Welcome to My Continuing Online Journey!

Perhaps you've read my book by now, or maybe you've only heard of it and were curious about me, or maybe you're even just surfing the web and happened on one of my posts, but please take your time and wander around. I've got enough to say, I'll be posting for some years yet! Lots of resources, personal entries, and discussion to be had; please contribute (respectfully) to it without fear of being lambasted. (Read: all comments will be moderated for relevance and basic appropriateness.) Finally, if you are here because you have heard my story or one like it and are willing to lend your support to us indoctrinated folk entering the real world, Thank You. With love, Regina

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

I'm (Officially) an Ex-Mormon, by Regina Samuelson...Coming Soon!

Hello, all! I've been away for a while now, primarily because I'm hard at work on a follow-up to I'm (No Longer) a Mormon, tentatively entitled I'm (Officially) a Ex-Mormon! I just finished a section in it last night that references a much-discussed illustration done by my husband, mentioned back in book 1, and I wanted to share it with all of you.

Please keep in mind, this was done during sacrament meeting nearly 3 years ago...when we were BOTH True-Believing Mormons. It's very telling: even then we were thinking. REALLY thinking.

Enjoy, and please be on the lookout for periodic announcements related to book 2!

Much love,

PS: You'll probably have to click on it to see it properly, and you will also likely note the typed text behind the list on the left. This was done on the back of an old lesson handout! :)

Thursday, October 31, 2013

More from Mr. Birrell

Man, I love this guy. Yes, he'll wax a little philosophic (and a little poetic), but this spoke to my soul, and I wanted to share. Happy Halloween with something COMPLETELY unrelated! ;)

There is an evolution to pecking out of the egg and coming into the light. Imagine the effect on the chick of having something happen that it can hardly comprehend, as cracks in the shell become avenues for the first experience of new light to begin to impose itself upon the old darkness the chick never knew was darkness until experiencing more....it did not know what it did not know; how could it?

Then the pieces slowly fell away, and something strange--a new light--now blinded the chick, yet still it pecked until it could escape that which now is impossible to contain itself, and yet was also so indispensable to developing itself.

Why would the chick, then, curse the shell or shadow that may have held it captive, and necessarily so until that bright day when it was strong enough to escape the shell, dry in the sun, spread its wings, and in the new light consider itself and say.....so, this is me; this is who I am!

Be kind to the darkness then that was your embryonic phase to the person you are now, and would not give up being today; it's OK that we all cursed the darkness at times that held us in until we were ready, like that marvelous scene at the end of the movie--Gravity--to kick off the very suit that felt weightless and saved us in one moment of our lives, and became heavy and would have drown us in another.

In the moment of frustration, while holding her breath, Sandra Bullock's character surely cursed that heavy space suit under water that moments earlier had saved her life in space. And so it is with the journey of life, when one comes to know the earth for the first time...and old skins must be kicked off to survive the rapid change in the landscape of our lives.

And like her character uttered, as she grabbed a hand full of earth as if feeling it for the first time--as if feeling really, fully alive for the first time, the only sentiment left to say; a simple but says-it-all....thank you! I got through all that alive, somehow. All that came apart in my orbit and threatened me could not, in the end, destroy me.

I am OK. Maybe I am not sure where I am in the sometimes disoriented here or now of adjustment and change, but I am not alone! Neither am I unchanged. Neither would I go back into that space again---nor can I, given that the same shrapnel that brought me out remain in that orbit.

And all of this is reason for joy! And no one, no one....will ever understand the journey that got you there or out of there, or the courage it took you to survive that coming apart--borrowing again from the movie Gravity, and the falling to earth that freed you to be OK in a whole new way, landing in an unfamiliar place, and in tact as a much preferred you!

So you broke the Mormon gravity; get your legs under you now and walk with head high, heart full, for both the embryonic confinement of the Mormon experience, and for the personal confidence it took to break free of its gravitational pull....

There is no need to curse the old, any more than the chick needs to curse the shell or the darkness it knew in that place, or the astronaut the factors that forced an unexpected path change from orbiting earth to knowing earth in ways you could not have known, otherwise.

And yes, like in the movie, there are loses along the way, but even those were part of what got you to here when you needed them to be just who they were to keep you moving forward.

Even the darkest echoes from those still in the shell, and who have yet to know that light--let alone that they walk in darkness at noon day--deserve not our cursing, but rather call forth our deepest kindness for what they have yet to experience, until some strange force may begin to act on them--perhaps the shrapnel coming at them from things in their own lives coming apart (as in the movie, given that the actors did not create the problem in the script but were none the less affected by it), and they instinctively begin pecking.....

And cannot stop.....they just cannot stop.....(you know that feeling)...and the new light blinds them, and they initially curse those who brought them to the light (or the light to them)--like someone waking a sleeping man on a dark morning with a bright room light...

In that moment they may exclaim--turn off the light, you are blinding me.....

...from their anger, while covering their eyes, being more comfortable with the darkness they know as light....

...before one is ready to begin their awakening!

[Editorial note: If you've not seen Gravity yet...leave off RIGHT NOW and go see it!]

Where we threaten the Church is that our wisdom points to people in exile being OK in their humanity and divinity, rather than making all that conditioned upon allegiance to external authority and upon a God that is not as accessible as he is perceptual or theoretical in the faith narrative.

God is not a narrative; God is an inner experience that, if transposed to narrative, becomes lost in human limitations of thought and word....God is lost to a world that seeks to name God, rather than just experience it--the God, that is, that lives within, however you explain the God narrative to yourself.

I am always pleased when my friends who have journeyed beyond the walls of Mormonism discover that they are still OK, that there is meaningful life beyond the wall, and that they do not encounter an offended God who whips them with trials until they retreat again behind the wall for institutional forgiveness and personal refuge from his eternal rage.

After all, do not the Gods--as explained by their own inventions--invent humans to meet their needs to be eternally adored and absolutely obeyed?

How little humans change, only how they tell the stories and mythologies of their lives to themselves....of which their perceptual gods are a part....and, truly, a necessary and beneficial part, when well played....

The gods of men are so like that, because men are like that; the only god that can be known by any man is the god he is; thus, god is but a self-perception and projection, except to the one who is convinced of the thoughts of his own mind, and whose mind rules over him because he refuses to examine those thoughts, or empty himself of thoughts about God, so that a better God might meet him in an open inner landscape of possibility!

Man believes the god he has because he believes in the god he is. To the loving, god/reality is experienced and explained in loving ways; their imaginations of God have been captured by grace and love, and they speak of life and God in such adoring and supporting terms.

To the legalistic, god/reality is experienced and explained in those terms; assigned rituals, sacraments, ordinances, and obediences become evidences of God's love for us, and our devotion is reciprocated by attending to such things with something named perfection.

To the authoritarian, god/reality is absolute power; absolute love is surrendered to (and often confused with) absolute human authority; human authority is the institutional God, incarnate--whether by mine own voice or the voice of my servants, it is the same; and servants sitting in seats of power and judgment come to believe their own voice as the same; think church courts, and how these disciplinary courts are named "love" by those who conduct them.

From that power place of taking oneself so seriously/sincerely, men who lead from authority still practice the blood atonement in theory, when they encounter the wicked and wish for their punishment--be they of the wrong sexual orientation, religion, expression, or persuasion, or inclination.....there is always a way for the right(eous)to make the sinner wrong, and exile them when they fall short, as all sinners do!

Don't ask these types to love you unconditionally; they are too busy numbering the hairs that fall from your head, and finding some way to assess all that through some right(eous) precept within their hyper-vigilant minds, as god's self-appointed watchmen and defenders, and such....they are, as I have experienced, the least teachable, because they are too busy measuring where everyone else is (or isn't) right, based on the high standards they know; based on the high standard they think they are; based on their own unquestioned sense of rightness.

The only god we know, then, is the god we are.....if there be an ultimate and infinite presence called God, it would be incomprehensible to the human mind, and a terrible antagonist to the very human-will it created to become, as the Mormon scripture says, its very enemy (the natural man being an enemy to the very God who created that nature). God, I suppose, needed a lover and an enemy in us; how erratic and erotic is such a narrative of God!

And so it seems, as the saying goes, God created man in his image, and then man returned the favor!

Our natures, being God's named enemy, is a frightful construct; you have no power against the all powerful. Even worse, God created an invisible enemy who he cast below to torment us, in order to prove us....because he does not have all the facts.

He can only send the rats to the lab and see how they perform when faced with a human nature he both created and despises, and an enemy he apparently advises (think Job), and all within a saving plan that minimizes the god experience to such mantras as: pay, pray, and obey, rather than trust, love, and seek--as a means of individual expansion, rather than institutional domination. In short, the God experience can never be more than an evolving personal narrative. Some tell that narrative within the framework of a relationship with an institutional church it confuses as God, while others must tell that narrative from a greater distance. Either way, it's all narrative; it's all personal; it's all OK.

The wisdom of healing, and of giving other people permission to be OK being them from this place of exile, is that as they make the exodus, they need not look back and turn to salt. In other words, they need to stop looking at TBMs to make them OK, to give them permission to be OK being them as they exile.

As I stated in this post, there is no TBM who has any way to be OK with the exile of a loved one they had hoped and struggled to prepare for an eternal glory with. Stop asking TBMs to make it OK for you to be you in exile. You ask too much of their mindsets, and you ask for what simply cannot be--unless you are fortunate enough to be loved without conditions by the TBMs in your life--either way, then, you do not need permission to be OK being you in exile from TBMs, for either you already have that permission because they are TBMs who actually can love radically, or you won't ever get it, because they have no way to love that big--because their god and salvation are just too limited.

It is more important to you, now and always, that you love you that BIG. That is your job. That is your job alone, to make certain you are well-loved within. Please know that your journey is not about gaining approval from others, but knowing in ways other cannot access, the greater wisdom that whispers outside the temple walls as well as within, that it is still well with my soul....

No one, no one has your inner spiritual GPS system, because they are not called--if you will--to walk your perfect path in life! They can only project their own "true" onto your path and search.

Oh what we can teach our TBMs if we can be the love to them we so often desire--and even demand--from them. Stop asking people to love you for who you are now; you don't have that right to demand that they love you at all, let alone love you any certain way. Love is always a gift.

So just presence to them a God, spirit, grace, love, whatever language you use, so profound that in time they willingly confront their limited ways of knowing and experiencing. They may have no way to comprehend how any of us could be OK outside the wall. They have no framework from this place of possibility and accessibility to the God we are and know now!

 Just a PS. I actually believe it is the emptying out of the theistic mind, or as faiths call it--to be as a child or the beginner's mind--that is the beginning of experiencing the "surprise" of God, or this idea of God as radical inner experience, not outer theological explanation.

From deep within metaphor, symbolism, and parable, we find within our perceptual language through which the notion of the Divine and Eternal speak to us.

It is like the beautiful symbolism and metaphor of Peter walking on the waves with Christ. Imagine what it took to let go, metaphorically speaking, and trust the inner faith necessary to walk on water, knowing full well the impossibility of such a thing.

Juxtapose that with the boat, in which his fellows both rode and trusted. Such different paths of faith, those are; religion is the boat, while something that allows us to walk on water is a different experience of the inner God that we are. And you cannot access the faith to walk on water if your faith is in boats!

Once accessed, once one realizes the faith to walk away from the boat, because they can, and because doing so brings them to the God of the impossible or the radical inner spiritual life, then what is to become of boat/religion? One becomes an (and in) exile, their relationship with the boat that brought them now forever changed....

The radical experience of God, cannot be known in the possible; it is the impossible God who comes to introduce those emptied out and ready to meet God on God's terms.

The rest are theists, awaiting their salvation on man's terms. They are the boat riders who trust in boats; the rest are water walkers who let go of boats and walk away....

And in the acts of climbing out and letting go, water walkers must unavoidably become boat rockers!

 My imperfections are part of the perfection all things are; I am perfectly experiencing the illusion of imperfection--and it is only an illusion; things are as they are--that is reality. To argue against reality is always a painful experience.

Reality, then, is but imperfection in perfect order of perfection. It is what it is; without judging an experience or thing, it becomes, therefore, nothing to judge or be bothered by, or in other words, nothing--nothingness....and nothingness is perfection in fullness! Nothingness is openness.

Nothingness as openness creates space for gratefulness....or the joy of living without all the illusions or stories that run like TV reruns over and over in our minds, until we see that, they, too, are nothing....

Sonia, what is spirituality, then, if not another name for reality?

What if you looked at the notion of experiencing spirituality as a way of thinking about reality, including, therefore, any notion of what we might experience (and name) as God?

What if God is merely a name given to describe the indescribable, or an attempt by finite human minds to grapple with the idea that something has to be larger than itself? Otherwise, it might have to confess itself as God; and in the very act of determining there must be something larger than itself, it is being that larger-than-self God. God cannot, therefore, be known apart from the mind and body. We are the God we know; the rest is imagination, and that, too is of the mind. There is not reality outside our minds; there is no God outside our thoughts of God. God, then, is also nothingness, and from that place of nothingness comes possibility; God, then, is nothing and everything!

What if God means something beyond the evolving historical arguments of theists, originally formed from once indescribable inner experiences (Saul becoming Paul after unexpectedly experiencing Jesus on the road to Damascus), now distilled into empty (of transforming power) theologies by rote theologians--stuck in the arrogance (and identity) of certainty, whose theologies over time should empty mature believers out of belief--as these theological propositions/dogmas collapse in on themselves, as all dogmas eventually do (how many Mormon doctrines have changed over time that were God's only and unchanging truth at the time they were defined as such--blood atonement, Blacks and priesthood, polygamy etc.).

What a gift eventual doubt and (hopefully) inevitable unbelief become, then, if they empty us out of the human forms of explaining God. The emptying is only opening us wide to the gentle and transformational, mystical and magical forms of experiencing God--radical and unimaginable experiences we are now open to, and which captivate us and steal away our breath, while filling us with endless wonder in terms that cannot be explained, only experienced.

I experienced this today while sitting at Starbucks. I was caught up in the magic of escaping my mind and just being with the most eclectic group of people who all came in together. One sat with me and shared who they were: a support group for recovering addicts. With no mind to judge them, but just an openness to experience them, I sat captivated by their diversity, astonishing diversity that screamed unbelievable beauty to me.

My God, they were so beautiful. I nearly cried, as I looked at these people in their different forms and faces, genders and graciousness. I was overcome by the splendid energy, different personalities, and beautiful ways in which each one was perfect at being just what they are--themselves!

That was a holy moment for me, because I recognized myself in all of them; I was in oneness with the entire scene--and that oneness....became wholeness....which was experienced as holiness....

It was God I was experiencing, or the perfection of all that was happening around me (God being all things in oneness), as I just observed from that inner still and gentle place of love and joy, and it consumed me with gratitude, as I spoke my encouragement and praise for all that these people had experienced and overcome in their tribe of support.

I may have surrendered my former religious mindsets, but I never sacrificed my spiritual sensitivities or deep desires.....oh no, they burn even hotter in me now for others....for closeness...for oneness....with all that is.....

And so it is, we need tribes of support. Religion provides that in many ways; exile too often isolates us from one another--so I am glad the exiles gather here. For even the Zebra are wise enough to graze in tribal patterns that make it impossible for the lion to distinguish one from another. And when the bush fire rages they ban together and run into the fire, together.

Yes, some are scarred, but all survive, because they run through the fire--as one, not away from it; they gather and not scatter when the fire rages. So it is in life; the fire that devoured our past faith was necessary for us to experience the new undergrowth; new wine cannot be poured into old bottles. So I say to exiles, come...graze with me....come...run with me....come....know the me you are! Come, dance with my soul....

Such is the spiritual community of oneness, and it has nothing to do with theism, but pragmatism--and instinct.

What if nature is our true scripture, our true order of knowing and teaching? What if man posits his theories, but nature teaches us how to be. If we could empty out of explanations, oh what we would be open to experience....

And that to me explains reality; and from that place, reality is a spiritual experience! And that definition works to keep me out of pain and into joy. Why leave Mormonism from pain, and then stay in that pain? Heal, fellow exiles....

A life once defined by Mormonism is still defined that way, when our minds cannot escape our war with it....no matter how long we have been apart from it!

And that disrupted mind, too--as I see it--is also in the service of the spirituality of reality! For in time the troubled thinker will see that it is the story they have told themselves about Mormonism they are fighting, not Mormonism. Mormonism is just what it is. Either it works for you or it doesn't; either you'll stay or you'll go, or some variation of both.

Either (or any) way Mormonism, too, is nothing when no longer judged! Then gratitude can replace the suffering....and life can move beyond that former school to new possibilities and introduce us to new teachers! What is more spiritual than that reality?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Bishop ***Trigger Warning***

Read this post yesterday, but it has stayed with me. No, this is not the norm, of course, but there is a now-ex'd bishop in our stake that is currently in jail for molesting a few of the young women in his ward, and I think this needs to be addressed openly and regularly until the church adopts additional fail-safes.

There are LOTS of things that need to be addressed openly and regularly, of course, but the psychological damage caused by men like these - and like a member of OUR ward who was JUST arrested for molesting his granddaughter - is absolutely chief on my list.

Please note the trigger warning above. For those of you who have experienced anything like this in any way, you may not wish to read about this woman's experience. For those who haven't, I sincerely feel it's important to understand what can and does happen in private interviews.

Best, 'Gina

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Monday, October 28, 2013

Courtesy of James R. Birrell

While checking in with a few former-member groups on FB, I came across this exquisitely-written assessment of the predicament faced by apostates as they continue to interact with those with whom they once shared a religious belief. Thank you, Mr. James Birrell, for giving me permission to re-post your eloquently-worded thoughts. Without further ado...Mr. Birrell.
"An Iranian student of mine, here at UVU, has been spending time with me sharing about his culture, faith, country, and perceptions of America--which right now is Utah County. He wore a beautiful necklace symbolizing his Zoroastrian faith: the Faravahar. It's beautiful, and I asked if I might have one to wear--if wearing it would not disrespect his faith tradition.

He brought me one last Friday and shared some of the meanings. He said, if you wear this, Iranians and others from the Middle East may come up to you and begin talking with you, because it will change how they see you. I put the necklace on and wore it out of the building. I passed three Middle Eastern men as I did, which is not unusual. What was unusual was that, for the first time in my three years here at UVU, one of them looked at the necklace and said, "hello."

I thought how wearing the Faravahar made me visible to some people, because the symbolism has status; thus, those who wear the symbol are now accorded status. They are no longer invisible. For ten seconds, as I passed that man, I was no longer invisible. For ten seconds I was "real" and "visible" in the perceptual world of a man who otherwise had no reason to see me or accord me status.

Mormonism does not escape that reality. Like any other group, there are symbols we give status to, including membership, level of activity, temple recommend holder, calling, gender, political affiliation, point-of-view, dress, etc. I think more often than not, what we are engaging within the church experience are those symbols: we see each other positionally as Bishop, President, home teacher, etc. We may come to know someone more personally, or visibly, than their place in the order, or how they contribute, hold power, or support us and our families. We may be moved by their knowledge of scripture, frequent testimonies, style of dress, figure or hair, etc. We may even become friends.

We see our perception of them, and according to what symbols we hold as valuable, we give value to them as an expression and affirmation of those symbols. I might give status to the Stake President, for instance, that I don't give to the Ward Librarian. I live in Utah and, while visiting Podunk, Iowa, I see garment lines through a shirt and think, "He is one of us," and accord him status.

We make people who wear the symbols of our faith, i.e., of our sense of what is true, and who is true, right and righteous, and who God surely approves of--because they are like us, etc., one of us, a part of us, real, visible, and approachable.

Without those symbols people are just one of seven billion faces in the sea of humanity that passes us as or almost as invisible, unless someone is attractive, or for some reason, engages us for a moment or lifetime. We size them up, symbolically. We assign status, accordingly.

And for Mormons, what do you do with a so-called apostate? A "doubter" can have status. An inactive member can have status. There is no status for one who intentionally walks away, after having once been enlightened--as the holy Mormon writings say. There is no status, or way to give status from that place that gives status in the first place--belief, acceptance, certainty.

So, those who leave the faith trouble those who stay, because they do not know how to make them visible--that would mean returning them to status somehow; how can the believer do that? Too often when the formerly visible becomes painfully invisible, that which was once so visible becomes inaccessible--and for some even, so lamentable or deplorable, and so painful, that they cannot even be lovable to formerly visible, now exiled one. The once visible becomes--as it were--invisible, as if they were dead, and from that place you can experience all sorts of hurtful actions from those who once held you as equal, and who now have no way to see you at all, except as wrong, lost, destroying our family, captured by the enemy, or worse.

And the truth is, they never really saw you when you were active--save in so far as you met their need to fit and affirm their symbolic sense of reality--you were the righteous priesthood holder, or dutiful wife; you played a role--you were that role! The life of the "exile" is to be invisible to those believers who have no symbolic place to love "all" as the self, as required by their faith. The only currency between people who require status from one another to be OK seems to be pain....and that part can be so hard to make invisible to believers or exiles. The former faith has no status; thus neither does the continued believer. Apostasy has no status; thus, neither does the self-exiled.

From that place, there is only pain! Until there is another way to experience life between the still faithful and once former believer! And that way for you is.........."

My reply, by the way, was quite short:
I experience life as stardust, by the way. If I, you, and all the TBMs we know are truly the Cosmos Made Conscious, (thank you, Brian Cox!) we are all products of our genetics/upbringing/race/nationality/religion/influences/experiences, and though I may not relate to any of those particulars, they make up a person who is who and what I'd have been had I been born to/lived with all those particulars. They are a reflection of me - the cosmos made conscious, little bits of stardust - that differs insofar as their collective existence, but are a complete record of who I could've been. How can I not love that, if and when I'm willing (and disciplined) enough to look beyond myself?

I'd love to hear YOUR thoughts! Comment away, people! :)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Doubt Your Doubts, Not Your Faith

Conference is now officially the worst time of the year for me...and it comes twice. (Thanks for that, Mormons.) I received not one but SIX emails from LDS friends who wanted to let me know they thought of me when they heard Uchtdorf's talk about doubting one's doubts, rather than doubting one's faith.

I've been stewing for two days.

Then today I read this post over at The Church of the Fridge entitled "I Doubt It." It made my day. Perhaps it'll make yours, too.