Finding my new happy place

I can’t believe it’s December already. This year has been one of the toughest in my life, primarily due to my faith crisis which is what this blog is all about (some people prefer to call it a “spiritual enlightenment” — that’s a nice spin, but frankly it’s still a faith crisis :P)

Now, I am finally at the tail end of the journey, and not only have I seen the light at the end of the tunnel, but I am actually out of the tunnel, within the light.

I have found my new happy place.

It’s fascinating that this realisation happened tonight while I was in the shower — exactly the same place where I realised that I wanted to re-evaluate my faith, those many months ago. Perhaps we “ponderise” things in the shower šŸ™‚

Massive paradigm shift

This journey which I’ve dubbed “Shawn’s Odyssey” is nothing short of a massive paradigm shift. My entire worldview has had to be reconstructed from the ground up — like bulldozing a house and having to re-design and re-construct the foundation and the entire building. This process has been very emotionally painful — but like a surgery undertaken, I am starting to genuinely feel like it was way worthwhile.

This new house does certainly share many similarities with the old house:

  • A deep and profound appreciation for life
  • Seeking respect, love and harmony with other human beings
  • The desire to live a life of high standards, virtue and high moral integrity
  • The desire to pursue greatness and depart from mediocrity
  • The desire to love and serve other people — to be selfless
  • The desire to have a happy and fulfilling family — to provide joy, service and direction to my children.

But there are also many things that are different. The “house” of my worldview is quite different to before — here are some examples.

  • I no longer believe in God. Or at least the God transcribed by Mormon doctrine. At best I’d describe myself as pantheistic. Formally I’m an agnostic. I’m probably well described as an atheist.
  • I don’t believe in Jesus as our saviour
  • I don’t believe in the need for an atonement — or the existence of one
  • I don’t believe that Adam and Eve ever existed or ever fell (but I think it’s a very classic story and has a huge place in our cultural heritage)
  • I think it goes without saying that I don’t believe in the fundamental tenets of Mormonism (since they all rely on theism) — priesthood, temple, afterlife, Book of Mormon, etc.

I’m not defined by what I don’t believe

It’s safe to assume anyone reading this article doesn’t believe in Thor or Ra. But we don’t walk around calling ourselves “athorist” or “araist” — nor do we Mormons go around calling ourselves “not Jehovah’s witnesses”. No — we define ourselves by what we believe, not what we don’t believe. Hence I don’t want to define myself as an atheist — even though I don’t believe in the god described by Mormonism, any more than we describe ourselves as atheist to Thor or Ra.

I don’t want a label anymore. I am me. I am not Mormon, not ex-Mormon, but just me — Shawn. This poem comes to mind:

My new happy place — and first spiritual experience!

One of my greatest concernsĀ of going through my faith crisis was this: would I ever feel the sweetness and joy that as Mormons we describe as “The Spirit” again? I had felt it many times in my life in many contexts, and I was afraid that I might never feel that sweet joy in my heart again.

Was I leaving “The Spirit” and by so doing putting myself in spiritual jeopardy? Would that result in my never feeling that powerful, joyful “burning” feeling in my heart again? Would I be left in a place of spiritual darkness and confusion by reaching out of my faith? Would God be forever displeased withĀ me for abandoning my belief in him — and thus never allow me to feel those sweet, joyful spiritual feelings again?

And then as I’ve de-constructed my theological upbringing I’ve realised the power of the placebo effect; the only thing that would keep me from feeling these beautiful, sacred spiritual feelings againĀ is the belief that I cannot ever feel them again. It is profoundly, simply that.

And so it all unravelledĀ —Ā I mean early on in my faith crisis I’d realised that Mormonism has no monopoly on spiritual feelings folks of many other faiths have them. But I still feared I’d never feel them again.

And then — just yesterday I had finished up a client meeting in Sydney city. I came out and had lunch at a small cafe there — alone. The weather was beautiful, and it was a beautiful place. Recently I’ve been seeing a therapist about my faith crisis and working through many of the tough emotional details that I’ve had left over. As I sat pondering the discussion I had with the therapist in our latest session — an immense feeling of calm, joy and peace washed over me. I have begun to let go of the many things that hurt during this process. It was as beautiful and real to me — as real as many other spiritual experiences I’ve had in my lifetime as a believing Mormon.

Here I am

And so here I am — having emerged out of the tunnel and out of the closet. Perhaps certain elements of my worldview are still tender — like the mortar of bricks still drying. But all in all, I see this new house — it definitely involves a lot less cognitive dissonance than the old one. Sure — there are many questions unanswered — is there an afterlife? Where do we go? Is there really a god — a majestic creator of the universe? Does life have an objective purpose or do we project that need for a purpose onto it? Did God create man in his own image — or man create God in his own image?

These are beautiful and profound questions — I don’t pretend to have accurate answers to them. The beauty of being an agnostic is the ability to acknowledge what one actually does and doesn’t know in full intellectual honesty — as well as marvel at the awe and profundity of these questions.

I finish with a quote from Charles Darwin —

“There is grandeur in this view of life”

Here I stand — in my new happy place. It’s working for me. And life has sweet joy within it once more. Thank you to everyone who helped to make this return of joy possible, I love and appreciate your support.

Shawn 09-12-2015

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