I know all too well the discomfort I’ve felt in my body when trying desperately to make sense of something that just doesn’t make sense, the heaviness in my chest, the fear manifesting itself as tension in my muscles, the scowl on my brow as a physical manifestation of worry about my lack of ability to fit into the community I live in.

I recall countless times walking into social events, religious gatherings, or circles of people and feeling like I just couldn’t quite morph the existence of my authentic self into the shape I perceived needed to be, in order to fit in.

I’ve spent numberless hours contemplating who’s right and who’s wrong in the world of religion, agonizing over the gut wrenching feeling I could never deny about my desire for there to be unity in the world, oneness rather than duality, inclusiveness instead of division.

I’ve experienced so many Sunday’s spent in class settings just cringing as I listened to judgments being passed and views being expressed that felt like someone reaching inside my stomach and twisting my guts into a knot.

I have never been good at learning only through listening.  I have always struggled with being told what to do.  I freeze when expected to function out of fear.

Today I feel very blessed.  I feel a very peaceful, safe, and reassuring feeling in regards to my faith, religion, relationship and understanding of God, and even of the Savior… well, more than I ever have… it will always be an ongoing discovery of learning and gathering truth as I am able to feel it in my body and trust myself.I feel a tremendous amount of gratitude for God and for the people he has placed in my life.

Yesterday I had the privilege of meeting Travis.  He is a banker at the institution where I opened my accounts for the yoga studio.

I love people!  I love to hear their stories and experiences and their perspective on life.  Somehow Travis and I found our selves in the midst of an incredible conversation about my favorite topics… God, mindfulness, faith, oneness, and the miraculous way God knows exactly how to help us gain the most from each experience life presents.  As I practiced mindfulness in those moments of totally geeking out in public about these things I had to lower my voice and hush my enthusiasm over finding someone who shared, what seems to be, the very same conflict I’ve experienced.

I think the conversation began when I asked what plans he had for Halloween and he directed the question back at me.  I stated I was trying to think of something adventurous to do in honor of my son, Levi, who is in Honduras on a mission and a bit homesick over missing Halloween with his family.  The conversation evolved to missions and then all of a sudden Travis shared with me that he too had been on a mission, after nearly being put in jail for ten felonies…. Hahaha!  What?!  He had my attention.

After over an hour of conversation that fed my soul and delighted my intellect, I walked away feeling so grateful for the miraculous and detailed way that God communicates with me and cheers me on in my endeavor to unify all of Gods children and help everyone to know who they are, that they are more than enough, and to FEEL Gods love for them.

Travis is a member of the same religion I belong to, the Church of Jesus Christ.  Travis also practices tai chi with Buddhist monks.  Travis has a colorful life history with exciting twists and turns and like me, he has been able to feel that all truth can be circumscribed into one great whole.  Why do humans love to focus so much on our differences?  It feels so yucky in my body… I long for the day when everyone looks for similarities and sees the value in diversion.  Look at all the varieties of flowers God created… my favorite bouquets contain multiple varieties in as many colors as possible.

In my culture I have felt as though I was expected to look and act a certain way in order to be accepted… but my spirit just couldn’t fit itself into the size and shape expected.  It has troubled me and tormented me all of my life.

Travis and I discussed how we’ve discovered we really aren’t the odd-balls, we are not wrong or so different from others… I believe Travis and I are bridge builders.  Over years of searching and with the right people placed in our lives at the right time, we have been able to weave together what we feel, with what we know to be true, and what eastern and western philosophies practice, creating a beautiful and safe net to rest in.

We discussed how a rigid check list system is not necessarily the way back to God, but that perhaps it is a mindful and genuine relationship with God that is more important, how when we are mindful and begin to truly know who we are, develop the ability to feel truth in our body and to feel Gods love, how we begin to function from a place of love, integrity and self awareness that is not only aligned with God but is also very compassionate to ourselves.  As we learn to honor ourselves and recognize the gift of our bodies and become aware of the many ways we abuse them or deny ourselves from feeling, we start to truly appreciate our bodies and want to nurture them, along with our spirits.  As all of this miraculous transformation takes place, the checklist disappears and becomes un-necessary because we innately know how to be our best self without someone telling us, we no longer need shame or guilt because we act from a place of integrity and do it right the first time…and since we are human and will mess up… (if you want to call it that, I personally prefer to look at each experience as an opportunity to learn) we then have the opportunity to be self aware and self correct in our ongoing effort to be constantly in alignment with God because as we do so…. we start to FEEL the peace and joy that comes from doing so.

I loved an analogy that Travis shared.  He said, “I believe people learn one of two ways… either they are molded, like clay, in the potters hands, or they are put through intense heat, hammered and beaten into shape at the hands of a blacksmith”.  He and I both felt that we had learned our most valuable lessons from the blacksmith method… haha… I’m hoping to be soft enough to be molded like clay, the fire is starting to wear me out!

Travis shared with me something else that I love, he said, “Simply put, eastern practices have intense and powerful tools to unlock massive strengths spiritually”.  Basically to me this answers the question I pondered as I drove home from our conversation… a question I’ve asked myself repeated times… “Why do mindful people, or easterners, or a whole slew of people live our religion better than most of us in the religion?”   I guess it lies in the mindfulness piece, which removes the check-list but utilizes prayer, meditation, and self awareness, which helps us look inward rather than only at others, which ultimately enables us to develop our own personal relationship with God and the Savior authentically, not because we are trying to look a certain way or check all the boxes.

Travis mentioned how in the scriptures we see prayer and meditation, done in solitude, all the time, including in the life of the Savior.  He said, “It makes complete sense to me that it was the eastern hemisphere of the globe that maintained those tools, while western philosophies went to categorizations and quantitive worships”.

I believe that if we all took the time to look far enough back into history and to be mindful enough that we were able to feel truth in our bodies, we would discover that we have a whole lot more in common than we care to believe.  For some reason humans have developed fear in looking outside their culture.  Is it because they are afraid they will learn something that will rock their faith?  Will they discover that they may need to look at them selves and change the way they live, what habits they’ve developed or what methods of coping they utilize?  Or are we just lazy and mindless?

I’m a total nerd, I know… these are the kinds of things I spend my days pondering.  There are so many amazing and incredible things to ponder.  Life is intriguing… the journey to understand self and others, the ability to move upward through higher energy vibrations and how in so doing we become more like Christ.  It’s interesting to observe the mindless things we do as humans without even realizing what our mindlessness is causing around us, within us and to others.

Its interesting, the way humans love to argue or debate about pretty much everything instead of living and letting live, trusting that God has a plan for everyone.  There is so much wonder and awe as I seek to understand others beliefs and behaviors.  There is so much to be learned, so much to sink our teeth into as we mindfully approach life and savor every moment, it’s incredible, it’s complex and yet far more simple than we are willing to admit… we think with our complex problems there should be a complex solution, and so mindfulness, meditation and trust in our God, and surrendering our will to Him seems far too simple, far too easy… when really, that is all we have to do.

I love my faith and I am so grateful to a loving Heavenly Father who has helped me to understand that it doesn’t have to look a certain way, but that through loving Him and knowing who I am, I can follow Him out of love and live a life of peace as I stay present in this journey, one moment at a time.