car rides (yes, just car rides), walks (in those first months of the baby’s life I would often walk for two or three hours at a time), and, finally, social stuff. And as much as I loved walking and car rides, it was the social time I needed the most.

And I still do. Though the baby is older now, I still can’t get much reading or writing done with him around, and playing at home gets pretty old after a while. And so, our time together is much better spent out and about, doing something we both enjoy.

And at the top of that list, of course, is seeing friends.

And so, my plan this year is to do everything in my power to locate and develop friendships with as many women as possible. I will name and list them in this journal along with all my efforts to attract them and keep them around. For anonymity’s sake, I’ll refer to the people on this list by numbers, not by their names (besides, it’s sillier that way, and I think if there’s ever a time to be silly, it’s when you’re shopping for new friends). I really don’t know if I will be successful but I do know this: if I’m not, it won’t be for lack of trying.

***

And so, I’ve decided: this is the year I am going to get friends. It is also the year I’m going to learn to pray without ceasing.

And even though the terminology I normally use these days is different, I still do like the phrase “pray without ceasing.” Not too corny, not too New-Agey sounding. A little old-fashioned. A little poetic. A little reminiscent, too, of what I used to be.

It also, I think, makes the point. Because though the word “prayer” can mean many things, it’s the “without ceasing” part that matters—at least to me right now. After all, I can pray the regular way anytime. I can learn to meditate. I can teach myself how to make all my most important decisions with the help of God, and actually I’ve been doing most of these things for years. What I haven’t been able to do is to walk in that inspired place all day long. I haven’t been able or willing to give control of my whole life to God, even my very thoughts.

Are you beginning to see why the prospect of doing this is so frightening?

And yet, I’m ready. I’m ready to live in continuous awareness, even during the smallest and (arguably) least important moments of life.

I’m ready to pray without ceasing—just as soon as the time seems right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

January 7

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My mind hurts

 

 

The other day, I said something that was kinda stupid. It was to a friend of mine—a new friend, one that is still in that tender “will-I-stay-or-will-I-go” phase (I’ll call her Friend Number One). It wasn’t an insult, exactly—it was just something that upon reflection seemed a bit insensitive.

I told her she needed to calm down.

She was graceful about it, of course. And she did in fact calm down a little, even. But really, does anyone ever like being told to calm down, to have a very understandable human emotion pointed out to them in such an embarrassing, blunt manner?

I doubt it.

Anyway, the point is after that, nothing happened. There was no fallout. There was no argument. Everything was normal and fine. And yet—ever since then (and this was over a week ago, mind you) I have been unable to forgive myself for what I said. I have been replaying the conversation over and over in my mind, as if doing so could change anything—and as if it mattered that much at all.

In short: I am acting crazy.

And this isn’t the only time this has happened. I’d even say if I really thought about it there haven’t been all that many stretches of time in my life when I haven’t tortured myself similarly on an almost daily basis. As Eckhart Tolle would say: “This is normal. It is also insane.”

And so, truth be told, the real reason for this experiment is not that it’s something I’ve always wanted to do or that I just think it’d be cool. The real reason I’m doing it is that my mind hurts.

It hurts really, really bad.

***

Yesterday I started re-reading a book by one of my favorite authors. It was A Man Without a Country by Kurt Vonnegut, and in the prologue (an awesome piece of writing in its own right) Vonnegut quotes his uncle Alex who, in certain happy moments during his life, as while eating a sandwich by a lake or some such thing, was fond of saying the following: “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”

“I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice I don’t know what is,’” Vonnegut writes.

And if that isn’t a deep thought—I don’t know what is.

So far in my life, I have found a lot of happiness. I have worked through some things—depression, painful shyness and an eating disorder, to name three—and figured out some things—how to be in a good romantic relationship, to name one. These things took a lot of work and because of that work I now feel better than I ever have before. But what Vonnegut is talking about in this passage is not merely feeling good.

He’s talking, I think, about contentment.

Contentment is more than having a good life and appreciating what you have. No—there’s something else to it as well, something that’s a little harder to put your finger on. Contentment, as I see it, is peace. It’s an inner calm that tells you that everything really is okay.

And that’s what this experiment is about. It’s about being so in touch with God that worry and other bad feelings—the so-called “mind clutter” that steals away so many otherwise happy moments—goes away.

I don’t think that’s too much to ask for.

In fact, I have glimpsed it myself already. In my last book, Enlightenment, I recorded my attempt to lose weight through spiritual methods. The result? I lost five pounds. But much more significant than that: I experienced a taste of enlightenment.

By the end of those five months, I was happier, more inspired and more myself than I’ve ever been before. I enjoyed my days more. I appreciated everything I had more. I was on a different level, so to speak.

Since that time, several things have changed. The first is that I lost more weight. I still don’t know quite how this happened, since I still binge eat regularly, but it did.

The second thing that happened is that I lost something else, too: I lost my inspiration. For the past few months, I haven’t been enjoying things like I did before, or appreciating them. Even at my skinniest, a shocking 135.6.

Even when everything is perfect, I am feeling a little down.

I have all the money I need, yet I’m worrying constantly about bills. I have all the time I need, yet I’m always afraid of not getting enough done.

I worry about my husband. I worry about our baby. I worry about my weight and my hair and my friendships and the stupid comment I made the other day that will probably never be forgotten and will affect my relationship with the person I said it to forever.

I wake up worrying, and I’m worried about my worrying, and I’m worried about whether giving it up will actually do more harm than good. Won’t it take away my sense of purpose in life? How will I get anything done?

And yet, as with all of our addictions, we know we actually would be better off without them. We can’t quite imagine a life without drugs or alcohol or overeating or worry, but somehow we still believe it is possible.

And so, we make our decision. We decide to rid ourselves of our bad habits, to swear off them entirely this time, come what may.

After that we fail.

We do this several more times, then several more, then we either die or are successful. If we die, we go to Heaven or somewhere like that and realize it didn’t really matter anyway. If we are successful we write a book about it.

This is not one of those books. This is a journal, and that is all it is. Of course, I hope that during the course of this experiment much of my mind clutter—in particular, my worry—will cease, but I cannot guarantee that will be the case. In fact, I rather doubt that will happen, now or in the near future or ever until I die. But I do hope to make a dent in it—a pretty big one, actually. Anyway, no harm will come from my trying, right?

If there’s one thing I believe in without any reservations, it’s trying.

 

February 6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Such is life

 

 

Today is the thirty-seventh day of the year, and I still haven’t decided when to begin my New Years’ resolution. I feel the same way about this goal that I did back on January first.

I am still afraid to commit.

Now, you should know that normally I’m not averse to commitment—not even close. I jump into long-term relationships and major life decisions—even parenthood—with relative ease, trusting my instincts to steer me right. But what I’m talking about here isn’t just a commitment to a relationship, or to a job. It’s a commitment to allowing someone or something else to, if they see fit, take over my entire life.

It is a commitment to giving up control, and not only that, but to put forth what right now seems like a great deal of effort to do so.

And that’s not the only thing I’m afraid of. I’m afraid of changing my personality too much. I’m afraid, a little, of coming across to others as overly spiritual—a fanatic or a freak. And lastly, I’m afraid of failure.

Yup, that’s right—I’m afraid it will work, and I’m afraid it won’t—both at the very same time.

Such is life. And such is the way we keep ourselves from growth.

Now, as to the latter fear—the fear of failure—most of me highly doubts it will come to pass. In my life I’ve heard what I consider to be God’s voice many times. Sometimes the voice guides me on small matters—things like what to say to someone at a sensitive moment or when is the best time to schedule coffee with a friend. But the voice has guided me on big things as well—things like where to apply for a job, and whether or not the person I was dating was right for me. Over the past twenty years, that still small voice has helped me give up at least two relationships that were moving in the direction of long-term commitment, and whether you call it intuition, instinct, the subconscious mind or God, what it came down to was much the same thing: I did not get married.

And as to the becoming a freak concern: that one’s pretty minor, too, something I can talk myself out of pretty easily. The giving up control thing, though—that one is for real.

And because of this, I delay a bit longer and wait to see whether or not the fear will fade with time.

***

In spite of my regrettable lack of enthusiasm for the first part of my experiment, the second part is progressing rather well. First, I emailed a bunch of people inviting them to a party this coming Saturday night—sort of a meet-the-baby thing for my two-month-old. There will be food, there will be drinks, there will be a new baby to coo over. I’m just not sure if the fun will make it.

We will find out.

That milestone accomplished, I did for this area of my life what I have in the past done for so many others: In true geek fashion (the geeky geek fashion, though, not the hipster geek fashion, unfortunately) I made a plan.

That’s right, my friend—I have created a detailed action plan that, if carried out faithfully, will (I believe) help me find at least several good friends by the end of the year, and a good-sized network of acquaintances as well.

Here it is, in classic list format:

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p<>{color:#000;}. I will host get-togethers at our home at least one Saturday night per month, continually adding to the guest list as I meet new people. If some of the gatherings don’t go well, I will keep at it, understanding people sometimes need quite a bit of time together before they feel fully comfortable in a party environment.

#
p<>{color:#000;}. I will join at least one moms’ group and attend it weekly at least. Moms’ groups are awesome because doing things with kids is always a great excuse to get together, even if the activity wouldn’t normally be very interesting for adults alone. Also, there’s always lots to talk about.

#
p<>{color:#000;}. I will invite someone on a coffee date at least once per month.

#
p<>{color:#000;}. I will attend other group activities for people with interests similar to mine at least once per month.

 

Is that enough? I think so . . . for now. We will see how it works and then revise if necessary. Also, like I said before, in order to track my progress I will keep a numbered list of my friends that I will add to and subtract from as needed.

I know, I know, it’s geeky. But we all know, don’t we, that being geeky is the only way to really have fun?

 

 

February 13

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I cheated

 

 

All right, that’s it. That is it. I am ready. I’m ready to set a date to start my experiment. How do I know that I’m ready? I know because I’m excited.

Happiness is the great inner guide, after all. Happiness, I like to say, is the truth. And finally—finally!—the thought of taking on this challenge is making me sincerely happy.

Why the change in perspective? Well, there’s a little story about that, in fact, and it’s one I’d like to share.

Last weekend, I did something I would recommend to anyone in my situation: I cheated. I peeked in the answer key in the back of the book before even reading the chapter. Here’s what happened.

Last weekend was Valentine’s Day weekend, and to celebrate my husband David and our baby and I took a trip to visit some family. The Friday we left, I noticed the calla lilies in our yard had just bloomed. My immediate thought was, I should pick some flowers and put them in a vase. And it wasn’t just a normal thought; it was That kind of thought. It was that certain kind of urge that seemed to originate somewhere outside of myself—or maybe just deeper within. And so, even though I didn’t see the point of doing so since I was leaving in just a few hours, remembering my experiment I decided to listen. I picked a few of the flowers, then a few of another type as well, then got a vase of water and placed them on our dining room table. They were pretty, and I enjoyed looking at them while we got ready to go.

Sunday night, Dave and I returned from the trip. Because it was Valentine’s Day, I’d been given a rose. It was fairly late when I came into the house, and I was quite tired, so when I saw the vase of flowers on the table I was glad I could add the rose to the vase without any further preparations on my part. Besides that, the lilies still there looked great, so now I had a whole bouquet of fresh-cut flowers to enjoy together.

And enjoy them I did since the flowers lasted all week long.

I know, I know: silly, right? They’re just flowers, after all; nothing more significant than that. But you see, don’t you, what this means? It means that I can do this. I can give up control. I can choose to listen to my intuition, even when my mind tells me not to.

I can hear God—even in the little silly things of life. And knowing this is making me really excited to begin my experiment for real.

And so. Today I am looking at the calendar, and thinking about my schedule, and here is what it says: today, nothing. Tomorrow, nothing. Friday, nothing. Saturday, having a party at our house. Sunday, going on a date with my husband. All next week, nothing.

Okay, then. I have no excuse.

So why don’t I pray about this for a minute as I write. Dear God: Should I start my experiment today? No. I want to start in a morning. Should I start early next week? No—too far away. I want to take advantage of the excitement I’m feeling right now. Should I start tomorrow? No. Not enough time to mentally prepare. Should I start on Friday? No. Who starts anything on a Friday? So: Saturday? Maybe. A relatively quiet day, but not too quiet—at the party I can practice my new listening skills too, praying about what to say and do to help everyone have a good time.

Saturday, then. Saturday the 9th it is.

As I said: I am excited.

***

And now the friends report.

This evening I went to a moms’ group activity—my first one ever. The group (which I found on a website) is made up of moms who are also writers. Since I was feeling pretty tired today I almost skipped it, but at the last minute I went, not wanting to seem flaky from the start. The result? Well, a little so-so.

The group met at Starbucks, which I thought would be nice since it’d be just coffee and conversation and no kids running around being distracting. While I enjoyed the conversation, there were two problems with the evening. One is that my sleep-deprived brain was overly emotional and sensitive and I found myself complaining about stupid stuff to these women who I’d never met until today. This was mildly embarrassing, but not such a big deal.

The second problem with the evening was much worse: for most of the two hours I was there, I felt completely ignored. The woman sitting next to me had her back to me nearly the whole time and the woman sitting across from me seemed interested in talking only to the woman sitting next to her. One of the women did smile at me in sympathy several times and ask me a few questions, but she was too far away to really talk to for long.

Despite these mixed results, I’ve decided keep attending this group. One bad experience does not a pattern make.

Next time, I’ll just get a better seat.

 

 

March 9

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The real day one

 

 

Today was day one—the real day one. All morning and afternoon, I had no plans at all, and much to my surprise, it was wonderful.

It did not start out wonderful. When I woke up this morning, it felt just like any other day. Then I remembered the experiment and my plan—and soon after that, everything started to change. I began listening to my inner guide, and I actually heard what it was saying. In other words: it worked. It really, really worked.

It was awesome.

Here are some of the things I did today that felt, to me, inspired:

 

#
p<>{color:#000;}. I didn’t take a walk with the baby as I usually do. Instead, I felt it would be better to stay home all day, play with the baby and relax until our visitors came over tonight.

#
p<>{color:#000;}. I took a bath when I felt to do so, even though I thought I wanted to wait. Turned out to be great timing, however, as a little while after that David came home and was ready to play with the baby while I got other things done.

#
p<>{color:#000;}. I washed the dishes when I felt inspired to.

#
p<>{color:#000;}. I put the baby down for a nap when I felt inspired to.

#
p<>{color:#000;}. I decided not to organize my office as I had earlier planned to do.

#
p<>{color:#000;}. I took a walk around midnight, even though I was exhausted—and I enjoyed it very much.

 

These are just small things, of course—no life-changing decisions here. Taken together, though, they really mean something, namely: I can do what I’ve decided to do this year. I can actually learn to pray without ceasing; this experiment could be a success.

What’s more: it may be easier than I thought it would be—possibly a lot easier. At some point early on in the day I got into a rhythm that I didn’t break until later in the evening after the visitors came and I became somewhat distracted. Most of the day, there was a natural flow to it. It felt nice. It felt easy.

It felt good.

And here is another cool thing: Not only did I enjoy my time in prayer today—I learned some stuff, too. The first thing I learned was that I don’t need to be so excited all the time. The second was that it doesn’t matter who my husband is.

Allow me to explain.

The first of these realizations came over me sometime in the afternoon, a little while after the aforementioned rhythm had been established. For some reason, I suddenly became aware of the fact that if this were any other kind of experiment and it was going as well as this one, I wouldn’t feel the way I was feeling right then. I wouldn’t have the same calm, the same almost placid acceptance; instead, I’d feel excited. My mind would be brimming with plans and possibilities, reminding me repeatedly of how well things are sure to work out for me if only I were able to be consistent with my plan. Then it would proceed to elaborate upon that plan in great detail. Later, when I had the chance, I’d discuss my newfound source of fulfillment with a friend or two, outlining all of the benefits and, if they were interested, helping them discover it for themselves. That is what it was like whenever I started a new diet, or revamped my wardrobe, or reorganized my home, or got a new job. This, I was convinced, this would help me be happy.

And I should add here that I don’t deny that those things did (and to some degree still do) help me be happy. But yesterday as I paid close attention to my thoughts I realized something: much of that excitement was false.

It wasn’t me. It wasn’t necessary. It came as a result of my incessant mental chatter—the “mind clutter” I talked about earlier. It came as a result of circumstances and other things outside myself working together, not as a result of an inner experience. What I feel now, though, is a totally different thing: it is peace. And it is probably as close to contentment as I have ever come.

The other thing I learned today is related to the first, but I think it’s even more profound. It came to me while making dinner and cleaning the kitchen, activities I often do with some—well, some “inner hesitation,” let us say. There was some interaction with my husband as I worked—I can’t remember exactly what. He must have made a comment that normally would have rubbed me the wrong way, but for some reason this time it didn’t bother me—not in the slightest. And that’s when a certain thought came to me with great force, that “knowing” kind of feeling you get every once in a while when the universe wants to make sure you get the message. The thought was this: It doesn’t matter who my husband is.

Immediately, I understood what it meant. It meant that if I am able to continue on in the mindset I’m in today, it really wouldn’t matter what my husband ever did or said—no matter what, I’d be fine. I couldn’t ever get angry or annoyed or take something personally; it just would not be possible. The only thing that would matter is the way that I’d respond.

Cray thought, right? Crazy, wild thought: Should this experiment be successful, I could one day have total immunity to annoyance.

That alone would be worth all the effort it takes to get enlightened.

By the way, the fear I mentioned before about acting overly spiritual around other people? Not actually a problem so far. Maybe that only happens when you start to get a big head about it. Or maybe I’ve just been misinterpreting the seemingly condescending but possibly actually sincerely helpful spiritual guru-types I’ve met.

In any case. I hope I’m in no danger of being mistaken for the same, and I’ll continue to try to prevent it.

 

March 10

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Moody, sick and tired

 

 

Day two: moody. Sick. Tired. Doubting today will go as well as yesterday—doubting it very much.

***

(later)

Went for a walk today and managed to have a pretty good day after all. Was not able to keep up the same level of spiritual awareness that I did yesterday, but I did have one notable experience. Inspired by a little tip from that inner guide I’ve been writing about so much, I decided to go to the library, then once there to take the time to ask a librarian a question I’ve had for a while. As we chatted another librarian came by and noticed a book I was checking out called The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. She said she liked it and we got into a discussion on spirituality. It was a nice chat and before I left she gave me a book recommendation as well as a church recommendation. It was the first time I had heard of a church where people actually believe the same stuff I do.

The timing of this conversation feels totally non-coincidental to me. I am very much looking forward to meeting some like-minded people—and I’m happy today was somewhat successful after all.

***

Over on the friends news, things are moving along. As the writers’ group hasn’t been offering enough activity choices, I joined a second group as well (this one for working moms). Last week I went to three meetings and play dates: one at somebody’s home (no one really talked; everybody was focused on their kids and I left early), another coffee outing (good conversation, no special connections) and a movie. At the movie I met a mom who lives near my house—Friend Number Two, I’ll call her here—and she invited me to another group event. Then she actually followed through with an email and today, the baby and I met her and several others at an indoor playground at the mall.

Here’s the short version of the evening: Friend Two, a very friendly lady, gave me a long lecture on the importance of sleep and feeding schedules (parenting practices I purposely avoid). Most of the other moms spent most of the time telling their kids what not to do and then watching to make sure they didn’t do it, which didn’t leave a lot of time for conversation. Friend Number Three, though, was different.

Friend Number Three is plump, plain-looking and ponytailed—the low-maintenance type of person I usually prefer. We talked about our jobs and our husbands and even our spiritual beliefs, and before I left I told her I’d email her soon.

I haven’t crossed Two off my list yet, but it’s this Three I’m really hopeful about.

 

March 17

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Shoot me

 

 

Right now, I am sitting in a Starbuck’s, trying to hear God.

It is not going well.

Today is Sunday, and for the past week, I have decided every morning to follow my spirit’s guidance, and every morning—and all day after that—I have failed.

Here are my excuses:

 

1. I was sick. I’m feeling better now, but it did take a while to get over.

2. I was tired. Two nights ago I finally figured out a sleeping schedule that works for my baby and I, but until that time it was a pretty difficult, moody week.

3. I was just . . . depressed. I know, I know; I hate that word, too, I really do. And I don’t want to talk about it much and I don’t want to write about it much for fear of making it more real, but the fact remains: I was pretty far down in the dumps this week, and actually, I’m still there.

 

Today, admittedly, I am feeling much better than before. I’ve slept very well two nights in a row for the first time in months. I’m almost over my cold. Today I have all the time I need to write, and walk, and take a bath—all of which I plan to do with great relish.

Question, I guess, is this: then what? After I’ve written, and slept, and bathed, and exercised, and played with the baby . . . what else is there to do? What is there to look forward to—just more of the same every day for the rest of my life?

Silly, I know, but that’s really what it sounds like inside my head today.

Life just doesn’t sound like much fun.

And then there’s the problem of my mind clutter.

***

Last week, I made a silly comment (yup, another one of those). This time it wasn’t to Friend Number One—it was to her husband. (The way things are going with this gal, I’d be surprised if she didn’t cross me off her list before I cross her off mine—and she doesn’t even have a list.)

Anyway. I was at Number One’s house with Jay (that’s her husband), picking up their daughter to babysit for the afternoon. It was the first time they’ve asked me to take her, and I was hopeful this was the start of a closer relationship with them both. We chatted pleasantly for a while as he got the baby ready and before I left he thanked me again for the favor.

“Oh, no problem,” I said. “My au pair will help, too. I don’t know how she does it, though. Playing with a baby all day? Shoot me.”

Jay’s reaction was predictable: a little concern, a little surprise, and a generous layer of false good humor. We said goodbye and I left, his dear precious baby in my arms.

I guess its pretty understandable that the whole ride home, I was kicking myself for the ill-timed comment. But what’s bad is that today, an entire week later, I still can’t seem to let it go. When I saw Jay again yesterday, I thought I sensed a little awkwardness between us and all I could think about was that he probably told his wife about the incident and it had been “discussed.” Will I ever babysit for them again? I wondered.

Then, today came. Today was a rare, beautiful spring day with no rain, so I decided to paint the wooden swing set in our backyard—and worry some more about what I’d said.

After a while of this, though, I realized what I was doing, and changed the thoughts in my head. I thought about how if the subject ever came up between us, I’d mention politely to my friend how I was sorry about the bad timing of the comment, and I hope he didn’t worry.

And as I said it, I would smile.

The entire situation thus reframed in my mind, I was finally able to let it go.

What did I learn from this experience? For one thing, I learned that worry is complicated. Anything that doesn’t resolve itself or get resolved can become a source of worry, and getting rid of it isn’t a simple matter. No matter how often I pray or try to listen to my spirit during the day, worry can still sneak in—even take me over.

The second thing this experience taught me was how much I need this experiment to work.

But there’s something else I learned, too, and it is this: I need to choose my words more carefully. This whole thing could’ve been avoided if I had been listening to God’s leading in my conversation with Jay to begin with, but instead, I’d been busy and distracted. Even as I said it I knew it didn’t sound right, but I didn’t stop myself in time to keep it in.

I didn’t take my time.

So—as I said before: what to do? Well, I know the answer to that: pray. Pray, and receive guidance, and just refuse—refuse—to be depressed anymore.

And so, that is what I’ll do right now.

God, I know you are here. I know you are with me, and I know you want to help. So please, please—no, not please—thank you, thank you. Thank you, God, that you have already given me everything I need, and everything I want, and that now all that is needed is for me to reach out and take it.

Now—what shall I do today?

Nothing. No answer.

This is hard.

 

 

 

 

 

March 18

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It felt like the very first time

 

Happy to report that in spite of my major negativity yesterday I eventually managed to turn things around. The solution I found came in the form of a book.

The book was The Power of Now, and even though I’ve read it before (twice, actually), last night after opening it up it felt exactly as if I never had.

It felt like the very first time.

Admittedly, the real first time I read it, I barely did. I was somewhere in South America on a backpacking trip and I got it off a hostel bookshelf for free. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it and yet, since at the time I was not in a very spiritual frame of mind I did not care to practice its suggestions. They felt too radical to me, who was then as now, in love with my “compulsive thinking” and “incessant mental noise.”

The second time I read it, I was more open to its ideas, but still not ready to jump in, feeling its advice would be much too difficult to follow.

Yesterday, though, something was different. The reason? Simply this: For some reason I can’t quite explain, I knew that every word in those pages was true—and that they were exactly what I needed to hear.

Here are some of the points I found particularly applicable to my experiment and to my life.

 

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p<>{color:#000;}. My mind is not really me. I am not the sum total of my past and my thoughts and my genetics, as I’ve been taught to believe; instead, I am my spirit, and my spirit is always in touch with the Divine.

 

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p<>{color:#000;}. Thinking is an addiction—and one that is very hard for myself and many others to give up even temporarily (as during meditation). That’s because our minds—our incessant thinking and planning—provide us with a false sense of self and of purpose.

My favorite quote of book so far: “What characterizes an addiction? Quite simply this: you no longer feel that you have a choice to stop. It seems stronger than you. It also gives you a false sense of pleasure, pleasure that invariably turns to pain.”

 

My thoughts have given me “pleasure that invariably leads to pain” for a long time now. Though I am still proud of the way I’ve used my mind to accomplish important things, I now see that its helpfulness is greatly overrated. I want the ability to use my mind when needed—but I don’t want my mind to be ultimately in control and using me.

 

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You do this in two ways, says Tolle: directing attention to the “now” and creating a “gap in the mind stream,” even if this gap is very brief at first.

 

Said another way: When your mind is chattering away, you take a step back and remember that all those harried thoughts are not really you. After this happens there is a moment—very fleeting—when there is no thought. The goal is to increase the number and length of those moments—those gaps in your so-called “time.”

 

It was that last point that really got me. At first when I read it I thought, That would never work for me—and indeed when I first tried it, it didn’t. However, I did not give up—I tried it again, then again, then again. Over the course of the evening I tried it maybe a hundred times, and each time I was a bit more successful. Stop, I began telling myself whenever I noticed the negativity had returned. This chatter is not you.

It was an effective affirmation.

Did this change utterly revolutionize my mindset? Well, not quite. I was still a little bored yesterday and a little unmotivated—it was just one of those days for me. But by the time I went to bed, I was feeling noticeably better. Partly this was due to the greatly lessened mental clutter, and partly it was just this: I had hope.

As I told you before, for a few months now I’ve been wondering when I’d finally get my enlightenment “mojo” back. When will I start waking up in the morning happy and inspired again? I’ve wondered. When will I return to that place where I have more to give than I have people to give it to?

And lately, this state of inspiration feels like more than a desire—it feels like a need. Now that I’m not obsessing about my body so much anymore, or about money or my job, I don’t have any one particular subject upon which to focus my mind when nothing else that’s particularly interesting is going on.

And so, that is where I find myself today: a little bored, a little depressed, and a lot plagued by my negative thoughts. Which is why I say that right now, I don’t merely want to quiet my mind; I need to do so. I have everything I want, and I am still unhappy. And no matter how much sleep I get, or how well I feel physically, as long as I’m addicted to thinking, this problem will remain—and unlike other problems, which may be temporary, solvable, and specific, this one encompasses everything, and even nullifies all the progress I make on other fronts.

I am skinny, yes, but it doesn’t matter. As long as I am addicted to something else (namely, worry and thought), I cannot be happy.

***

And so, my resolution for today is this: finally, I will learn to meditate.

Those of you that read Enlightenment know what an undertaking this is going to be for me. Long story short: ever since renewing my commitment to spiritual awareness a few years back, I’ve tried and failed to learn to meditate. The problem? I just don’t enjoy it—and forcing myself to do it anyway doesn’t ever seem to end well.

After reading these pages in The Power of Now, though, I feel differently. Yesterday, I didn’t sit down, close my eyes and meditate in the traditional sense of the word, but by clearing my mind repeatedly as I described, I did, actually, do so—and successfully. Today, it is my goal to continue doing more of the same, and see what happens. Maybe this practice will be the key to the change I’ve been looking for.

God, I hope so. I hope, I hope, I hope.

***

(later)

So. Been at this mind gap thing for a full twenty-four hours now and even though its still very early on in the process, I just have to say: this is incredible.

Finally, finally, finally: I am feeling good.

All day, I’ve been repeating the “stop” sentence in my mind. Sometimes, the result is immediate—I’m able to let go of whatever is bothering me without delay. More often, though, the chattering starts up again after an insignificant lapse of time. And yet—taken together, these briefest of pauses aren’t actually insignificant—not at all. They help me remember that even though I’m not thinking right, these thoughts are not really me. They help me increase the number of moments during my day in which I feel at peace, and even though each of them is small, over the course of the day they add up to something pretty darn big.

Today, I felt a sense of calm that I haven’t felt in a while. And so I repeat my previous thought: I hope this is just the beginning.

 

March 30

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The classic party snub

 

Had our party last night. Don’t really want to talk about it, but I suppose you deserve to know: it was horrible.

Well, okay, I suppose “horrible” is a bit of an exaggeration. It wasn’t horror-movie horrible. It was just a little . . . lacking. The problem: hardly anyone actually showed up. That’s right: I experienced, on my first attempt out of the gate, the classic party snub.

Here is what happened:

The party was a “meet-the-baby” party, so themed because most of the people I know haven’t actually met my little guy yet. Before the official start time, one couple stopped by for a few minutes to drop off a gift (an entry barrier I had not counted on). Since it was somebody I didn’t know well, and they were on their way to another event, it was an awkward chat, one of those “Yeah, I guess everybody’s just late” conversations.

Half an hour later, while my husband David was playing a video game and I was optimistically slicing apples, another couple dropped in, also bringing a present for the baby. They chatted a little while, but left before the next person showed up. The next person was really sweet and stayed for a long time, and it was he that made the evening worth it. Later, an older friend of mine (older as in, a long-time friend, not an elderly friend) came with her partner, but as she’s not particularly outgoing again the visit was short-lived.

So, granted, a few people did show up—seven, to be exact. But I emailed, like, thirty people altogether.

Doesn’t anyone like meeting babies?

In any case. Since most of the people who came were male and while I do love them I don’t plan to have a lot of one-on-one friendship-building time with other men anytime soon, I’m going to leave them off my list. The female halves of the two couples I don’t know well I’ll also leave off until and unless they contact me first (I’ve already reached out to them several times previously). My old friend, though, I will now officially dub Number Four, and describe a little further for you here.

Friend Number Four is one of my oldest friends—someone I’ve known since high school. What’s important to know about her? Well, she’s spiritual, though her brand of spirituality is different from mine. She’s gorgeous: tall and blond with wide hips, just the kind of woman I’d be attracted to if I were to make that lifestyle decision. She’s also a little messed up. Highly analytical—too smart for her own good, really—she is a pessimist to the core, and most of our conversations center around her problems.

And yet—I love her. I really do—just the way she is. She cares, deeply. She feels, deeply. She thinks—yes, deeply. Our conversations are more intimate than those I have with pretty much anyone else—anyone but my best friend, the one I mentioned before who doesn’t live here.

And for these reasons, in this horse race for friendship, Friend Four has a pretty major head start. I will not try to change her, though, now or ever—not unless she asks for help—and for that reason she’s also the biggest wild card, too.

Okay, then. Time to put this slightly embarrassing evening behind me and move on.

I am going to bed.

 

 

 

 

 

March 31

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My head began to clear

 

 

Well, I didn’t put it behind me—the embarrassing party, that is. All yesterday I obsessed over the failure, wondering if it was me or something I did or if it was just them—or just something society did to us all.

Why, oh why, I asked myself all day, Why doesn’t anyone want friends?

From there the negative thinking expanded to include other depressing subjects, and by the evening I was feeling pretty bad indeed. That was when, having grown tired of myself, I decided to take action. Here is what I did: I took a walk.

This mitigation tactic did not work right away; at the start of the walk, I felt just as bad as I had before. The main thought that was running through my mind was an exceptionally bad one. It’s the one that always comes when I feel like I was feeling, and it was this: I am always going to be depressed. Any relief will only be temporary. I am a depressed person; that is just who I am.

The other thought that supported this one was also pretty formidable. It was: This new mantra isn’t working anymore. I will never learn to meditate.

And it was true; today, my “stop” mantra just wasn’t effective anymore. After just one full day of repeating it often, it had lost its power.

In an attempt to counteract this problem, I experimented with other sentences, other images, but I must have been trying too hard, and been too far down in the dumps already.

Nothing worked.

But then, something did. While passing a park with a beautiful green lawn and a swing set, I thought, Maybe I should do something different today—something to get me out of my rut. So I stopped my walk, got the baby out of the stroller and, with him in my arms, sat in a swing. The sun was just setting and the air was fresh and as I held the baby I pumped my legs and felt just a tiny bit of what I used to feel when swinging as a child.

My head began to clear.

After a while I decided to lie on the grass with the baby, so I walked him to the edge of it and put my hand down to see if it was wet. It was, so I sat on the wood trim and just stretched my legs over the grass with him in my lap where he could reach down to touch it. As I stared at the top of his perfect little head I tried to say my usual prayer, the one I always pray on my walks.

“Thank you, God,” I said. “Thank you for—”

And that was as far as I got. Then I changed my mind.

“God,” I said, “I can’t say thank you right now. I just don’t have the strength. All I can say right now is this: Help. Help me, God. Help me get rid of my depression. Help me know exactly how to hear your voice and follow your lead. I do not want to live my whole life feeling the way I feel now. I need my life to be about more than struggle. I need it to be about overcoming my struggle. And I know that if other people can do it, so can I.”

After this prayer, I felt better. And today is the next day and I still feel better.

Mantras, it seems, won’t alone get me where I need to go. I need to pray however I feel led to pray, in the way that feels best in that moment.

That’s right: Even my prayers need to be inspired.

This enlightenment thing is seriously hard work.

***

Another bit of news for you along similar lines: In order to further counteract the despondency I’ve been feeling, I’ve decided to start going to church—and not just one church, but two. I’m planning to try out the church the woman I met at the library recommended last week, and another somewhat similar one that I’ve attended in the past as well. This means that currently I have (count ‘em) four possible church services and church-related activities to choose from each week—and it’s my intention to actually go to at least three. I need to get out of my emotional rut, and I’m thinking being with like-minded people will help. Besides, I am trying to make friends this year, after all. Going to church seems like the perfect place for that.

Why didn’t I think of this before?

The first service is in a few days. I will let you know how it goes.

 

 

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April 4

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I simply observed

 

 

Went to my first church service at one of my new churches last night. I took the baby, and we sat in the back and mostly just observed. As in my Evangelical Christian days, there was lots of music and, surprisingly, even a little dancing. There was also time for meditation. The theme of the night was joy.

I think this is the right place for me.

Not only that: I think even going to one service actually did me some good. After I got home last night, I decided seemingly out of nowhere that I just wasn’t happy anymore with the slow spiritual progress I’ve been making. I realized I want to change more, and I want to change faster.

I’m ready for the next big thing.

And so, after nearly a month of not reading any spiritual books, last night before going to sleep I picked up The Power of Now (my new bible, if I dare say so) again—and again, it changed my life.

Here’s what I read this time that hit me hardest: In order to be successfully “in the Now” (in a state of meditation and peace), it’s not necessary for my mind to be completely blank. As long as I observe my thoughts, catching them when they come and reminding myself they’re not really me, I am in some sense meditating.

After I read that, I recognized the reason this practice has been so difficult for me, namely: I’ve been trying too hard. I haven’t been allowing myself to just sort of relax into awareness; I’ve been worrying about worrying way too much.

And so, today I did something different: I simply observed my mind clutter and then let it go at that.

I didn’t even try to meditate.

The results? Well, they were great. After all of the ups and downs I’ve gone through lately, today I feel like I finally broke completely through my rut. All day, I was smiling. All day, I was bringing myself back to the present moment. I went to my second coffee shop gathering of the writers’ group today, and this time, everything was different.

It was a really good time.

The coffee was good. The conversation was good. And of course, I made a few new friends.

Their names: Friend Number Five, Friend Number Six and Friends Number Seven.

Friend Number Five is the one who smiled at me the last time I went to this event. With her, a romance novelist, I talked about plot structure and the like. It’s been a while since I’ve had a better writing-related conversation—especially one in which I got some good advice.

Friend Six is a new addition to the group, like me. We talked for just a few minutes about our current projects and the major delays brought on by parenting.

Lastly, there was Friend Seven. Because Friend Seven seems a bit high-strung (she talked about her emotional life in great and personal detail with near-strangers), I don’t have high hopes for a close relationship. Still, she’s very active in the group and refreshingly honest, so I’m adding her to the list as well.

You just never know what will happen.

On a related note: saw Friend Three today. Emailed her last week and yesterday we went out for coffee. Afterwards I came home and told David that I have a new best friend.

“We have so much in common,” I said. “We both grew up in religious homes but are now just spiritual. She reads Hemingway and some of my other favorite authors. Our conversation was easy and comfortable. I’m hopeful.”

I will email her soon and let you know how it all works out, but for now suffice it to say: I’m feeling good about my spiritual goals, I’m feeling good about my friendship goals . . . and I’m feeling good about pretty much everything else right now, too.

 

 

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May 11

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I want to have friends I like

 

Hello again. Been more than a month since I wrote last, and unfortunately it hasn’t been a perfect one. I’ve been worrying about my friends situation a lot, even though I know it isn’t helpful to do so. I’ve had some good moments—a successful coffee date with Number Four, a nice walk with Number One—but they weren’t all that way for sure.

Yesterday’s moments definitely weren’t—not at first, anyway. I didn’t have much to do, and boredom, I’ve learned, is one of the quickest routes to depression. After sleeping late and missing church, I read a little and tried to stay busy. Then around seven o’clock I decided to take the baby for a walk.

And that was when everything changed.

At first, I did not feel better. But as I asked for guidance as to where to go I thought I heard to start walking in the opposite direction I was intending to walk—to go straight up a hill rather than on the more scenic, flatter route. Thankfully, I took the uphill route and as I did so, I remembered my husband was playing volleyball about a mile down the road. Then I remembered there was a nice back road that led there.

My faith in my ability to hear the Spirit thus revived, I began praying, turning my attention to my spirit. Then when I was about halfway to my destination, I remembered something else. Earlier that day I’d read a few passages from The Power of Now, and something Tolle said really stood out. Pay attention to your body, he said. Try to feel the tingling and other sensations—the feelings of “aliveness”—that emanate from your physical being. In this way, you will become “deeply rooted within yourself,” in your Source, and in the Now.

So, that’s what I did. I came up with the following mantra: “I love my body. I am in my body.” I said it over and over while feeling that beautiful exertion you feel all over after you’ve been exercising for a while. For the first time, I understood why meditators pay attention to their breath and body parts during prayer. I also understood why people love sports so much. It’s not just the endorphins that come as a result of sustained bodily movement; there is a spiritual element as well.

I’m not sure I understand the theology of the body, the logical explanation for this close spirit-body connection, and yet—I believe in it anyway. I believe there is one, and I believe the body is truly a portal to the soul, for this simple reason: rarely have I felt as good as I did tonight as I walked.

The baby and I sat and watched David play his volleyball game, and as the stroller I was using doesn’t fit in our little car, I walked back home as well. By the time I got home it was after ten o’clock, and I was less tired than I was when I left the house three hours earlier.

And so, today I discovered yet another (surprisingly effective) way to get in touch with the Divine, namely by sensing my body and the aliveness therein.

Who knew?

***

The following day, today, was truly wonderful. Briefly, this is what I did: First, I sat for two hours at a coffee shop with the baby. It was a beautiful sunny day and one of the most fun parts of Seattle where everyone dresses and acts interesting and strange. There was a girl walking barefoot down the sidewalk, which I thought was pretty cool, and a guy all in bright green with a green top hat, too. I had a book with me, but read only a little. Most of the time I sat on the patio with the baby, enjoying the sun and the people—and praying almost the whole entire time.

For the first time in recent memory, I actually enjoyed doing nothing.

Later I went to the grocery store and ran some other errands as well, all while in a state of continual prayer. I repeated yesterday’s “I love my body” mantra frequently to myself, and when back home I was happy, too.

Have I really gotten out of my rut this time? It feels like I have—it really does.

I wonder.

***

Unfortunately, not all of today’s news is good. Last week I saw Friend Two, the opinionated mom, again. There was another play date, this time at her house. This time she gave me a list of pointers on breastfeeding—and they weren’t ones I needed. (If you know my baby, you know one thing for sure: he is not just an expert on breastfeeding—he is the expert. No one else holds a candle to the way that kid can nurse.)

And so, I’ve decided to make it official: Friend Number Two is off the list. No hard feelings, of course; I just want to have friends I actually like.

 

 

 

June 4

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I did it on purpose

 

Big news for you today, reader, and it is this: three days ago, I learned how to do this slippery, ineffable, heretofore entirely frustrating thing that so many people recommend.

I know how to meditate.

And it’s like nothing else in the world.

Okay, so before I go into too much detail, I should clarify one thing: I have actually meditated before—I just didn’t know it was what I was doing at the time. I have meditated, at times, when I was a Christian and praying to Jesus. I have meditated, probably, in moments of extreme gratitude or joy. I have meditated in the seconds and minutes it takes me to ask for guidance and receive it. I have meditated while jogging and while staring at the baby and every single time it was beautiful.

And last month, on the walk I described in this journal, I meditated in a very major way.

The difference was this: today, I did it on purpose.

***

Okay, then. Here is how this breakthrough occurred: As part of my effort to try out spiritual activities and events, I went to a meditation for mommies and babies. It was a fairly long drive and I almost backed out—but, thank God, I didn’t. After a brief introduction, the leader invited the handful of women who came to the session to sit on pillows on the floor, bodies erect and palms upraised. (What is it about the upraised palms that “works” so well?) I did so, and then I closed my eyes—and immediately, I felt the change.

I felt the change everywhere: in my palms, which were a little warm; in my feet, which tingled a little as I noticed them. In my heart, as emotion that’s usually ignored. In short: my whole body felt different. Well, actually, the difference wasn’t in how I felt; the difference was in that I felt it. For those precious forty or so minutes I was there, I didn’t think—not as much as usual, anyway. Instead, I felt.

And that—that was truly the key.

Why didn’t anyone tell me this before?

In any case, I know it now—and, as Tolle says, Now is really the best time of all, and the only time that really matters.

I know now that anytime I want, I can stop the continuous chattering of my mind, if only for a moment or two at a time, and I can do it this way: by feeling—really, really feeling—instead.

Feeling my body. Feeling my emotions. Feeling whatever. Just: letting myself understand everything that is happening inside of me right that second—bad or good, happy or sad, angry or fearful or calm. I feel what I feel, and there is nothing to know other than that.

During the meditation one of the more experienced meditators stood behind me for a while, adding her energy to mine. During that time I suspected that she was trying to heighten my experience by lighting incense and waving a fan. The leader had mentioned that I may feel a breeze above my head where she had guided us to direct our attention, and I did feel something but figured it was probably just the movement of the woman’s hands over my head.

But if there isn’t any incense, I thought as I sat, Then I’ll definitely know this is real.

After we were done I opened my eyes and looked around.

There was no incense.

“Did you light incense or something?” I asked the women.

“No,” they said. “Did you smell some?”

“Yes,” I said.

I did not ask about the breeze.

For the rest of the day after that, I was happy.

I meditated, I thought. I did it. And I was not bored, and I liked it, and it was not hard.

That, I believe, is the difference between doing something when you’re ready and doing something just because you think you should. When you’re ready, you like it—and it’s not nearly as hard as before, or not at all.

That is certainly the case with this meditation situation so far. Yesterday, only two days after that first experience, I took the baby to another group meditation as well—even though the baby was tired and crying and even though it had been a long day for me, too. What’s more, in order to go I had to first drop my husband off at volleyball and then, after the event was over, wait at the park for him to finish and drive him home. The baby would go to sleep late and besides, I’d already changed into my pajamas and would have to hurry up and change before leaving.

And yet: I went. And it was just as wonderful and just as easy as before.

I am a meditator now—I really am. And my plan is to practice this new ability as much as possible while the desire to do so is still strong. I don’t want the habit to escape before it has become fully ingrained, fully integrated, fully dissolved into my molecular structure.

I want to completely digest it.

And I will; I will. Because I want to not just in a theoretical way, but in an emotional, habit-forming, reward pathway kind of way.

I am actually enjoying this food.

And who knows? Maybe now that I’ve cracked the meditation code, even if I were to take a break I’d get it back. It is possible.

But I’m not taking any chances.

***

I wish my friendship news was as positive, but alas, reader friend, it is not.

Let’s start with Friend Number Three. I emailed Friend Three, my “new best friend,” again last week—the third time in the past few months—and she has not emailed me back. I wonder why this could be—was it just me that thought we had so much fun that one time? I am beginning to think maybe there is more to friendship than liking someone and getting along—even than having good conversations.

I am beginning to think people need to be less busy.

And it’s not just the lack of response from Friend Three that makes me think so. Looking over my list I see only two out of six that look at all promising so far: Number One and my old friend Number Four. Three, Five and Six haven’t responded to my emails, despite our pleasant exchanges when we see each other at moms’ group events. Seven (the emotional one) did get back to my coffee date invitation, but she told me she probably wouldn’t be able to go anytime soon (she has four kids, and I understand the difficulty).

This friendship thing’s going to be even harder than I thought.

The silver lining: Friend One and I have taken several pleasant walks with the babies, and she continues to seem quite receptive. In addition, I found another friend this week, someone I met through an old client of mine. Friend Ten is super smart, very talkative and loves to read and write as much as I do. She doesn’t have a kid, but maybe that’s a good thing. It’s nice to talk about other things sometimes.

As for the moms’ groups? Maybe I need to be content with just the group activities for now and hope more meaningful bonds will eventually develop. It’s just too bad it requires such a large upfront non-refundable investment of time to find out if that will be the case.

 

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June 22

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Portals, pretty portals

 

Continuing to meditate, and continuing to find great joy in it. Most of the time I go to a group meditation (of which I found several online), but I have practiced at home a few times as well. The greatest thing about it is the immediacy of the change that occurs: as soon as I raise my palms and close my eyes, I am somewhere else.

The magic, it seems, is still there.

And so, the time has now come to take the next step—to do what I began this journal to do: I’m going to attempt to pray without ceasing yet again.

Mind you, due to my repeated failures in this area so far this time my goal is slightly different. Rather than attempt to begin a lifelong commitment to this practice, I am going to simply choose certain days—as I feel willing and able—on which I will attempt to pray without ceasing all day.

As before, I will pray without ceasing by:

 

1. Asking for guidance in all of my actions large and small the whole day;

2. Meditating a least once that day in a set-aside-time kind of way;

3. Saying frequent thank-yous to God;

4. Constantly recalling my attention to my body and to the present and away from my mind; and

5. Saying positive affirmations.

 

The last of these is interesting. Ever since discovering the other listed techniques, I’ve largely forgotten about my favorite one from before this experiment: that of saying affirmations. However, over the past two or so years I have so-called “manifested” money, jobs, weight loss, a house I love and much, much more through this practice. So I find it kind of strange that in spite of all that, I’ve been neglecting it. Why are new mental habits so much harder to create than physical ones?

In any case. These are the spiritual practices I will engage in on my designated praying-without-ceasing days as well as on other days, though possibly with less commitment. However, there is one more thing I should mention about this plan, and that is that really, these practices are not separate at all. Though they seem different from each other, in reality they all lead to exactly the same place, namely: a deepened awareness of the Divine. Hopefully there comes a day when all of these techniques blend into one thing in my mind, one almost effortless, automatic dive into pure fluid consciousness. Hopefully there comes a time in which I don’t even think of whether I’m saying an affirmation, or doing a body awareness meditation, or asking for guidance, but somehow, whatever I need to do in that moment I just do, naturally, without really thinking much about it much at all.

So far, I have experienced this unified “flow” feeling just a little. Yesterday after meditating successfully I went on to receive specific guidance toward certain actions, even when I wasn’t purposefully asking for that guidance. Instead, the awareness I was already experiencing brought it about just as it was needed and I followed it almost—not quite, but almost—without analyzing it, considering it, or thinking it through beforehand.

This is what I’m talking about, I thought to myself as I did this. This is the place where I want to be.

Until then, though—until the appropriate neuropathways have been reinforced enough times that following that guidance and being aware of God’s presence has become more or less subconscious—I will use my (slightly corny) list.

I know how this works, after all. It’s not my first rodeo. Changing yourself, overcoming your past self-concept is no easy task. If a pen and a piece of paper is all it takes to make it easier, why wouldn’t I gladly make use of the help? And it’s the same with reading spiritual books, and going to group meditations, and talking to spiritual people, and attending church. As a stay-at-home mom who doesn’t actually want to stay home all that much, right now I have the time to do these things, to use these tools that are being offered so generously by my community. Why wouldn’t I take advantage of them?

And so, I forge ahead with my plan for enlightenment. Today, I will choose one day in the near future during which to pray without ceasing. Let’s see . . . Today is Thursday, and I don’t quite feel ready to start right away. How about Saturday again?

I think I can do that.

Saturday, then, it shall be.

***

As for my friendship plan, I’ve been forging ahead with that as well. Last night, I hosted another party at our home (the past is the past, I’ve decided, and all my friends are forgiven).

Here’s the short report: Though everyone was late, people did actually come, so that was an improvement. The conversation was still a bit strained, but not too bad. Next time I think I’ll show a movie or something. Friend Four, the negative one, was there and I do feel closer to her lately, though I still feel there’s an upper limit with her somewhere.

I press on . . .

***

(later)

Found another gem in The Power of Now tonight. After describing several meditation-type practices that help people become more in touch with the Divine, Tolle writes in Chapter Seven: “These are all portals you can use—but you only need to use one.”

Isn’t this exactly what I’ve been saying? All of these spiritual practices I’ve been working at are mere portals, all leading to the same place—that of awareness of the Divine. Some work better for me than others, and that is fine (though I do like to know what all of them are so that if one doesn’t work I have another to try).

By the way, Tolle, if you’re reading this: next time, give us a list. No, better idea: I will. Here are the portals Tolle says you can use to experience what he calls the Unmanifested:

*

Being aware of the Now;

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Being aware of your inner body;

*
p<>{color:#000;}. The cessation of thinking—creating mind gaps;

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Surrender, “the letting go of mental-emotional resistance to what is;”

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Listening to silence; and

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Being aware of empty space.

Portals, pretty portals, one and all.

June 30

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I’m chalking it up to a success

 

Yesterday was my scheduled attempt to pray without ceasing, and I am sorry to report that it did not go well. It, in fact, was pretty much a total flop. I didn’t pray without ceasing. I didn’t feel inspired.

I didn’t, really and truly, even try.

What I did do, however, was this: I enjoyed my day. In the morning I spent a minute or two in meditation while breastfeeding, which was actually a little harder than it sounds. After that we went to a moms’ group activity and then, in the afternoon we ran errands and hung out with David. In the evening all three of us went to a barbeque and had a great time. During each of these activities I recalled my connection to the Divine regularly (not to say frequently) including during the moms’ group when I felt a kind of energy coming out of me towards the other women as they spoke. I liked that feeling and through it I realized that relationships—the work of relationships, anyway: talking, listening, etc.—can actually be a kind of spiritual practice.

I felt closer to the Divine in those moments than at any other time during the day.

And it is because of this that actually, the day wasn’t such a failure after all. I made progress toward my goal—just not as fast as I would like to have done, or as much.

So what, then, was the problem? Why couldn’t I successfully get in and stay in a place of deep awareness? Well, the truth is that I have no idea. Today was the same as yesterday: moments of great connection—sometimes just seconds long—and the rest of the day, business as usual.

Last night I took an hour-long walk and tried to analyze the problem. What should I be doing differently? I asked myself. I remembered some of the affirmations that have worked well for me in the past and said them repeatedly, but none of them seemed to affect my state of mind. Finally I realized I needed to just accept that my mind is my mind, and I will not be able to control it every second of the day. The key is not to try to rein it in successfully; this just results in more struggle and frustration. The key, as Tolle says, is that whenever I become conscious and realize the mind clutter has begun again, to have something to say to myself that brings me back to the moment—even if just for a second. I don’t need to think through my current problem (what someone thought about a comment I made, for instance) or negative emotion (often, my depression). I don’t need a specific mantra to counter each type of thought. Instead, I will lump all of these “unconscious” thoughts into the same general category—mind clutter—and respond to all of them in exactly the same way.

And so, for first half hour or so of my walk, I tried to figure out what that new affirmation would be. What could I say that would cover all the bases equally well? I knew I didn’t want to say something that reminded me that these life situations would turn out okay—this would just keep me focused on the events themselves. Instead, I wanted an affirmation that would help me focus on who I am. That way, I would not be arguing with the situation, but instead making a positive statement that those things are not me, because I am divinity itself. With this, the argument against the various situations—namely, those things don’t matter and I shouldn’t worry about them—is implied.

And so, I asked myself that oldest of questions, and most profound: Who am I? What is my highest and grandest vision of myself, as Neale Donald Walsch (another favorite author of mine and many others) would say.

And then, it hit me. I am enlightened, I thought. That is my goal for myself, after all. That is who I want to be.

I said it a few times, trying it on. “I am enlightened. I am enlightened.”

It felt right.

After that, I went home and since then I’ve decided that there will be no more attempts at perfection in the immediate future. I have my other spiritual practices—walking, and meditation, and church, and all of that—and I have this new affirmation as well. As before, I will continue to recall the present moment and create mind gaps as often as possible. Eventually, I’ll get good at it, but until then—I’m choosing to be okay with just improving.

***

And now, two little friends updates for you, reader. The first one is this: Yesterday afternoon I hosted a playdate at Starbucks with my writing group. Though two of the three people who RSVP’d flaked out, Friend Eight, a sweet (though not excessively bright) person did show up and except when the baby pooped on the floor, we had a pretty nice time.

I’m chalking it up to a success.

And the second update: This morning I went to a play date in the park and met several women I hadn’t met before—and I liked them a lot. One of them—I’ll call her Friend Nine—gave me her email address and I plan to get in touch with her soon.

In this part of life too, then, I am okay with just improving.

 

 

 

 

August 2

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Breaking the habit of being myself

 

Yesterday, I cried—and it caught me quite by surprise. Crying isn’t something I’ve done a whole lot of since right after the baby was born about ten months ago. Then, it was just hormones.

Today it was a flower.

When it happened I was in church. As you know, church is a place I’ve been in a lot lately. Over the past few months I’ve been seeking out these places not just in an attempt to stay busy and to make friends, but to have a place to meditate. (Yes, I may be addicted to meditation now, but that’s a different story.)

Yesterday the service was regrettably light on prayer and singing time, and so the whole service long I basically ignored what was going on and just sat in my own little world with my eyes closed instead.

I didn’t think anyone would mind.

At the end of the service, they did something they call “Flower Communion,” which is an annual handing out of flowers to each member of the congregation as a symbol of community and friendship.

I almost didn’t take one.

I’m new here, I thought as I listened to the piano accompaniment quietly. Besides, I’m praying.

At the last moment, though, right before the music ended and the minister returned to the pulpit, I felt led to go up and take one anyway.

I did so, awkwardly. When I got back to my seat, I looked at it. It was light pink and very pretty, but as far as flowers go, it was nothing special. And yet—as I looked at it I suddenly began to cry.

Why am I crying? I wondered as I wiped my tears. Then it hit me: it has been too long since someone has given me a flower—or given me anything, for that matter. I am giving and giving every day, trying to forge friendships with people, trying to draw them out and show I care, trying, sometimes, just to stay busy. But how long has it been since someone called me first? And how many times now have my efforts at friendship been rebuffed?

Answer: Too long. And too many.

Of course, I expected it. What I’m doing is certainly not the usual way to make friends, and the overdrive-like nature of my experiment necessitates disappointment. But once in a while, it’s nice to feel like my effort is making a difference.

It was just a flower, and a not-so-special one at that. But it gave me something I’d probably been needing for a while now.

It gave me a much-needed cry, and I appreciated the gift.

***

Unfortunately, this experience was not the only low point of my week. That’s because, in spite of so much recent progress, I am back in my rut—or at least partially so. Even though I’ve been saying my “I am enlightened” mantra a lot throughout the day, the feeling just isn’t there. And that’s the thing about enlightenment: There really is no mantra, nothing I can say or do to make it happen—frustratingly, enlightenment is something you just have to feel.

And so, the question becomes: How can I learn how to get that feeling whenever I choose? The answer, according to two books I read this week on the subject, is this: Make it into a habit.

The first of these two books is called Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself and it’s written by Joe Dispenza. It contains lots of information about the way the brain works, but what it all comes down to is this: you are your habits—nothing more than that. All of your thoughts and the neuropathways they travel along are completely ingrained. That means when you try to change your thoughts in any way, the receptor sites that are used to being fed with the particular proteins that fit into them aren’t getting fed anymore. They respond by complaining—and loudly. Your brain starts working hard, looking for circumstances and situations that call for that particular ingrained emotional reaction on your part. Because as we know, neuropathways that stop getting used get pruned.

I’ve heard a lot of this complaining lately, and I realize today this is why all of these spiritual practices I’m working on haven’t always come easy.

It’s just neuroscientifically difficult to change.

The other book I read this week agreed. It was written by Dr. Candace Pert, a world-renown scientist and spiritualist who, believe it or not, studies the biochemistry of emotions. According to her, each emotion is a real, physical thing, made up of the interactions between peptides and cell-based receptors. Each individual emotion can be linked to a special kind of peptide/receptor combination, most of which are found not just in the brain but throughout the entire human body.

Fascinating stuff. But what really stood out to me in this book, Everything You Need to Know to Feel Go°d, was what she had to say on the subject of personality. It is her theory that multiple personality disorder is not a disorder at all, but merely a normal human condition taken to the extreme. At different times during the day, all of us experience different patterns of emotions coursing through our bodies, patterns (of electrical currents, really) that are repeated more or less often due to many and various factors.

One of these factors? Habit. And this is what makes spiritual practices like meditation so darn effective.

Pert’s advice to her readers on the whole thing: to “come from the highest possible ‘observer’—the sub personality that’s most closely associated with the divine, or the higher self”—as often as possible.

Which is, of course, exactly what I’m doing now. I am making listening to my spirit a consistent part of my daily life. I am practicing it, teaching myself how to more easily recognize my Source within.

The good news? After a time of continually fighting negativity, continually turning my thoughts to my body, to my spirit, and to the Divine, it will get easier—much, much easier. And as I’ve said before, I am right now making more progress than I realize.

***

And so, my goal today is that I’ll find new ways as well as my own tried and true ways to make myself happy each day. The theory is that the more I feel good, the more I’ll be in the habit of feeling good and the easier all of this will become.

To that end, I’m going to continue to spend lots of time with friends, going to every social activity I can find. I’m going to go to church whenever I want, even if it’s quite a long drive. I’m going to go to group meditations and take long walks and read good spiritual books, all in an all-out attempt to remain in a place of joy.

This will not be easy.

 

 

 

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August 16

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This spirituality thing really works

 

Things are happening, reader friend—things are really happening now. Last Wednesday evening I did something I’m convinced will change my life forever: I went to a new church.

Well—not a church, exactly. It’s even better than that: I went to a planning session for a new church that is opening this coming Sunday. The church is affiliated with a much larger one in Seattle, so its new branch (is that what you call it?) will be well-supported in the large suburb in which I live and in which it will be located.

I am so excited. Not only do I think the church itself is an inspired idea, I think my involvement in it is, too. Here is the brief story of how it came about.

As you know, recently I’ve been attending two churches: one in my town that I first went to a few years back and one in Seattle—the one that the lady at the library told me about that day I felt led to go there. Both are non-judgmental, believe-what-you-want kinds of places. Both have positives and negatives, but the one I preferred overall was the one in Seattle. It is called Center for Spiritual Living and it is large, vibrant and active. I think I told you before about the loud singing and dancing—something I have enjoyed before in other churches. Mostly, though, I like that the people seem more engaged in their faith, more willing to change their lives for it, more—well, more interested in spiritual matters.

They seem to actually care about the whole thing.

There are also a lot more kids and families, as well as people my own age.

Location, though, was a problem. On a good day the drive took half an hour each way. This is fine once in a while, but for long-term involvement I greatly prefer something closer. Still, I’ve attended a few times with this feeling that in terms of churches it just wouldn’t get any better than this. I met a few people I liked, including one fellow writer with whom I’ve since had coffee.

Then one day a few weeks ago, I was browsing the Internet looking for more meditation opportunities when I saw a group for a Center for Spiritual Living that meets right here in my own suburb. I wrote the organizer and she invited me to a planning meeting. As it turned out, the church hadn’t actually opened yet.

Learning this, I began to get excited.

Here is something I can do with my time, I thought—something meaningful. Here is a way I can contribute like I couldn’t if it had been a large, well-established church.

My hopes were high.

Despite my excitement, while driving to the meeting I reminded myself that it may not turn out like I hoped. The people may not need new volunteers, or may be cliquish, or may be wary of this newcomer they’ve never met before. So, I arrived at the meeting with at least a little skepticism in tow. I greeted the others—there were fewer than I expected, just a handful—and met the minister. We made small talk, and then the meeting began.

And it was awesome—so, so awesome. Friend Number Eleven, the minister, gave a long, detailed and thoroughly enlightening talk (with diagrams!) on the metaphysical process of creating one’s spiritual and physical reality. It was the first time I’d learned something substantial about my new spiritual beliefs (at this church they call this belief system “New Thought”) that didn’t come from a book.

I felt as I sat there that this was just the beginning.

You see, right now, I have no theology to speak of. I have no vocabulary for what I believe. I have beliefs, yes, but they aren’t categorized and they aren’t named. They’re just . . . an assortment. Though I know that I won’t and am not expected to adopt fully the beliefs of the minister or anyone else, I do think that by going to this church I will take the foundation I’ve already laid through reading of books and consulting my conscience, and finally start to build a house—a construction that’s made up of new and revived spiritual practices and more specific, practical ways to act on and get the most out of my faith. And unlike a plain foundation, a house is something I can actually use.

But that’s not all there is to this story. The best part is yet to come, and it is this: I am now a volunteer. That’s right: after the first part of the session—the teaching part—was over, they continued their planning of the first service, and I had several ideas to share. One of them was that I’d serve (with the baby) as hostess of a meet and greet before the service began. This, I said, would encourage people not only to meet each other and form connections, but it’d help them get to church on time as well.

After I presented the idea, Friend Eleven said this: “I like that idea. What do the rest of you think?” There were no objections, so she said. “Okay, then. It is on the calendar.”

It was exactly the right response. She knew how important it was and is for the volunteers to contribute, to have ideas—not just set up chairs.

When the meeting was over and I went home, I told David my life had just changed.

“I’ve found a church,” I said. “A place I believe will be a part of my life for years to come, and part of the kids’ lives, too.”

I am grateful to the lady in the library that directed me this way. And that happened on one of my very first praying-without-ceasing days, didn’t it?

Amazing. This spirituality thing really, really works.

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 1

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It was a treat

 

 

The first service of our brand new Center for Spiritual Living was today, and I just couldn’t wait to tell you, reader: It was everything I hoped it would be. No—it was (as they say so often but rarely as sincerely as I do now)—it was that and so much more. It was super awesome—super deluxe awesome with ice cream.

It was a treat.

Here’s the thing: Before I arrived, I was worried it wouldn’t be—er, not for me, anyway. See, the baby and I did not sleep well last night, yet I had volunteered to be a greeter. Actually, I volunteered to be anything that was needed, but what I really wanted to do was be a greeter. Then during set-up someone came up to me and asked if I knew of anyone else who could be an usher and greeter.

“Could I do it?” I asked.

A surprised look. “Sure,” they said. “Great!”

And so, at least one cup of coffee later, it was. But my sleep-deprived self wasn’t just a greeter; I was the best damn greeter you ever saw.

I was caring. I was talkative. I was spirit-led. I was in the moment. I was, even, effervescent. I think I met my (impromptu) goal of speaking with everyone that walked through the doors of the church at least once during the morning.

I was the sparkling version of me.

It sounds so proud, I know, but I don’t care. I am proud. I am, right now, chock damn full of pride. Not because I’m such an awesome human being; I already knew that about myself (after all, I’ve been one for a very long time). No—I’m proud of myself for, at least for today, letting it actually show.

Not long ago, I made the decision to become a friendship- and community-building kind of person. I decided to start going to church, and to start reaching out to new friends—in short, to explore a whole different part of my life.

And so, when I came to this church I did not volunteer to be a writer, or a marketer—no one even knows that I do these things as well. I volunteered to do only what I can do while with the baby, and as a result I am privileged to be expanding my vision of who I am and can be in this life.

Yup—this loner by nature, nerd by default and painfully shy child by experience is now a total extrovert.

I’m proud of that, and I’m excited, too—so, so excited for what this means. This is, after all, just the beginning—not only of a new church, but of a new chapter of my life.

It is all just the start.

One more thing of note about the service today: as awesome as the social time was, everything else about it was even better—everything meaning—well, it. Having a church. Being in a church. Being with the church. Just doing it. As I sat in the service and prayed, sometimes along with the others, sometimes just on my own, I felt the strength that comes to us in gatherings like this, gatherings that may not even be religious in name but that emphasize in some way the importance of community and love. All of the rest of the day today, prayer has been easier, feeling spiritual has been easier, letting go of imperfections in myself has been easier.

I feel like I’m walking in love.

And isn’t that just another form of prayer?

So today, I am praying all day. I am, without ceasing, in a state of prayer.

If one church service can help me do that, it surely won’t be long after going to church every week before “today” becomes “many days” and “may days” becomes “always.”

Amen and so be it to that.

***

My friends news is also good. I’ve gotten to know two new people recently: Friend Number Twelve and Friend Number Thirteen, I’ll dub them. Both are writers. Twelve is the lady I met at Center for Spiritual Living that I told you about before. She’s smart and a great conversationalist, but (and this is a problem) she doesn’t actually live in Seattle. She’s also more than a bit abrasive—something I can overlook to a degree, but not entirely.

Friend Thirteen is someone I have a little more hope for. Like Twelve, Thirteen is intelligent (her critiques are super good), but unlike her she’s also just really easy to like. I met her in my writing group, where I noticed that no matter who reads their work and what level of skill it shows, she always makes them feel special. There’s definitely something spiritual in the way she approaches others, though we’ve haven’t talked about it (yet).

As for the other moms’ group: I’ve attended several more activities and met more people, but no one I’ve felt compelled to email yet, and I haven’t heard anything from the ones I have, either. Thank God I now have the churchgoers to fill the gap.

 

September 24

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I’m feeling it

 

 

So—wow. Been about a month since I wrote last, and let me just say: I’m feeling it.

In terms of friends, not a lot to report. I did meet a couple of new people, so that’s good. They are two of the women at my church, a couple, and I’ll call them Friend Fourteen and Friend Fifteen. They are about my age, super friendly, deep thinkers, and most important: they actually want to have friends. At our church planning meeting a few days ago, to which only I and they showed up, we had a very nice conversation. They told me about how hard it was to find a church they liked, that they felt at home in. We all agreed that our experience at our new church has been exceptional, and that we’re confident this is where we belong. For the first time in a long time, I feel not only hopeful about these new friends—but I actually feel pretty good about my chances with them as well.

Regarding my other friendships: Friend One is still a good option. One day this month I was having a rough time and I ended up talking to her and her husband about it for about an hour. The funny thing: it actually helped. Sometimes I wonder whether I’m exaggerating my perceived need for friendship, but then something like that happens and I realize: I’m not. I’m really not.

As it turns out, friendship is not all that overrated.

The other friendships that are still going strong: Friend Four and the two older women I told you about, though for one reason or another I haven’t had occasion to see any of them in over a month.

Okay, then. That’s the friendship news. Now I suppose you want to hear about something much more important, namely: how I’m doing spiritually.

Oh, goodness. Oh, my gosh. I wish I had better news for you on this front—I really, really do. I want to encourage you, to inspire you—and I want to just be feeling better about it all myself. But if I told you I was fine, that would just not be the truth—and in the end, all that I have is the truth. And so, here is that truth: I am a bit of a failure. Not a total failure—just a bit of one, at least for now.

Here’s what’s been going on to make me feel this way: A few weeks ago, our family went on a trip. It was a wonderful vacation, and I enjoyed it very much. It gave Dave and me lots of quality time together. We even laughed—a lot (he really is a very funny guy).

We made memories.

The trip was a success, but what hasn’t been such a success since then is my spiritual life. While away, I decided to put my spiritual practices largely on hold. This included my meditation as well as my contemplative evening walks. (Well, actually, I’d already put those on hold a week or two prior to the trip, citing hot weather as an excuse, but in any case.)

During the trip, I didn’t really notice much of a difference in my level of peace and joy. There were some rough trip-related and sleep deprivation-related moments, but nothing I couldn’t bounce back from fairly easily.

Then, about a week ago, we came home.

The first few days were okay; I got wrapped up in a few would-be stressful activities and I noted with great self-satisfaction how well I handled them. I felt mature. I felt strong. I felt very in control of my emotions.

I felt, pretty much, good.

And maybe as a result of that, or maybe as a result of just being busy, I didn’t resume my meditation practice until—well, until today, really, and that only from sheer desperation. Because after things calmed down at home, and all the unpacking was done, and all the busyness was over, it happened: I hit a freaking wall. I became suddenly very depressed, a depression which culminated in a very quiet drive home last night that ended in lots of tears and a heartfelt hug from my husband. The weird thing? I don’t even really know why it happened.

Over the past few days, life—the life that before the vacation I’d been thoroughly enjoying—has been basically back to normal. I get up (usually after plenty of sleep these days as I’ve finally gotten the baby to sleep longer at a time), do some household stuff and some computer stuff, then take the baby to do errands. At some point he falls asleep and I pull the car over and take advantage of some lovely quiet time. Then we go home and Dave watches him while I do some more house-related stuff. In the evening there’s always some activity to go to (usually a group meditation), and after that we take a walk and go to bed.

What in the world could be better than that?

And yet—I’m not happy. Yup, the old adage is absolutely true: happiness really does come from within.

And so, here’s the question I’m facing today: how do I get it back? And the answer is I don’t know.

The one thing I do know, though, is that I will get my spiritual high again. I’ve come back from much worse—much, much worse—than the way I feel right now, and have even surpassed my previous level of hope, love and joy. And as I’m now back to regular meditation, it may even be much sooner than I expect.

Who knows? It may even start right now.

At least that’s what I’m telling myself today, over and over again.

 

September 26

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I am two

 

For a very long time—most of my life, I suppose—I have been two people. One of me is hesitant, doubtful, depressed, while the other is just sparkling. On any given day, I must choose which one I’m going to be.

The decision is harder than it sounds.

Lately, I’ve had so much to be thankful for: my family, my spirituality, my financial success, increased time with friends. I’ve even had better sleep. It’s like one my new affirmations says: “I am energy, and the energy I am is love.” Nothing is real except that, so there is nothing bad in my life.

On the days when it’s just me and the baby and I don’t want to stay at home or take a walk, I put him in the car and drive to a coffee shop. If by the time I get there he has fallen asleep I get some coffee at the drive-thru, then park the car until his nap ends and read a book. If he’s still awake I drink my coffee inside and entertain him the best I can, which isn’t so hard when there are other people around for him to stare at.

Later when we’re at a store and a happy song starts to play, I dance with him in the aisle. I narrate our outings for him aloud—even the most mundane details—and stare at his beautiful face and tell him over and over how perfect he is and how much I love him. I say it out loud, oblivious to any stranger’s stare.

These are the times that I sparkle.

And there are other times, too. I sparkle on my walks. I sparkle, almost always, during and shortly after meditation sessions. I sparkle in many social situations. Even so—I don’t sparkle enough.

See, in spite of these many and beautiful and inspired moments of my life, I still feel alone. I am still lonely, and sometimes I’m even depressed.

Like I said: two people.

And so, as is my habit, instead of sitting around pondering my lack, I do something much more helpful: I make a plan. And here is that plan:

#

Stay busy. Keep going on those mom and baby outings, and keep filling my calendar with as many social things as I can;

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p<>{color:#000;}. Increase my times of meditation to three per day (can I really do this?); and

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Continue to seek inspiration. My involvement with my new church is so exciting to me not just because it’s something cool to do, but because it feels so right. Keep busy, but be guided by my spirit at the same time, if at all possible.

I don’t want to be depressed Mollie anymore. I want to be sparkling Mollie, every day, all day long. If I can do that, I will have found what I’ve been seeking in this journal—or at least I’ll be well on my way.

I’ll try my new plan this week and let you know how it goes.

 

 

 

 

September 30

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I just stopped

 

 

Hello, reader friend. Just a quick check-in today. Last time I wrote I was feeling pretty terrible, so I wanted you to know what has happened since, namely: I stopped.

I just stopped feeling terrible.

I guess I should attempt to explain how this happened, but actually, there isn’t all that much to tell. Saturday, I woke up feeling better after a successful meditation day Friday. I kept busy. I took a walk. Then, on Sunday, I went to church. It was only my second actual service and lemme tell ya: it was still truly awesome. The people there are beautiful. We had lunch together afterwards like we did the first time, which was nice, and everything just went well.

The best part, though? I felt it. During part of the service, someone volunteered to hold the baby for me and I just sat with my eyes closed and my hands palms-up (in my preferred meditation position) and I didn’t pray, really, and I didn’t say affirmations, really. I just . . . felt.

And it felt pretty darn good.

In fact, it felt better than pretty darn good; it may have felt better than I’ve ever felt in a spiritual way before.

Last week I wrote that I knew this would happen, and what do you know: I was right.

I am very thankful for this church.

But before I talk more about that, let me give you the friends report. Let me see now . . . Where to begin? I suppose I’ll start with last night.

Last night, after an enjoyable meeting of my writers’ group, I had some even more enjoyable one-on-one chats with the attendees, and two—yes, two—invited me to hang out with them in the coming few weeks.

I think that’s a world’s record for me.

One of them, Friend Thirteen, I told you about before. She’s the one who is so easy to like. The other is also a very interesting, sweet person but with whom I feel a bit less chemistry. I’ll call her Friend Sixteen. Still, I enjoyed our talk and will respond to her email (yes, she emailed me already) today.

What else. Becoming ever closer to Friends Fourteen and Fifteen, the gay couple from church. They will babysit for me tonight so I’ll get to hang out with them a little beforehand. Also, at church this week there was a new lady who is like me a new mom, and as part of my church duties I gave her a welcome call. I will call her again today and invite her to coffee or something. Since I already know we have a few things in common, I’m going to go ahead and put her on the list.

She’ll be Friend Seventeen.

While I’m at it, why don’t I add a few others from church to the list as well? Friends Eighteen, Nineteen and Twenty are all church volunteers like me. We meet every Sunday morning to set things up, then chat for a while before the service begins. It’s a great time, and Eighteen, Nineteen and Twenty are part of the reason why. They’re spiritually-minded, of course, but more than that: they’re just really cool.

I think I can learn a lot from them.

Oh, one last thing I almost forgot: The other day I went to the house of one of the moms in my moms’ group to buy her baby carrier. We had a good time chatting and watching the kids, and at one point she made the following statement: “You know, I think it’s been, like, weeks since I’ve had a meaningful adult conversation—or any adult conversation—besides with my husband.”

As I left her house, this friend (Number Twenty-One) invited me to come over again sometime soon, just to visit. It’s my hope that she will become my first real friend—not just a let’s-hang-out-with-the-other-moms-who-show-up-at-the-playground kind of friend—from my working moms’ group.

And so, I am having some success. In the nine months during which I’ve been keeping this journal I have made two friends from my writing group, one from my other moms’ group and lots more from church. Do I have a best friend yet? No, I don’t. But the couple from church feels like they’re getting close to that. In just the few weeks we’ve known each other, I’ve already shared a great deal with them about myself and learned a lot about them, too. All of us believe that the relationships we’re forming with each other are just the beginning.

We are building something, we realize. We may only have forty or so church members and ten or so volunteers, of which only three or four are close to my age. But soon, there will be more—lots more. Who knows? The church may someday become big. In any case, we’ll have something that’s so much cooler and more amazing and, in my life, rarer than any single friend could ever be: we’ll have a group.

Finally, what I’ve been trying to bring together by joining my moms’ groups and hosting parties at my house and doing everything I’ve been doing all year and beyond, will occur.

I will be part of a group.

And so, at this point, I have to ask: have I already arrived? Has the goal I made for myself at the beginning of the year, namely to find a few close friends, already—five months before the deadline—been met? And my answer, I’ll have you know, is a bold one.

It is yes.

Yes. My goal has been met or, put more accurately, is being met. I know you might caution me at this point not to get too excited about something that is so new and just starting out. But today, as I sit here right now, that is just not how I feel. I don’t feel like being cautious. I don’t feel like being political and circumspect.

I feel like having faith.

***

In related news: Remember my goal to meditate three times per day? Well, you’ll never believe it, but here it is: I am doing it. I’m actually doing it.

I am meditating at church. I am meditating in the car. I am meditating at a Hindu spiritual center I found.

Meditation is my new hobby.

How in the world is this happening? I don’t know. All I know is that it is happening, and I appreciate it.

I really do like being one person.

And so—I’m back. And now I ask myself again the question of the year: Am I ready to start praying without ceasing? And again, I’m not really sure that I am.

As we used to say in church, I may not yet be willing, but I am definitely willing to be willing. And for now, that will just have to do. Maybe after I’ve fully and completely established my three times of meditation per day I’ll be ready for the next step—whatever that may be. Well, not maybe—probably. Definitely.

Definitely, I will soon be ready.

 

 

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October 6

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Oh, crap

 

 

October has begun, and here’s what I think about that: Oh, crap. Only three more months to get enlightened.

I am well and truly screwed.

As far as meditation goes, well . . . it goes. In spite of this and my other spirituality-related efforts, though, every day is definitely not bliss. Today, for instance, I am not feeling particularly inspired, even though there’s no clear reason why not.

So then, reader, we turn again to the question of the year: When will I ever learn to pray without ceasing?

Well, today I actually have an answer for you: I’ve decided to start right now.

Let me tell you why.

***

In my last entry, I reported that despite the occasional feelings of inspiration, when it comes to praying without ceasing I’ve still been dragging my feet. And in the week or so since then it’s been even worse: I’ve slowed down on meditation as well. I mean, I still say my affirmations and meditate regularly—but not for nearly as long as before.

My excuse? I don’t want to use the baby’s naptime for something so seemingly unproductive. After all, the two hours or so that he is asleep are the only reliably free two hours of my day.

You understand, I’m sure: these are my moments, my special, wonderful moments to myself. I can do anything, anything at all, and maybe most important, I can think. No one is distracting me, asking for my attention. I can write. I can read. I can fly through a to-do list in record time . . . Or I can just eat a meal without anyone there grabbing at my food.

I can do anything I want; I have super powers.

So you can see why sitting still and doing absolutely nothing during this time would be so difficult.

Okay, then. What about my other meditation times, the ones I attend with the baby? Well, lately those have lessened both in quality and in number. One of them was preempted by the small group I joined for church, and as another is held on the weekend my attendance there was always spotty. As for the third? Last week the baby proved himself too much to handle there when he threw up four times on the host church’s carpet.

I still love meditation, and I still attend one session per week plus church. I also do occasionally enjoy longer sessions at home or in the car. But that handful of times isn’t enough; I don’t want to be a meditation hobbyist, as I previously implied.

I want to be fully committed.

In any case. This is where I’m at today, and I’m just going to have to accept it. Lately my primary spiritual practice is more like what I hoped it would be at the beginning of the year before starting the whole meditation thing: continually asking for divine guidance and continually bringing myself back to the awareness of God. Because this of course is something I can do anywhere, and at any time at all.

And really, it’s what I want to do. It’s meditation, but it’s also a whole lot more than that. It’s a way of bringing joy and connectedness into my every action, my every decision—my whole self. It’s not just a practice—it’s a way of life.

And so, that is what I’ve decided: As much as I love meditation, praying without ceasing is what I am really meant to do—and what I’m going to do.

Today is October 6. On this date, it begins.

***

(later)

Praying without ceasing, asking for guidance for the smallest of actions, remaining aware of my body (as Tolle says to do) and of the Divine. And guess what? It’s working.

I can feel it working.

What do you know—my inspiration was here all along. I just had to make the decision to see it.

I. Love. This.

 

 

 

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October 8

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The turning point

 

 

Last Sunday, something happened that I’ve been looking forward to writing about all week: the turning point. That’s right, I didn’t say “a” turning point, I said “the” turning point.

What do I mean by this phrase? Well, that’s a bit . . . involved. Let me explain by shortening a long story, then lengthening it once again.

The shortened story is this: I haven’t been praying without ceasing every day. (I know: big surprise, right?) In spite of this, though, things have been going pretty well. Here’s why:

 

1. There are some days that I do—and those are really awesome days indeed;

2. Every day I at least make the attempt. I at least remind myself this is what I want to do—no more “wait for tomorrow” kind of stuff;

3. It is getting easier; and

4. It is getting more frequent as well.

 

Now like I said, until last Sunday, I really didn’t realize these statements were true. Until then, I saw my mix of good days and bad days since my last prematurely triumphant journal entry as, well, a mix.

Truth be told, I really didn’t think I was getting anywhere.

My prayers have often felt uninspired. My times of meditation have been short and constantly interrupted. My walks have been infrequent. And as for following my intuition? Well, it’s hard to do what the universe is telling you to do when you aren’t convinced you’re even hearing it right.

And so, I struggled. Here’s the thing, though: I did not give up.

And that actaully makes me pretty proud.

There are several reasons I didn’t give up, but today let me highlight just one.

The reason has to do with my first day of college: October 6, 1997. On that day, my life changed forever. No longer—never again, actually—would I live with my parents at home. No longer would I have to follow someone else’s rules.

Finally, I was an adult.

This must have meant more to me than I even realized at the time, I suppose, because in order to relate this story to you I did not have to look up the date in an old journal or school paperwork.

I have remembered it ever since.

Okay, you may be saying, what does this have to do with praying without ceasing? Well, just and simply this: The date of my last entry, the one in which I spontaneously decided to begin again my attempt to pray without ceasing, was October 6th.

Now, maybe this doesn’t matter. Maybe it is just a coincidence that this (hopefully) new phase of my life began on the anniversary of the beginning of another. As you may or may not know, according to my spiritual beliefs, life circumstances and coincidences and whatever other events occur don’t really have meaning in and of themselves, except the meaning we give them. Of course, the great advantage of this belief is that it holds within it something very special: the open-ended invitation to interpret events in ways that benefit me and encourage growth.

And so, that is what I did. The possibility of not only celebrating one achievement by beginning another, but (admittedly) of actually being able to remember, possibly for the rest of my life, the precise date when this new phase began, was too attractive a possibility to pass up. And so, ever since this October 6th, I have never once said to myself, “I’ll wait for another day to begin—a day when it feels more right.”

Instead, I’ve decided to view that date as a sign.

It was October 6th when I took on this challenge again, I told myself in my weaker moments of late. It was usually just a very fleeting thought, one I was barely aware of—but as we know, those are often the most powerful kind.

Right now, I don’t feel like I can do it, but maybe the universe is saying it disagrees.

Besides, it’s October. I really do need to get this thing done.

***

So, there it is: the reason that in spite of my repeated failures to pray without ceasing, I have not given up. Sometimes, the strength you need to carry out your goal is sort of just magically there, placed fully within your immediate grasp. Other times, you’ve gotta kinda believe that it is—then look really hard for the evidence you’re right.

In any case, last Sunday as I was sitting in church, all of these things were going through my mind. I was remembering my goal while at the same time soaking in the spiritual strength that often comes to me while in the presence of people who share similar spiritual beliefs. Then, all during the service and for the rest of the day as well, I stayed in that mindset of peace.

At no point during the day did I say my mantras. At no point did I sit quietly with crossed legs and raised palms and meditate. I didn’t even take a long walk. Instead, this is what I did: I talked to people. I made lunch. I played with the baby. I hung out with my husband—even watched TV with him.

And, through it all, I felt the presence of God.

That feeling—the one all spiritual people have felt at some point and ever after seek out again and again—I will now try to describe. Not because you don’t know what it’s like, reader, but just because I think it may be interesting to try.

Here it is: It is a nearly physical sensation that radiates from my chest out to each of my limbs and beyond. It is a pulsing and a warming, and along with it are thoughts of—well, for me, mostly of gratitude. I don’t have to say or think anything in particular when I feel it (many mystics, of course, would argue that it’s better if you don’t), but if I do it’s often along the lines of this: Thank you, God. Thank you for trees. Thank you for clouds. Thank you for driving. Thank you for my baby. Thank you for my husband. Thank you for my life. Thank you for flowers.

Whatever—whatever at all—comes into my mind, I just give thanks for that.

After a while of this, I’m able to let go of what’s bothering me. Then when the feeling I want to have breaks through I sit with it, notice it, and appreciate it.

It is as simple as that.

Sunday was a beautiful, blessed day—one of the best I’ve had in a long while. But Sunday was not the turning point—Tuesday was.

Allow me to explain.

All day Sunday I wondered if I’d ever feel bad again. How could I? I thought. I am a part of God, and the end of it all is Good. However, after that something happened that gave me the answer. That thing was Monday.

Monday, everything went wrong.

Well—maybe “everything” is a bit of an exaggeration. Not everything went wrong, really—mostly just one thing that then made everything else feel, and thus be, bad. By early afternoon, I no longer felt even a hint of the inspiration I’d so enjoyed only the day before.

I just felt depressed.

And yet—even then, I realized something. Remembering my previous bliss, I reminded myself that the depression was just a temporary thing, something I allow myself to experience at various moments for various reasons. But if a day like yesterday was possible, I told myself, Another one like it—and many more after that—will be, too.

Now, don’t misunderstand me here—this one thought did not instantly change my mood. But by the time I woke up the next morning, I felt a lot better, and by the time I went to bed that night, I was again right where I wanted to be.

I was back in the zone.

Maybe this doesn’t seem like a big deal, or at least not as big a deal as I’m making it out to be. But here’s the thing: I was able to get back to my meditative, praying without ceasing state quickly—to intercept and subdue my funk after only a single day. You do know what this means, don’t you?

It means my persistence is paying off.

And that is what I mean by “the” turning point. The turning point was the realization that yes, I will actually get where I’m going eventually, but not because I just know myself, know that I’ll keep trying until I do.

No—I know I will get where I’m going eventually because I am already on my way.

I am making progress, and it’s tangible progress, progress I can attest to with evidence from my life.

Right now, as I sit here, I am feeling the Divine.

And I’m not meditating. I’m not walking. I’m not even praying as such.

I am writing. I am getting dressed. I am brushing my teeth. I am thinking about other things entirely.

And I am, at the same time, feeling a great deal of peace.

Do you remember an entry from a few months ago where I said I hoped that soon my long list of spiritual practices would sort of merge into one unified thing—one blended, continuous property and habit of my daily life? I do. I remember writing it and realizing how important that step would be, since then this thing I call praying without ceasing would no longer feel like a struggle or like a list of items on a to-do list (meditate three times per day, say affirmations every morning, etc.). Instead, it would all just sort of happen—easily and naturally, and all at the very same time.

Like I said before: It would just be one Thing.

Well, reader friend, today I can tell you that maybe—just maybe—that day has already come. As of yesterday, I’ve decided that no longer will I make it my goal to meditate a certain number of times per day, or set aside special prayer time in the morning, or take a walk three times a week, or whatever and ever and ever. Not that there’s anything wrong with those goals—they just aren’t the right goals for me right now, and even if I wanted them to be, actually accomplishing them would be quite difficult—difficult enough that I’d fail or give up (as in fact I have done). Maybe at some point in the future I will make these things goals in themselves again, but lately I’ve been realizing that my one goal for the year—the one I started this book with, that of learning how to pray without ceasing—really is, in fact, enough. Because when I’m praying without ceasing, I’m not just asking for intuitive guidance and direction in my actions, as I once thought and wrote here. When I’m praying without ceasing, I am meditating—when circumstances provide an opportunity to do so. I am saying mantras and affirmations—when I get a thought I don’t like and am trying to focus on something else. I am following my inner guide—when in a sensitive conversation with someone and trying to find the right thing to say.

I am walking when my body says to walk. I am focusing my awareness on my body when I need to feel more calm. I am encouraging others with my words, making divine declarations, when the situation calls for it.

And all of this, of course, is prayer.

So, part of my turning point has to do with the fact that I am actually seeing progress—that I am in fact more in tune with God’s presence than I ever have been before. But part of it has to do with the way I define that presence, and that beautiful word “prayer.” Looking back, I’m not sure why I equated praying without ceasing with following clear divine guidance in each and every action I take. It must have had something to do with the book I read about Brother Lawrence and his admirable ability to do so. In the past few days, though, I’ve experienced something that convinces me that, at least for now, this total clarity and unity isn’t necessary in order to be successful in my goal. Three times in the past three days, I experienced coincidences of timing that, for me, confirmed that the actions I was taking were the right and best ones in that moment—even though at the time I didn’t think I was following my intuition in doing them, but just my mind as usual. The details aren’t important; they involve finances and phone calls and finding the right people for the job. But each morning, I had prayed that I would take the right actions that day—and then I just did what seemed like the right thing to do. I didn’t stop to pray about it first, even for a second. Of course, if something didn’t feel right, I’d be in tune enough to recognize that and move on to something else. Other than that, though? No clear thought was needed. Following my so-called “intuition” was on autopilot.

People always say (as I myself have said) that you need not—even should not—try to force yourself to maintain your spiritual practices. No good comes from doing anything like this because you “should,” they say, and like I said: I’ve agreed. And yet, at the same time that I knew this to be true, I was forcing myself to do certain things. Not force-forcing them, I would have said—just “setting goals.” See, even though we feel that it’s true that spiritual practices should never be forced but only enjoyed, that concept is essentially difficult for us as humans to truly believe. How can we grow spiritually, we wonder, if we don’t consistently do the things that help us grow? And how do we do these things if we don’t, well, make ourselves do them? After all, life is busy. Other things grab our attention and distract us. Some of those things help us survive, and others are just more fun. In any case, spirituality isn’t always our first priority.

Well, finally, I have an answer to this dilemma—my answer, anyway. I’ve decided that I won’t make myself do anything I don’t truly desire to do, but—and here’s the important part—every day, I will remind myself that those things are freely available. I will remind myself that some days I will pray more and some days I will pray less, but whatever amount I choose that day is enough. It is my hope that after realizing this, the pressure to be perfect will be off, and my spirit will be free to enjoy its communion with God.

So, to return again to the short story of the past month or more: No, I’m not yet successfully praying without ceasing every day—not even close. But I am praying a lot more than I ever used to, and even on my really bad days, I’m doing pretty darn well.

So, much like in my last entry about my friendships, I guess I’m asking the question: Where do I go from here? Despite my very best intentions, at this point I don’t actually anticipate becoming enlightened in the next four months (I doubt I’ll even be able to say I’m praying without ceasing by then). I guess I should have the perspective, then, that that’s the fun of this thing: taking one step at a time, then watching to see what happens next. Funny thing, though: for the first time in a long time, maybe even ever, I’m actually pretty happy with where I am on my spiritual path.

I’m doing good. I’m feeling good. I’m feeling God. Most important: I know, finally know, that with every day that passes, I am making progress. One day, I’ll be exactly where I want to be: living in total bliss, fully aware on a moment-to-moment basis of my true unity with God. Until then, I’m merely aware this is possible.

And that’s actually pretty cool, too.

 

 

 

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October 30

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I wonder

 

Sometimes I wonder if when our language was evolving and people were feeling what I’m feeling now, if one person didn’t just use the word “love” and then attach it primarily to relationships, while another person thought of the word “joy” and, another, peace, and attached those words to different areas of life—or different aspects of the feeling. Who knows?

What brings this question up? you may be wondering. Well, just this: Today, I am in the zone. I’m in the flow. I’m feeling it. (“It” being of course communion with God.)

And it feels good.

It feels like joy. It feels like love. It feels like peace—all at the very same time. Why are these three words so often used together? Because they are the best. They’re the three best—and actually, I think that they’re all the same.

In any case. Today I am in love/joy/peace with the Divine, and it feels good. Last week, however, I was not. And it did not feel good. It felt pretty darn bad, actually, and it even included the end of a friendship.

A short background: Since my last entry in this journal, most of my days have been a little sub-par. Despite a fairly decent effort to maintain the spiritual high that I was on for a while, after some ongoing annoyance with a friend and another disconcerting episode my mood abruptly, then persistently, shifted—and it did not get good again. My depression (what I refer to as my “depression leftovers,” what’s left of my lows that I can’t seem to get rid of completely) was hanging on pretty tight.

So when a good friend—the best friend that I told you about at the beginning of this journal (I think I’ll call her Friend Zero)—came to visit last weekend and I said something that was a little insensitive and then she screamed and drove back home without allowing time to resolve the problem, it shook me up—hard.

This is my only really close friend besides my husband, I thought. What the hell is going to happen to us?

Because this was no ordinary fight. This was a much bigger one than we’ve ever had before—a bigger one, even, than I think I’ve ever had with anyone. Not because of the content of the fight—just because of the reaction.

And it threw me for a friggin’ loop.

First came the defensiveness—all of the arguments in my favor circling endlessly through my mind. Then came the anger, especially after the disproportionately passionate email from her the next day that culminated in a very pointed “fuck you.” You see, people don’t normally say that word to me. So maybe I overreacted, but this single word put me into a tailspin that lasted the rest of the week.

I did have some bright spots. One afternoon, after emailing someone from church (a trained counselor) about the issue, I became inspired to change my outlook on my relationships and to come up with a new affirmation, namely: “My friendship does not come for free. I demand respect.”

Now, in case you hadn’t noticed after reading this far in this journal, so far in my life I haven’t been very picky about friends. At times I guess I have been, but for the most part I’ve been too desperate and lonely to do a great deal of filtering. Now, picking my husband—that was a different matter, and a different story (but I won’t go into all of that here). But here’s the thing you may not fully understand about this situation (as I sure didn’t until now): Not only am I not very picky about who my friends are—I haven’t been very picky about how they’ve treated me, either.

That’s right: Until this happened, I had been doing what I think most people do in unpleasant moments with friends: just being nice and hoping it all works out. And what I realized this week was that this approach just isn’t working for me anymore.

Recently in church we’ve been talking about agreements and commitments. One of the points Friend Eleven (the minister) made was that sometimes, our agreements are most effective when written down. And so, as I remembered this, a lightning bolt: I am going to write out a friendship agreement—one that both parties can freely sign. There’ll be various non-negotiables listed, things that I expect of each and every friendship that I have (whether or not they want to actually sign the paper; this exercise is more for my sake than for theirs, you know).

And the first one on the list will be respect.

I was emotional, of course, when I came up with the idea, and when I told Friend Zero about it on the phone a week or so later.

“Zero,” I said, “This is what I want, but if there’s any part of it that you can’t agree to, don’t do so anyway just to make me feel good.

“This is not just a silly exercise to me; this is serious.”

And she believed me.

That weekend, we met up at my house for the first time since the incident occurred. I showed her the paper, and she decided to neither sign it nor verbally agree to its requirements.

She wanted none of it at all.

Well—not none of it. Points two through five were just fine with her. It was that first point (and the way that I interpreted it to mean “no screaming or cursing”) that she just couldn’t live with.

“I respect you, Mollie,” she said. “But I believe I have a right to yell when it’s deserved.”

“I just can’t be yelled at,” I told her. “I don’t yell at people in my life, and people don’t yell at me. It’s just not my style. Maybe someday when my kids are older they’ll yell, but they can go to their rooms or do it somewhere else; I’m not going to take it from them, either.”

I guess this is what they mean by the phrase “feeling empowered.”

Here’s the thing: if the verbal attack of the other day, together with the emails to follow, were an isolated incident, it’d be one thing. However, that is not the case. Each time I plan to see Friend Zero I understand that the chances of her snapping at me at least once are pretty high—and up to this point, I guess I’ve been okay with that.

This is just the way she is, I told myself. It’s her weakness.

And when often it happened as I’d predicted it would, I didn’t argue, and the next day when she apologized I told her it was fine—every single time.

In other words: I accepted it.

And that was a mistake. But when you see someone infrequently, you tend to let certain things slide a little more than you normally would. And clearly, that is what had happened with her.

Here’s how our final conversation ended.

“Well, I guess then we can’t be friends anymore,” I said.

“I guess not,” she replied. “I am really glad we talked about it, though.”

“Me, too.”

“This makes me sad, Mollie,” she added, and once again I agreed.

It was the most self-restrained angry parting I’ve ever had.

That was two days ago, and we haven’t talked or emailed each other since.

Are we really not going to be friends anymore? I wondered.

I wonder.

Here’s the thing, though: In spite of the sadness, in spite of the suckiness, I am feeling at peace. At not just at peace; I am feeling that peace/love/joy thing that I described before.

I know that I did the right thing.

And so, today I am feeling that it’s time. It’s time to do something that I’ve put off for some months: I am going to cross some friends off my list.

Not Friend Zero, of course—she wasn’t on there in the first place, as (ironically) ours was my only friendship that I believed wouldn’t change. The people I’m crossing off the list today are people I’m going to stop pursuing entirely from now on, based partly on the friendship agreement I wrote recently and partly on their lack of receptivity.

Before I do that, though, allow me to reproduce here that agreement, in order to show you what I’m talking about.

 

Friendship Agreement

 

On this day of , ,we the undersigned agree to the following conditions of friendship:

#
p<>{color:#000;}. To treat each other with respect at all times and in all circumstances, including those of hardship or distress;

#
p<>{color:#000;}. To not gossip about each other, except in matters of health or safety;

#
p<>{color:#000;}. To discuss any hurts, wrongs, misdeeds or misunderstandings that may arise between us with and only with each other;

#
p<>{color:#000;}. To apologize when in the wrong; and

#
p<>{color:#000;}. To forgive when wronged.

 

 

 

If at any time we do not meet these conditions, we agree that the consequences may include the suspension or termination of our friendship.

Signed in love,

 

(friend) (date)

 

(friend) (date)

 

 

So. How do you like it, reader friend? Is it complete in your eyes? Maybe it isn’t, but I didn’t write it for completeness, anyway, and I didn’t write it for anyone else. These are my expectations, whether or not they’re anyone else’s—and that is good enough for me.

All right, then. Here are the friends that are left on the list:

 

Friend Number One (still responsive)

Friend Number Two (unresponsive)

Friend Number Three (unresponsive)

Friend Number Four (still responsive)

Friend Number Five (unresponsive)

Friend Number Six (unresponsive)

Friend Number Seven (unavailable)

Friend Number Eight (uninteresting)

Friend Number Nine (unresponsive)

Friend Number Ten (unresponsive)

Friend Number Eleven

Friend Number Twelve (unavailable)

Friend Number Thirteen

Friend Number Fourteen

Friend Number Fifteen

Friend Number Sixteen (unavailable)

Friend Number Seventeen

Friend Number Eighteen

Friend Number Nineteen

Friend Number Twenty

Friend Number Twenty-One

Friend Number Twenty-Two

Friend Number Twenty-Three

Friend Number Twenty-Four

 

As you can see, my old Friend Four is still on the list. Though as I told you before I do think there’s an upper limit with her, I enjoy much of the time we spend together—and she is, as the agreement requires, always respectful and mature.

A few others didn’t make the cut. Due to our lack of genuine chemistry—something I realized lately I need to weigh more heavily—Friend Eight is off the list. Ten has (to my surprise, actually) been “too busy” to get together. Twelve moved back to Costa Rica, and Sixteen really is too busy—we’ve tried several times to get together, only to have her cancel last-minute.

We move on . . .

 

 

 

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November 3

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That is definitely the goal

Good news today: I have made a discovery. Do you want to know what it is right away? Or do you want me to tell you how I made it, then find out? Hmmm . . . Let’s try the former. My discovery is this: the best way to maintain my state of unceasing prayer—and the oneness-with-God feeling that goes along with it—is the very practice I started this journal with in January: asking for guidance in my actions both large and small.

Nothing—nothing—that I do during my day to increase my spiritual awareness is as effective as this.

Now, I know what I said before—that all of my spiritual practices are actually one thing, different portals that lead me to the very same place. But as you may recall I also said that some may work better than others—though until now, I didn’t actually know which of them was best for me. Now, however, I do—and that’s a significant improvement indeed.

And so, I have come full circle. Trying new things, making lists to help me remember them all, reading all kinds of books and following their advice. But in the end (if you consider October the end, which I don’t, really—we’ll see what happens after this) . . . In the quasi-end, I see that there’s a reason I felt so inspired to use the divine guidance method as my first and main technique for learning how to pray without ceasing: it just works really well.

What has been going on lately to make me think so? Well, simply that I’m doing it. I’m asking for guidance in my actions ten or more times each day—and I then I’m actually getting it.

Here are the times when I find asking for guidance most useful:

 

#
p<>{color:#000;}. When deciding on my plans for the day—when and where to go. I often get an answer to this kind of prayer and when I follow it I’m always glad that I did.

#
p<>{color:#000;}. While having a serious conversation, or having a regular conversation with someone I don’t know very well.

#
p<>{color:#000;}. When making a big decision, of course; and

#
p<>{color:#000;}. While writing.

 

And so, due to this wonderful success, today I’m going to do something I’ve hesitated to do thus far: I’m going to give you an example of how I perform this (admittedly odd) spiritual practice. Until this time, my self-consciousness about the unusual nature of this experiment has prevented me from doing so but today I say self-consciousness and embarrassment, be damned.

I am going to be foolish for God.

And so, here it is: a description of my morning—a typical praying-without-ceasing experience.

I wake up to the sounds of the baby. After a few minutes of letting him play in the near pitch-black darkness of our heavily shaded room, I remember to commune with the Divine. I feel my hands, my feet, my arms, my legs, and the energy that is inside them. A feeling of peace begins to emanate from my body.

It is working.

As I lie there, I let myself wonder in a prayerful way what I should do next.

Not surprisingly, the first thing I hear to do is to turn on the light.

I do so. Then I consider whether to first brush my teeth or go to the kitchen to make coffee. The answer comes: let the baby play in the bedroom while I brush my teeth. After a while David comes in and plays with the baby (he had been in the office) and I’m able to gratefully finish getting ready alone—and brew my coffee as well.

It is already a good day.

By the time David decides to hit the shower, I’m ready for some playtime myself, which, with the help of the crib, I manage to pull off while folding the rest of the laundry from the day before. There is a play date scheduled for the morning and I check in with my spirit again to see whether or not this is the best plan for the day. While there’s no absolute “yes” in my mind on this one, my desire to get out of the house combines with a lack of “no” response (sometimes the “no” feels sort of like a grey cloud hanging over the place I’m imagining) to come up with my decision.

I take the baby and go.

On the way to the play date host’s house, I decide on the route that feels right even though it follows the street with the most stoplights. As I drive I’m surprised to sail through all of the lights except one, at which I’m stopped just long enough to text the host that I’m on my way. At one point I consider changing lanes, get a “no” response, then look over my shoulder to see a car in my blind spot. I stay in the same lane until my turn comes closer, then change lanes (even though there was no particular guidance to do so).

I enjoy the drive. My mind is not racing to figure out the quickest route, or to plan the rest of my day, or even to ruminate on that argument with Zero last week. When it tries the latter, I stop and shift my attention back to my feelings both physical and spiritual. Then, when there is any little decision to be made (should I pass this car up ahead?) I consult my spirit for the answer.

In other words: My mind is occupied, but not busy.

The best part of my conversation with the Divine today happens when I arrive at the host’s house. As the women chat and watch the children play, I wait for some guidance about what to contribute—and, very often, I get it. In this way I am able to keep a close connection with my spirit while also increasing my chances that my comments will be well received.

By the way, just in case you’re wondering—getting this so-called inspiration to speak is much easier than you might think. After a thought comes I just stop and consider it for a few seconds. Sometimes the duds are obvious—they are preachy, self-serving, irrelevant or just plain clunky, and anyone trying to improve their interpersonal skills would know to avoid them, with or without divine guidance. Other ill-timed comments, however, leap to mind several times only to be shot down by the Spirit each time. You really want to say them and you have no idea why they’re inappropriate until you (inevitably) find out the reason later on. Other times you find yourself being led to say something you’d rather not say right then, and you’re a little surprised when the response is so good. These last two circumstances are where the real magic of this technique comes in, and I love it when either occurs.

It didn’t happen often today. But I did show maturity, I think, in the way I conversed. Maybe even love. And heck—at no point over the course of the morning did I embarrass myself.

So these are all good things.

Here’s a sample of our play date conversation as I recall it:

Me (changing the subject): “So, people tell me it actually gets harder after they learn how to walk. Why do you think this is?”

Mom Number One: “Well, for me, it’s not so much that she walks now as it is that she is getting into everything in the cabinets.” (She explains a bit.)

Mom Number Two: “You know, those cabinet latches work really, really well.”

Me: “Definitely.”

This line of talk continues, and by the end of the morning Mom Number One is planning to baby proof her cabinets later that same day. A miraculous intervention? Maybe not. But she does have two young children at home; it could feel like a miracle to her.

In any case, back to my morning.

At one point, I get the feeling that it’s time to leave. I don’t want to go, but I look at my clock and it’s the baby’s naptime, so I do. The baby falls asleep during the ten-minute car ride home, and when I get to the driveway I feel an (unasked-for) urge to back the car into the driveway rather than pull in forward in my usual way. Since the baby is sleeping and therefore sensitive to noise, I turn off the engine, pull the hand break and take out my keys in a deliberate, waiting-for-guidance kind of way. The baby does not wake up. I then decide to go inside for a while before coming back out to the car to do some writing while waiting for the baby to wake up (a little tradition of mine that’s perfectly safe in our mild climate, in case you were wondering). However, I get a clear sense that I should stay in the car and start writing now, instead. I fight this idea for a moment, then give in. Later I’m glad I did; the baby’s nap was much shorter than usual and I still got quite a bit done.

Half an hour into his nap the baby wakes up and I realize I have to get the car in motion again right away so he’ll fall back asleep. At this point I’m glad that the car is turned the right way so I can pull out of the driveway quickly. After he’s asleep I park the car again and resume my writing.

And now here I sit, and this has thus far been my day.

Often, the difference that my prayers make is a bit more significant, but rarely is it life-altering. On Sunday I felt not to suggest my preferred driving route to a friend who was already late to a meeting we were both attending, and she made it there well ahead of me. Other times the guidance helps me know when to bring up a sensitive subject with my husband (and when not to). It helps me plan my day (I’m glad I waited to buy groceries a few days back until I had the car, not the stroller; I wouldn’t’ve been able to carry a quarter of what I wanted to buy otherwise). And the somewhat trivial nature of these prayers is the reason I’ve been too embarrassed to tell you about them until now.

“You wait for God to tell you when to do the dishes, the laundry, take out the trash?” I imagine you asking after reading this. And my answer is: not always—not by a long shot yet.

But that is definitely the goal.

Yesterday I planned to watch a movie during the baby’s afternoon nap. I wasn’t feeling all that well, and I thought it would be nice. However, when I got a clear “no” and sat down at the computer instead, I was glad to have changed my mind. I got a few things done, reversing my malaise of the morning. Before bed the baby and I got to watch our movie together with minimal complaints on his part—something that rarely happens (both the movie and the minimal complaints).

It worked out really well.

Earlier this year I told you about the guidance that ultimately led to a life-changing discovery (that of my new church). That was a wonderful thing indeed, but this little daily stuff is—yes, I’m going to say it—this little daily stuff is even better. I no longer worry so much about my schedule—things just seem to work out. I don’t worry so much in general, actually, as my mind is occupied with the present moment instead.

I am being constantly reminded of the existence of my spirit, and that is a beautiful thing.

I told you before the reason it took me so long to actually do the thing I meant to start doing in January, but just in case you forgot, I’ll say it again now: I didn’t want to give up control. And sometimes, I still don’t; I think I can figure out things better by myself.

Here’s the thing, though: this is myself that’s leading me in this way. According to my belief system, I am part and parcel of God; I am the one Spirit that I’m consulting. I’m not inconveniencing some other busy being—I’m basically just talking to the larger, more complete version of myself.

And after all: that’s what she’s there for, right?

I think so. And I think she likes not being ignored so much anymore. I think she likes being consulted, even about the smallest of decisions. After all, one of the parts of me—my spirit or my mind—has to make my decisions; it might as well be the smarter of the two.

Make sense?

And so. The above is a little sample of what it’s been like in my head for the past few days, and on occasion before that.

Crazy, isn’t it? And yet, if this is a form of schizophrenia as some people may believe, all I can say is: I hope it gets much worse.

***

As for my friends goal? Well, we are trucking along. The other week, at one of the meditation groups I go to, I met and had a long conversation with Friend Twenty-Two. She leads one of the weekly sessions and I am hoping to get to know her better (though I’m not getting a distinct read on whether or not the feeling is mutual). Friend Twenty-Three is also a possibility. We met at the writing moms’ group and though she’s not my usual type of friend—way too cool, I think—she actually texted me to hang out last weekend, then came to my church (in response to my invite) on Sunday.

Friend Twenty-Four is interesting. She is a member of a recovery group I occassionally attend for chronic problem eaters. We’ve met up twice already and I love our in-depth chats about all things food and eating (yes, you can actually talk deeply about food). We seem to have a lot in common and it helps that she lives nearby.

And so, that’s three more for the list, folks. Like I said: progress is being made.

 

November 12

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The verdict is in

 

Well, the verdict is in: I am a work in progress. For the past week or so, I have not been praying without ceasing. Still, I’ve been feeling really, really good—and really spiritually-minded, too. Importantly, I still have one of my keys to happiness working for me, namely gratitude. Yesterday at church the minister was speaking on this subject and she said that the kind of gratitude that is causative—that has the ability to change our circumstances for the better—is the kind that you carry with you throughout your days. It’s the kind that doesn’t go away when so-called “bad” stuff happens or that comes back when “good” stuff happens.

It’s the kind that is always just sort of there.

Well, for the past week or so, and longer too I guess, this has been my experience. All day long I look for—and find—a hundred or so things to be grateful for, and I speak about my gratitude out loud, telling whoever will listen—my husband, my baby, or even just (just!) God, while on a walk. If I’m not in a good mood when I start after a while it feels like all the bad stuff has been cleared out of the corners of my mind. I am clean. I am refreshed.

I am walking in joy.

Of course, it isn’t always an easy process; most days, some negativity still manages to find it’s way in. But here’s the funny thing: I’ve gotten so good at counteracting these thoughts based solely on their own merits (or lack thereof) that for the past several days one of the only ones that finds its way to the conscious level on these (literally and figuratively) cool, foggy mornings is this: “I have just had three (two, five, whatever) really amazingly good days in a row. I am due for a less-than-great one.

“Maybe this will be it.”

And then my mind starts in on some guesses as to what the problem to come is likely to be.

Wow, right? Does this blow your mind as much as it does mine? I actually have an unconscious belief—and a deeply held one—that there is a limit as to how many good days I can have in a row.

Wild.

Here’s the point I’m trying to make, though: There are, I now believe, two different portals to the Source that work equally well for me. One of them is, as I’ve said before, asking for divine guidance throughout my day.

The other is just continuous gratitude.

So have I been praying without ceasing these past few weeks? No. But—dare I say it?—I sort of have been, too. Now, don’t get me wrong: I want to get back to doing what I was doing before, for all of the reasons I told you before. But gratitude, man. It really is my current secret to happiness, especially when asking for guidance just seems way too hard.

That, and a whole lot of sleep.

Anyway, because of this recent change, I realized today that I want to reinstitute The List. Not the friends list—that one’s never been in danger. I mean the list of spiritual practices that I made a few months back. See, a lot of the time, when I’m not in the place of joy and communication and prayer that I’d like to be, I don’t really know how to get back. I try whatever comes to mind, but it’s not always effective. What I need is a more systematic approach with specific ideas that can help. Besides, I always seem to be learning new tips—and now that I’m going to church regularly, that is especially true. Listing them means that I won’t forget what I’ve already learned (assuming I occasionally read over the list, of course),

Okay, then. Here are the spiritual practices I wrote before, with my recent additions:

*

Saying affirmations;

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Meditating by feeling my inner body;

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Meditating by repeating a mantra;

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Asking my spirit for guidance in my actions both small and large;

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Saying prayers of thanks repeatedly;

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Writing affirmations;

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Keeping a journal of answered prayers;

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Listening to spiritual music;

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Singing spiritual and uplifting music;

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Reading spiritual books;

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Smiling, even when I don’t feel like it;

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Doing good deeds for others; and

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Reaching out to friends.

I suppose this will do for now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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November 24

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There’s a party in my head

 

Okay. I am not proud of this, but here it is: I have backslidden. One day just recently it hit me that for some reason, I wasn’t doing it anymore—even though “it” had previously been making me so happy. I went from doing “it” and being happy to just being grateful all the time but still being happy to what has been happening the past two weeks, which is not doing “it” and not being as happy as I’d like to be, either.

The question I ask myself about this turn of events is, of course, why. Why do I stop doing something that is in every way, for all of the reasons I mentioned before, so cool?

Well, here’s one answer: it’s just hard.

So many mornings I tell myself that this is the day that I will start up again, and every time (until today, which I’ll tell you about in a minute), I just don’t get an immediate answer to my prayer for guidance.

I don’t know what to do next.

I might try to be super self-aware and discover what it is, exactly, that’s keeping me from getting the information that I want. Do I have enough faith? I’ve wondered. Am I giving the Universe enough time to respond?

Am I doing it right?

Self-analysis can be such a tricky thing, can’t it? Sometimes you think you need it when really what you need is to just shut up all of the voices in your head and all of the conflicting advice they’re giving you and to just do whatever you feel you need to do. And if whatever that is fails, you don’t give up; you either try something different, or you just try the same thing again later.

In this case, I went with the latter route; this morning I just started fresh and tried again.

And guess what? It worked. Right now as I write this I’m not as sensitive to that guiding voice as I’d like to be, but for several hours this morning, I was—and it made a difference.

Like I said before, though, it wasn’t easy. I got kicked out of the “flow” (so to speak) when I was asked to do something that I wasn’t sure was a good idea which, come to think of it, was a really bad reason to stop listening for guidance. Anyway, ever since then I’ve been pretty off and on with knowing where best to go and what best to do. I wonder if taking some quiet time for meditation in the mornings (yes, that’s been pretty lacking lately, too) would help.

So, that’s my plan. Add in a little meditation, keep plugging away. And remember that whatever the reasons are for my many failures in this area, they will be resolved in time—as long as I just keep the vision, stay on the path. After all, I’ve already come a pretty long way, haven’t I? Perfection is not an overnight thing—and neither is enlightenment. I mean, it can be.

But I’m not gonna be waiting around counting on it.

Okay, then. That’s the spirituality news. In friends news: I met someone awesome—I mean really awesome. (Yay! Party in my head!)

It happened after one of my (relatively) few moments of clarity last week when I asked God to show me which way to go on my walk. I wanted to do my usual circle but felt to go the other way instead. Not long after that I came across a woman who lives in my neighborhood. She struck up a conversation with me and we started walking together. At one point I said, “Which way do you need to go?”

“I was heading home, that way,” she said, indicating her street. “But I don’t mind just continuing on with you; I’m really enjoying our conversation.”

And that, I feel confident, was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

We walked and talked for an hour more, and like I said, I have a lot of hope for this one. Friend Twenty-Five is genuine, spiritually minded, artsy, mature and—most notably—happy and positive in the extreme. After talking to her I remembered what it was like to really hit it off with someone in a way that is easy, unforced. We talked about all kinds of personal things—husbands and parenting, to name two. At one point we actually found ourselves celebrating our newfound friendship, mentioning how truly happy we were to meet. It was such a nice talk that it makes me wonder if I’ve been expecting too little of my friends not only in how they treat me, but in how much I actually enjoy them as well.

Not to mention in how much they’re responding to my overtures. Whereas Twenty-Five has already called me and we already have another walk planned, I seem to be getting nowhere with almost everyone else on my list.

I’ll review again soon, but suffice it to say for now: today was a very good day.

And that wasn’t all that happened. Inspired by my good luck with Twenty-Five, on Halloween night while everyone was trick-or-treating David and I dressed up the baby and knocked on a few of our neighbors’ doors to introduce ourselves. In this way I made three new friends: Twenty-Six, Twenty-Seven and Twenty-Eight. Because of this sudden influx, I’ve decided to plan a party for the neighbors. Oh, and lest I forget—I met two more possibilities, Numbers Twenty-Nine and Thirty, at church this month, and have coffee dates tentatively planned with both.

Things are moving along . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 30

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I’m a mess

 

 

I cried last night. And the night before, and the day before that, and last Saturday in a parking lot, too. The tears were mostly unexpected but they all happened for the same reason, namely: I am lonely. I am lonely, and I am realizing it more and more.

One of the main reasons: my lack of success with the people at church. My hopes for them were so high, but lately, it’s all come to nothing. Well—not nothing, exactly; I still see them every Sunday. We laugh and we talk and we set up chairs. But my calls, texts and emails have often gone unanswered and I haven’t spent time with anyone outside of the services yet. It’s kind of like the problem with the moms’ group I’m in: it’s not that we don’t like each other, because we do.

It’s just that we aren’t all that close.

And that’s not all the bad friends news I have for you today. Last night I hosted a party at my home for my new neighborhood acquaintances that I told you about. My hopes for the gathering were high, just as they usually are in this situation.

It will be so much fun, I think as I plan the food, buy the flowers. We will all laugh and talk and bond, and maybe by the time we’re done we will have formed a group.

Inevitably, though, when the day of the party comes, my feelings about the situation are very different: I just want to bail.

Yesterday was one of those days, and, possibly not coincidentally, it was also one of Those Days. The kind you wish you could just erase from your mind by shaking an Etch-A-Sketch.

Why was it so hard? Well that’s the thing: It wasn’t. It was just a day. I just woke up with the baby (after not quite enough sleep, I admit), drank coffee and played and hung out, all as usual. We had a nice time seeing a friend from church, taking a walk together. But as the afternoon wore on, I became more and more easily annoyed and by the time the party began, I was on the verge of tears.

So, I gave the baby to David for a while and went to the grocery store for some alone time. Before I went in I sat in the car for a while, thinking and praying, trying to figure out what had gone wrong.

A couple of possibilities came to mind. Baby overload? Stomach bloating, feeling fat? But nothing I came up with really seemed to explain the emotions. Then, another thought: Would I be feeling this bad, I wondered, if I didn’t have this party to host tonight?

And the answer, I decided, was no. Now, it probably wouldn’t‘ve been a five-star day; it just wasn’t in the cards. But would I be feeling this sense of despair? I doubted it.

I just really didn’t want to have the party.

And so, I did what I usually do under these circumstances: I prayed. In this case, I prayed that all of the guests would call to tell me they weren’t coming, and that David and I could celebrate by putting our pajamas on and watching TV.

However, that is not what happened. What happened was that we had the party and it was fine . . . but I had the distinct impression that everyone there felt exactly the same way I did.

I was sure they would’ve rather been at home.

The party was scheduled for four o’clock to seven o’clock and everyone came around four forty-five and left around six thirty. It was the shortest dinner I’ve ever eaten with eight adults and five children.

So there was that to be grateful for, at least.

Anyway, after it was over I was in a worse mood than ever—and I had no idea what to do about it. I tried to take a walk, but it was too cold. I tried to talk to my husband, but I just ended up yelling at him. I tried eating, but that just made me feel worse. Finally I said, “Screw it. This day isn’t going to get better; it just needs to get done.” Then I went to bed.

While there, I had a realization. I realized that there was something I could learn from that day—something very important. What I learned was this: I’m a mess.

See, normally I think pretty highly of myself—much too highly, maybe. I mean, it’s good to like yourself and all, but when in your heart you think you’re better than other people, that’s when I think you’ve crossed the line.

And that is what I have done; I have crossed that line too many times to count.

And so last night, when it hit me that I’m a mess, just like those other people to whom I compare myself so favorably and so often, it was a realization to be thankful for. Because it’s true—I really was a mess.

I was cranky, and moody. I was unforgiving and angry. I was impatient and self-centered and negative and depressed—and for no good reason at all.

And, truth be told, I still am. Right now, as I sit here, I am on the verge of tears. My heart is sad and lonely and I am trying to think of a way to feel better but I can’t. Earlier today my cell phone rang and my first thought was, I hope that’s a friend. And just a minute ago as I sat here in the car with the baby napping in the backseat, a van I didn’t recognize pulled partly up our driveway and again I found myself hoping that it was someone stopping by for a visit. As they backed up and turned around, all I could think was, I am tired of being alone.

Like I said: I’m a mess.

I am lonely. I am flawed. I depend too much on things and people for my happiness.

I am vulnerable.

And if I were a more spiritual person, this would not be the case. I’d be strong all the time. I’d be able to face much bigger problems than I have with barely a blink of the eye.

I would be at least a little invincible.

Someday, after this life is over, I will be invincible. But that is not me now—not really, not at my deepest core. I am weak, just like everybody else. And now, I know it.

And that, at least, is a gift.

Thank you, God, for that gift. Now, then: How to get back to feeling good?

 

 

 

 

 

December 8

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I feel like giving up

 

Well, it’s December now. The year is almost over, and lately I’ve been wondering what’s going to happen when my experiment is over. Sometimes I feel like I’ve gotten into a habit that, now that I know how great it can be, I will never totally give up on, even if I do take breaks—even very long breaks. It’s something I’ll always come back to, always aspire to. Other times, though, I feel something else.

I feel like giving up.

And actually, most of the time I feel both: Praying without ceasing is something I will never give up on completely—but it’s something I often may not want to do right now.

And that’s where I’m at today. For the past several weeks I haven’t meditated much. I haven’t always felt very good, very inspired. And I definitely haven’t prayed without ceasing.

More than that: I haven’t even tried.

A few nights ago I was thinking about my next step, thinking about whether I was ready to start again, and I came back to where I began with this whole thing. When I started this journal in January there were two main hesitations I had about the experiment—two things that caused me to delay the actual start date by several months. One was that I was afraid it wouldn’t work, that I wouldn’t hear from God about what to do and where to go and what to say, et cetera. The other was that I just didn’t want to give up control. The first I can say that I’ve pretty much let go of; I have only to remember a few key experiences this year to prevent that fear from materializing. It’s that second one—the one about control—that still feels true to me even though it doesn’t do me any good.

I hate. Giving up. Control.

I really, really hate it.

When the baby won’t fall asleep at naptime. When my husband isn’t available when I’d like him to be. When I can’t make my own decisions without someone else’s input, and that person is nowhere to be found.

I live a very self-directed life. I have no set work hours, no particular workplace to go to; I work where and when I see fit. I see friends and take the baby out and run errands, all at the times of my choosing. On any given day my shower could happen at 9 a.m., 2 p.m., 9 p.m. or not at all. I do not live by a schedule—but I always plan my day. I plan how many and approximately which hours the baby will be asleep, and what I will do during that time. I plan which items on my to-do list can be completed and which will have to wait. I plan what to cook, what fun thing to do that evening, and on and on and on.

I am always, it seems, planning something.

The freedom and flexibility that I have in my life is awesome. The stress that I take on by being so high strung is most assuredly not. My worst days (I remembered yesterday) are not the days when I get into an argument with someone or even the ones when I feel fat. The worst days I have are the ones in which the baby doesn’t stick to my schedule and I end up missing something I wanted to do. The anger that I feel, the annoyance, the stress . . . It’s just not fun. Not at all.

And really, it isn’t me. I’m not high-strung, actually. I enjoy life. I’m pretty cheerful most of the time (not naturally so, but I’ve taught myself this skill over the past few years with good success).

I’m just very Type A, that’s all. And not only am I Type A—I like it that way, too. It’s how I achieve so many goals in such a short period of time. It’s how I find purpose in my days.

It’s just the way I like to be.

And so, that’s the truth of the matter. The truth is that I’m afraid that if I give up this control, it will all fall apart.

I won’t write books anymore. I won’t “use my time wisely.” I won’t be able to work and make money while still spending as much time as I do with the baby. I won’t read as many books. My to-do list will grow longer and longer by the minute.

I won’t get anything done.

Or, maybe I’ll get a lot done—but not as much as I could have. If I get too spiritual, I think, I’ll just hang out watching flowers grow and children smile and forget to look at the clock.

I will get things done. But not as many as I could have.

And that, that single thought, is the thing that keeps me from my goal.

Thankfully, I know the solution: Giving up control. Making plans, but staying flexible at the same time. Asking for guidance and direction in every decision I make throughout the day and then following it, even if I don’t want to or if it seems to make no sense.

If I could do that consistently, what could possibly stand between me and my goals?

And so, as always before when pondering these things, I make the decision once again to start to pray without ceasing. Right now, right after I put my pen down, I will ask for the Divine’s guidance about what to do next . . . and then I’ll do it. I will put the Spirit to the test, and see if I still get everything I want to do done, or if it all comes crashing down as I fear it will.

Here we go. Starting . . . now.

 

 

 

 

December 9

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Limbo

 

 

Failed again. Yesterday. After writing that last entry, I listened for guidance on what I was supposed to do. Though I didn’t get a very clear message, I made the best guess I had at the moment: I did a crossword puzzle. The baby was down for the night, David wasn’t home and I didn’t know how to hook up the TV (long story). So, I took up an old hobby—and it was nice. Not ecstasy or anything, but nice. After a while David came home and we hung out for a while—and I very promptly forgot all about my resolution to pray. Then we went to bed.

This morning when I woke up I remembered. I prayed a little, then got distracted by the baby and the morning. Later I remembered again, and got distracted again. And now I am sitting in the car as the baby sleeps, and I’m remembering again.

And I feel like giving up.

I can’t do this. I have no deep thought to attach to that statement right now. I have no insightful psychoanalysis behind the whole thing like I did yesterday. All I have right now is the conviction that no matter how good it feels (and is) to pray without ceasing (or to come as close as I can to doing so), right now, it just is not happening.

And yet, I am not actually giving up. Being this willing, being this spiritually conscious, this close to God, is one of my most precious goals in life. I want to write a hundred books and have a passel of children, and do some other crazy things that I need not tell you about here, but this spirituality thing—this is the most important goal of all. This is the thing that won’t disappoint me, won’t fail me, ever. This is the thing that makes me feel good in a lasting, sustainable, circumstance-independent way.

This is what makes me really happy.

So, right now I am choosing to take a break from praying without ceasing. But remember October 6? Remember how I told myself that was my start date and that’s what would make me stay on this path? Well, here’s the deal: I am going to hold to that. October 6 is still my start date—I just need a quick little break.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t want to take a break. I don’t want to choose to be less in touch with God, less fulfilled, more dependent on circumstances for my happiness, more unstable. I don’t want any of those things—not at all. But if I could have made myself become a better person overnight, it would have happened already.

And so, this is not the end; this is just a delay. And really, it’s not even that. I know that as I let go of this goal, the journey I’m on right now to find more oneness with God will not come to a screeching halt; it may even go faster. The only way to grow into something else is to first allow yourself to be who you are now—to accept yourself, faults and all, and to fully experience whatever it is your soul is trying to teach you by choosing to be the way you are.

And so, that is what I’m doing: I’m accepting myself.

I’m allowing myself to be flawed.

Because no matter how much I think I want to change, the truth is that deep down inside, I don’t.

When I really want to change, it will happen.

And so, here goes nothing. Today, I’m doing exactly the opposite of what I’ve done at the end of my past few journal entries. Instead of deciding to refocus, reprioritize, try harder, today, I’m choosing not to try at all.

I am setting myself free.

I’m going to be as pigheaded as I want to be. I’m going to be as controlling as I want to be. I’m going to schedule stuff, and work as hard as I want, and check things off my to-do list at a rapid-fire pace.

I am going to let myself go.

Then, when I’m done, I’m going to sit back and rest, and ask myself what it all meant.

It’s funny; in a way this experience feels like it did several years ago when I was in limbo about whether or not I wanted to still be a Christian. Long after I had given up going to church, long after I stopped believing some of the teachings, and long after I had decided to (gasp!) date non-Christians, I still hadn’t gotten rid of the label; I still called myself a Christian.

Of course, that’s not what I’m doing here; I know that this change is only temporary. But as when I wasn’t really a Christian but wasn’t ready to admit it yet, right now I am not the person I want to believe that I am, either.

I am not, as it turns out, enlightened.

It’s humbling, really. I have in my recent experience known what it’s like to live the kind of life that would make me the most fulfilled, and yet—I am turning it down, choosing my control issues instead.

I’m going to take a break from my goal, and I’m not going to feel guilty about it at all.

(Okay, maybe I will feel a bit guilty. But I’ll get over it, I’m sure.)

***

(a few minutes later)

I changed my mind. I can’t give up. I can’t take a break—or at least I can’t admit to myself that I’m taking a break. I can fail a million times, but I cannot give up.

God, what do you want me to do next?

 

 

 

 

 

December 17

 

 

 

 

h3>{color:#000;}.

What is prayer, anyway?

 

 

Today, I discovered a form of prayer that until now I didn’t even know existed. How did this happen? It happened by sitting on a couch.

Before I tell you about that, though, let me remind you of the spiritual practices that in my life I’ve (knowingly) experienced. Most of them I’ve mentioned in this book already. They are:

*

Saying affirmations;

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Meditating by feeling my inner body;

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Meditating by repeating a mantra;

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Asking my spirit for guidance in my actions both small and large;

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Saying prayers of thanks repeatedly;

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Writing affirmations;

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Keeping a journal of answered prayers;

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Listening to spiritual music;

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Singing spiritual and uplifting music;

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Reading spiritual books;

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Smiling, even when I don’t feel like it;

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Doing good deeds for others; and

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Reaching out to friends.

And, as I told you before, it’s my belief that if I’m doing any of these things, I’m in prayer.

Today, though, another glorious practice joins the list. It is deep, and it is beautiful, and it is this: just . . . remembering.

Do you know what I mean by just remembering? Well, just in case you don’t, here’s a little story about how I discovered it. After I tell you this, I’ll talk about what I think it is.

***

Last night I had about forty unscheduled, baby-free minutes to enjoy before going to bed. I was too tired to read, and it wasn’t quite enough time for a TV show or movie, so I decided to sit on the couch and do nothing—to merely have a peaceful little think.

And so, that is what I did. As I sat I reviewed the mundane and beautiful events of the day. I thought about the walk I took with the baby during which he saw his first worm. I thought about eating dinner with my husband at Chipotle, enjoying the food and feeling grateful that I didn’t have to cook. And then I started thinking about my house.

About my house there is only one thing you need to know, and it is this: I love my house—love, love, love it. It is brown. It is orange. It is peaceful and muted and warm. It is clean and it is empty and it is fully baby-proofed and it is exactly like I want it to be.

I appreciate it.

And so, because I had nothing else to do, last night I just sat on my couch, appreciating it. And it was during this reverie that it hit me: my house is not just a house—it’s a person. It is a being—a growing, changing, giving, receiving, loving, living being. It is part of our family, and it speaks to us every day.

It was like what Eckhart Tolle says about feeling the aliveness in your body and using that as a portal to the Divine. I was feeling the aliveness, not of my body this time, but in my surroundings instead.

That teddy bear has something that isn’t made of atoms, I realized. That laundry basket has it, too. If someone—some great or even just very good photographer took a picture of those objects in just the right light at just the right angle, he would prove my point. He’d be able to convince anyone in a single glance of a truth that is so often overlooked, namely: even the salt and pepper shakers are profound.

So—she’s alive. My house, to me, feels alive. The solid parts—the bricks, the carpet, the curtains—are all different aspects of her personality, and the air isn’t just the space between those things; the air is filled with love.

At least I believe that it is—and I don’t think that I’m the only one. Interior designers see love in chairs and tables. Musicians hear love in music. Doctors see love in the human body. Everyone sees love in, not just someone, but something.

And here’s where I get tied up in logic knots, but bear with me: Seeing and feeling love and beauty is called worship. And when we worship something, it’s because it’s a form of God. And when we worship something while at the same time realizing we’re doing so because that thing is a form of God—that, I believe, is prayer.

And it is by this logic (which is really more faith than logic, I admit)—it is by this logic that I have a new definition of prayer. That definition is “to remember that something is God.”

***

And so, that is what I’ve decided to do. When I don’t feel led to pray about anything in particular, even a prayer of gratitude, I can remind myself to do something else that is every bit as good—go through this other portal, so to speak. I can look at my surroundings, wherever I might be, and remember that everything I see is Spirit, and is love, and is meaningful, and is alive. I can remind myself that there is a kind of magic all around me—the kind that can’t be seen but must be accessed in other ways instead. Then, I do that right then: I just sense it; I sense the unique expressions of God in it all.

I simply remember—nothing more complicated than that.

Why did I ever think it should be?

 

 

 

 

 

December 28

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Change is an actor, right behind the stage

 

December 28 today, three days till the end of the year and the end of my experiment. You know what that means: the time has finally come to do what I’ve been looking forward to doing all year long, namely, the final friend list review.

Here is that review:

 

Friend Number One (responsive)

Friend Number Two (unresponsive)

Friend Number Three (unresponsive)

Friend Number Four (still responsive)

Friend Number Five (unresponsive)

Friend Number Six (unresponsive)

Friend Number Seven (unavailable)

Friend Number Eight (uninteresting)

Friend Number Nine (unresponsive)

Friend Number Ten (unresponsive)

Friend Number Eleven (unresponsive)

Friend Number Twelve (unavailable)

Friend Number Thirteen (unresponsive)

Friend Number Fourteen (unresponsive)

Friend Number Fifteen (unresponsive)

Friend Number Sixteen (unavailable)

Friend Number Seventeen (only mildly responsive)

Friend Number Eighteen (only mildly responsive)

Friend Number Nineteen (only mildly responsive)

Friend Number Twenty (only mildly responsive)

Friend Number Twenty-One (unresponsive)

Friend Number Twenty-Two (unresponsive)

Friend Number Twenty-Three (unresponsive)

Friend Number Twenty-Four (occasionally responsive)

Friend Number Twenty-Five (responsive)

Friend Number Twenty-Six (unavailable; she moved away last month)

Friend Number Twenty-Seven (occasionally responsive)

Friend Number Twenty-Eight (occasionally responsive)

Friend Number Twenty-Nine (responsive)

Friend Number Thirty (untested)

 

There are several recent changes to this list, and most of them are pretty disappointing ones. Friends Eleven, Thirteen and Fourteen, as well as Seventeen through Twenty, are all from my church—and all of them are now crossed off the list. The reason isn’t that I don’t like them, and (more surprisingly) it isn’t that they don’t like me. We see each other every Sunday, and have a lot of nice talks—and it seems that for them, that’s enough.

For a time, I thought that might be enough for me, too. Recently, though, I’ve realized that it’s not. Though I can appreciate having them as part of my larger circle of acquaintances, to me they are not true friends.

A bit harsh? I dunno. It’s just the way I feel, not a prescriptive thing. None of those four (or anyone else from church, actually) have initiated contact with me outside of church hours, and I’ve decided that just won’t do—not for me.

The other subtraction from the list is Friend Thirteen, the kind writer. Thirteen is super busy with her current projects and as I’m not sure I’m going to continue with the writing group past this year (lately it’s felt a bit boring), I doubt our friendship will pick up.

And so, that’s it. That’s what I’ve achieved friendship-wise this year: three potentially close friends out of thirty, plus one friend of limited closeness—a success rate of over 10 percent.

And when I think about it, these results really don’t seem all that bad. I don’t have a best friend, or someone I consider right now to be a very close friend, but I do have a couple of good candidates. And there are several others that may be a part of my life for a long time to come—the moms in the moms’ group that don’t call me back, for instance, and the church members that prefer to keep their distance. Too, both of these groups will be for me an ongoing source of new like-minded friend possibilities.

And so, in conclusion, I liken my friendship experiment to those people who send spam emails. The response rate is always dismally low—something like .1 percent is what I’ve heard. But it isn’t the rate that matters, you know—it’s the end result.

And the end result makes some of those companies very, very rich.

***

Thus, my friendship review is complete, with qualified success being the final result. Now let’s get down to what you’re really interested in, namely: the praying without ceasing. “Have your results in this area been as good as those of the other?” you ask. Well, yes—yes, they certainly have been.

But they’ve also been every bit as bad.

By way of explanation, I offer to you a story.

***

If you have read another book of mine, (the one I mentioned previously called Enlightenment), you know this about me already, but in case you haven’t I’ll repeat myself a little by saying: I am an overeater. Er—was. I was a chronic overeater, binger, dieter and starver, and when you roll all of those ingredients up together, what you’ve got goes by another name entirely.

It is an eating disorder.

I don’t know when the eating disorder began, but I do know that it took me a long time to realize I had it—a very, very long time. For years and years as I exercised endlessly, obsessed with the scale and counted every calorie, I thought that how I ate (or didn’t eat) was merely unusual—a personality quirk, so to speak. At times I even believed the problem was physiological—that I just couldn’t feel full on normal amounts of food as other people seemed to be able to do.

Then, the truth came home in a way things often come home: in a grocery bag. This particular grocery bag was filled with peanut butter, and over several nights spent talking with it at length, that peanut butter finally convinced me that I had a problem.

This important first step to recovery thus complete, I decided to take further action. The following week I attended a meeting of a twelve-step recovery program where I found a sponsor to help me through. We began calling each other regularly, holding each other accountable to our goals, something for which I was incredibly grateful.

Thus, my journey to recovery was under way, and yet soon after this I stumbled upon yet another hurdle, namely: I had to define for myself what success in this area of my life actually looked like. See, eating issues are not like problems with drinking or drugs; one cannot just stop partaking in the habit altogether. Instead, the problem eater must fully and clearly define which food habits are healthy for him or her and which are not—and as it turns out, this task is a lot harder than you might expect. The normal eater might say something like, “Well, just eat only when you’re hungry and stop when you are full.” The problem eater, however, knows better. He realizes that certain foods are better for him than others, and that some foods, due to the reaction they cause in his mind and body, should be avoided altogether.

And so, he tries to define his abstinence (so-called) by doing something he is used to doing, something that he has done a thousand times before: he goes on a diet.

And so, that is what I did: I went on a diet—several, actually—in an attempt to get my eating under control. One of them involved weighing my food. Another involved eating no carbs, and another involved both.

And yet, I was still binging. And after those binges, I was still starving.

I was still in the cycle.

Then something changed. To this day I’m still not sure exactly what it was but if I had to guess I’d say it was that I’d finally failed enough times. After years and years of struggling with my eating issues I finally realized that the food—the kind of food, the weight of the food, the time of day I ate the food—was not the problem.

The problem was the diet.

Not only was I not losing weight while dieting, I was making myself miserable in the process. And so, if I really wanted to be free from my eating disorder, I realized, I would have to stop dieting.

I did not stop right away. Unable to accept my body as it was, I went on several more crash-type diets (and had at least several more corresponding binges) before I was finally able to give it up. And yet, all those months that I spent talking to my sponsor and failing in my goal over and over again, something was actually changing. I began, just a few days at a time at first, then more and more as time went on—to test this not dieting thing. And as I realized I could give up dieting without gaining weight, I began to think of not dieting as my ideal, my ultimate goal, and everything else that I tried as something that took me away from that goal, and delayed it. See, I wasn’t ready to change my actions—but I was ready to change my mind.

And that, for a while, was enough.

And so, understanding this, I made myself a promise: even if I continued to fail, continued to diet, continued to attempt weight loss strategies that had failed me so many times before—and no matter how many times I did so—there was one thing I would never do: I would never again believe or tell myself that dieting was okay. And, more than that, I would always return to the eating style I knew was the best for me . . . eventually. It would be my home base, so to speak.

It would be my Truth.

And, for several months at least, that was all I did. I did not give up dieting; I still fasted at least once a week, and for some strange reason that I still don’t quite understand, each of five Sunday nights in a row I ate almost an entire jar of peanut butter.

Then came my birthday.

The night before my birthday, I binged again, but this time there was a difference. During the binge I thought about the next day and told myself that this year, I was going to give myself the best present I could ever ask for: I was going to stop my disordered eating for good. I was also going to give up eating fake sugar (diet drinks were my favorite crutch, great for very low-calorie days). I was going to give up overeating, starving and dieting—all together, all at once.

All on the very same day.

And, to my own great surprise, that is exactly what I did. And because of that, the next day, even though I felt gross and uncomfortable from the recent binge, I was happy.

That was several years ago now, and while I have overeaten at times since then, I have not fasted or starved or dieted or—amazingly—binged. I have not even purposely eaten fake sugar—not once.

In short: I have experienced a miracle.

***

This year, I did not experience a miracle like that miracle. But I have made several good friends and made some progress toward one of my major life goals, that of learning how to pray without ceasing. Though I am still not doing this in the way I originally intended, I am praying for guidance much more often than before. And all that praying—it helps, it really does.

I can hear God much better.

I hear him when I’m asking for guidance. I hear him when I’m feeling grateful. I hear him when I’m paying attention to the energy in my body.

And I hear him when I’m doing none of the above, and rather than that just remembering.

And there is something that I’m not doing, too, that’s just as important as what I am: I am no longer believing that I can’t one day learn to do more. I am remembering the lesson from overcoming my eating disorder so suddenly and so unexpectedly and after so many years, and promising myself that no matter how many times I fail in this goal, no matter how many times I forget to pray or even decide not to, I will always remember that success is in fact possible—and eventually I’ll always return to it. It will be my home base, so to speak.

It will be my Truth.

And the miracle will follow the truth—eventually.

***

Now, admittedly, I don’t know when the miracle will happen. It could be a very long time from now—like when I’m sixty or sixty-five. Or when I’m forty.

Or it could happen tomorrow.

Until the day before my birthday that year, I had no plan to make the change I did until the day before the change occurred. And then, very suddenly, it just felt right. It just felt at the time like the time.

My desire, of course, is that I won’t have to wait more than ten years for this praying without ceasing thing to work out. My desire is that it will happen next year. Maybe on my birthday, or maybe much sooner than that.

Who knows?

As I see it, change is like the actor, waiting in the wings just backstage. He is practiced. He is prepared. He knows his lines. And yet—he is not actually playing the role yet.

He is still waiting for his cue.

I, too, am waiting for my cue, but don’t worry—that doesn’t mean I’ll stop preparing myself for opening night.

Until then, I encourage you to believe, as I do, that miracles are real. Sometimes they’re fast and sometimes they’re oh-so-slow, but they do happen. I am proof of that—and so are you.

Because, as I’ve told you before, reader friend, God is in you, and even if you can’t see that right now, just know that there is someone out there who does, and that is me. And there are probably a lot more people as well, and I bet if you asked them they would tell you themselves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Epilogue

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I can float now, and I have friends

 

Last night, I had a wonderful dream. I dreamt I was at a park playing on the playground, practicing a new ability I’d discovered: the ability to fly a little in the air each time I jumped. I flew in and through and around the various obstacles, sort of floating, like they do in certain martial arts movies. It was wonderful and awesome, but one thing about it was rather strange: the other people in the park that day took no notice of this highly unusual sight; the whole time I was there, no one even looked in my direction. I wanted to show them what I was doing, to explain to them how to do the same, even though at the same time I knew it wouldn’t be right for me to do so—not yet.

I was still learning it myself.

And so, I suppose that if I were to sum up this entire year in a single sentence, this would be that sentence: I did not learn how to fly this year, to truly pray without ceasing as I so wanted to do—but I just may have learned how to float.

***

That isn’t my only post-journal update for you though. As it turns out, there’s something else I gained from my year of effort and experimentation, namely: I now have friends. And when I say this, I am delighted to add that these aren’t potentially close friends, or friend possibilities—these are the real, genuine, reliable, calling-me-back-after-I-call-them, spending-time-together-several-times-a-month-and-having-meaningful-conversations kind of friends. Yup, you heard that right: there isn’t just one of them—there are four.

Can you believe it? Yes, my excitement is as thorough as it sounds.

I have a group of best friends.

There are two sort of interesting, sort of instructional things about this development. One is that though I still go to my moms’ group and I still go to church, neither of these places is where I found my friends. (Well, one of them did go to church once, but that was it.)

The other funny thing is who these women actually are. Three of them are over ten years older than me. One is a Christian (the liberal kind) and one is Jewish. Another one—the one I’m closest to, actually—is Hispanic and English is her second language.

Unlike the people at my church and in my moms’ group, these women are actually pretty different from me.

And so, what I’ve learned about friendship is this: friendship is not scientific. You can’t make a list and fill it with people you think you’ll have things in common with and expect it to work out. In fact, you can’t make a list at all. Like falling in love, the only things you can do are to look and to wait.

In any case. As a way to celebrate my success I will tell you a bit more about these wonderful women.

Friend Number Twenty-Five is someone I already told you about; she’s the one I met while walking the baby. She is an avid reader, an artist, a homeschooling mom (as I plan to soon be) and a pianist. We take walks regularly and, since she’s my neighbor, spend some time at each others’ houses, too, just visiting. Twenty-Five is one of the most positive people I know—and one of the most talkative, too.

Friend Number Twenty-Nine, the one I first met at church, is a Tarot card reader, a lesbian and a businesswoman. Her spiritual beliefs are very similar to mine and we often (mostly?) talk about the way those beliefs affect our lives. She is one of the wisest and most perceptive people I know—great at giving advice without making you feel stupid. (I know: major score there, isn’t it?)

Third, there’s Friend Number One, whom I’m actually a bit surprised to see included in this list considering our ongoing comedy of errors this year, including an incident that occurred just the other week when I accidentally flirted with her husband. (Could I be any more awkward with those two?) Though I’m not as close to One as I am to the others, we see each other often and her husband is friends with mine, which is nice. She is a doctor, a mother and an outdoorsy type, and very kind and thoughtful. I look forward to getting to know her a great deal more.

And then there’s Number Thirty-One. Thirty-One, not previously on the list, is the person I just may become best friends with someday. She is a mom, a businesswoman, a wife, a hard worker and a natural optimist—and she has one of the kindest, most—well, most enlightened faces I’ve ever seen in anyone under the age of sixty. I met her a month or so into the new year and now we see each other almost every week. I guess what I love the most about her may be captured in a single word: she is genuine. Number Thirty-One says what she feels, and what she feels is almost always positive. When she’s happy, she says she’s happy. When she’s grateful, she says that, too. When she’s tired, she admits it but gently. Shortly after we met she told her mom about me and how grateful she was to meet me—not just once but many times. And she said this to me as well.

It’s such a rare and lovely thing to feel appreciated.

***

Yesterday I wrote an email to a reader of mine, a man, who gave me his phone number and invited me to call him if ever I felt so inclined. He told me how connected he felt to me even though we’ve never met. As part of my response I said something like the following: “Thank you for being vulnerable and genuine. When I think about it, I think that’s probably what I’ve been looking for my whole life—people who are able to let down their guards, to admit what they really want to have and to be.”

It has only been a few months since I finished my experiment, and a few months is not long enough to be able to predict the length of my new friendships with any certainty. But what I can say is that unlike before, I now know what I want in a friend—what I require in a friend, even. Positivity is important to me—much more important than it used to be. So is maturity and so is respect—but it is this genuineness, this sincerity, this ability to be oneself and to be vulnerable that’s most important of all.

And so, after twelve months of hard work, the reward for my efforts has arrived. I have four good friends, and though I have not yet found this so-called “enlightenment” thing quite yet, the voice that I’ve been listening for all year is becoming more and more clear.

“You’re getting closer,” it’s telling me. “Closer to people and closer, too, to having an ongoing experience of the Divine. The most important goals of your life are even right now being realized, Mollie:

“You can float now, and you have friends.”

And for now—at least for now—I’m going to be content with just being closer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

so, what did you think?

Mollie Player gratefully welcomes all reader reviews on Amazon.com.

And, if you liked this book, grab the second in the Mystical Memoir series, The Power of Acceptance:One Year of Mindfulness and Meditation, on Amazon today.

(A third and fourth book are on their way, too.)

 

 

 

about the author

 

Mollie Player is just a regular person. But that doesn’t mean she can’t at least attempt feats of great strength. Like overcoming depression. Getting skinny. Never arguing again. And, of course, finding inner peace.

Her spiritual memoirs include You’re Getting Closer: One Year of Finding God and a Few Good Friends, The Power of Acceptance: One Year of Mindfulness and Meditation, and What I Learned From Jane.

Her self-help books include The Emergency Diet: The Somewhat Hard, Very Controversial, Totally Unheard of and Fastest Possible Way to Lose Weight and The Naked House: Five Principles for a More Peaceful Home.

Player also writes about money, marriage, motherhood and more. Subscribe to her blog, Suddenly Awesome, and discover your next great read at mollieplayer.com.

also by mollie player

The Power of Acceptance: One Year of Mindfulness and Meditation

 

The Emergency Diet: The Somewhat Hard, Very Controversial, Totally Unheard Of and Fastest Possible Way to Lose Weight

 

The Naked House: Five Principles for a More Peaceful Home

 

What I Learned from Jane

 

Happiness is the Truth: A Spiritual Manifesto

 

Alone and Together: A Very Short Primer on Happiness

 

 

 


You're Getting Closer: One Year of Finding God and a Few Good Friends

Mollie Player is just a regular person--not someone who's particularly cut out for enlightenment. However, she thinks that regular people like her can still attempt such a feat. "After all," she writes, "if whatever crazy thing I decide to do doesn’t work out, it doesn’t really matter--no one was paying attention anyway." And so, one fine January first, Player decides to conduct a year-long two-part experiment. The first part of the experiment is to finally find a few best friends. The second part is to learn how to do something which the Apostle Paul advises in the bible and which she has always wanted to try. She decides to pray without ceasing--to communicate continuously with the Divine. The results: "You're Getting Closer: One Year of Finding God and a Few Good Friends"--and all the unexpected experiences detailed therein.

  • Author: Mollie Player
  • Published: 2017-05-22 01:50:25
  • Words: 37338
You're Getting Closer: One Year of Finding God and a Few Good Friends You're Getting Closer: One Year of Finding God and a Few Good Friends