Saturday, April 26, 2014

A quiet mind

Mimosas in the backyard where I lived last summer.
Sitting outside in the yard, soaking up the sun. Feeling ornery. I am mad because I feel like I am neglecting this blog and I hate that feeling. I feel completely deflated and wordless right now. Powerless. This blog is the place where I take my power back. But my mind is so tired, I can't write. So how am I going to take my power back?
It takes a certain amount of brain energy to write. But my mind is a weary traveler, and it is worn out and numb. All it wants to do is pretty much nothing at all. It hasn't wanted to do much at all for the last five years.
Which is why I would love to telepathically transport images and text to this page at the speed of an eye blink and with the ease simply of intention. Just like that. My ideas would fall neatly into paragraphs of their own doing and settle themselves neatly on the screen. I keep hoping to one day be pleasantly shocked that I can do this. In the same way I tell my right arm to lift, it just automatically lifts.
But I can't do this, yet. So meanwhile, I rest in the lawn chair and let myself go into a daze. It is actually such a relief to do so. My mind thanks me for allowing it to just rest completely. I drift in and out of thoughtless places. It is so nice to get lost in a thoughtless place. The sun soaks into my skin. I sit and toast. I hear the flit of birds around me, foreground, background. I feel the wind lift flyaway hairs off my cheeks. I feel the warmth of the sun through the skin of my jeans. I smell the sweet smell of fresh cut grass, drying in the afternoon warmth.  I know I've been sitting here in this chair for some time, days on end, whenever it is sunny enough. I can't remember how long I sit or what day it is.
I let myself go numb. My mind goes blank as the warm sun envelops me again. I am OK with numb at this point, as it feels safer than feeling. Sometimes I do remind myself that it really is OK to feel, even if things feel dark. So I sit there and feel. And it is just really dark stuff. But I don't resist it. I sit with it. I am in a dark cave, even while sitting out in the raw spring sun. And that's why I am MIA in the real world, absent from this blog most of the time, and non-existent from social media. 

I notice that most people's minds move quickly, and they can write prolifically and make witty replies on social media in a timely manner. I used to be able to do that. I used to be so nimble of mind.

Not now. It takes me several days to process a thought, and a few more days to formulate a half decent comment. By the time I'm ready to post a comment, that conversation has grown cold or been archived.

These days, my brain moves slowly, like sound moving underwater. Slow, delayed, muffled, like a dream. I will hear you minutes after you speak. I will compose a response to you tonight before I fall asleep. And I will respond tomorrow after breakfast if I remember what it was we were talking about. Don't worry, I don't think my IQ has diminished, LOL. Oh what the heck, yeah, I know it has.

But with all this decrease in brain function and cognition, another side of me has blossomed almost uncontrollably, and I for one... though shocked and weirded out at first, am quite unaccountably happy for this development.

My emotional intelligence has intensified deeply. Emotional intelligence is multi-faceted, but one major component is the ability to feel. I used to not be able to feel for most of my life. I mean, seriously. I was detached and cold, able to follow rules to a T without tuning into my heart. A side effect of cult brain washing. In addition to a way of protecting myself from trauma I wasn't able to process. I cut myself off from my emotions 'cause it was the only safe way to live and function in the world.

I used to not be able to cry for a period of many years. I wasn't even able to cry watching "Titanic."  If I watch "Titanic" now, I could sink a whole couch and TV set with my tears. Like, seriously, I'm a blubbering mess. I am even able to cry "girly" tears of joy now. I used to think it was quite a feat of femininity when I saw a woman cry when she was happy. I didn't get it, and didn't know how she developed that cool ability. I would watch, enviously, trying to replicate this dubious but interesting display of emotion in the privacy of my own house, staring at myself in the mirror, gesturing with gusto and mouthing words of intense joy while trying to squeak out a tear. No. It didn't happen. No tears squeaked out. I just didn't have that gift.

Well. Let me tell you, I got this crying thing down pat, now. I can't cry on demand, but compared to how tearless I used to be, I'm doing pretty good. I'm super sensitive now and cry even if I think my cat has a hang nail. I cry if someone lifts their eyebrow even a little too high at me. I cry even for no reason at all out of the blue, as I'm scrabbling eggs for breakfast. And eggs are quite the sunniest of breakfast foods. So maybe I'm a bit overboard in the tear department. But things will even out. At least the flood gates are open, you know.

I used to be afraid of my gut feelings, and I used to think God hated them too. Not anymore! Nope. That was just another cult teaching to keep cult members in line. It has been almost a whole year now that I realize that being in tune with my feelings and intuition isn't sin.

Oh my gosh. Liberation.

So where was I. Ah yes. Tuning into my emotions and feelings. Oh wow.

I have discovered some amazing things about myself. None of them involve intellect, hah ha! I have discovered that I have psychic abilities. I'm not afraid of them like I would have been in the past. I see these abilities as natural and innate. I see them as a way to tune in to the frequency of love. I have been having a lot of fun listening to my intuition, and man, what an adventure! I am able to see beneath what people say, to their intent hiding beneath, and I see that they are either in need of love or are sharing love.

I have developed a keener sense of empathy. The things that matter to me most usually involve seeing a need and sticking up for and helping that person. This is what life is all about, being there for others... it's like being there for yourself, and in a way you are actually supporting yourself, because you are each person you interact with. We are all interconnected.

I have vivid dreams and surreal experiences. I have chapter dreams that continue uninterrupted each night, where the same situation plays out again and again, but each time slightly different because I said or did something different. So I get to live out an experience from many angles. These are delicious and meaningful experiences from my past, so it's not like the dreams are boring.

I am able to see snippets of the future playing out like a movie. For example, I can see what someone texts to someone else a day before they do so. I get premonitions. Sometimes I get them just by looking at a household item, and it triggers something. The other day I suddenly smelled this cologne that one of my guy friends used to wear. I was alone in my house so it was coming from no where. I smiled and knew suddenly that person was thinking of me. I went online and there that person had just contacted me, after three years of not hearing from them. Things like this.

I feel very powerful when I tune into my inner self. I know my thoughts turn into physical things and real situations. So as I sit out in the sun day after day all bleary, I know that my muddled thoughts are still thoughts, and because of that, they are working to shape my reality as I choose to direct them. Now that's some heady stuff!

I am able to feel emotions now in an incredibly deep way. When someone enters a room, I can sense their energy right away. I used to be immune to others' emotional energy... I was more dense than a rock. Because I forced myself to be this way, not because it was a reflection of my sensing abilities. I haven't suddenly become in tune because I learned how... I just allowed myself to settle into my natural abilities which I personally think everyone has.

It's true that this ability to immediately pick up on others' energy does pose a challenge. Some people I come in contact with have incredibly low energy, and I empathically feel it. In a way that is so real that I become just as depressed, lonely or anxious as they are, but I don't know how to turn it off. I know this can be an issue for empaths. I read about others with similar experiences. Learning how to shield and ground myself will make this a non-issue.

I don't know how to shield or ground myself yet, although I've been experimenting with it. So my solution now is to simply make an excuse and physically walk away from that person for a time. It sounds drastic but it works.

Don't get me wrong, being an empath is not all struggle. I sense high energy vibrations in people more often than not.

I used to be stiff emotionally, and formal. I didn't know how to hug people, or tell them "I love you." Weirdly enough, soon after I broke free from Christianity and the cult, my heart returned to its innate, juicy self that it was when I was a little kid. You know how little children are all huggy and snuggly and don't see barriers that adults see? Well, I feel oddly enough like my heart is as natural and unfettered as a child's, and I think I like it that way.

I guess what I'm discovering is that sitting around in a hazy, slow state of mind for five years isn't all that terrible. I mean, I am used to it at this point. My intellectual intelligence has grown fuzzy, but my emotional and heart intelligence has grown more juicy and healthy.  I don't know if my emotional intelligence was able to grow because my mind has been decidedly "resting," or in spite of it resting.

I'm not sure. But I guess either way, it's pretty darn cool.

I'm done moping. For now. LOL.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Guest Post: My Abusive Ex

Today's post is written by my beautiful friend Jeri from Heresy in the Heartland.
            Jeri grew up in the same patriarchal religious cult I did, and has since left and found her own voice.
Jeri's words echo the heartache I experienced in my own relationship with God,
and like her, I'm ecstatic to have left this relationship behind.

I used to be in an abusive relationship.

My abusive ex was God.
Yes, there were other people involved in the manipulation, bullying, over-protection, brainwashing, deceit, neglect, ignorance, isolation, control, and cruelty. But none of it could have had the effect that it did if it weren't for my "personal relationship" with the God I encountered in my Bible.
I thought I loved him and that he loved me.
I believed he was older and wiser and would take care of me. I gave him my heart, and my will. I didn't make a decision without consulting him.
I thought he hung the stars and made the sun come up every morning. His smile was my sunshine. He warned me about his violent temper: like earthquakes, tornadoes, and wildfire. But he assured me that his anger took a long time to heat up. As others had observed, "clouds and thick darkness surround him", but I got used to that.
I was a loyal lover. When other people criticized my God's social skills, I defended his innate goodness, his super IQ,  and even his, um, existence? I didn't doubt he was listening, even when he was quiet. I would wake up early to spend time with him. I wrote him poems, hung his promises up on my wall, spent years learning about his preferences and adjusting my tastes to his pleasure.
I depended on him completely and trusted him implicitly, even when it hurt like hell. When I felt ready to burst inside, I'd cry and sing this Twila Paris song:
     "Sometimes my little heart can't understand
     What's in Your will, what's in Your plan.
     So many times I'm tempted to ask You why,
     But I can never forget it for long.
     Lord, what You do could not be wrong.
     So I believe You, even when I must cry.

     Do I trust You, Lord?
     Does the river flow?
     Do I trust You, Lord?
     Does the north wind blow?
     You can see my heart,
     You can read my mind,
     And You got to know
     That I would rather die
     Than to lose my faith
     In the One I love.
     Do I trust You, Lord?
     I will trust You, Lord, when I don't know why.
     I will trust You, Lord, till the day I die.
     I will trust You, Lord, when I'm blind with pain!
     You were God before, and You'll never change.
     I will trust You, Lord."

Yes. That's the song.
As I learned more about the characteristics of healthy relationships, I came to realize how unhealthy my relationship with God really was.
I saw victims of spiritual abuse whose behavior resembled the symptoms exhibited by Stockholm syndrome victims: "who essentially mistake a lack of abuse from their captors for an act of kindness". Come to think of it, that description almost sounds like the paraphrase of a worship song, or a sermon by John Piper, or Jonathan Edwards. What kind of being would be pleased with such fawning submission? Surely not a good god?
I started taking more initiative, making more choices on my own and then running them by God for his "approval".
As I grew emotionally stronger and gained confidence, I was able to see that he had flaws, too. I didn't really need a flawed god. Turns out I'm not really into the strong, silent type, especially if they remain strong and silent when their friends are in trouble. And I have no respect for guys (or gods) who lose their temper and scare little kids.
It took a long time to admit it, but it slowly dawned on me that I would not want to spend a lifetime--much less an eternity--with the God of the Bible, even if I could still believe that my world depended on him.
* * * * * * * *

As Julia Sweeney has described in her monologue Letting Go of God, there is a downside to losing the relationship. When I'm scared or hurt, there's no all-powerful being I can beg to make things better. I don't have a king's ear. I'm not really a princess. Without an imaginary friend, I have to make real friends, or feel very alone.
The universe may not be "on my side", but it does support me in countless ways. While allowing me the freedom to make choices based on my own preferences and what I believe will make me happy, and making no demands in return. I no longer feel obligated to defend my god's behavior, or worry about his temper. I don't spend time coaxing him to intervene on my behalf, assuring him that I know he had a good reason for ignoring my requests, or waiting for him to drop nice things in my lap. There is no more temptation to ingratiate myself. When life is going smoothly, I don't wait for "the other shoe to drop".
Turns out other people didn't like my god much, either. I thought they did when we hung out together, but when I mention him now, they tell me they realized he really was terrible. They're sorry for my experience, they say; I must not have really had a god, or maybe I had the wrong God. They want me to try theirs now. If I just want a good god badly enough, they say, the right one will find me.
I was always told I had an inner void only a god could fill. But since I said goodbye to God, I haven't yet experienced such a void.
I am content without a god.
 Life is better without my abusive ex.