I have been thinking a lot lately about the concept of mindfulness (which can be loosely defined as bringing one’s complete attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis, or, living life in the moment and being conscious of one’s surroundings). A year ago at this time, before the soul-shattering Boyd K. Packer talk at General Conference last October, I was also thinking about mindfulness. I had started meditating every morning on my back deck, I was doing some reading about Buddhism, and I was really trying to live in the moment.
I was poorly equipped at that time to begin a journey into mindfulness. It was only after coming out that I was able to see just how much I had lived most of my life – since childhood – as an actor on a stage. This started when I was a child, when I tried to dissociate myself from the abuse and dysfunction that surrounded me. The real me – whoever that was – was mummified in layers of protective gauze until I had successfully enshrouded myself so that I was beyond the point of not only hurting but also of feeling anything at all, of knowing myself and of being in touch with any of my emotions.
This process continued as I hit puberty and came to realize that I am gay. It was at this point, I think, that my mummified persona became entombed in the concrete vault of the closet. When I joined the LDS Church as a young adult, my fate was sealed – at least for the next 28 years. I swallowed the Church’s line, hook and sinker, that I could be cured of my gayness by living the Plan of Happiness and through marriage to a righteous young woman. I married, believing that I would find happiness and joy through doing so, through siring and welcoming children and through righteous priesthood service.
In doing so, my true persona – whatever that was, was entombed even more securely within the walls not only of the closet, but of the expectations that I placed upon myself in order to make my Mormon Plan of Happiness thing work. I became an actor on a stage – more so than ever – in order to fulfill the expectations of those around me. I made a determination to “get through life” in order to prove that I could do “it” – that I could be all that Heavenly Father had intended me to be, even though in the process, I had to deny the most integral parts of myself in order to do so.
In coming out, which has been very much a process, rather than an event, I have gradually broken the walls of the mausoleum of the “Plan of Happiness.” This has been followed by destruction of the vault of the closet, and I am now working on stripping away the layers of gauze that has mummified my Self for years and years and years.
And this is where mindfulness comes in. I am practicing the art of being mindful, of being in the moment, of knowing who I am and allowing my Self to breathe the air of authentic life. This process is gradually stripping away the mummification of the self.
It is a difficult transition. I have much to learn. But I have begun.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
~ Robert Frost