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.
The Happiness Detective
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