As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been quieter lately in the online world. The reason, I found, is that I was afraid to be genuine. I’ve been doing a lot of inner exploration lately, and am discovering things about myself that are painful to admit, even to myself. It’s time to come clean, in the name of deeper, richer connections, a fuller self-expression, and less superficiality.
Confession #1: I Haven’t “Made It”
I’ve imagined there are people out there who see my business success, the decision to sell my possessions and travel long-term with my family, and the courage it took for me to leave Mormonism, and they think that Brandon must have it all figured out.
Well, I don’t have it all figured out, and I don’t have to pretend that I do. Yes, on the outside, my life may appear idyllic. But deep down, I’ve buried painful feelings of inadequacy, so well covered that I didn’t know I had them. I’ve cared so much about what other people think, that it’s influenced what I say and do (or don’t say and do), and even how I feel about myself. I’m not a beaming ball of happiness every waking hour. I’m no expert on life or love. And I’m not an all-knowing business genius either. (Sorry, consulting clients!)
But I’ve come to realize that these feelings of inadequacy only exist because I have been judging myself instead of accepting myself for who I am. If I hold no judgment against myself, then I am immune to all judgment from others, and have no need to hide my authentic self. In the past weeks, I have had several overpowering experiences that helped release much of this judgment and bring me to a healthier place of self-acceptance. Explaining how leads to my next confession.
Confession #2: I’m Into Spirituality
Okay, you probably already knew that based on my recent posts. But spirituality means different things to different people, so let me explain exactly what I’m doing. Right now, I’m using deep breathing as a tool to access my repressed emotions, and fully integrate them. I’m doing this for 15 minutes twice daily on my own. And I’m attending some more intense group sessions on occasion, using a different breathing technique. Beyond that, I’m working on feeling my feelings more fully whenever they arise, whether it’s a physical discomfort, a painful memory, or a blissful moment happening right now. Rather than stuffing my feelings down or covering them up with other thoughts, distractions, or medications, I try to “be with” every feeling, accept it without judgment and let it take its natural course.
These have been immensely powerful tools for me, but I’ve felt somewhat embarrassed to admit this because the experiences I’m having are completely subjective, happening only inside of me. Thoughts and emotions can’t yet be accurately measured by machines, and I can’t prove to anyone else that these practices are actually doing anything, or that they would have a similar effect on someone else. Yet I feel deeply benefited by doing them. Perhaps these tools stem more from psychology than spirituality, yet I’m feeling movement in layers that seem to go beyond the realm of emotion and thought, and I don’t know how else to label it. Besides, it seems to me that once religious rituals and requirements are taken out of the picture, we find that spirituality, and happiness itself, are matters of the mind and emotions, or whatever is underneath them. So that’s where I’m focusing my attention these days, and my worldview is shifting yet again.
As I’m experimenting with the power of breath, emotions, and presence within myself, instead of waiting until the experiment is over to share the results out of fear of being wrong or inarticulate, I’ve chosen to open up and share my journey along the way, mistakes and all. Maybe it will open a dialogue with others who are interested in similar things, and we can learn from each other.
So far, I’ve been vague in describing my experiences, as many of them entail long stories and are sometimes difficult to put into words. But I don’t want to understate how powerfully I have been affected. The experiences I’ve had in the past couple weeks have been life-changing! I’ve cried harder and longer than I’ve ever cried, and laughed deeper and longer than I’ve ever laughed. I’ve felt intense pain and intense joy. I’ve felt like a terrified child and a powerful adult. I’ve felt guilt and confusion, lightness and clarity. I’ve experienced the strongest and longest orgasm of my life. I’ve screamed in anger and melted into peace. Regularly, I feel tingling throughout my body, sometimes so powerfully it seems near paralysis or like I’m not in my body at all. Sometimes, images and past experiences enter my awareness and morph as I allow all of these feelings to express themselves fully without trying to resist or control them, and I learn powerful lessons from these images. Other times, I have no idea where the feelings are coming from or what they mean. I’m also learning much by paying attention to my dreams, which I have been recording nightly for the past three years.
I believe that through these experiences, emotions are being released that I have been suppressing for a very, very long time. These include the feelings of inadequacy I mentioned earlier; the fear of trusting my inner authority rather than relying on external authority; even the sexual expression of my masculinity that was so suppressed as part of my Mormon upbringing has come to see the light. I’m feeling more healthy and more whole than I have ever felt before, yet I know there is still much more work to do. I am more than ever aware of my faults, but more than ever, I am able to embrace them. I’m finally coming to love and accept myself for who I am, regardless of how I feel or what I have accomplished. And in receiving that gift, I become enabled to give it to others as well.
I want to share more details and the stories about what led me to this point, how exactly these changes took place, and how it’s affected me after the fact, and maybe I will do that in future posts. In the mean time, I would love to hear your thoughts below. Any and all comments are welcome and valid, as are the emotions that lay behind them.
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12 Jul 2017
Love for All
13 Nov 2016
Who knew that simple deep breathing could be such a powerful tool for transformation? Not me, that’s for sure. I’m so glad to be experiencing so many of these amazing discoveries with you, along with many of my own. I admire the courage and determination I have seen in you first hand, as you look deeper into your experience of what it means to be yourself more authentically and joyfully in each moment. You are truly an inspiration. Thank you for being exactly who you are.
Well, it doesn´t really matter the details (even thought i would love to here them), because what it´s really something to admire and follow, is the Openness you´ve decided you want to live in, FREE FREE FREE of anything that is really not important at all in the big picture of life. Only like that we can live FULLY FULL of love and be the happiest possible.
There´s NOTHING more peaceful than living only in the truth and acceptance and don´t care about other´s thoughts. The more we work on this, the better and shinning we get!
Thank´s for the courage!!!! Hope to see you soon!!! :-)
Brandon, bless you for your authenticity. Bless you for sharing your heart with so much courage to speak from vulnerability, which is actually a place of deep strength. As I read your words I think…..yes, this is my friend, and I am grateful.
In the many unique worlds and various cosmologies that we humans perceive this amazing experience of life though, the beauty of such a simple spoken truth is rarely shared. Even in ‘Spiritual’ communities. Whatever your practice is these days, keep it up! And keep sharing, dear friend. ((((bighug))))
Wow . I have been proud to call you my brother many times in the last few years. But never before have I been more proud than I am, now. I LOVE YOU! I love how REAL you are. Thank you for sharing your innermost feelings and experiences. I know how difficult it was for you to come to the decision to publicly write about all of this- and I am so happy that you did. Being with you for those 2 weeks and experiencing some of this with you was so wonderful. I was able to see first hand how this journey has changed your life (and has changed YOU) for the better. You are so much more at peace. So much more relaxed. So much more REAL. You have such a genuine happiness about you. You may not be a constant “ball of beaming happiness,” but there’s no denying that you are an incredibly happy person who effortlessly inspires others around you to be happy. You are on such an amazing spiritual path. I am so happy that you are choosing to share it so that we can try to understand and experience it along the way. I love you!!
I love you too, Ash!!! I also really miss having you here. :) Since you left, it’s been a whirlwind of emotion and change, but in a very good way. I feel even more “me” now than I did over the holidays. I’ve felt a dramatic shift, but also see the need for continued practice. And I’m sure things will continue to morph in the months and years ahead. I’m grateful to be alive and to go where life takes me. Thanks for being a part of it with me and for being such a loving support.
Good post, Brandon. The truth is, we all have a lot of deep emotions that we’re afraid to confront and bring out. I too struggle with deep feelings of inadequacy and fear of expressing myself authentically.
Through the years I’ve been realizing it’s okay to feel any emotion. Almost nothing has been as transformational to me as being in the moment, allowing my thoughts and feelings to manifest themselves.
I also believe that one of the greatest gifts we can give to our children is to learn to live in the here and now—to live authentically and express themselves without fear of rejection from their parents for just being who they are. Yet, how can we do that unless as parents we are willing to look inside ourselves and do the same?
As for me, I wish I could focus less on “making it” and just be authentic all the time; realize that’s its more about the journey than the destination. Wether you’ve made it or not, you’re on a good path Brandon, and I commend you. I think not knowing is more powerful than knowing everything. It’s through the not knowing that we discover ourselves.
I think opening up and being honest about repressed feelings is perhaps more difficult than leaving a religious tradition. In religion, all of the ideas that you struggle with are at least present and identifiable. When you are trying to discover and deconstruct the walls that you yourself have constructed around your own inadequacies, it’s hard to even recognize them, much less remove them. I’m struggling with that myself and have discovered that some of the walls I have built are there to defend me from my own honest introspection!!! I thank you for being courageous enough to share your experience.
I hope you don’t take offense to what I’m about to say, but on the internet there’s term called “circle-jerking” (for reasons you can guess) which describes the phenomenon that happens when like-minded people get together to discuss things – they pat each other on the back all day long because it feels good to have people agree with you. I’m about to go against this circle-jerk.
I find it slightly disturbing that these breathing exercises are inducing such powerful emotions on *opposite ends of the emotional extreme* within so short of a timeframe. You’ve cried harder than you’ve ever cried *and* laughed harder than you’ve ever laughed all within a few days (or who knows, even hours) of each other? That is neither normal nor healthy.
In fact, the sheer number of extreme and emotional opposites you’ve described experiencing in a short timeframe suggests paranoia or even some other mental illness. You feel terrified one moment and over-confident a moment later? Extremely guilty and pained, and then lightheaded and elated? Extreme rage and gentle humility? You’ve lost control of your emotions or at least purposefully thrown control to the wind.
My opinion is that you need to man up and start acting like an adult. Adults don’t dance around naked in the rain and induce extreme and opposite emotions in their brains using oxygen deprivation/saturation. We work hard and keep busy. I suggest spending your time learning something real and something useful (something that actually requires hard work to accomplish) like metal-working, wood-working, or electronics instead of literally wasting your breath.
Hi Andy (your IP address indicates you’re from BYU. Is that right?) When I first read your comment, I felt uncomfortable in my stomach and wanted to write back and explain myself more fully, defending my actions. But as I applied the techniques I’ve been practicing and sat with those uncomfortable emotions, I realized that the reason I felt that way is because of a judgment I am still pointing toward myself that I’m not willing to admit or let go of. I wasn’t sure what that might be, so I spent even more time delving deeper into these feelings. Finally, I came to admit that I do have doubts about whether these breathing practices and strong emotions are healthy, whether or not feeling them is actually releasing any “repressed emotion,” and whether or not I’m losing my mind. When I admitted this to myself, I felt relieved.
I also reminded myself that your comments have nothing to do with me — you’re sharing your own perception based on your own experience. But what you’ve said triggered something within me that has everything to do with me and nothing to do with you. So thank you for giving me the opportunity to delve deeper into my feelings and become even more genuine by admitting where I’m at.
I readily acknowledge that my feelings over the past few weeks are not “normal” and I have no idea whether they will continue to be as strong or not. I also have my doubts about whether or not they are healthy, and what they mean. But I was willing to experiment, put a little “faith” in to it, if you will, and see what resulted. And from what I’ve experienced so far, I’m feeling healthier than ever, physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. In letting go of controlling my feelings, I’m ironically feeling more in control of them than ever before, and understanding their origins more clearly. Perhaps it’s a delusion, but so far this has been an experiment with amazing personal results, the opposite of a waste of breath. I’ll be writing more in future posts about specifically how my health has been affected by these practices and what exactly they entail (it’s more than just breathing). Feel free to read or not. If it’s not you’re thing, I understand.
As for working hard and keeping busy, I’ve done that most of my life and have mastered some useful skills. But I eventually realized that work and achievement and even sacrificing to help someone, bring me no lasting fulfillment or inner peace if I am using them as an unconscious distraction from feeling my buried emotions. I only get superficial accomplishments to brag about and personal pats on the back. The creative and joyful child I had suppressed within me because I was supposed to be a “normal adult” was crying, and I was ignoring it instead of loving and embracing it. Now it knows I care. I don’t plan to spend my life doing nothing but “feeling.” Rather, I want to become better and better at feeling while I am also doing. Keeping my inner peace and being present in each moment while doing whatever I do out in the world. Thanks for giving me practice today, and best wishes to you however you choose to live your life. :)
Thank you Brandon, for your words. Andy brings up a great point – being ‘adult’.
All too often, spiritual seekers continue to seek ‘peak’ experiences, without grounding these high moments, thus neglecting their responsibilities. Many spiritual communities are full of ‘bliss ninnies’.
You my friend, are not. You continue to show up for your family and friends. I celebrate your journey into expansive adulthood, with Jennifer and your kids sharing your journey.
The sadness is that millions of people – both men and women – ‘work hard and keep busy’ at the expense of ever truly living, orgasming, crying, feeling, breathing…
What are we here for?
“My opinion is that you need to man up and start acting like an adult. Adults don’t dance around naked in the rain and induce extreme and opposite emotions in their brains using oxygen deprivation/saturation. We work hard and keep busy. I suggest spending your time learning something real and something useful (something that actually requires hard work to accomplish) like metal-working, wood-working, or electronics instead of literally wasting your breath.”
Why the f… would Brendon work hard and keep busy when he lives the life he is currently doing?
I have a lifestyle business as well, and we’re currently a few months in our second home in Thailand. In the first month has rung three times (and I have several businesses with several real paying customers).
The first call was from a friend who wanted me to go out for a beer (and had clearly forgotten I wasn’t in town), the second from telemarketing company, the third from my biggest client who put almost six figures alone into my company last year.
It might surprise you, but I didn’t take any of the calls and only called my client back after they sent me an email as well.
Who want’s to “keep busy”?
Aren’t we all trying to accomplish more and achieve higher states of happiness here in life?
So for instance, I meditate, read buddhists texts and generally try to be more spiritual. And I think I need to try that “dancing around naked in the rain” thing as it sounds really fun.
So I hope that you figure out that your job is just a thing to provide you with the money you need to live your life, but there is so much more to do in life when you don’t need to spend 8 hours (+ commuting) to your 9-5 each day.
Rasmus, Well said! I’m still trying to figure out the whole work and making a living thing, with out the nonstop grind – but, I’ve got the whole dancing naked in the rain thing down! First time with my babies on our deck, back in my 20’s. We had a blast. Now – any time I can find a serene and private location. Talk about one with the universe! Do it the first opportunity you get!
Brandon and Family,
This is wonderful! I too have been on a spiritual journey for many years – there are some challenges, but how freeing!
Always trust the knowing within you.
Hugs and peace
Transformative. That’s what the past year or so – and particularly the past few months – have been for you. It is exciting and beautiful to witness – and inspiring at the same time. We all have insecurities and self doubt and judgments…. and as one of us takes a courageous step into the unknown, or exposes the vulnerable places in our hearts and souls, it opens the way for others of us to take some of those steps ourselves.
And as you (we) become more authentic, we attract like-minded beings into our lives to share the journey. I’m grateful that we our little family unit has just been getting closer and closer through this process.
I honor you for your courage and your depth. Thank you for sharing your journey with us. Yes, it is a subjective, internal one. Yet is it also a familiar and primal one. We are all on the path of discovering what it means to be human. People resonate with what you have shared not because it is your experience, but because it is OURS. We all experience different flavors of the human condition but its still the human condition.
I will resist the temprtation to debate with our friend Andy about what is normal and/or healthy and instead just send him love.
See you soon brother.
I enjoy reading your post because they make me think. Somehow this post seemed to explain more to me why you left the church than did your 30 page logical explanations.
Yeah, perhaps what got me to question the church initially was at its root, an unconscious awareness that the church wasn’t taking me where I wanted to go spiritually. I wrote about my desire to be closer to the “Spirit,” to have that constant companion and clear guidance, and my shock in discovering that those outside the church were often closer to it than those inside. But it took more cognitive dissonance for me to accept that the spiritual tools and teachings the church was providing on that path were more distracting (and confusing) to me than helpful. Maybe it’s time for another rewrite… :)
I wasn’t trying to be offensive and I hope it didn’t come off that way. I don’t know your world view and we can only try to understand others based on our own life experiences.
I’ve thought about trying to explain what I’m mean, but each time I try I can’t really express it in words. When it comes to spirituality and religion, I sometimes have a hard time expressing what I’m feeling.
I will try but it may come out wrong or be interpreted wrong.
I know what it is like to have a mom leave the church that she brought you up in. It can be very confusing, especially at a young age. Naturally you want to be accepted by your own mother. Our situations are different in that when my mom left the church she did so admittedly out of sin. She has never denied the church being true though. She still believes its doctrine is true, but she doesn’t feel she can live up to its standards. It’s kind of an unusual situation. Most people that leave the church can’t seem to leave it alone. I understand that mentality too. When I come across a new way of thinking or some insight that has benefitted me (Mindbody Prescription) I want to share it with everyone. So to some degree I get that people who leave the church want to share it with everyone – and at times it leads to putting others down who still believe in their “old” way of thinking. For example, when I hear of people that are ready to go in and get carpal tunnel surgery, I want to go stop them and say, “no, please, read this book first and see if it helps you like it helped me”.
Sometimes I may believe my knowledge is correct when perhaps it is not, yet believing it is correct I still want to share it with everyone I think it will benefit. When I herniated a disc in my lower back last year, it was the worst pain I have ever felt. I couldn’t move. A back surgeon recommended I try physical therapy but left me saying, “this x-ray is so back that I will be surprised if you get any feeling back in your foot without surgery.” I did the physical therapy and I walked 2-3 miles almost everyday. I listened to every word my physical therapist said. After about 3 months I was pain free and had all the feeling back in my foot. I had also read an ebook on the proper way to lift and bend etc. Of course I wanted to share on this knowledge I had gained about backs with people. Dr. Sarno’s book changed the way I thought about backs, (but still, I wonder, if it was just oxygen deprivation causing the pain in my back, how come I had no feeling on the top of my foot and my three big toes.)
I guess what I’m saying is that the more I learn, the more I know I don’t know. But the doctrine of the Church is one thing that I “know” deep down inside me. I’m sure if I ever came to the conclusion that it wasn’t true it would rattle me deep, very deep. After I read you document it had me thinking and studying stuff for weeks. Somehow it only strengthened my belief in the doctrines of the church – which I can’t adequately explain, so I won’t try.
So when you talk about burying painful feelings of inadequacy I can relate to that. I still do. I’m about to post personal stuff publicly and it scares me. But here goes… In the past I have thought, one day I’m going to give up trying completely because I’m too weak. I’ll be kicked out of this church, my family will disown me and I’ll die poor and miserable and go to hell. In the past had a bishop tell me “you believe in Christ, but you don’t believe Christ.” Initially I dismissed it because I had heard the phrase. He gave me a book to read “Believing Christ” by Stephen E. Robinson. I read it. It really did change my mindset. I realized it was OK that I hadn’t “made it” yet as you put it and it’s OK and 100% likely that I never will “make it” in this life. Any number plus infinity is infinity. No matter how good or bad I was, I couldn’t “make it” without Christ. But, by trying and accepting Christ he adds infinity to my 10, 20, -20, efforts. I will “make it” in the next life if I just keep trying. In essence I truly learned to forgive myself. So I’ve determined that if I ever make a mistake so bad that my family disowns me and I’m kicked out of the church and I lose everything, I’m not going to give up, I’ll keep trying. Amazingly this decision has made me stronger. Yes, I still make mistakes and beat myself up, but I forgive myself faster and I keep moving forward. I’ve learned too that the church, family, and of course Christ are naturally forgiving and not nearly as condemning as I am to myself (John 3:17). We are all in this together just trying to do our best.
So, when you talk about the courage to leave the mormon church, correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think you are talking about the courage to leave what you have believed your whole life so much as the courage to endure the backlash of a culture of misguided members of the church that are so quick to condemn and pass judgement. You’ve been in their shoes before and thought, “how could someone that served a mission and was sealed in the temple just give it all up?” You essentially know what people are going to think and that is the real scary part.
Like I say, the more I learn the less I know and I may be off base but that is kind of what I was thinking when I said that.
First, I want you to know that I acknowledge your sincere belief in Mormonism, and that you feel happy and secure in those beliefs. Second, if you left the church, sure I’d be happy to have another friend who sees things like I do, but your beliefs aren’t you, and you will be awesome in or out of the church.
I can tell you want to understand why I left the church, but that it’s still confusing for you how I could make that decision. I’ve tried to explain it as well as I can, but I feel like you’re psychoanalyzing me to come up your own reasons rather than accepting what I’ve already written. :) I didn’t leave the church because I felt inadequate to keep the commandments, or because I wanted to please my mother. I left for exactly the reasons I stated in my document — I found the church’s claims to be false. And what led me to that discovery was a spiritual journey to become closer to God.
I’ve given up trying to be understood by the majority of church members, and I’m moving on. Of course I want to be understood. That’s what I hoped sharing my document would do. But with the conditioning the church places on its members, I have found it to be a mostly futile effort. Almost three years after leaving, I’m still dealing with emotions surrounding what I now see as harmful conditioning I received from my years in the church.
As for courage to leave the church, I was referring both to being willing to be “rattled very deep” as you put it, and yes, definitely also to the fear of how others would judge me. Ultimately, I knew I needed to follow truth where it led, despite how painful it might be or what others would think. And I did experience much pain. But I can say that it has been 100% worth it for what I now experience as greater clarity, freedom, love, and peace.
I honor you for owning up to your fears about some day giving up because you might be “too weak.” That takes courage and honesty to admit. You may never get to that point, but if you do, remember that it’s no crime to give up the climb if you find your ladder leaning against the wrong wall. Some choose to stay on the ladder anyway for valid and good reasons.
In the end, all I can do is be myself and share my experiences. Some people will resonate with what I say, and others won’t. Both are fine, as each of us is on an individual journey. Pearce out. ;)
I think self decovery is a wonderful thing. Often times what you’re going through emotionally manifests itself physically and not always in a good way. Now that I’m in my mid fiftys I’m doing a lot of soul searching about how I feel about being old. Self descovery never ends for some. BTW I’ve descovered that watching yourself get old and die sucks. It’s so great that you’re grabbing life by the you know what’s and thanks for the blogs which lets us experience this with you.
As you talk about the feelings of inadequacy. I seriously question if those go away. I firmly believe that specific feeling is something that pushes us to excel. To become more than we are. If I felt I was “adequate” what would inspire me to move outside of that realm? I honestly HATE the feeling, but I don’t think it’s bad.
Trust me I do understand the tipping point when those feelings of inadequacy push too hard. When it starts to become overwhelming. At that point obviously it’s not healthy nor productive. The same could be said for any myriad aspects of the human existence. Anger, fear, sorrow, joy, pleasure, contentment. If any of those feelings become the preponderance of our experience there is a problem.
Now about the naked thing. It may not be normal, but it sure is “natural.” Pun intended.
Thanks Brandon and have a fabulous day.
Thank you so much Brandon for so much authenticity and vulnerability. Breathing and awareness are two extremely powerful tools and there is no normal or abnormal, there is simply what you are experimenting and releasing right now. We have so many layers to peel… It is a life-long journey and it seems like you are well on your way. Please share more, it is very inspiring!
is there any such thing, really, as true ‘objectivity’, or better still, ‘true objectivity’?
it would seem the task at hand here, with your delving into sprituality, is still to maintain a balance.
just as folks habitually delve into the non-spiritual aspects of life (ie, physical, mental, emotional–which our western world is so good at promoting to us!) and very easily lose balance, so too, when reacting back against that indoctrinated behavior, there is a risk of losing touch completely with those aspects of reality that nevertheless still exist for those around you, whether or not you are in a position to appreciate it.
I don’t have much to add that hasn’t already been said in many comments above, other than a very sincere and heartfelt THANK YOU! Thank you for sharing and thank you for your courage, which I find encouraging and inspiring.
We are all on our own journeys to re-discover and connect with who we truly are and why we are here for this experience.
All the best to you and yours while on this jouney.
Thank you for sharing this blog post. It seems that the content of the comment section is as valuable as the post itself!! ;)
Thank you Brandon – came back to this post after reading your latest writing on emotions. For me, sometimes when the feelings of inadequacy are triggered it’s almost paralyzing and I feel a tight, weepiness in my chest and can hardly talk without blubbering all over the place.
As I commented in your next post I have always believed it to be a result of inner child issues. I’m looking forward to reading more of your experiences and how the process is going for you.
God bless you and your family in your worldwide explorations and travels and hope someday you’ll settle back in the US.