Wednesday, March 23, 2011

These are the days of our lives...

Sometimes I forget.  I forget to be present.  I forget to focus on what is going really well in the moment I am in.  Over the years, I have built up a kind of savings account, a vault where I stockpile most of my joy for that proverbial rainy day, and I allow myself to make withdrawals from it only during the big events of my life that I feel merit celebration.

It's true that I have lived most of my life in anticipation of what I call the "Oscar" moments - the moments, professionally or personally, where the most lofty of my dreams are finally made manifest into the delicious reality I have always craved.  A person can miss a lot of life waiting for those big events to occur.  I don't think I fully realized until yesterday just how many of my blessings I have missed out on because I was waiting impatiently for a better blessing to happen by.   It can be dreary in that suspended state, all damp and gray; a monotonous match to the relentless rainy season that seems to go on forever in this city, void of the kind of warmth and color that deserve to be relished in life's simple pleasures.

Thankfully, the clouds finally broke yesterday afternoon in Vancouver and they gave way to an exuberant sun!  In celebration of the first signs of Spring, I took my little boys for an outing to the park around the corner.  Maxie is walking, though not on his own yet, so I have always taken the stroller to transport him while Zach skips along beside us.  But yesterday, I left the stroller at home and the three of us walked together hand in hand, Max grasping my finger on one side while holding Zach's little hand in the other.   As I bent down to see how Max was enjoying his first big boy excursion, my cheek brushed his soft curls, all wild with ringlets, and I could feel the excited shriek of his giggles hit the warm air in front of us even before I caught his gaze and could see the rapture so apparent in his face.  He was utterly delighted to be in this spontaneous adventure with us, this milestone of taking his first steps to the park.

And for just a moment I thought to myself, "Someday these boys will be in elementary school, then the teenage years will hit and one day not so far away from today, they will be grown men.  Yet here we are walking in the sunshine."  I was bent down to be as close to their peals of laughter as possible, to be as close to their impossibly young years as I could get.  And I understood in that instant that it was every bit an Oscar moment as anything I had ever imagined in my wildest dreams.  And my inner wisdom called to me a reminder in the form of a banner streaming through the clear blue skies of my incrementally liberated mind: "I am living it.  Right here.  Right now.  I am living my dreams."

The park was fabulous and later, after a spaghetti dinner whipped up by Bryce, our fab foursome danced around the dining room to the musical stylings of Eddie Money.  We've got two tickets to paradise.  Kids travel for free.  No need to pack our bags.  We've already arrived.

I just need to remember not to forget.

Thank you for joining me in my quest for bliss.  I hope that wherever you are this finds you on the sunny side of the street...

Your pal,

The Happiness Detective

Two Tickets To Paradise
Got a surprise especially for you,
Something that both of us have always wanted to do.
We've waited so long, waited so long.
We've waited so long, waited so long.

I'm gonna take you on a trip so far from here,
I've got two tickets in my pocket, now baby, we're gonna disappear.
We've waited so long, waited so long.
We've waited so long, waited so long.

I've got two tickets to paradise,
Won't you pack your bags, we'll leave tonight,
I've got two tickets to paradise,
I've got two tickets to paradise.


I'm gonna take you on a trip so far from here,
I've got two tickets in my pocket, now baby, we're gonna disappear.
We've waited so long, waited so long.
We've waited so long, waited so long.

I've got two tickets to paradise,
Won't you pack your bags, we'll leave tonight,
I've got two tickets to paradise,
I've got two tickets to paradise.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Atheist Me - Day 7 (My Findings)

Well this has been an interesting week... 

When I originally began this experiment, it was to see if I could let go of my notion that a spiritual entity of some kind had more to do with my circumstances than I did and was thus keeping me from my good.  Whether it was due to the fact that I simply hadn't come into alignment with this entity or whether it didn't give a rat's ass about my hopes and dreams, I was feeling unsettled and left out of the equation of my own life.  And I wondered if shaking up my belief system somewhat would help me arrive to the place of inner peace I had been seeking. 

It was a novel idea for me to consider looking at my life through the eyes of an atheist because, as a spiritual person, I simply didn't think that being an atheist was an option that was available to me.  I mean who am I if I am not neglected by Life?  This theory fit perfectly into the belief system that I was just one of the unlucky ones that the great divine chose not to favor.  But after this experiment, I can see the value in reconsidering this way of thinking.  It has overstayed its welcome and has haunted my steps for far too long.

I liken this week to that moment when a toddler, who has been throwing an extra long temper tantrum, looks up to realize that there is no parent observing the behavior.  That realization is enough to make the kid give up the kicking and screaming in favor of a more rational demeanor.  In taking this week to explore atheism, I feel like I've taken a break from my kicking and screaming long enough to discover that no one has been watching me throw this decades-long fit in the first place.

When I was a kid (maybe 8 or 9 years old), I went to the Highway Tabernacle on the bus every Sunday.  I tried really hard to believe in what they taught me about Jesus and God, the devil and heaven.  In looking back however, I can see that it didn't really ring true for me then.  I went because it was expected of me, because I was lonely (my Mom worked all the time) and because I liked the company.  It was also a break from the relentless bullying I experienced fairly regularly at school.  After all, people are well behaved in their Sunday best.  But one evening, as we were all being transported to a late service, a couple of older kids were taunting me at the back of the bus, just out of the driver's eyesight.  They were pretty mean spirited about it and everyone around me was laughing and snickering at my expense.  I kept calling out to the driver from the back of the bus to come to my aid (even as a little kid, I knew this kind of treatment was incredibly unjust) but no assistance was forthcoming.  I assumed it was because he couldn't hear me, so I got out of my seat and walked the long, intimidating aisle towards the front so that I could speak directly to the driver in order for my case to be heard.  When I arrived at the front of the bus, the driver pulled over in exasperation, grabbed me by the scruff of my collar and pushed me all the way back down the aisle, trying to stuff me into any sliver of unoccupied bench he could find along the way.

I was a portly young lass back then and there just wasn't any room in this crowded bus away from the bullies to squeeze me in.  Finally, he found a spot a couple seats ahead of my tormentors and that is where he unceremoniously dumped me.  This was his solution - to push me around without allowing me a say in the matter and to insist that I just sit down and bear it.  All the other kids around me were silently reveling in a kind of delicious shock because they had just escaped unscathed in this incident and were obviously not going to be reprimanded for their shitty behavior.  I was mortified.  I felt neglected and betrayed.  I had reached out for guidance and I was not getting any. 

And when it comes to God/Spirit/The Universe, not a lot has changed from my perspective.  It still feels as if I am not being heard.  Even last night before going to bed, I asked for a "sign" that would compel me to write in this blog today that I am a believer in the existence of a great Spiritual Presence.  I asked to be shown in my dream something that would give me cause to reconsider the skeptical road I am about to head down - the road in which I will seek evidence to justify the validity of extraordinary claims rather than continue to proceed in this reluctant and foggy faith of mine, wanting to be a believer.
But nothing came to me in my dreams.  No sign, no angels, no indication that the atheism joke is on me. 

It seems at end of the day, that there just isn't a God who is listening.

So what are my findings?  Well, I have found in this last week that I am not alone in my journey.  I closed the door on Spirit and found a whole community of exquisite human beings, each walking their own path, some who lent me a hand while I walked in mine.    I found information, knowledge and most of all gratitude for what I have.  And this thanksgiving came to me as a result of the mental space I cleared up which was previously occupied during my own personal pity party as I sparred off with God.

Life is not always easy.  And it isn't always fair.  So it's important to find something to lean on to help make sense of it all.   For some, that's where science comes into play; for others, faith.  If believing in God provides a person the support they need in order to enjoy life then I say fill your Steve Maddens.  But if the relationship with this entity is cumbersome beyond "belief" then there comes a time to change one's footwear.

There are so many things in life I cannot change.  But I can change my socks and I can change my shoes.  And then I can walk a mile in them, with purpose and with grace.  And maybe even a healthy dose of faith.  However, the faith I have been calling forth must be placed first and foremost in the lady who lives in my skin.  Because the bottom line is that it doesn't matter who or what I believe in if I cannot believe in myself.

After the bus incident, where the bullies got the better of me, I stopped going to the Highway Tabernacle for a while.  Then, some months later, I heard through the grapevine that the church was putting on a Christmas pageant and they were looking for youngsters to fill the main roles.  This, of course, was where I knew I fit in.  The acting bug had already bitten and, while I felt inadequate in many ways, performing was not one of them.  Expressing myself artistically as a kid was where I knew my place to be.  My worth in that regard was determined by no one else but me.   So I dusted myself off and like a mousy bespectacled wallflower in a 1930s movie who plucks her thick brows and returns a sudden threat to an unsuspecting brethren, I sauntered my chubby ass into those auditions with the confidence of a lion.  Surrounded by my previous bullies and by much prettier girls, I was nevertheless prepared and keen to nail the material for the only female role in this surprisingly progressive piece of church theatre.  I took a deep breath, recited my lines when it was my turn, as did everyone else, and then we waited with bated breath to see who would get the lead role.  To the shock and dismay of the other kids who had been so mean to me on the bus, the coveted role of Smurfette in the Highway Tabernacle Smurfy Christmas play was mine! Those little bitches didn't even see me coming.  (Which was astonishing given that I was wearing a pair of bright pink parachute pants with a cummerbund style waistband.)

All joking aside (yes I did rock that effing joint as Smurfette), I think that my greatest conclusion from this past week is that the time has come to put away childish things (old wounds, hurts and resentments).  It's time to adopt in their place a new belief system, one in which I call the shots but also one in which I remain blissfully open - to myself, my abilities, my goals and even to those things I do not understand.  I am willing to be much more discerning about my beliefs but I am not willing to close the door on something spectacular, should that something choose to reveal itself to me.  

Yes Virginia, I want to believe in magic.  But if such a thing doesn't exist in the Spirit realm, and if I am the only one in control of my life's course, then that's not such a bad thing either.  As someone commented on an earlier post,
"...besides, if it's all you, isn't that magic enough?  I'd say." 

I think the trick for me is to find the magic that exists within and believe in that.  To reach a definitive understanding of everything else is too big a task for a seven day experiment.  So I will lean into these new philosophies and cut myself some slack as I quench my thirst for knowledge on personal truths that may take a life time to uncover.

And I will take what I've learned this week to help me stay present so that I may enjoy the ride along the way.

Thank you so much for joining me in this process and in my quest for bliss.  It means the world to me that you are here.

With love and gratitude...

Your pal,

The Happiness Detective

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Atheist Me - Day 6

Toward the home stretch of my week-long Atheist Experiment, I received an email from a Christian member of my family and the text in the subject line of the email stated, "I Believe!".   The email contained a link to a video about the beauty of our planet and our life as its inhabitants.   The video was accompanied by a lovely piece of music throughout and the intention of the lyrics was to correlate the wonder and majesty of our world to the existence of God.  I watched the piece through to the end and found myself quite moved by it but not because it had convinced me that God was responsible for any of the extraordinary natural and human occurrences that the video had highlighted.

I was moved because the darling lady who sent me this link also included the following note:
"Hi --thought this was extra special--maybe it will shed a glimmer of hope on your search!!--Blessings..."

She had obviously been reading this blog about my decision to explore a life without God/Spirit/The Universe and had wanted to share something with me that brings a tremendous sense of comfort and strength to her.   And the gesture meant the world to me.  You see, I know this lovely lady to be a deeply religious person who has an entirely opposing perspective on faith than I do.   And yet, I also know that this message was not coming from a place of "believe what I believe or you're an idiot."  It was coming from a place of genuinely wanting for me the kind of inner peace that Christianity brings to her.  And that is why I was so appreciative of it.  Because she sent it to me with the very kindest and the most genuine of intentions for my happiness.

And that is why I love people.  I really do.  I have received so much support from folks who have read this blog - atheist, religious and spiritual alike.  Not a single one of them has judged me or indicated to me that I was going to hell in a hand basket as a result of questioning God's existence.  Nor have the atheists suggested that it was about time I came to the conclusions that are more in keeping with their view of things.  There has only been a profoundly moving gesture of camaraderie, a reaching out and a show of support for my experiment.

It is also my opinion that those of my religious and/or spiritual family and friends who have not yet commented on this blog series (the ones that I hold dear to my heart and who hold me in the same stead), are likely praying for me right now to find the kind of relationship with God that they have.  And I could not be more grateful for their prayers as well.  Because although I am questioning if there is even a God on the other end who is listening to these prayers, the act of consulting with this higher power on my behalf moves me to my core.  And that is also why I love people.

I am approaching the end of this brief experiment and I am leaning towards an understanding of my world that I have never previously considered.  I will be wrapping up this week-long sojourn in the morning and I will be posting my findings in tomorrow's blog.   However, what I have found in Day 6 is the desire to say a simple thank you.

Thank you to the lovely people who are reading this blog and who are wishing for my happiness, regardless of where we might stand on the issue at hand.

Community, family and love.  I feel it in spades.  And for that, I could not be more grateful.

Thank you so much for joining me on this journey of discovery and in my quest for bliss.

Your Pal,

The Happiness Detective

Friday, March 18, 2011

Atheist Me - Day 5

A late post today.  It's Friday, after all, and even we experimental atheists TGIF-it in this life, don't we?

On Day 5 of my experiment, I found out that the commercial I was shortlisted for decided not to cast me.  Upon hearing the news, I was initially really irritated and disappointed.  Given the fact that we are 3 1/2 months into the year, it would be really great if I could book something for 2011 already.  But in the midst of my frustration, I remembered that this is just how it goes sometimes.  There are things that are out of my control.  There was no reason to take it personally because there is "no one" or "no thing" out there deciding that life is supposed to be difficult for me.  There is also no force outside of me, that I cannot seem to align with, keeping me from my good.  The fact that I didn't get the commercial just boiled down to something that happened in my life's experience that was beyond my control.  And this perspective helped me to let go of the crappy mood that was threatening to ruin my day.

Then something really cool happened.   After a somewhat antsy wait on my part to hear the voice demos I had recorded three weeks ago, I opened my email to discover a rough cut waiting for me!  I'd been really nervous about the whole thing because I'm at the very beginning of my voice career.  A lot rides on a voice reel, particularly as I am wanting to carve out a healthy niche for myself as a voice actor in order to side step the whole, "Hmmm...  She looks too much like my second grade teacher's uncle's cousin's cat, Methesuba, and unfortunately I'm allergic to cats so we're going to have to go another way..." argument for not picking me as the actor they cast on camera.  (When you audition for a voice project, it doesn't matter what you look like.  It only matters how you sound.)   I want to be able to earn a living in this part of my field and I was worried that I wouldn't have enough variety for my voice reel and that the man who runs the studio where I recorded it wouldn't have enough material to work with from my session.   However, when I checked my email, after getting the news that the commercial hadn't gone my way, I was delighted to discover some incredibly encouraging feedback from the tech.  He felt that we actually had too much solid material to work with, that we ultimately had to make some serious cuts to the reel because it was too long and he was stuck as to which voices to drop.  He wrote, "I don't want to leave any great voices on the cutting room floor.  You have a lot of great voices here, you don't have to worry about anything..."

Now, I could have shrugged this off by choosing to focus on the thing that hadn't gone my way that day.  However, I chose to pick the joyful stuff that was happening and simply focused on that instead.  For the first time in a long time, I was able to manage my thoughts.  As a result, I was able to appreciate this feedback because of my decision to eliminate the spiritual entity from the equation, and thus the resentment and anger that something "out there" was making life hard for me.  I chose not to be so pissy about something I couldn't control and rather I found the joy in the thing I could control.  It made for a happy side effect to the whole atheism experiment.

Now I will choose to eat some home made rice pudding.  For I have decreed it.

Wishing a happy Friday to you and yours!

Thank you for joining me in my quest for bliss.

Your pal,

The Happiness Detective

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Atheist Me - Day 4

"You need someone to take care of you.  Everybody does."
-  Jamie Randall, "Love and Other Drugs"

One of the reasons I'd never considered becoming an atheist before this week's experiment is because then I would have to cut ties with my Mom, forever.  If there is no God or no Spiritual Entity of any kind, then it would have to follow by logic that there is also no afterlife.  And if there is no afterlife, then I would never have the chance to see my Mom again.  That is a remaining point of resistance for me in accepting atheism in its entirety.

What I understand from some of my atheist friends is that it isn't that they necessarily disbelieve in a supernatural entity.  They simply require evidence to support the extraordinary claims that such an entity exists.   And in the absence of that evidence, there is no reason to believe in said entity.  So since there is no measure of proof that can be supplied to support the existence of the great beyond, it is logical to come to the conclusion that there simply isn't one.

Yet it also makes sense to me that sometimes, some things cannot be explained.

I remember many years ago, about three weeks or so after my Mom died, I had cocooned myself into isolation in my apartment which I felt compelled to do in order to maintain any semblance of sanity in my new gut-wrenching reality without her.  I was sitting alone in my living room somewhat zoned out in a kind of thick silence not knowing really what to do with myself.   And, suddenly, I heard my Mom's voice say my name so clearly, so audibly to my left that I actually turned my head to see if she was standing there.  She was not, of course.  She was dead.
But I heard her.  Yet, I have no evidence to support this.  No recording of her voice, no measurement of additional energy circulating in the room, no charts, no tables.  Nothing.  Even still, I believe I heard her speak to me nevertheless.

Around the same time, I flew back to Calgary to tend to some issues regarding the guardianship of my then teenage sister.   I decided to see a medium in the hopes of getting some indication that my Mom hadn't completely left my experience; that she was still around me somehow.  At the time, I was dealing with a huge swirling vortex of monumentally stressful circumstances having to do with settling my Mom's financial affairs and with the immediate care of my sister.   I felt completely overwhelmed as to how to handle all of it properly and still manage my own grief in the process.  So I was looking for a sign from the medium telling me that I was tending to everything in a way that was acceptable in the least and correctly at best.  As I was driving to my appointment, by myself in the car, I imagined my Mom to be in the passenger seat beside me, still guiding me through the uncertain waters I was facing at the time, before she decided to completely transition to wherever it was she was meant to go.  I remember looking at the empty seat beside me and saying out loud, "Mom, please be at this meeting today.  This is just so much...  I need to know if I'm doing it right.  Please be there Mom.  Please tell me if I'm doing it right."

When I arrived to see the medium, I gave no information away.  Although I was hopeful, I was also skeptical enough to keep my cards close to the chest in order that she might prove to me that she was authentic and could actually commune with the dead.   In the silence that ensued, she told me that there was a woman who had just crossed over and that she was standing right beside me.  The medium told me that this woman loved me very much.  I remained quiet.  Then she asked if my Mom was still living.  I told her that she had just died and then I said nothing else.  The medium was silent for a moment as if she were listening intently to what was being said to her by our ghostly visitor.  Then she smiled at me and said, "Your Mom wants you to know you're doing it right."

I know that Atheist Me would find a way to explain how that could have happened:  My eye must have twitched just when the medium asked me if my Mom was still living; or I had neediness and desperation dripping off me like streams of pungent sweat after a long run.  And I would concede that either of these scenarios might have been so.  But to have mirrored back to me word for word a request I had made of my Mom when I was alone in the car only 5 minutes before...
I don't know.  That's something pretty unexplainable, I think.

So where is my Mom now?  I don't feel her anymore.  At all.  I don't dream about her.  I don't hear her voice to my left.  I don't cry or grieve or imagine that she is majestically sweeping out of her ethereal world into my reality to watch over me, my husband or my children.  Nor do I think we released her Spirit further into her journey in the afterlife when my brother and sister and I scattered her ashes this past Christmas.

I would love to believe that she was there that day, having just returned from a brilliant adventure in Spirit to celebrate with us the experience of letting her go.  But, the thing is, I don't.  What I think is that I released myself that day from another layer of long-held, though subsided grief and from another shackled layer of my own limitations.  There are no scientific measurements to indicate otherwise.

Yet, I think back to those early days after she died.   And I wonder.   And I hope.

And I have to admit that I am still open.  Because some days I think of her and some days I don't.  But in this moment, I am simply not ready to let her go for all of eternity.

That is Day 4.  More questions than answers.  And that's okay with me.

"I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always,
As long as I'm living my Mommy you'll be."
- Robert Munsch

Thank you for joining me in this process and in my quest for bliss.

Your pal,

The Happiness Detective

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Atheist Me - Day 3

A tremendous motivating factor in my experiment of trying to approach my life from an atheist perspective for a week is my less than fulfilling experience with success and how it shows up (or doesn't show up) in my life, and how my relationship with a spiritual entity plays into that.   So it's interesting to note that friends in recent times, and throughout the last year or so, have been encouraging me to change my definition of success.

Until now, I had always been resistant to making that change because I thought if I did so it meant that I would have to settle for less than what I have always dreamed of having in my life.  But one of the benefits of this experiment has been allowing myself to see my success measured out in other forms.  In that regard, I am happy to report that Day 3 was a successful day!  

The thing about Day 3 that I am most pleased about is that I was able to manage my thoughts.   This has always been a monumental challenge for me.  My habitual rejection of present moments has caused me to miss huge chunks of my life.  So yesterday, when my rascally thoughts veered off into the drama-zone, the worry-zone or the project-all-my fears-happening-into-the- future- zone, I simply reminded myself that X, Y or Z wasn't happening now and that this is what, in fact, was happening now:   I am walking with my little boy in the rain.  My big boy is in school.  My husband is at work.  I am shortlisted for a commercial.  I had to repeat this process several times throughout the afternoon, which might sound tedious, but the victory here is how swiftly I was able to take my focus off the unhelpful thoughts in order to put my focus back on what was actually occurring in any of yesterday's given moments.  And as a result, guess who had a fully present and delightful afternoon with her little boy?  Atheist me!

Does this mean I will never let my mind wander again?  No, of course not.  It's essential in my line of work that it does.  I'm a dramatic person and a wandering mind lends itself quite nicely to imagination and storytelling.  But when it comes to the story of my own life, I am realizing that I am no longer writing the script.  I am merely creating the outline.  In pencil.  The outline, so far, consists of all my hopes and dreams for myself.   In looking back at my life, and in properly acknowledging what is happening in the present, I can satisfactorily check off a lot on my outline.  However, there are just so many outside components that I cannot control which come into play and they contribute greatly to whether or not I can check off everything I have on my outline.  So I have to stay flexible in order to keep moving forward in my story.  (If these outside factors didn't exist, I would have $2 million in the bank, my own home, an Oscar, a nice B-cup and legs that go all the way up to here.) 

Now, my spiritual teachings would remind me that one of the "outside components" is the loving, creative force of which I am a part.  And that I am co-creating my life with this loving, creative force in divine right timing.  And my Christian friends and family would say that my life is not my own but rather I am living it according to God's plan for me.   But the thing is, that makes me angry.  I don't like that someone or something else gets to decide how my life gets to go.  It downright infuriates me.  But somehow, in my mind, if I look at the outside components as simple factors that are beyond my control, rather than a force I can't seem to get in alignment with or a God who has already decided for me, then I am not so angry about it.  But I also need to accept that it all might not look exactly as I want it to, when I want it to.

And that has been the purpose of my atheism experiment.  To retrain my mind so that I am able to be grateful for what is instead of railing against what is 24 hours a day.  Does this mean that I will never again go to a Christmas Eve candle light service with my Step-Mom, Sue (also known as my Mommy #2)?  No.  There's a lot of love and celebration of life that happens in those particular services and going to them is one of my favorite ways to celebrate the holidays.  I would have gone with her this past Christmas if it weren't for the fact that my three year-old had a weird bug and was shitting through the eye of a needle for four days.  (Thanks a lot, God. )  
Does it mean that I will never again go to a Centre for Spiritual Living service with my husband or a Centre for Positive Living service with my sister?  Nope.  Because while I am beginning to see that I do not subscribe to the totality of what they teach there, I really enjoy the pep talk aspect that I come away with.  Although I don't go often, I am most grateful for the feeling of love and comfort I experience when I do attend.  One of my favorite creature comforts is the aspect of community I find in the gathering of people who focus on compassion and positivity, even if I am questioning whether or not Spirit needs to play a part in my life as a whole. And I may seek to find that feeling of community in other non-Sunday specific places.

Finally, in the "spirit" of full disclosure, I must admit that last night before going to bed, I had to catch myself when the urge came up within me to connect to God/Spirit/The Universe.  And it made me feel a little bit lonely.  In that respect, it's helpful to remember that this week is an experiment and potentially a pivotal part of my overall process.  It is not about permanently rejecting all notions of everything I have ever thought or believed up until this point in my life.  But it is an opportunity to further come to know my own mind.  To create my own language and to learn how to embody my own definition of happiness.

So the message I read yesterday, painted behind the counter in a quaint little shop in my neighborhood, had very special meaning for me.  Perhaps it was another way to measure my success in all of this - the ability to literally see the writing on the wall.

Thank you so much for joining me in my quest for bliss!   I hope you find yours wherever you may go.

Your pal,

The Happiness Detective

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Atheist Me - Day 2

Well there may not be atheists in fox holes but it seems that being one at my house between the hours of midnight and 6am does not have its privileges.  My youngest elected to take a pass on Sleep 101 through a good chunk of those hours and when we finally caught some shut-eye of the REM variety, it was interrupted by the sounds of my big boy whimpering to advise me that he had peed the bed.  This wouldn't have been so terrible except that he was sleeping in our bed at the time.  He had been quite sick last week and had reverted somewhat in his nocturnal habits.  For the sake of comfort, we let him sleep with us.  This is the second time in three nights he's peed our bed.  So the jig, like Jesus, is up.

I don't even know what that means.  I'm half cut on sleep exhaustion and I'm speaking in tongues.  Maybe this is just one of the unhappy side effects of entertaining atheism.  Though my atheist friends, Peter and Kathryn, would respectfully disagree.  (More on that later.)   And based on everything I've read about Jesus, he sounds like he was a great guy.  And since this week isn't about making light of the religious beliefs of others, sleep deprivation notwithstanding, allow me to chug my coffee, peel the bloodshot web off my retinas and collect my thoughts in a more respectful and cohesive manner...

Okay!  Here we go! Hey gang, Day 2 was absolutely lovely!  Genuinely so.
After going to bed with many questions swimming through my mind, I awoke to a sense of peace.  I got up early with my youngest while my big boy and hubby snoozed.  We had a quiet morning and some snacks while I sipped a piping hot coffee and made some fresh home made muffins to start off the week.  (Yesterday, June Cleaver.  Today, Cruella De Vil.)

I had a callback on Day 2 so Bryce and I juggled taking care of the boys while we each got ready to dive into our respective schedules.  I wasn't spending my morning thinking, "I'm an atheist this week."  Though the thought crossed my mind more than once and I again wondered to myself, "Can I really do this?  Can I let go of the attachment I have to believing in a Spiritual Entity?"  And the truth is, I think I can.

My youngest sister (who is a teenager and a Christian), teased me via text message saying, "Have fun being an atheist!  Congrats on a shitty pessimistic decision."  This made me laugh out loud.  In the ensuing text exchange she, of course, expressed her love and support for me.  That's the thing about my kin.  We're all very different people and the family tree from which we descend extends beyond any kind of recognizable pattern.  The branches go all this way and that.  But we love each other.  Deeply.  Some are Christians, some subscribe to the Science of Mind, some believe in "something" out there and some simply don't believe in anything at all.   But it doesn't stop us from being a family.  There is room for a wide range of beliefs in this group.

I was discussing my sister's comment with my dear friends, Peter and Kathryn, and they felt very strongly that not believing in a God-like force is actually very optimistic because it puts the individual at the wheel and that is a very empowering place to be.  We had an incredibly thought-provoking and enlightening conversation in the afternoon over coffee, while our kids played with stacking pieces and jigsaw puzzles.

We talked about trust and success and how they relate to spirituality.  When I asked Peter from the point of view of a person considering atheism who I can trust if not in God, he said, "You can trust in yourself."  He also advised me not to get so hung up on the things that are beyond my control.  He pointed out that while we can't control everything, we can pursue anything.   And this became a captivating topic in our conversation because what I have been pursuing has been without my definition of success for the latter part of the last decade.   And so they simply encouraged me to choose a different definition of success.  Kathryn sets for herself measurable aspects of success that she can control rather than seeking it in the validation of outside factors, whether those factors be a "God" of some sort, or a person or circumstance.  Because, again, some of these things don't exist (in their opinion) and some are simply beyond our control.

One of my favorite parts of the conversation was discussing how taking action from a place of joy in both life and in work can be a powerfully successful motivating force.  Peter told me that his friend once posed the following query to him, "Who is happier?  The man who has just become a quadriplegic or the new lottery winner?  The answer is, whoever was happier going in."    When joy is at hand, then the creativity-stifling hacksaw that is comparison rarely comes into play.  The fact is, I'm not going to get every role.  And some people have more than others.  But, as Peter put it, "The first thing you can do is choose to stop being angry about it.  And the second thing you can do is to stop looking at your past and seeing only the things that didn't go well.  Start seeing what did go well.  It makes it easier to see what is going really well right now.  And if you are not prepared to be happy now, you won't ever be happy no matter where you are or what you get."

This really resonated with me because I have said, many times, that if I were to buy a house tomorrow but I hadn't changed my mental landscape with regards to pessimism and struggle today then what would really be different for me?  I would be the same me with the same challenges.  I would just have moved them all to a bigger house out in the country.  So there really is a lot to be said for embodying bliss.  

And of course, this comes back to taking responsibility for managing my own thoughts.

This is what I find so fascinating:  There are so many philosophies that my Spiritual teachings and my atheist friends have in common.  It's just that the atheists don't believe that their philosophical standpoints are in any way attached to an outside force.  So the logic is, why get so worked up about "something" selectively supporting or not supporting my efforts, particularly if that something may not exist in the first place?

You know the truth is, I've been in a standoff with God/Spirit/The Universe for so long now that I had to ask myself what I would do if I didn't have God/Spirit/The Universe to kick around anymore.  Who would I blame shit on?  I mean, I've been doing my part.  Where's the reciprocity?!  But the fact is, as one person commented on my blog, sometimes you're up, sometimes you're down.

At the end of the day, what's God got to do with it?

Maybe this week is really about putting my big girl panties on and standing on my own two feet, instead of constantly seeking to be supported by something that I'm really not sure is even there anymore.

So far, Day 2 has taught me to leave my expectations at the door and instead bring my joy to the table.  And that is something I can believe in.

Let's see what I discover on Day 3...

Thank you for joining me in my quest for understanding and in my quest for bliss!

Your pal,

The Happiness Detective

Monday, March 14, 2011

Atheist Me - Day 1

Okay, so my first day of proceeding about my business as if there is no God/Spirit/The Universe and there never has been a God/Spirit/The Universe...

Interesting and weird.  But not in a bad way.

The first thing I noticed the night before my first full day of being an atheist was the feeling of liberation.  The minute I told myself that there is not a God or a Spiritual Entity (which is more in keeping with how I've seen it all these years) the more I was able to say, "Okay, so I was never rejected into the poverty pile where my life is meant to be hard and filled with struggle because there is not a God or Spiritual Entity that exists who rejected me in the first place.  So there is no longer any need to believe that that is my lot in life.  There is no one out there deciding for me when I catch a break and when I don't.  This is all me."

That felt liberating.  Strangely so.  I really had to walk the house with it.  ("Wow.  I don't have to fret about what will work out or what will not?  No "one" and no "thing" are pre-deciding for me?")  Pretty interesting way of looking at things.  There were some goosebumps, some crazy good meatballs (recipe to follow at a later date) and inevitably some questions.

The questions mostly revolved around previously held thought patterns.   Can I really do this?  Can I really think this way?  Can I say goodbye to thirty some odd years of thinking?  Yes.  That's the plan for this week, anyway.
Okay.  Now on with the day.

I got up, wrote, had breakfast, did laundry, played with the kids, went to the gym - basically went about my daily minutia.  I found a few moments of mental stress building about some logistical things before I had to remind myself that there was no need to get so worked up.  No need to fall back into old thinking.  Just move forward.  None of this has been pre-ordained, after all.  Just relax and remember that I can do whatever I set my mind to. (My brain needs constant reminders.  Gah.)

A couple habitual things happened which I had to switch up.  For example, when I was driving to the gym, I had a Reverend Michael Beckwith CD playing in the car, which I have always loved to listen to for both the message and the music.  But today I turned it off.  Because listening to a Reverend preach on a Sunday morning is not in keeping with being an atheist for a week.  And that is one of the disappointing aspects about this experiment.  The giving up factor.  Letting go of the lovely things I enjoy because they have a form of Spirituality attached to them.

I also found myself on the verge of saying, "Oh, I'll just trust in the Universe" about something I had put effort into and hoped would work out in my favor.  But the Atheist Me gently tapped me on the shoulder and whispered in my ear, "NaGa-Da, lady.  We don't put our wishes out there anymore.  We don't believe in that stuff right now, remember?"
(Of course there was no imaginary atheist tapping me gently on the shoulder, whispering softly in my ear.  Because that would be the supernatural. The Great Gazoo.  And in practicing this mindset, I have to completely believe that I am all there is.  That will take some work.  I am quite fond of the Great Gazoo and I will miss his ass this week.)

I also had a conversation with my sister about a new book by Robert Kiyosaki in which he talks about an individual raising his/her level of financial IQ.  In it, he advises people to take 30% of their income and set it aside for investing.  And if you can't afford 30% of your income for this purpose, according to Mr. Kiyosaki, you just need to find a way to earn more money.  Well, I had instant resistance to this idea.  I told my sister that not everyone could just go out, snap their fingers and earn more money.  "This is an expensive place to live.   Have you seen the gas prices out here?  Food prices are about to go up 7% in this province.  Coffee prices have already risen.  You have to have a friggon six figure income to afford a townhouse an hour outside of the city.  Some people already have two or three jobs just to make ends meet."  And so on and so forth.    I stopped myself in the midst of this litany of evidential burden to remind myself that in succumbing to this line of thinking I was operating from the old belief that my destiny with struggle had been pre-ordained by a God who favored some and not others, or by a Spiritual Entity with which I had not yet come into alignment, and as a result my good was being kept from me because I had never adequately raised my vibration in order to collect it.  But this week is not about that.  This week is about proceeding with the mentality that none of that has actually happened because those forces don't exist.

I know I'm repeating myself here but that is part of the process for me.  I need to repeat to myself over and over again that this is a fresh, clean slate and that I am more than capable of achieving my goals myself.  There is simply no one else tripping me up.

But I did find myself wondering, what about the magic?  If I do go about my business with the intention of making a success of myself and, if in fact I'm the only one responsible for creating my success, if it's all me, and therefore all the outcome will occur as a result of my efforts alone, where is there room in that equation for the magic to happen?
Do atheists believe in magic?

As we hit the hay for the night, my mind was spinning a little and I launched a handful of other questions on the subject at my husband to see what his perspective on this might be:
"Can I read "Choosing Easy World" before bed (it's too Spiritual, right)?
Who do I say Thank You to for the day?
So much of my thinking is oriented to the Spiritual Entity side of things.  If I don't think about that, what the heck do I think again?"

My husband is a spiritual kinda guy.  But at bedtime, he's a tired kinda guy and a man of few words.  So in support of my atheism experiment, he turned out the light and replied, "No. No one. Think good thoughts.  Good night."

And that was Day 1.  Many questions, many reminders, and many opportunities to stretch my mind.

We'll see what happens on Day 2...

Thank you for joining me in my quest for bliss.

Your pal,

The Happiness Detective

Sunday, March 13, 2011

All we are saying is "Give Atheism A Chance"

I received a message from a member of my family who had read this post about my ever in limbo relationship with God/Spirit/The Universe (herein referred to as God).  This fellow is an atheist and he wrote to me the following opinions about religion and God:

"... supernatural - there's *never* been *any* evidence for it. This is a cold hard fact. And none appears to be forthcoming. Being in thrall to it will only leave you vulnerable to the manipulations of various priesthoods. Remember it was priests, not gods, who wrote the edicts you mention."

I have heard this logic before.  Many times.  And I replied to him by offering my respect for his beliefs while stating that, for me, atheism could never be enough because it just feels too lonely and that not having a higher power to turn to makes me feel completely alone.  

And then a funny thing happened.  It occurred to me that ever since I can remember, I have felt alone seeking to have a relationship with this higher power.  Since the age of about four, I have been aware that there are those who have and those who have not.  There are those who have two parents, food to eat, a secure home, financial prosperity and a general sense of safety and being cared for.  I've always thought that God must have really been looking out for those kids.  Because not all of us consistently had these necessary basics of a stable, happy early life.  

Now, I'm not going to get on my soap box here and turn this into a big sob-fest about all I believe was missing in my life when I was a kid.  But what I realized last night upon reading my relative's comments is what is currently missing in my life as an adult:  A sense of security, confidence, inner peace and the ability to believe in myself.  All of these qualities have been underdeveloped or underutilized throughout my adult years while instead, I have devoted a sizable amount of energy to either being angry at God for forsaking me all these years, or to constantly begging and pleading for God to show up in my life.

I mean there are times I have railed against the Almighty for crimes against humanity and I have wept and sobbed at other times for the seeming absence of Him in my experience.  I've been like a needy girlfriend who calls ten times in as many minutes in a fury wondering why the hell He isn't taking my calls.  Is He seeing someone else?  What's wrong with me?  Am I not good enough for Him?  If this were happening to me in a real relationship, I might well give my head a shake and come to the conclusion that He's just not that into me. 

And so this got me to thinking - what if it isn't a matter of whether or not God prefers to shine His/Her/Its light on some while casting shadow on others, as I've always thought?  What if the feeling of God's absence I've carried around in my life simply means that God doesn't exist in the first place?

Now, I don't mean to offend anyone here.  I am not spit-balling to come up with a theory that then must be applied to the masses.  There are people in my life who thrive in their relationship with God and I don't for a minute mean to suggest that anything I discover for myself is meant to undermine their beliefs.  They are so certain in their faith and so strengthened by it that nothing I might deduce for myself would ever take away from that certainty for them, nor would I want it to.

But I have never had that certainty.  I've mostly always had neediness, frustration and envy at observing how God bestows ease and success upon the already bountiful table of others while leaving the scraps of struggle and failure at mine.  

So I'm going to do a little experiment:  God/Spirit/The Universe and I are going to take a little break.  For one week, I am going to wake up every day and take the mindset that God doesn't exist.  That we are all there is.  That, as human beings, we are capable exactly as we are and that what we don't know how to do we can learn.  And that there is no outside force with which we must come into alignment in order to achieve our goals.  I will look back at my past not wishing it had been any different as a result of not being one of God's chosen few but instead, I will simply see my past as a series of events and circumstances that occurred previously (and not in this moment) and leave it at that.   It has nothing to do with who I am as a person. 

My intention is not to behave like a spoiled child and insist that if God exists, that He give me my way already dammit.   The signs that I have been seeking are more to do with showing me that I'm not alone and that all my efforts are supported.  And yes I would love to have the career of my dreams show up after all these years, later today after lunch (just to give me a little time to put my eyebrows on in preparation for its arrival).  And yes I would like the money, the house and an easy-bake oven in every room.  Miniature homemade cakes are delicious and important to me.  But if I had all those things, would that prove to me that God exists?  Because there are still people who are right now dealing with the aftermath of a devastating earthquake.  There are people across the globe who are starving due to poverty.  Hell, there are people ten minutes from my doorstep who are starving due to poverty.  If all my dreams came true right now, I assume I would have a sense of inner peace knowing that I am taken care of but would it prove to me that God exists?  Or would it just prove that God finally decided to shine His light on me while turning His back on others?  Would it simply mean that for once, I was one of the favorite of His children or would it mean nothing other than that I finally caught a few lucky breaks?

I know that life is what you make of it.  I have been trying very hard to make something of my professional life for a very long time.  And for that length of time, I have been carrying around a debilitating mental block: That I'm not good enough to have what I want.  I can provide years' worth of evidence to support that mindset.  So this experiment is designed to see if by removing, what in my perception, is one of the main pieces of evidence which supports that theory (that God/Spirit/The Universe doesn't have my back) and by replacing it with an element I had not previously considered (that God/Spirit/The Universe never rejected me because God/Spirit/The Universe simply doesn't exist) if that will help me to stop predetermining my failure before every attempt at success. 

It will be interesting to see if I am able to re-frame my past and finally find a way to let it go so that I can thrive in my present.  I'm going to see if by changing my viewpoint on God's existence if I can learn to have the same faith in myself that those I love have in their God.  

Will the experiment need to take longer than a week in order to gather more data?  Will I simply need this time in order to change my self-imposed limitations and will I then in fact come to a deeper understanding of what God can mean in my life?

Liberation?  Clarity?  Confidence? Gratitude?  The ability to actually be more present in the moment?   Will any of these things come more readily to me as a result of this experiment?  And if I do ultimately experience these things as a result of the experiment, does it really matter if God is a part of the process as long as I am able to finally embody these qualities to begin with?  I don't know.
I do know, however, that I'm tired of being in limbo land.  It no longer makes sense for me to let go and let God.  So let's see if my mental landscape about cause and effect, and my life in general, become any different if I simply choose to let go of God...

And as my relative also stated, "...the natural universe is so unbelievably beautiful on its own."

So let's see if this beauty is enough for me.

Day one begins now.  I will report back daily.

Thank you for joining me in my quest for understanding and in my continued quest for bliss.

Your pal,

The Happiness Detective

Friday, March 11, 2011


It's common knowledge among my family and friends that I have long been questioning my understanding of God.  There are times I honestly don't know who God is to me and then there are times I actually wonder if God exists at all.  Throughout my life, in order to help my mind wrap itself around the sheer awesomeness of the concept, I have even changed the name of this deity to a more non-denominational, mellow, all encompassing loving entity: "Spirit", "The Universe", "The Great Divine", "The Guy Who Demos Those Chimichangas At The Downtown Costco".

And yet I still have not been able to nail it down - what the heck makes sense to me.  I marvel at my family members who are Christians because they are so certain of their relationship with the big He.  I am also intrigued by those of my friends who are oriented to the more atheist side of things.  They believe that this is all there is, we are all there is, there is nothing "out there" helping us and therefore there is nothing within us connected to that outer divine force because it simply doesn't exist.

Neither of those concepts resonates with me fully.  While I find that there are deeply beautiful and monumentally helpful scriptures in the bible, I also find there are absurd edicts therein which either profoundly inhibit the self worth of certain groups of people (people I happen to love) or they otherwise attempt to govern areas of our lives which seem trivial and unworthy of such divine intervention in the first place.  (Is it really an abomination if I eat shrimp or wear a poly-cotton blend?)
On the other hand, when I think about my life without a greater power to support me, I feel utterly alone.  I become the very definition of that spec of dust on the lonely planet.  And so, I continue to search for my connection to God, whoever the heck He, or She or It might be.

Over the years, I have explored the Law Of Attraction, The Secret and the Centre For Spiritual Living.  And, like the bible, while I find there are so many helpful philosophies within each of these movements, there are also those that make zero sense to me.  For example, according to the Law of Attraction, we genuinely attract each and every experience to us based on our vibration.  So then am I to understand that very small children who are beaten and abused have endured this traumatic circumstance because they attracted it to themselves?  Or that all those people who died in the tsunami of 2004 were vibrating sudden death by drowning all at the same time?  I don't think so. 

And so the totality of acceptance of yet another Spiritual teaching bites the dust.  And that is a very isolating place to be.  If I don't know who or what to believe in, then to whom do I pray?  To whom do I give thanks?  To whom do I say, "Listen, I don't know what the hell I'm doing anymore and everything I've tried works sparingly at best or not at all in the long run.  Can you throw me a friggon bone here?"  I've gotten down on my knees to ask anyone who will listen if they could give me a sign.  And sometimes I do receive a meaningful message which has a temporary salving effect on the state of my dilemma but then I turn around the next day to find that I am still immersed in envy over the prosperity or sheer damn good luck of others.

If I had my perfect daily salvation it would be to believe that Life always supports me in all my endeavors and that all the effort I put out there is transformed into evidence that I am taken care of.   And that when I set a goal, I am meant to achieve it.  Period. And if there were any obstacles in the process, they might simply be considered a temporary bump in the road instead of an indication that this is how the road will always be.

When I think about how God might be trying to reach me specifically, I must acknowledge that I find great spiritual guidance from Gina Nicolaas at Prashanti in North Vancouver.  Her bio states, "She is an Ordained Minister, Reiki Master and Holistic Body Massage Practitioner."  A person can walk into her reiki room and immediately have the essence of their life experience assessed by her, without a word of dialogue having passed between the two.  She has the uncanny ability to choose the most meaningful of the scriptures, mix them with the most profoundly wise of Eastern teachings and present them in a loving, healing way so that you feel as if you're hearing the voice of God via the soothing tones of an angel.   

I have found great comfort in those walls.  And I have left them every single time feeling as if God has actually been walking beside me all along.  I just find that I still have a challenging time implementing that wisdom in the trials and tribulations of my daily life.   But then, isn't that a fairly universal part of walking the Spiritual path?  Don't we all - Christian, Buddhist, Agnostic, and Atheist alike - struggle at times to apply the corresponding tenets of our beliefs to our daily lives?

"It's not necessary for you to exacerbate your contrast with struggle in order to get it into a higher place. It is not necessary to suffer in order to give birth to desire. But when you have suffered and you have given birth to desire, so what? You've got a desire. Turn your attention to the desire. Think about where you're going and never mind where you've been. Don't spend any more time justifying any of that stuff." 

If I could wave my magic wand, I would make it so.  I would open up the cumbersome sack of struggles that I have been lugging around with me all these years - the one that's jam-packed with the disappointments and doubts, the strife and frustrations - and I would take all this lingering evidence which I have always allowed to prove to me that I am meant to fail, and I would dump it all into a big bonfire.  Then I would watch the flames snap it all up, crackling and spitting, as they transitioned the pieces of my disappointment into a thick smoke, wafting the remnants of my relentlessly limiting beliefs to the higher power I have been searching for all my life. 
And I would say, "Please take this burden from me.  It is too heavy.  And I cannot bear to carry it anymore."

Then I would take a stick and carefully peel away the end of it, carving it to a carefully crafted instrument.  I would then take a big fat bag of marshmallows, poke one on the end of the stick and, standing before the flames,  I would proceed to roast the most delicious marshmallow of all time.  And it wouldn't matter to me how long it took to consummate, as long as I could see the fruits of my labor becoming all that I have ever envisioned them to be in the process. 

As long as I could see.

And this is what it comes down to for me in my quest for a better understanding of and with my God.   I am tired of seeing what I desire only in my mind's eye.  I want to see the evidence of it in my life.   If You are here, show me no longer by only a whisper of confirmation but by the unequivocal validation I have so long been seeking.

This is where the rubber meets the road.  If You want me to believe.  Then show me that You exist.

Your pal,
The Happiness Detective