“Are you praying, Elder?” asked Elder Ward.
“Hmmm? Oh. Yes. I am!” he responded.
Truthfully, he hadn’t been. He had been captured a daydream, in which he was somewhere else. He had been thinking not of home, but of a future life. Besides, to pray to God is not to hear from God, and he hadn’t heard from God in years.
But, he believed. He believed that others could experience what he experienced at the age of sixteen, and before that, at the age of seven. He believed that others could experience God; or what he believed to be God.
His first experience occurred at the church house on the corner of Nathaniel and South Murdock Drive. He would be turning eight-years-old that year, and his church community held a type of What To Expect When Being Baptized program. He couldn’t remember the details of what was covered (though he could guess at the particulars), but he could remember the feeling that came over him as he left the building.
“What’s this feeling?” he asked his mother.
“What feeling?” she asked with a puzzled look.
“This feeling here,” he said, pointing to his chest, “it is warm, but it makes me want to cry.”
A bit concerned, his mom asked, “Does it hurt?”
“No. It doesn’t hurt. I just feel it. I feel like crying or laughing.”
“Oh.” she said, and then quickly added, “That is the Holy Ghost. He is telling you that you’re doing the right thing.”
It would nearly be eight years before he felt anything like that again. He would laugh at the memories of thinking Y2K meant Jesus was coming and that He would send the boy to hell for saying fuck or other cuss words like the other kids in his sixth-grade class.
He was sixteen years old and grounded during Christmas vacation. He deserved it. His family was driving around to drop off cookies to various family friends. His parents had left him and his siblings in the car while they ran inside. He ended up punching his younger sister in the arm repeatedly. The first time was because she was annoying him, and the subsequent because she kept saying, “That didn’t hurt!” Eventually, it did hurt, and she was crying. When his mom got back in the car and heard the story, she dealt a quick punishment. He would spend the rest of the night listening to Tearing Away by Drowning Pool and reflecting on how much he hated his family. He was a very angry and depressed teenager.
The next morning, he woke up to a list of chores that needed to be completed as part of his punishment. It wasn’t enough to be separated from his friends, girlfriend, cellphone, internet, etc.; he needed to be put to work. After completing the first list, he sat on the couch and turned on the TV. “NO TV!” came the stern voice of his mother from upstairs. What to do?
That year, the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had issued a challenge to the members to read The Book of Mormon by the end of that year. He had never gotten beyond 2nd Nephi. The entire book seemed daunting. To read it with less than ten days left in the year? Seemingly impossible. But what else was he going to do? Besides, he might be able to get out of doing chores if he was reading his scriptures.
He remembered reading Enos and wondering why he was taught that repentance required so much time and effort (“don’t take the sacrament for [timeframe] and meet with the bishop weekly”) when the Lord forgave Enos after he prayed. Did forgiveness require praying all night? Where was the disconnect?
He had been permitted to skip out on his chores so long as he read The Book of Mormon, but that no longer mattered to him; he was enthralled by the book. December 31st came, and he was in the last chapter – Moroni 10. His mom told him that he could celebrate at his friend’s New Year’s Eve party and informed him that his girlfriend called and was on her way to pick him up. He read the last chapter and did as Moroni implored: ask God if these things are not true. Nothing happened. How could nothing happen? Wasn’t he supposed to have a sign or something? He sat quietly and heard a voice say, “Reread it.” “All of it?” He inquired. “Chapter ten – reread it.”
He read it again. He reached the end, and read:
Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and
Deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and if ye shall deny yourselves
Of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might,
Mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you!
As he did, a feeling of light and burning rushed through him from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet. He burst into tears. From that day onward, The Book of Mormon was a treasure to him.
Those two experiences lead him to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was stationed in the godforsaken city of Robstown; a city whose High School mascot is The Cottonpickers and had various signs saying, “Robstown For Jesus!” while just down the street thirteen-year-old girls were prostituting themselves, and drugs were being sold in Casa Blanca.
“Are you praying, Elder?”
“Hmmm? Oh. Yes. I am!” he responded. He would start praying for a miracle; because it would take one to get him through his mission.
Life has a funny way of teaching lessons. It seems as though the phrase never will almost inevitably result in what is being claimed.
“I never have reoccurring dreams,” he would tell his friends. The Universe thought that was hilarious, and in the subsequent weeks, he would start to have a dream that repeated itself at least once a week.
He was a missionary, again. Not in the sense of I’m nineteen and back in the mission field but sent out at twenty-nine-years and older. The dreams always placed him in the last week, or day, of his mission. He would tell everyone that he was ready to go home because he had done this already.
“Done this already?”
“Yes, I served a mission before. This is my second mission.”
“I didn’t know that you could do that.”
“I don’t think you can.”
“Then, why are you here?”
“I don’t know!”
His last lessons with investigators or members always contain some controversial topic (Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, Atheism, Russel M. Nelson isn’t a prophet in the same sense Joseph Smith was, you should try meditating instead of praying, etc.), due to his, I don’t care because I am leaving! attitude.
He will get in a car. The next part varies from night to night, but he always either drives to the airport or starts to drive home.
If he ends up at the airport, he will miss his flight. He will check his watch, but the time will keep changing, and he won’t know what time it is. He will keep missing his flight home over and over until he wakes up.
If he ends up on the road, he will get lost. He will realize that he has driven the wrong direction and end up in Mexico, or make it to Utah only to make a wrong turn and arrive in Arizona. He’ll run out of gas, and he has no money. He then starts to worry about all the bills he must have at home and frantically attempt to find out if he still has a job waiting for him. Then, he’ll wake up.
He has begun studying Dream Yoga in an attempt to change the outcome of these dreams.
The fascinating thing about reality is that it is, essentially, the commonly accepted narrative of the masses.
Does God exist? Or, is it Gods?
It depends on which crowd you ask.
Certainty abounds where so few answers truly exist.
I am certain of one thing: Consciousness is the one thing that cannot be an illusion.
Don’t you want to find out what it is like to be fully awake, rather than lost in daydreams, memories, and the endless flood of thoughts and emotions? Don’t you want to experience reality as it truly is?
My suggestion is to learn to meditate – specifically, learn a form of non-dual awareness meditation. You’ll find that reality is much better than the dreams you’ve previously been living in.