Godless Living

Living a fulfilled life without God

Where Does My Help Come From?

I hope my readers can hang in there with me for what may turn out to be a longer than normal post.  I have a lot on my heart right now and am writing to see if I can find a halfway intelligent way to articulate this.  Here goes…

When I was a believer I used to enjoy a song taken from Psalm 121.  “I lift my eyes up to the heavens, where does my help come from?  My help comes from you, maker of heaven, creator of the earth.”  I remember in times of sadness and anxiety, I could rest in knowing that the creator of the universe was taking care of me.  I knew where my help came from.  While my wife and I were trying to have children and had our first miscarriage I realized that the petition type of prayer didn’t work.  Asking and begging for a child didn’t equal getting that child.  Prayer had become less about changing God and more about changing me.  I don’t believe this way anymore, but I would occasionally find a tremendous amount of comfort in stopping to spend time in prayer.  This is where my help came from.

As I walked away from the Christian faith, I had a huge interest in eastern religions and found an exceptional amount of peace and comfort in mindfulness practices that I was introduced to through Buddhism and Taoism.  I found peace in meditation practice, yoga, Kirtan chanting, praying mantras, etc.  This was strictly from a stress reduction aspect and I never shared any of the mystical beliefs of these religions or practices.  Through cultivating this low stress life, I was able to improve my physical health.  I had been visiting my doctor to address chronic tachycardia… my heart was usually beating over 110 beats per minute even while at rest.  A significant weight loss contributed to me beating this, but these practices also changed me.  For the first time in my life I had people describing me as a laid back person.

Although these practices helped me physically, I started to drift away from them partially due  to a lack of discipline and partially due to pressure I felt from some of the atheist community.  I felt like my interest in mindfulness and some of these eastern practices were a betrayal to my community.  I received criticism from some readers about how damaging religion can be and I think they felt like I was promoting religious faith in Buddhism or Taoism.  The truth is, I don’t even know what these religions teach outside of these few practices that I’ve found beneficial.  My interest in mindfulness is simple and doesn’t betray reason or logic:  practicing mindfulness reduces stress for me and lowers my heart rate significantly.  Lowering my heart rate contributes to living a longer life.  There is nothing mystical or religious about this.

So this brings me to the present time.  Some may have noticed a bit of radio silence lately from me on the page.  I’ve had a lot on my mind.   A week ago in my office I started to feel really bad.  I knew something was wrong and I had felt bad for a couple of days.  I work in a hospital so I hooked myself up to monitors only to find that my tachycardia was back.   As my heart raced and I struggled with some things I’ve been anxious about, I felt a depressed feeling come over me. I used to be able to find peace through prayer.  But now what?  Where does me help come from?  Where do I find peace?

While many others can probably handle life’s struggles and questions without a problem, it’s hard for me sometimes.  It’s probably more of a personality trait (or disorder) than anything.  I’ve struggled with anxiety for much of my life and can strongly relate to the quote by Michel de Montaigne:  “My life has been full of terrible misfortunes most of which never happened.”  I often find myself worrying about things that have not even happened and likely never will.  This is where mindfulness helps me.  I’m able to root myself in the present moment and I find peace.  Regardless of whether this reminds people of religious practice or not, it adds value to my life.  So like it or not, this is where my help comes from.

I’m curious if any of my readers can relate to this?  How many others out there practice mindfulness or meditation?  Are there any others who can relate to this gap that exists when one leaves a faith when their faith was somewhere they went for peace and comfort?  What other “godless” practices comfort you in times of anxiety or sadness?

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7 comments on “Where Does My Help Come From?

  1. Jason V.
    May 15, 2012

    I can relate. I deal with anxiety, and I too have taken an interest in certain aspects of eastern philosophy (mindfulness, etc).

  2. Beata Bowen
    May 15, 2012

    Look, whatever brings you peace is what you should turn to when times are tough. Even prayer (I can’t believe I’m actually advocating prayer…). Actually, I don’t care if people are religious if it gives them comfort (it becomes problematic when they take it outside of the privacy of their own home). If meditation/eastern philosophy brings you comfort, by all means use it to your advantage! If you feel pressure from the atheist community, stop it! I mean, stop feeling the pressure! Who are these people? I see atheism as a rejection of religious dogma. I certainly don’t need another dogmatic approach to my spiritual (or not) life.

    Personally, I have two dogs and they are great stress-relief. Having a friend to talk to helps. Anti-depressants help. Travel is one of my very favorite forms of stress-relief. I really feel alive when I’m in a foreign place, totally lost and not being able to speak the language! No time to feel depressed (maybe a little anxious, but in a good way) then. I also enjoy gardening.

    I never prayed. Okay, that’s not true, I prayed when I was little because I was told to. But it never brought me comfort. It made me feel like I was talking to myself (because I was). I found other ways to comfort myself (okay, this may sound really dumb, but I also really like coloring). The trick is to find yours. Meditation works for some non-believing friends I have and although I don’t have the discipline (or time) for it, I think you should go ahead and pick it up again.

  3. rambansal
    May 15, 2012

    Yes, I can relate my experiences to those of yours. I don’t do exercises to keep fit but work physically to be productive. As an example, I do work of a mason and the helper for myself to construct for myself for about 2 hours a day. Over the three years of this practice, I have been able to construct a living space for myself. I feel contented about it from many angles.

    I don’t meditate for mindfulness but concentrate on writing on-line articles on my blogs, thus using the mindfulness practice to a productive purpose. i need no religion, spirituality, God, etc to practice my mindfulness.

    My strength comes from lifestyle – simple, thoughtful, productive, and dependence on myself for everything as far as possible. I earn a little but that is enough for my living with a contentment in my life which, in turn, provide me more strength.

  4. myatheistlife
    May 19, 2012

    I can’t quite relate, but I do meditate. Not in any formal kind of way, but the core virtues of meditation are dear to me and I meditate to help me focus and stay on track or to clear my head for sleep etc. I wrote a post on hope that might tell you more about how I deal. I kind of just refuse to surrender to the problems. Meditation is one way that I use to keep the focus I need to not surrender.

    Good post. thank you.

    Be.

  5. Iris Flythe
    May 20, 2012

    I can relate. Also get your thyroid checked, I had the same symptom along with depression when mine went out of whack! I meditate, in fact I will be doing it shortly. Life is about hills and valleys my friend. Our culture is kind of the culprit to our predicaments when we feel like we are failing at something. We have this mass mentality if we do something regularly we should have the best results possible. We can buy all these books, DVDs CDs etc and have this unconscious entitlement thing going on about the results we should get then we are just so upset when it doesn’t happen 100 percent perfect. It’s not how it works. Mindfulness is a lifetime commitment. It has nothing to do with religion. It is a lifestyle choice. Don’t give up!

  6. John
    May 21, 2012

    Some thoughts, i hope they help.

    I practise a martial art called Aikido, ultimately the founder, a Japanese called Morihei Ueshiba gave it to the world to attempt to unify it. He believed in a higher power. I do not , but the practise of his art gives my life structure, integrity, it promotes virtues that most would associate with Christianity, trust, humility, the golden rule etc. His philosophy was based on a religion called omote kyu which had a shinto base, but ultimately was a hugely complex philosophical and spiritual outlook on life. The old boy was obsessed with it and it coloured and directed his martial art.

    Now I pretty much live and breath Aikido, it is fundamental to who i am and from it i have drawn my own precepts and philosophies about human nature and life. I happily reject all aspects of the supernatural /gods etc YET can still draw huge comfort and calm from my practise of this physical and wonderful art and the old boys thoughts on how to live.

    So my advice is forget what other “aethiests” think, i suspect btw they don’t for we a re bit like herding cats, there are no rules to being godless and thus no approbation in that respect. You are responsible for all aspects of you, if something helps you, physically or spiritually then do it and develop into the best person you are capable of being. That is the joy of being godless after all, we are responsible for who we are. Embrace all aspects of yourself.

    Sorry for the extended Waffle

    John

  7. Pingback: Where Does My Help Come From? « Godless Living | Celebration LIFE

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This entry was posted on May 15, 2012 by in Agnosticism, Atheism, Freethought, Humanism and tagged , .
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