Young Adult Fiction: You’re Getting Closer, Part Two

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March 17: Shoot Me

Right now, I am sitting in a Starbuck’s, trying to hear God. It is not going well. Today is Sunday, and for the past week, I have decided every morning to follow my spirit’s guidance, and every morning—and all day after that—I have failed. 

Here are my excuses: 

  • I was sick. I’m feeling better now, but it did take a while to get over. 
  • I was tired. Two nights ago I finally figured out a sleeping schedule that works for my baby and I, but until that time it was a pretty difficult, moody week. 
  • I was just … depressed. I know, I know; I hate that word, too. And I don’t want to write about it much for fear of making it more real, but the fact remains: I was pretty far down in the dumps this week, and actually, I’m still there. 

Today, admittedly, I am feeling better than before. I’ve slept very well two nights in a row for the first time in months. I’m almost over my cold. Today I have all the time I need to write, and walk, and take a bath—all of which I plan to do with great relish. 

Question, I guess, is this: then what? After I’ve written, and slept, and bathed, and exercised, and played with the baby … what else is there to do? What is there to look forward to—just more of the same every day for the rest of my life?

Silly, I know, but that’s what it sounds like inside my head today. Life just doesn’t sound like much fun. 

And then there’s the continuing problem of my mind clutter.


Last week, I made a silly comment (yup, another one of those). This time it wasn’t to Friend Number One—it was to her husband. (The way things are going with this gal, I’d be surprised if she didn’t cross me off her list before I cross her off mine—and she doesn’t even have a list.)

Anyway. I was at Number One’s house with Jay (that’s her husband), picking up their daughter to babysit for the afternoon. It was the first time they’ve asked me to take her, and I was hopeful this was the start of a closer relationship with them both. We chatted pleasantly for a while as he got the baby ready and before I left he thanked me again for the favor. 

“Oh, no problem,” I said. “My au pair will help, too. I don’t know how she does it, though. Playing with a baby all day? Shoot me.” 

Jay’s reaction was predictable: a little concern, a little surprise, and a generous layer of false good humor. We said goodbye and I left, his dear precious baby in my arms.

I guess it’s pretty understandable that the whole ride home, I was kicking myself for the ill-timed joke. But what’s bad is that today, an entire week later, I still can’t seem to let it go. When I saw Jay again yesterday, I thought I sensed a little awkwardness between us and all I could think about was that he probably told his wife about the incident and it had been “discussed.” Will I ever babysit for them again? I wondered.

Then, today came. Today was a rare, beautiful spring day with no rain, so I decided to paint the wooden swing set in our backyard—and worry some more about what I’d said. Fortunately, after a while of this I realized what I was doing and changed the thoughts in my head. I thought about how if the subject ever came up between us, I’d mention politely to my friend how I was sorry about the bad timing of the comment, and I hope he didn’t worry. And as I said it, I would smile. 

The situation thus reframed in my mind, I was finally able to let it go.

What did I learn from this experience? For one thing, I learned that worry is complicated. Anything that doesn’t resolve itself or get resolved can become a source of worry, and getting rid of it isn’t a simple matter. No matter how often I pray or try to listen to my spirit during the day, worry can still sneak in—even take over. 

The second thing this experience taught me was how much I need this experiment to work. 

But there’s something else I learned, too, and it is this: I need to choose my words more carefully. This whole thing could’ve been avoided if I had been listening to my inner voice during my conversation with Jay to begin with, but instead, I’d been busy and distracted. Even as I said it I knew it didn’t sound right, but I didn’t stop myself in time to keep it in. 

I simply didn’t take my time.

So. What to do now? I know the answer to that: pray. Pray, and receive guidance, and just refuse—to be depressed anymore. 

And now seems like a good time to start that plan.  

God, I know you are here. I know you are with me, and I know you want to help. So please, please—no, not please—thank you, thank you. Thank you, God, that you have already given me everything I need, and everything I want, and that now all that is needed is for me to reach out and take it. 

Now—what shall I do today?

Nothing. No answer. 

This is hard. 


March 18: It Felt Like the Very First Time

Happy to report that in spite of my negativity yesterday I eventually managed to turn things around. The solution I found came in the form of a book. The book was The Power of Now, and even though I’ve read it before (twice, actually), last night after opening it up it felt exactly as if I never had.

It felt like the very first time.

Admittedly, the real first time I read it, I barely did. I was somewhere in South America on a backpacking trip and I got it off a hostel bookshelf for free. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it and yet, since at the time I was not in a very spiritual frame of mind I did not care to practice its suggestions. They felt too radical to me, who was then as now, in love with my “compulsive thinking” and “incessant mental noise.”

The second time I read it, I was more open to its ideas, but still not ready to jump in, feeling its advice would be much too difficult to follow.

Yesterday, though, something was different. The reason? Simply this: a feeling it was perfect for me. I can’t quite explain it, but somehow I knew that every word in those pages was true—and that they were exactly what I needed to hear. 

Here are some of the points I found particularly applicable to my experiment and to my life. 

  • My mind is not really me. I am not the sum total of my past and my thoughts and my genetics, as I’ve been taught to believe; instead, I am my spirit, and my spirit is always in touch with the Divine.
  • Thinking is an addiction—and one that is very hard for myself and many others to give up even temporarily (as during meditation). That’s because our minds—our incessant thinking and planning—provide us with a false sense of self and of purpose. My favorite quote of book so far: “What characterizes an addiction? Quite simply this: you no longer feel that you have a choice to stop. It seems stronger than you. It also gives you a false sense of pleasure, pleasure that invariably turns to pain.” My thoughts have given me “pleasure that invariably leads to pain” for a long time now. Though I am still proud of the way I’ve used my mind to accomplish important things, I now see that its helpfulness is greatly overrated. I want the ability to use my mind when needed—but I don’t want my mind to be ultimately in control and using me. 
  • The first step toward enlightenment is to observe the thinker. “The moment you start watching the thinker, a higher level of consciousness becomes activated. You then begin to realize that there is a vast realm of intelligence beyond thought . . . You also realize that all the things that truly matter . . . arise from beyond thought. You begin to truly awaken.” You do this in two ways, says Tolle: directing attention to the “now” and creating a “gap in the mind stream,” even if this gap is very brief at first. Said another way: When your mind is chattering away, you take a step back and remember that all those harried thoughts are not really you. After this happens there is a moment—very fleeting—when there is no thought. The goal is to increase the number and length of those moments—those gaps in your so-called “time.” 

It was that last point that really got me. At first when I read it I thought, That would never work for me—and indeed when I first tried it, it didn’t. However, I did not give up—I tried it again, then again, then again. Over the course of the evening I tried it maybe a hundred times, and each time I was a bit more successful. Stop, I began telling myself whenever I noticed the negativity had returned. This chatter is not you.

It was an effective affirmation.

Did this change utterly revolutionize my mindset? Well, not quite. I was still a little bored yesterday and a little unmotivated—it was just one of those days. But by the time I went to bed, I was feeling noticeably better. Partly this was due to the greatly lessened mental clutter, and partly it was just this: I had hope. 

As I told you before, for a few months now I’ve been wondering when I’d finally get my enlightenment “mojo” back. When will I start waking up in the morning happy and inspired again? I’ve wondered. When will I return to that place where I have more to give than I have people to give it to?

And lately, this state of inspiration feels like more than a desire—it feels like a need. Now that I’m not obsessing about my body so much anymore, or about money or my job, I don’t have any one particular subject upon which to focus my mind when nothing else that’s particularly interesting is going on.

And so, that is where I find myself today: a little bored, a little depressed, and a lot plagued by my negative thoughts. Which is why I say that right now, I don’t merely want to quiet my mind; I need to do so. I have everything I want, and I am still unhappy. And no matter how much sleep I get, or how well I feel physically, as long as I’m addicted to thinking, this problem will remain—and unlike other problems, which may be temporary, solvable, and specific, this one encompasses everything, and even nullifies all the progress I make on other fronts. 


And so, my resolution for today is this: finally, I will learn to meditate. 

And yes, this is going to be as hard for me as it sounds. Here’s the thing: ever since renewing my commitment to spiritual awareness a few years back, I’ve tried and failed to learn to meditate. The problem? I just don’t enjoy it—and forcing myself to do it anyway doesn’t ever seem to end well. 

After reading these pages in The Power of Now, though, I feel differently. Yesterday, I didn’t sit down, close my eyes and meditate in the traditional sense of the word, but by clearing my mind repeatedly as I described, I did, actually, do so—and successfully. Today, it is my goal to continue doing more of the same, and see what happens. Maybe this practice will be the key to the change I’ve been looking for. 

God, I hope so. I hope, I hope, I hope. 



So. Been at this mind gap thing for a full twenty-four hours now and even though it’s still very early on in the process, I just have to say: this is incredible. 

Finally, finally, finally: I am feeling good. 

All day, I’ve been repeating the “stop” sentence in my mind. Sometimes, the result is immediate—I’m able to let go of whatever is bothering me without delay. More often, though, the chattering starts up again after an insignificant lapse of time. And yet—taken together, these briefest of pauses aren’t actually insignificant—not at all. They help me remember that even though I’m not thinking right, these thoughts are not really me. They help me increase the number of moments during my day in which I feel at peace, and even though each of them is small, over the course of the day they add up to something pretty darn big. 

Today, I felt a sense of calm that I haven’t felt in a while. And so I repeat my previous thought: I hope this is just the beginning.


March 30: The Classic Party Snub

Had our party last night. Don’t really want to talk about it, but I suppose you deserve to know: it was horrible. 

Well, okay, I suppose “horrible” is a bit of an exaggeration. It wasn’t horror-movie horrible. It was just a little … lacking. The problem: hardly anyone actually showed up. That’s right: I experienced, on my first attempt out of the gate, the classic party snub. 

Here is what happened. The party was a “meet-the-baby” party, so themed because most of the people I know haven’t actually met my little guy yet. Before the official start time, one couple stopped by for a few minutes to drop off a gift (an entry barrier I had not counted on). Since it was somebody I didn’t know well, and they were on their way to another event, it was an awkward chat, one of those “Yeah, I guess everybody’s just late” conversations. 

Half an hour later, while my husband Jack was playing a video game and I was optimistically slicing apples, another couple dropped in, also bringing a present for the baby. They chatted a little while, but left before the next person showed up. The next person was really sweet and stayed for a long time, and it was he that made the evening worth it. Later, an older friend of mine (older as in, a long-time friend, not an elderly friend) came with her partner, but as she’s not particularly outgoing, again, the visit was short-lived. 

So, granted, a few people did show up—seven, to be exact. But I emailed, like, thirty people altogether. 

Doesn’t anyone like meeting babies?

In any case. Since most of the people who came were male and while I do love them I don’t plan to have a lot of one-on-one friendship-building time with other men anytime soon, I’m going to leave them off my list. The female halves of the two couples I don’t know well I’ll also leave off until and unless they contact me first (I’ve already reached out to them several times previously). My old friend, though, I will now officially dub Number Four, and describe a little further for you here. 

Friend Number Four is one of my oldest friends—someone I’ve known since high school. What’s important to know about her? Well, she’s spiritual, though her brand of spirituality is different from mine. She’s gorgeous: tall and blond with wide hips. She’s also a little … well, messed up. Highly analytical—too smart for her own good, really—she is a pessimist to the core, and most of our conversations center around her problems. 

And yet—I like her. Just the way she is. She cares deeply. She feels deeply. And she thinks deeply, too. Our conversations are more intimate than those I have with pretty much anyone else—anyone but my best friend, the one I mentioned before who doesn’t live here.

And for these reasons, in this horse race for friendship, Friend Four has a pretty major head start. I will not try to change her, though, now or ever, and for that reason she’s also the biggest wild card, too. 

Okay, then. Time to put this slightly embarrassing evening behind me and move on. 

I am going to bed.


March 31: My Head Began to Clear

Well, I didn’t put it behind me—the embarrassing party, that is. All yesterday I obsessed over the failure, wondering if it was me or something I did or if it was just them—or just something society did to us all. 

Why, oh why, I asked myself all day, Why doesn’t anyone want friends? 

From there, the negative thinking expanded to include other depressing subjects, and by the evening I was feeling pretty bad indeed. That was when, having grown tired of myself, I decided to take action. Here is what I did: I took a walk. 

This mitigation tactic did not work right away; at the start of the walk, I felt just as bad as I had before. The main thought that was running through my mind was an exceptionally bad one. It’s the one that always comes when I feel like I was feeling, and it was this: I am always going to be depressed. Any relief will only be temporary. I am a depressed person; that is just who I am. 

The other thought that supported this one was also pretty formidable. It was: This new mantra isn’t working anymore. I will never learn to meditate. 

And it was true; today, my “stop” mantra just wasn’t effective anymore. After just one full day of repeating it often, it had lost its power. In an attempt to counteract this problem, I experimented with other sentences, other images, but I must have been trying too hard, and been too far down in the dumps already. 

Nothing worked. 

But then, something did. While passing a park with a beautiful green lawn and a swing set, I thought, Maybe I should do something different today—something to get me out of my rut. So I stopped my walk, got the baby out of the stroller and, with him in my arms, sat in a swing. The sun was just setting and the air was fresh and as I held the baby I pumped my legs and felt just a tiny bit of what I used to feel when swinging as a child. 

My head began to clear. 

After a while I decided to lie on the grass with the baby, so I walked him to the edge of it and put my hand down to see if it was wet. It was, so I sat on the wood trim and just stretched my legs over the grass with him in my lap where he could reach down to touch it. As I stared at the top of his perfect little head I tried to say my usual prayer, the one I always pray on my walks.

“Thank you, God,” I said. “Thank you for—” 

And that was as far as I got. Then I changed my mind. 

“God,” I said, “I can’t say thank you right now. I just don’t have the strength. All I can say right now is this: Help. Help me, God. Help me get rid of my depression. Help me know exactly how to hear your voice and follow your lead. I do not want to live my whole life feeling the way I feel now. I need my life to be about more than struggle. I need it to be about overcoming my struggle. And I know that if other people can do it, so can I.”

After this prayer, I felt better. And today is the next day and I still feel better. 

Mantras, it seems, won’t alone get me where I need to go. I need to pray however I feel led to pray, in the way that feels best in that moment. 

That’s right: Even my prayers need to be inspired. 

This spirituality thing is seriously hard work.


Another bit of news for you along similar lines: In order to further counteract the despondency I’ve been feeling, I’ve decided to start going to church—and not just one church, but two. I’m planning to try out the church the woman I met at the library recommended last week, and another somewhat similar one that I’ve attended in the past as well. This means that currently I have (count ‘em) four possible church services and church-related activities to choose from each week—and it’s my intention to actually go to at least three. I need to get out of my emotional rut, and I’m thinking being with like-minded people will help. Besides, I am trying to make friends this year. Going to church seems like the perfect place for that. 

Why didn’t I think of this before? 

The first service is in a few days. I will let you know how it goes. 


April 4: I Simply Observed

Went to my first church service at one of my new churches last night. I took the baby, and we sat in the back and mostly just observed. As in my Evangelical Christian days, there was lots of music and, surprisingly, even a little dancing. There was also time for meditation. The theme of the night was joy. 

I think this is the right place for me. 

Not only that: I think even going to one service actually did me some good. After I got home last night, I decided seemingly out of nowhere that I just wasn’t happy anymore with the slow spiritual progress I’ve been making. I realized I want to change more, and I want to change faster. 

I’m ready for the next big thing. 

And so, after nearly a month of not reading any spiritual books, last night before going to sleep I picked up The Power of Now (my new bible, if I dare say so) again—and again, it changed my life. 

Here’s what I read this time that hit me hardest: In order to be successfully “in the Now” (in a state of meditation and peace), it’s not necessary for my mind to be completely blank. As long as I observe my thoughts, catching them when they come and reminding myself they’re not really me, I am in some sense meditating. 

After I read that, I recognized the reason this practice has been so difficult for me, namely: I’ve been trying too hard. I haven’t been allowing myself to just sort of relax into awareness; I’ve been worrying about worrying way too much. 

And so, today I did something different: I simply observed my mind clutter and then let it go at that. 

I didn’t even try to meditate. 

The results? Well, they were great. After all of the ups and downs I’ve gone through lately, today I feel like I finally broke completely through my rut. All day, I was smiling. All day, I was bringing myself back to the present moment. I went to my second coffee shop gathering of the writers’ group today, and this time, everything was different. 

It was a really good time. 

The coffee was good. The conversation was good. And of course, I made a few new friends.

Their names: Friend Number Five, Friend Number Six and Friends Number Seven. 

Friend Number Five is the one who smiled at me the last time I went to this event. With her, a romance novelist, I talked about plot structure and the like. It’s been a while since I’ve had a better writing-related conversation—especially one in which I got some good advice. 

Friend Six is a new addition to the group, like me. We talked for just a few minutes about our current projects and the major delays brought on by parenting. 

Lastly, there was Friend Seven. Because Friend Seven seems a bit high-strung (she talked about her emotional life in great and personal detail with near-strangers), I don’t have high hopes for a close relationship. Still, she’s very active in the group and refreshingly honest, so I’m adding her to the list as well. 

You just never know what will happen.

On a related note: saw Friend Three today. Emailed her last week and yesterday we went out for coffee. Afterwards I came home and jokingly told Jack that I have a new best friend. 

“We have so much in common,” I said. “We both grew up in religious homes but are now just spiritual. She reads Hemingway and some of my other favorite authors. Our conversation was easy and comfortable. I’m hopeful.”

I will email her soon and let you know how it all works out, but for now suffice it to say: I’m feeling good about my spiritual goals, I’m feeling good about my friendship goals … and I’m feeling good about pretty much everything else right now, too.


May 11: I Want to Have Friends I Like

It’s been more than a month since I wrote last, and unfortunately it hasn’t been a perfect one. I’ve been worrying about my friends situation a lot, even though I know it isn’t helpful to do so. I’ve had some good moments—a successful coffee date with Number Four, a nice walk with Number One—but they weren’t all that way for sure. 

Yesterday’s moments definitely weren’t—not at first, anyway. I didn’t have much to do, and boredom, I’ve learned, is one of the quickest routes to depression. After sleeping late and missing church, I read a little and tried to stay busy. Then around seven o’clock I decided to take the baby for a walk. 

And that was when everything changed.

At first, I did not feel better. But as I asked for guidance as to where to go I thought I heard to start walking in the opposite direction I was intending to walk—to go straight up a hill rather than on the more scenic, flatter route. Thankfully, I took the uphill route and as I did so, I remembered my husband was playing volleyball about a mile down the road. Then I remembered there was a nice back road that led there. 

My faith in my ability to hear the Spirit thus revived, I began praying, turning my attention to my spirit. Then when I was about halfway to my destination, I remembered something else. Earlier that day I’d read a few passages from The Power of Now, and something Tolle said really stood out. Pay attention to your body, he said. Try to feel the tingling and other sensations—the feelings of “aliveness”—that emanate from your physical being. In this way, you will become “deeply rooted within yourself,” in your Source, and in the Now. 

So, that’s what I did. I came up with the following mantra: “I love my body. I am in my body.” I said it over and over while feeling that beautiful exertion you feel all over after you’ve been exercising for a while. For the first time, I understood why meditators pay attention to their breath and body parts during prayer. I also understood why people love sports so much. It’s not just the endorphins that come as a result of sustained bodily movement; there is a spiritual element as well. 

I’m not sure I understand the theology of the body, the logical explanation for this close spirit-body connection, and yet—I believe in it anyway. I believe there is one, and I believe the body is truly a portal to the soul, for this simple reason: rarely have I felt as good as I did tonight as I walked. 

The baby and I sat and watched Jack play his volleyball game, and as the stroller I was using doesn’t fit in our little car, I walked back home as well. By the time I got home it was after ten o’clock, and I was less tired than I was when I left the house three hours earlier. 

And so, today I discovered yet another (surprisingly effective) way to get in touch with the Divine, namely by sensing my body and the aliveness therein. 

Who knew?


The following day, today, was truly wonderful. Briefly, this is what I did: First, I sat for two hours at a coffee shop with the baby. It was a beautiful sunny day and one of the most fun parts of Seattle where everyone dresses and acts interesting and strange. There was a girl walking barefoot down the sidewalk, which I thought was pretty cool, and a guy all in bright green with a green top hat, too. I had a book with me, but read only a little. Most of the time I sat on the patio with the baby, enjoying the sun and the people—and praying almost the whole entire time. 

For the first time in recent memory, I actually enjoyed doing nothing.

Later I went to the grocery store and ran some other errands as well, all while in a state of continual prayer. I repeated yesterday’s “I love my body” mantra frequently to myself, and when back home I was happy, too.

Have I really gotten out of my rut this time? It feels like I have—it really does. 

I wonder. 


Unfortunately, not all of today’s news is good. Last week I saw Friend Two, the opinionated mom, again. There was another play date, this time at her house. This time she gave me a list of pointers on breastfeeding—and they weren’t ones I needed. (If you know my baby, you know that he is not just an expert on breastfeeding—he is the expert. No one holds a candle to the way that kid can nurse.) 

And so, I’ve decided to make it official: Friend Number Two is off the list. No hard feelings, of course; I just want to have friends I actually like. 


June 4: I Did It on Purpose

Big news for you today, and it is this: Three days ago, I learned how to do this slippery, ineffable, heretofore entirely frustrating thing that so many people recommend. 

I know how to meditate. 

And it’s like nothing else in the world. 

Okay, so before I go into too much detail, I should clarify one thing: I have actually meditated before—I just didn’t know it was what I was doing at the time. I have meditated, at times, when I was a Christian and praying to Jesus. I have meditated, probably, in moments of extreme gratitude or joy. I have meditated in the seconds and minutes it takes me to ask for guidance and receive it. I have meditated while jogging and while staring at the baby and every single time it was beautiful. 

And last month, on the walk I described in this journal, I meditated in a very major way. 

The difference was this: today, I did it on purpose.


Okay, then. Here is how this breakthrough occurred: As part of my effort to try out spiritual activities and events, I went to a meditation for mommies and babies. It was a fairly long drive and I almost backed out—but, thank God, I didn’t. After a brief introduction, the leader invited the handful of women who came to the session to sit on pillows on the floor, bodies erect and palms upraised. (What is it about the upraised palms that “works” so well?) I did so, and then I closed my eyes—and immediately, I felt the change. 

I felt the change everywhere: in my palms, which were a little warm; in my feet, which tingled a little as I noticed them. In my heart, as emotion that’s usually ignored. In short: my whole body felt different. Well, actually, the difference wasn’t in how I felt; the difference was in that I felt it. For those precious forty or so minutes I was there, I didn’t think—not as much as usual, anyway. Instead, I felt

And that—that was truly the key. 

Why didn’t anyone tell me this before?

In any case, I know it now—and, as Tolle says, Now is really the best time of all, and the only time that really matters. I know now that anytime I want, I can stop the continuous chattering of my mind, if only for a moment or two at a time, and I can do it this way: by feeling—really, really feeling—instead. 

Feeling my body. Feeling my emotions. Feeling whatever. Just letting myself understand everything that is happening inside of me right that second—bad or good, happy or sad, angry or fearful or calm. I feel what I feel, and there is nothing to know other than that. 

During the meditation one of the more experienced meditators stood behind me for a while, adding her energy to mine. During that time I suspected that she was trying to heighten my experience by lighting incense and waving a fan. The leader had mentioned that I may feel a breeze above my head where she had guided us to direct our attention, and I did feel something but figured it was probably just the movement of the woman’s hands over my head. 

But if there isn’t any incense, I thought as I sat, Then I’ll definitely know this is real. 

After we were done I opened my eyes and looked around. 

There was no incense. 

“Did you light incense or something?” I asked the women. 

“No,” they said. “Did you smell some?”

“Yes,” I said. 

I did not ask about the breeze. 

For the rest of the day after that, I was happy. 

I meditated, I thought. I did it. And I was not bored, and I liked it, and it was not hard.

And that is the difference between doing something when you’re ready and doing something just because you think you should. When you’re ready, you like it—and it’s not nearly as hard as before, or not at all. 

That is certainly the case with this meditation situation so far. Yesterday, only two days after that first experience, I took the baby to another group meditation as well—even though the baby was tired and crying and even though it had been a long day for me, too. What’s more, in order to go I had to first drop my husband off at volleyball and then, after the event was over, wait at the park for him to finish and drive him home. The baby would go to sleep late and besides, I’d already changed into my pajamas and would have to hurry up and change before leaving. 

And yet: I went. And it was just as wonderful and just as easy as before. 

I am a meditator now—I really am. And my plan is to practice this new ability as much as possible while the desire to do so is still strong. I don’t want the habit to escape before it has become fully ingrained, fully integrated, fully dissolved into my molecular structure. 

I want to completely digest it. 

And I will; I will. Because I want to not just in a theoretical way, but in an emotional, habit-forming, reward pathway kind of way. 

I am actually enjoying this food.

And who knows? Maybe now that I’ve cracked the meditation code, even if I were to take a break I’d get it back. It is possible. 

But I’m not taking any chances.


I wish my friendship news was as positive, but alas, it is not. 

Let’s start with Friend Number Three. I emailed Friend Three, my “new best friend,” again last week—the third time in the past few months—and she has not emailed me back. I wonder why this could be—was it just me that thought we had so much fun that one time? I am beginning to think maybe there is more to friendship than liking someone and getting along—even than having good conversations. 

I am beginning to think people need to be less busy. 

And it’s not just the lack of response from Friend Three that makes me think so. Looking over my list I see only two out of six that look at all promising so far: Number One and my old friend Number Four. Three, Five and Six haven’t responded to my emails, despite our pleasant exchanges when we see each other at moms’ group events. Seven (the emotional one) did get back to my coffee date invitation, but she told me she probably wouldn’t be able to go anytime soon (she has four kids, and I understand the difficulty). 

This friendship thing’s going to be even harder than I thought.

The silver lining: Friend One and I have taken several pleasant walks with the babies, and she continues to seem quite receptive. In addition, I found another friend this week, someone I met through an old client of mine. Friend Ten is super smart, very talkative and loves to read and write as much as I do. She doesn’t have a kid, but maybe that’s a good thing. It’s nice to talk about other things sometimes. 

As for the moms’ groups? Maybe I need to be content with just the group activities for now and hope more meaningful bonds will eventually develop. It’s just too bad it requires such a large upfront non-refundable investment of time to find out if that will be the case.


June 22: Portals, Pretty Portals

Continuing to meditate, and continuing to find great joy in it. Most of the time I go to a group meditation (of which I found several online), but I have practiced at home a few times as well. The greatest thing about it is the immediacy of the change that occurs: as soon as I raise my palms and close my eyes, I am somewhere else. 

The magic, it seems, is still there.

And so, the time has now come to take the next step—to do what I began this journal to do: I’m going to attempt to pray without ceasing yet again. 

Mind you, due to my repeated failures in this area so far this time my goal is slightly different. Rather than attempt to begin a lifelong commitment to this practice, I am going to simply choose certain days—as I feel willing and able—on which I will attempt to pray without ceasing all day. 

As before, I will pray without ceasing by: 

  • Asking for guidance in all of my actions large and small the whole day;
  • Meditating a least once that day in a set-aside-time kind of way;
  • Saying frequent thank-yous to God;
  • Constantly recalling my attention to my body and to the present and away from my mind; and 
  • Saying positive affirmations. 

The last of these is interesting. Ever since discovering the other listed techniques, I’ve largely forgotten about my favorite one from before this experiment: that of saying affirmations. However, over the past two or so years I have so-called “manifested” money, jobs, weight loss, a house I love and much, much more through this practice. So I find it kind of strange that in spite of all that, I’ve been neglecting it. Why are new mental habits so much harder to create than physical ones?

In any case. These are the spiritual practices I will engage in on my designated praying-without-ceasing days as well as on other days, though possibly with less commitment. However, there is one more thing I should mention about this plan, and that is that really, these practices are not separate at all. Though they seem different from each other, in reality they all lead to exactly the same place, namely: a deepened awareness of the Divine. Hopefully there comes a day when all of these techniques blend into one thing in my mind, one almost effortless, automatic dive into pure fluid consciousness. Hopefully there comes a time in which I don’t even think of whether I’m saying an affirmation, or doing a body awareness meditation, or asking for guidance, but somehow, whatever I need to do in that moment I just do, naturally, without really thinking much about it much at all.

So far, I have experienced this unified “flow” feeling just a little. Yesterday after meditating successfully I went on to receive specific guidance toward certain actions, even when I wasn’t purposefully asking for that guidance. Instead, the awareness I was already experiencing brought it about just as it was needed and I followed it almost—not quite, but almost—without analyzing it, considering it, or thinking it through beforehand. 

This is what I’m talking about, I thought to myself as I did this. This is the place where I want to be. 

Until then, though—until the appropriate neuropathways have been reinforced enough times that following that guidance and being aware of God’s presence has become more or less subconscious—I will use my (slightly corny) list. 

I know how this works, after all. It’s not my first rodeo. Changing yourself, overcoming your past self-concept is no easy task. If a pen and a piece of paper is all it takes to make it easier, why wouldn’t I gladly make use of the help? And it’s the same with reading spiritual books, and going to group meditations, and talking to spiritual people, and attending church. As a stay-at-home mom who doesn’t actually want to stay home all that much, right now I have the time to do these things, to use these tools that are being offered so generously by my community. Why wouldn’t I take advantage of them?

And so, I forge ahead with my plan for spiritual connection. Today, I will choose one day in the near future during which to pray without ceasing. Let’s see … Today is Thursday, and I don’t quite feel ready to start right away. How about Saturday again?

I think I can do that. 

Saturday, then, it shall be.


As for my friendship plan, I’ve been forging ahead with that as well. Last night, I hosted another party at our home (the past is the past, I’ve decided, and all my friends are forgiven). 

Here’s the short report: Though everyone was late, people did actually come, so that was an improvement. The conversation was still a bit strained, but not too bad. Next time I think I’ll show a movie or something. Friend Four, the negative one, was there and I do feel closer to her lately, though I still feel there’s an upper limit with her somewhere. 

I press on . . . 



Found another gem in The Power of Now tonight. After describing several meditation-type practices that help people become more in touch with the Divine, Tolle writes in Chapter Seven: “These are all portals you can use—but you only need to use one.”

Isn’t this exactly what I’ve been saying? All of these spiritual practices I’ve been working at are mere portals, all leading to the same place—that of awareness of the Divine. Some work better for me than others, and that is fine (though I do like to know what all of them are so that if one doesn’t work I have another to try).

By the way, Tolle, if you’re reading this: next time, give us a list. No, better idea: I will. Here are the portals Tolle says you can use to experience what he calls the Unmanifested:

  • Being aware of the Now;
  • Being aware of your inner body;
  • The cessation of thinking—creating mind gaps;
  • Surrender, “the letting go of mental-emotional resistance to what is;” 
  • Listening to silence; and
  • Being aware of empty space.

Portals, pretty portals, one and all.


June 30: I’m Chalking It Up to a Success

Yesterday was my scheduled attempt to pray without ceasing, and I am sorry to report that it did not go well. It, in fact, was pretty much a total flop. I didn’t pray without ceasing. I didn’t feel inspired. 

I didn’t, really and truly, even try. 

What I did do, however, was this: I enjoyed my day. In the morning I spent a minute or two in meditation while breastfeeding, which was actually a little harder than it sounds. After that we went to a moms’ group activity and then, in the afternoon we ran errands and hung out with Jack. In the evening all three of us went to a barbeque and had a great time. During each of these activities I recalled my connection to the Divine regularly (not to say frequently) including during the moms’ group when I felt a kind of energy coming out of me towards the other women as they spoke. I liked that feeling and through it I realized that relationships—the work of relationships, anyway: talking, listening, etc.—can actually be a kind of spiritual practice. 

I felt closer to the Divine in those moments than at any other time during the day. 

And it is because of this that actually, the day wasn’t such a failure after all. I made progress toward my goal—just not as fast as I would like to have done, or as much. 

So what, then, was the problem? Why couldn’t I successfully get in and stay in a place of deep awareness? Well, the truth is that I have no idea. Today was the same as yesterday: moments of great connection—sometimes just seconds long—and the rest of the day, business as usual. 

Last night I took an hour-long walk and tried to analyze the problem. What should I be doing differently? I asked myself. I remembered some of the affirmations that have worked well for me in the past and said them repeatedly, but none of them seemed to affect my state of mind. Finally I realized I needed to just accept that my mind is my mind, and I will not be able to control it every second of the day. The key is not to try to rein it in successfully; this just results in more struggle and frustration. The key, as Tolle says, is that whenever I become conscious and realize the mind clutter has begun again, to have something to say to myself that brings me back to the moment—even if just for a second. I don’t need to think through my current problem (what someone thought about a comment I made, for instance) or negative emotion (often, my depression). I don’t need a specific mantra to counter each type of thought. Instead, I will lump all of these “unconscious” thoughts into the same general category—mind clutter—and respond to all of them in exactly the same way. 

And so, for first half hour or so of my walk, I tried to figure out what that new affirmation would be. What could I say that would cover all the bases equally well? I knew I didn’t want to say something that reminded me that these life situations would turn out okay—this would just keep me focused on the events themselves. Instead, I wanted an affirmation that would help me focus on who I am. That way, I would not be arguing with the situation, but instead making a positive statement that those things are not me, because I am divinity itself. With this, the argument against the various situations—namely, those things don’t matter and I shouldn’t worry about them—is implied. 

And so, I asked myself that oldest of questions, and most profound: Who am I? What is my highest and grandest vision of myself, as Neale Donald Walsch (another favorite author of mine and many others) would say. 

And then, it hit me. I am enlightened, I thought. That is my goal for myself, after all. That is who I want to be.

I said it a few times, trying it on. “I am enlightened. I am enlightened.”

It felt right. Not correct. But right.

After that, I went home and since then I’ve decided that there will be no more attempts at perfection in the immediate future. I have my other spiritual practices—walking, and meditation, and church, and all of that—and I have this new affirmation as well. As before, I will continue to recall the present moment and create mind gaps as often as possible. Eventually, I’ll get good at it, but until then—I’m choosing to be okay with just improving.


And now, two little friends updates for you. The first one is this: Yesterday afternoon I hosted a playdate at Starbucks with my writing group. Though two of the three people who RSVP’d flaked out, Friend Eight, a sweet (though not excessively bright) person did show up and except when the baby pooped on the floor, we had a pretty nice time.

I’m chalking it up to a success.

And the second update: This morning I went to a play date in the park and met several women I hadn’t met before—and I liked them a lot. One of them—I’ll call her Friend Nine—gave me her email address and I plan to get in touch with her soon.  

In this part of life too, then, I am okay with just improving.


August 2: Breaking the Habit of Being Myself

Yesterday, I cried—and it caught me quite by surprise. Crying isn’t something I’ve done a whole lot of since right after the baby was born about ten months ago. Then, it was just hormones. 

Today it was a flower.

When it happened I was in church. As you know, church is a place I’ve been in a lot lately. Over the past few months I’ve been seeking out these places not just in an attempt to stay busy and to make friends, but to have a place to meditate. (Yes, I may be addicted to meditation now, but that’s a different story.)

Yesterday the service was regrettably light on prayer and singing time, and so the whole service long I basically ignored what was going on and just sat in my own little world with my eyes closed instead.

I didn’t think anyone would mind. 

At the end of the service, they did something they call “Flower Communion,” which is an annual handing out of flowers to each member of the congregation as a symbol of community and friendship. 

I almost didn’t take one. 

I’m new here, I thought as I listened to the piano accompaniment quietly. Besides, I’m praying. 

At the last moment, though, right before the music ended and the minister returned to the pulpit, I felt led to go up and take one anyway. 

I did so, awkwardly. When I got back to my seat, I looked at it. It was light pink and very pretty, but as far as flowers go, it was nothing special. And yet—as I looked at it I suddenly began to cry. 

Why am I crying? I wondered as I wiped my tears. Then it hit me: it has been too long since someone has given me a flower—or given me anything, for that matter. I am giving and giving every day, trying to forge friendships with people, trying to draw them out and show I care, trying, sometimes, just to stay busy. But how long has it been since someone called me first? And how many times now have my efforts at friendship been rebuffed?

Answer: Too long. And too many. 

Of course, I expected it. What I’m doing is certainly not the usual way to make friends, and the overdrive-like nature of my experiment necessitates disappointment. But once in a while, it’s nice to feel like my effort is making a difference.

It was just a flower, and a not-so-special one at that. But it gave me something I’d probably been needing for a while now.

It gave me a much-needed cry, and I appreciated the gift.


Unfortunately, this experience was not the only low point of my week. That’s because, in spite of so much recent progress, I am back in my rut—or at least partially so. Even though I’ve been saying my “I am enlightened” mantra a lot throughout the day, the feeling just isn’t there. And that’s the thing about this whole spirituality thing: There really is no mantra, nothing I can say or do to make it happen—frustratingly, it’s something you just have to feel

And so, the question becomes: How can I learn how to get that feeling whenever I choose? The answer, according to two books I read this week on the subject, is this: Make it into a habit.

The first of these two books is called Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself and it’s written by Joe Dispenza. It contains lots of information about the way the brain works, but what it all comes down to is this: you are your habits—nothing more than that. All of your thoughts and the neuropathways they travel along are completely ingrained. That means when you try to change your thoughts in any way, the receptor sites that are used to being fed with the particular proteins that fit into them aren’t getting fed anymore. They respond by complaining—and loudly. Your brain starts working hard, looking for circumstances and situations that call for that particular ingrained emotional reaction on your part. Because as we know, neuropathways that stop getting used get pruned.

I’ve heard a lot of this complaining lately, and I realize today this is why all of these spiritual practices I’m working on haven’t always come easy. 

It’s just neuroscientifically difficult to change.

The other book I read this week agreed. It was written by Dr. Candace Pert, a world-renown scientist and spiritualist who, believe it or not, studies the biochemistry of emotions. According to her, each emotion is a real, physical thing, made up of the interactions between peptides and cell-based receptors. Each individual emotion can be linked to a special kind of peptide/receptor combination, most of which are found not just in the brain but throughout the entire human body.

Fascinating stuff. But what really stood out to me in this book, Everything You Need to Know to Feel Go(o)d, was what she had to say on the subject of personality. It is her theory that multiple personality disorder is not a disorder at all, but merely a normal human condition taken to the extreme. At different times during the day, all of us experience different patterns of emotions coursing through our bodies, patterns (of electrical currents, really) that are repeated more or less often due to many and various factors.

One of these factors? Habit. And this is what makes spiritual practices like meditation so darn effective. 

Pert’s advice to her readers on the whole thing: to “come from the highest possible ‘observer’—the sub personality that’s most closely associated with the divine, or the higher self”—as often as possible.

Which is, of course, exactly what I’m doing now. I am making listening to my spirit a consistent part of my daily life. I am practicing it, teaching myself how to more easily recognize my Source within.

The good news? After a time of continually fighting negativity, continually turning my thoughts to my body, to my spirit, and to the Divine, it will get easier—much, much easier. And as I’ve said before, I am right now making more progress than I realize. 


And so, my goal today is that I’ll find new ways as well as my own tried and true ways to make myself happy each day. The theory is that the more I feel good, the more I’ll be in the habit of feeling good and the easier all of this will become. 

To that end, I’m going to continue to spend lots of time with friends, going to every social activity I can find. I’m going to go to church whenever I want, even if it’s quite a long drive. I’m going to go to group meditations and take long walks and read good spiritual books, all in an all-out attempt to remain in a place of joy. 

This will not be easy.


August 16: This Spirituality Thing Really Works

Things are happening around here—things are happening. Last Wednesday evening I did something I’m convinced will change my life forever: I went to a new church. 

Well—not a church, exactly. It’s even better than that: I went to a planning session for a new church that is opening this coming Sunday. The church is affiliated with a much larger one in Seattle, so its new branch (is that what you call it?) will be well-supported in the large suburb in which I live and in which it will be located. 

I am so excited. Not only do I think the church itself is an inspired idea, I think my involvement in it is, too. Here is the brief story of how it came about. 

As you know, recently I’ve been attending two churches: one in my town that I first went to a few years back and one in Seattle—the one that the lady at the library told me about that day I felt led to go there. Both are non-judgmental, believe-what-you-want kinds of places. Both have positives and negatives, but the one I preferred overall was the one in Seattle. It is called Center for Spiritual Living and it is large, vibrant and active. I think I told you before about the loud singing and dancing—something I have enjoyed before in other churches. Mostly, though, I like that the people seem more engaged in their faith, more willing to change their lives for it, more—well, more interested in spiritual matters. 

They seem to actually care about the whole thing. 

There are also a lot more kids and families, as well as people my own age. 

Location, though, was a problem. On a good day the drive took half an hour each way. This is fine once in a while, but for long-term involvement I greatly prefer something closer. Still, I’ve attended a few times with this feeling that in terms of churches it just wouldn’t get any better than this. I met a few people I liked, including one fellow writer with whom I’ve since had coffee.

Then one day a few weeks ago, I was browsing the Internet looking for more meditation opportunities when I saw a group for a Center for Spiritual Living that meets right here in my own suburb. I wrote the organizer and she invited me to a planning meeting. As it turned out, the church hadn’t actually opened yet. 

Learning this, I began to get excited.

Here is something I can do with my time, I thought—something meaningful. Here is a way I can contribute like I couldn’t if it had been a large, well-established church. 

My hopes were high.

Despite my excitement, while driving to the meeting I reminded myself that it may not turn out like I hoped. The people may not need new volunteers, or may be cliquish, or may be wary of this newcomer they’ve never met before. So, I arrived at the meeting with at least a little skepticism in tow. I greeted the others—there were fewer than I expected, just a handful—and met the minister. We made small talk, and then the meeting began. 

And it was awesome—so, so awesome. Friend Number Eleven, the minister, gave a long, detailed and thoroughly enlightening talk (with diagrams!) on the metaphysical process of creating one’s spiritual and physical reality. It was the first time I’d learned something substantial about my new spiritual beliefs (at this church they call this belief system “New Thought”) that didn’t come from a book. 

I felt as I sat there that this was just the beginning.

You see, right now, I have no theology to speak of. I have no vocabulary for what I believe. I have beliefs, yes, but they aren’t categorized and they aren’t named. They’re just . . . an assortment. Though I know that I won’t and am not expected to adopt fully the beliefs of the minister or anyone else, I do think that by going to this church I will take the foundation I’ve already laid through reading of books and consulting my conscience, and finally start to build a house—a construction that’s made up of new and revived spiritual practices and more specific, practical ways to act on and get the most out of my faith. And unlike a plain foundation, a house is something I can actually use.

But that’s not all there is to this story. The best part is yet to come, and it is this: I am now a volunteer. That’s right: after the first part of the session—the teaching part—was over, they continued their planning of the first service, and I had several ideas to share. One of them was that I’d serve (with the baby) as hostess of a meet and greet before the service began. This, I said, would encourage people not only to meet each other and form connections, but it’d help them get to church on time as well. 

After I presented the idea, Friend Eleven said this: “I like that idea. What do the rest of you think?” There were no objections, so she said. “Okay, then. It is on the calendar.”

It was exactly the right response. She knew how important it was and is for the volunteers to contribute, to have ideas—not just set up chairs. 

When the meeting was over and I went home, I told Jack my life had just changed. 

“I’ve found a church,” I said. “A place I believe will be a part of my life for years to come, and part of the kids’ lives, too.”

I am grateful to the lady in the library that directed me this way. And that happened on one of my very first praying-without-ceasing days, didn’t it?

Amazing. This spirituality thing really, really works.


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  1. Bless you, THANK you. I needed to hear this today, not because I am struggling, but because I HAVE struggled, and am in a good place, but when I started to read, I immediately felt kinship. Sign me up for being Friend 217 or whatever. But I want to encourage you to publish this, because it will TOUCH someone just as it is, or as YOU were, as it did ME, because we are all on a journey.
    I have an insight for you about waiting around for the someone to make the first (or second) move. I have a BUSY life, and inwardly I am much like you, but also crave connections even though I’m a solitary person by nature. My work requires me to be very connected (by appointment!) and it can be draining, but I also crave deep connections. And I have them, I am blessed. But even when I am looking forward to connecting with a cherished and reliably “there for me” friend, I am often the one who is not returning emails, because…life. You look for reasons these things happen- everyone else is in their heads and lives too. If the connections don’t “happen” they are not the right time or’s not personal, it’s just not a current match. You need the current matches…do you think you may have not responded to someone who was reaching because you yourself were navel-gazing? And I say that because it takes one to recognize one, that’s why we have trouble meditating. Just reading this makes me want to know you, because you seem, to me, to be a jewel of honesty and a true seeker on the path.
    I get way too many emails and I almost unsubscribed, not because I didn’t like your content, I was trying to eliminate SO much incoming data. But today I read you, and I wouldn’t ever do that now, because although I have read and liked your stuff before, hence the subscription, I KNOW you more now, you showed me your soft underbelly and your insecurities, which is monumentally brave, and you are my Friend (I don’t do numbers, so you will just be Moliie) whether we have a conversation or not. I see you. I recognize you. I care about you. You have my email…Vicky

    1. Hi there, Vicky,

      Thank you for your response! I never would’ve thought I would get such a heartfelt response. I appreciate it! I published this book a while back and unpublished it … for now it will live here till I decide what to do.

      THANK YOU!!