Finding Meaning After Faith

Updated: Jan 23

Exploring as a Family

After we stopped attending our LDS ward (aka congregation) our family explored several other local Christian churches like a friend's Catholic Mass, a New Life megachurch, the Discovery Canyon Church (DCC), and even our close-by Cowboy Church (Spruce Hills Community Church). Each offered familiar messages of Christ's love, repentance, and avoiding sin.

A few months went by, and we favored DCC because they had an outstanding youth program, the sermons were practical, the pastor was real and didn't try to hide behind his position, and (my personal favorite) the music was rockin'; it was a full-blown concert every week. I'm not even joking. They offer free earplugs because it's soooooo loud.

However, after Easter rolled by, I realized, even though they were not hiding historical truths, something was still the same, and it bothered me. Sure, I missed what was familiar, the community hymn worship, familiar faces, the small family-friendliness, but it wasn't that.

I realized it was just more human interpretation being taught as truth, commandment, and so forth. I decided I should just go to the mountains on Sunday and commune in silence with God. So, we did that through the summer.

During that time, my husband had been sharing with us Noah Rasheta's "Secular Buddhism Podcast," which did not teach religious principles rather philosophy that can enhance anyone's life, Christian, Atheist, whomever. These podcasts made sense; they spoke of how not to suffer and how to be wiser. This essentially led us to attend a local sangha (a small gathering with a monk).

In this sangha we meditated, we found a community of like-minded people seeking peace, and we found friends. The nun there, Ayya Dhammadhira, struck me as the most Christlike person I had ever met (ironic). She was kind, wise, listened to you, shared all she had, and wanted nothing more than to help others. Our family loved her and our little sangha; however, I realized through the practice of meditation what I had been missing, and what was wrong with DCC and all the other churches we explored.

First of all, let me be clear, I did not have an enlightened experience. I am terrible at meditation. Most the time, I fall asleep. But back then, when I managed to stay awake, I was left with myself, my thoughts, my voice, and my heart. Now normally you're supposed to clear your mind completely of this chatter and distraction, (and like I said, I'm terrible at it) but for me, hearing my voice and sitting with my own heart instead of the voice of leaders telling me all the "I should be doings," it clicked; I needed me.

My Voice

My entire life, I had been filling my head with the voices and direction of leaders, parents, scriptures. Yes, I did ponder, but it was only to understand meaning of passages, stories, and how to mold to the lessons learned. I rarely took the time to ponder who I was, not me the “child of God” generic answer, but me, Kimberly.

After sitting in the quiet with myself with no external voices echoing in my head, I realized all my searching with other religions, Buddhism included was to replace the hole left after I departed Mormonism. I thought I was looking for the one truth out there, the one answer to all life’s mysteries; I was looking for "the meaning of life," or my purpose here. But I didn't find that. NOPE! What I found was me.

Find Your Own Path

Now, my husband's journey was completely different than mine (not that either of us are finished yet). And he should really be the one to tell it. I will say this, however, he turned to books and podcasts, and he studied voraciously. I benefited from his study in many ways and even felt guilty for not searching more knowledge out. I watched him stack Mormon history books, Stoicism books, Buddhism books, and Humanism books he’d read in a line across our mantle.

I felt like I was wasting my existential exploration, and he was doing it the "right way." I needed to do something to replace that spirituality, or my life would mean nothing because I wasn't fulfilling some higher purpose. So, I picked up one of Eckart Tolle's books at his suggestion, and after a few pages I realized this was not for me. I got stuck on Tolle's metaphor for flowers. When I say stuck, I mean, I thought it was nuts. I said to my husband, "Flowers are not windows to my dead mother." I handed the book back and said, "No thank you." Studying worked for my husband, but it was not working for me, and guilt is not a long-lasting motivator.

What is Meaning Anyway?

On a walk, the hole where meaning was supposed to be ached; it was still empty.

"Now what am I going to do?"

The thought of daily study made my insides want to vomit bile. I'd done enough of prescribed study to last ten lifetimes.

"What do I want to do? This is my one and only life, so maybe I should do what brings me joy. But. what brings me joy? I don't even know. That is so sad." I was told doing all these motherly duties would bring me joy. Not exactly.

While my kids are four of my most favorite people in the world, they also stress me out at times, and giving birth to them destroyed parts of my body that I’m still trying to repair surgically (don't worry no details will be shared--TMI). Again, I asked myself, "Seriously, what makes me truly happy?"

  • my kids

  • walking in a warm summer rain, in the sunshine, in a cool breeze

  • feeling energy and no pain (I struggle with pain daily)

  • music, listening, playing it, singing, car karaoke with my kids

  • being remembered

  • a good book... The list went on and on

So then I asked, "What have I always wanted to do, but haven't and why?"

This is when my year of firsts truly began. I didn't want to do things just because I could. It didn't make any sense to me. I didn't try alcohol until my second year out of the church, and honestly Peach Tea was my first go to, and Green Citrus Tea second. I fell in love with tea. I hate coffee, it tastes like dirt and water, and beer, well, never mind.

I took a few painting classes and started painting big canvasses and using lots of paint. I always felt like I had to frugal before. Now, I don't care, well about how much paint I use. I painted with friends. I went on long walks (mostly alone) and watched the wind dancing through the grass and listened to the birds and animals chattering in the trees. I realized I love being alone (sometimes). I bought new sheet music for the piano, and I've recently started watching all the rated R shows I never could before, like Memoirs of A Geisha, and Joy Luck Club. WOW! Those are powerful. Honestly, I don't even know why they're Rated-R. Adults and teens should be fine to watch those. I went to therapy. That one was huge. So much pain to sift through from my "third parent" (the church).

"But how am I making the world a better place?"

By being happy, and helping everyone I encounter:

  • via blogs

  • smiles at the store

  • letting people go ahead of me in the line

  • helping people with their carts

  • guiding my teenagers to see the gorgeous people they are inside and out

  • teaching them to be happy and love themselves

  • and being a good friend not just a friend

All of these little things make the world a better place. Joy begets Joy. And truth be told, joy spreads like COVID!

What brings meaning to my life, doing things my heart leads me to for my benefit and the benefit of others. I don't need to busy my life with meetings, duties, and callings I have no interest in but feel obligated to love and do my best at. It didn’t suit me to scour the library shelves either. My heart had been silenced for decades and needed a voice.

Finding meaning in life after faith is as diverse as we are as people. So, look for what brings you joy, and you will find your meaning; there are no generic answers.

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