Living a fulfilled life without God
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?