anxiety

Buddha Under the Big Top

How Meditation Changed my Life, One Circus Act at a Time

My dad was a psychiatrist—an old school one who believed equally in the power of medicine and talking things out.  When I was a teen and started showing signs of anxiety and depression the natural course of action as prescribed by my parents was drugs and psychotherapy. These methods helped a great deal early on, but as an adult I found myself overly dependent on tools that no longer empowered me. So, four years ago, seeking something different I found a therapist who introduced me to meditation.

I began a practice as she directed, meditating for ten minutes a day, but it didn’t go as I hoped. I was fidgety and distracted, wanting anything but to sit in that chair. On day two I declared to my husband, “I suck at mediation.”

I returned to my therapist frustrated, and embarrassed.

“Hmm…” she said, thinking for a moment. “Why not try just meditating for a minute a day instead?”

Well this should be easy, I thought.

But about a week into my one minute practice, I still felt itchy and dissatisfied. There was no bliss, no joy, just total frusteration. It had become clear in my mind that I would never be a candidate for Buddhahood. So I quit.

However two years later, still plagued with discontent, I decided to try it again.  I ordered a book from Amazon: Journey of Awakening: A Meditator’s Guidebook by Ram Dass.

The instructions for sitting meditation were simple: Set aside time each day to be alone in the quiet, keeping the length of time and location where you meditate consistent. Then sit yourself in a comfortable position, close your eyes and breathe. There wasn’t much more to it than that. Ram Dass suggested at first focusing solely on the air going in and out of your nostrils and nothing else. Every time your mind wandered, bring it back to your breath.

This time I started a practice in a different mindset. I went in to it knowing that a wandering mind was part of the game.  I understood now that there was no such thing as a good or bad mediator. Knowing this completely changed my experience.

So, for the past two years, every morning, I have sat cross legged in my special chair, eyes closed, timer set for twenty minutes, simply breathing.

Usually the first few moments of mediation are quite lovely.  I’m fresh and ready. I’ve got my mind focused on my breath. Life is good.  But then inevitably, a thought wanders in. If I’m going through something rough, this will be the time that that murky, uncomfortable feelings rear their ugly heads and I notice negative thoughts come to the foreground.

But I’ve learned to not give these thoughts or emotions any energy. Like Ram Dass instructed, I simply bring my awareness back to my breath. My thoughts inevitably wander again, so I do the work, bringing them back again, gently, with love. This back and forth may happen ten, twenty times in a sitting, but I’m learning that it’s not the “sparkly” movements  that are important, it’s the returning. I see meditation sort of like going to the gym. Every time you lift that weight, or do another sit up, you’re making yourself stronger.

On some days as I sit, I’ll admit, I feel really good, connected to everything, but lots of times it’s just me with my monkey mind in high maintenance mode. On those days I become convinced that there is in fact a three ring circus residing in my head. Not a real one of course—but some days I wonder.

The trick with my inner circus however is in the awareness. I remind myself that I am in the stands, not part of the show.  On these days, the key is in knowing that the fate of the world is not dependent on whether the tight rope walker makes it to the other side or how many clowns that day will get sprayed with seltzer. It’s all just a show. So, as I breathe I remind myself (no matter how hard those clowns are working to bring me into their antics) that I’m just the observer.

The tigers of my mind may be jumping through flaming hoops and a multitude of mental clowns may be trying to fit into a tiny car, but I gently, through my breath remind myself that what happens down there does not need my immediate attention.

During meditation this morning, in the center ring of my mind was a doozy of a performance. Right there (dressed in a sparkly leotard) balancing on a high wire was a looming thought:

How am I ever going to survive summer break with the kids home?

In my primary reality where I see myself as a writer and a mother, thoughts like this hold a hell of a lot of weight. In this realm, not only do I have a book to write, but I also need to make sure the kids don’t drown each other in the pool or spend the next three months eating nothing but Hot Pockets.

Important stuff, right?

But the truth of the matter is, in the realm of meditation, as I breathe slowly, the identities and jobs I subscribe to are not even real. In the moment I am nothing but my breath, a quiet observer in the stands of an otherwise chaotic big top. How liberating it is to be able to let go of all my worries, even if sometimes it’s only for a moment.

I’ll be the first to admit, lots of days my meditation doesn’t end in sublime moments of rainbows and bliss. Some days I’ll check my meditation timer three or four times, fighting the urge to get my day moving.  As with everything, some days are harder than others, but I am learning that the effort itself is what is key.

In spite of the “work” required for mediation,  good things have come from my practice.  I’m not sure outsiders would even notice, but it seems that I don’t linger on negative thoughts quite so long. I forgive quicker, love stronger. And more often now, when I’m on my morning walk and the light hits the leaves just right, I find myself pausing, quietly watching, wrapped in an effervescent sense of joy.

Don’t get me wrong, I can still be cranky, obsessive, jealous, and moody, but somehow these circus acts don’t last quite so long. Problems arise, but now I’m not as frequently a victim of my own circus mind.

The number one thing I’ve learned with meditation is compassion for the self. For those of us who tend to be self-critical, perfectionists, or fixated on deadlines and time, mediation provides an absolute freedom, as it trains you to forgive and let go. Like a mother gently guiding her child away from trouble, when we wander, we gently bring ourselves back to a place of safety, over and over. In the moment of the breath, there are no standards, no anger, no judgement, just a loving, subtle sense of calm.

I used to take all that noise in my head very, very seriously, but now, during meditation I often find myself smiling at thoughts and ideas that used to be seem like a really big deal. Believe it or not, the pageantry of my own mind is quite amusing. These days, when I see an image of Buddha smiling, I can’t help but wonder if he grins, not because he has reached the pinnacle of self-awareness but because he is also a witnessed of the “Greatest Show on Earth”–I don’t know, maybe these are one in the same.

Many of us put this notion of spirituality on a pedestal. Enlightenment is a serious thing, right? I used to think in order to find inner peace I needed to be solemn and only the right books, the right mediation cushion, and the proper string of mala beads, blessed by the Dalai Lama himself would bring me salvation.  I believed that whatever this ‘bliss and oneness thing’ was, it was far from my reach. But it’s not.

Happiness is always just a breath away. It resides in all of us, in that precious moment of finding our center time and time again. I now mediate when I’m peeling carrots, sweeping the floors, listening to music, kissing my kids goodnight.  All it takes is the awareness that you are not the circus of your mind…just a happy observer, finding joy in the moment of being you. All you have to do is breathe.

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Secrets of a Professional Snake Charmer

Seated safely behind glass, an audience of  twenty-five onlookers watch as Carl and Anne Barden mindfully bring out six plastic boxes to a well-lit table. Each one is labeled respectively: cobra, coral snake, cottonmouth, rattlesnake.

Carl removes an angry five-foot long creature from a drawer labeled “monocled cobra” and lets it loose on the table. Instantly it rights itself, “standing” with its tell-tale hood flared, its eye on the crowd.

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Carl moves about like a Kung Fu master, shifting gracefully, fearlessly around his “opponent”. Then with nothing but a modified golf club, he secures the snake to the table, just below the head. He then grabs it by the throat and brings the snake to the window for the crowd to see up close. Mouth open, fangs displayed, the snake is clearly pissed off.

That’s exactly what Carl wants.

When he knows the cobra is sufficiently worked up, Carl dips it’s fangs into a glass jar. Onlookers gasp as the yellow liquid is excreted into the vial. Carl swiftly returns the snake back into its warm little drawer, tucks it away, and pulls out another snake. According to Carl the snake has “paid its rent” and won’t be asked to perform for another fifteen days.snake coral milk

The Reptile Discovery Center, in Deland, Florida is home of Medtoxin Venom Laboratories, where Carl and Anne educate audiences on the nature of poisonous snakes and allow guests to watch as they collect venom samples for research and anti-venom purposes.

My family and I have seen this venom extraction here five times now and honestly, it never gets old. What impresses me more than the snakes themselves is the gentle, fearless dance that this “snake charmer” and his assistant do time and time again.

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After the “show” Carl was asked about the number of times he’s been bitten.

“Eleven, but every time it was my fault, not theirs,” he said, making clear that snakes aren’t the bad guys. He explained further, “All the snakes want to do is curl up safe and cozy in their warm boxes and then I come around and bring them out into this bright room…” Carl clearly feels deep compassion for his venomous friends.

This last time we were there, as I was watching these snakes ooze venom from their mouths I was struck with a realization…

This relationship Carl has to his snakes is not unlike our own relationships–both with the people around us, and more importantly with our own “snakes” within.

Like the charmer’s snakes, each of us is simply trying to get by with the tools we have been given. When we are not mindful of our actions, we are animalistic in our behaviors, reactionary. Most of us do not go seeking trouble, however if we are prodded, our snake-like emotions emerge and we behave in ways that can hurt others, as well as ourselves.

But as our friend the snake charmer showed us snakes are not inherently evil. They simply are what they are: Snakes. He expects nothing less, nothing more. Treating a rattle snake like it was, well, let’s say a kitten would simply be foolish.

Our own snake-like tendencies can be brought to the surface merely by the complications of day to day life. When this happens our dark-side emerges and sometimes, when it gets bad enough, we strike. For humans “striking” can be lashing out at others, but it can also be lashing out at ourselves, acting jealous, greedy, needy, or hopeless. We each have our own personal snakes. There’s no reason to be ashamed, angry, or afraid of these parts of ourselves. We are what we are.

The trick however is to recognize is that we are also the snake charmer.

It is our job to keep our personal snakes in line. How is this done? Just like Carl does. Understand the implicit behaviors of our own inner snakes and those around us. When we can learn to do the dance of the snake charmer, our serpents are kept at bay.

A good snake charmer knows all about his snake’s venomous dark side, yet is not scared. He shows up and does his work every day. He loves his snakes, for they are his life and livelihood. The secret? The more he charms them, the more balanced and mindful he becomes…and the less he is bitten.

The greatest part of the snake charmer’s journey is that as he develops the skill of taming his inner snakes, he also acquires the greatest skill of all—the ability to transform the most toxic of venom into something that has the power to help and heal.

Now that said, the snake charmer will make mistakes. Of course he will! He is only human. Errors happen. All the time. In fact, the other day, I watched a cobra lunge uncomfortably close to Carl’s leg. But Carl did not falter, instead he reacted with kung fu deftness and gently corrected for his error.

The goal is thus to keep learning, dancing, and developing our skills and in doing so we are able to “extract” wisdom from our errors and eventually heal ourselves (and others!) along the way.

Listen closely to the calling of your own soul and the dance of the snake charmer will be yours for the keeping.

Peace and love,

Becky

I’ve Been Thinking Too Much

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Hello. My name is Becky Pourchot and I’m an over thinker.

If there was such a thing as Over Thinker’s Anonymous I’d be the president. I’m a pro. Some days I think (and think some more) about all the energy I wasted in my life brooding over things that didn’t deserve any brooding.

Tonight, fed up with the overthinking I’ve been doing lately, I walked down to the beach (two blocks away), sat down, closed my eyes and breathed slowly in and out. I relaxed and let my heart open. Within moments all of my frustrations and fears seemed to fly off into the air, dissipating with the clouds.

Over thinking is an interesting thing. I may at first feel all mellow when a thought will pops in my head. Alone, a single thought can be beautiful and simple, but when worry and the need for reassurance kick in that problems start happening. When left unchecked, pretty soon a tower of fear and noise populate my once peaceful head. My mind has been known to travel from tranquil to end-of-the-world status in mere minutes.

When I was a kid these weighty thought clouds were all encompassing. In fact it got to the point at the age of fourteen that my parents took me to a psychiatrist. Pretty soon my clouds of overthinking were no longer just mental weather patterns but illness with all kinds of dire names: depression, anxiety, OCD.

Because I came from a medically focused family, medications were quickly prescribed and in time my thought clouds lifted-slightly. However as well intentioned as my parents and the doctor were, what they failed to tell me was that the drugs couldn’t “cure” me, in fact it was ME and me alone that had the power to change the climate of my own mind.

Forty years later I’m finally getting it. In the past few years I’ve learned what Glinda told Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz “You’ve had the power all along”. I’ve learned to manipulate my moods and the weight of thoughts with simple actions. All it takes is a faith in myself and a lot of practice.

For me I’ve developed a series of tools, like a life-sized tool kit that I pull out when I’m getting stuck. We’ve all got our own set of tools, it’s just a matter of recognizing and cultivating them. For me it’s meditating, dancing (turning on the music real loud and dancing like mad), baking, listening to music in the car, working out at the gym, or riding my motorcycle. Sometimes the best thing I can do is just sit and pause, maybe eat a piece of fruit real slow, and savor every detail of it, the texture, the flavor, the snap of the skin in my mouth. Buddhists call this mindfulness. Slowing down to appreciate minute details always seems to help me.

Over time I’ve developed a pretty good awareness of my different mental states. When I’m all wrapped up in whatever life hands me, I pause and think: “Oh man, you’re really caught up in this, aren’t you?”

There’s no judgement, just recognition.

Then I find a quiet spot, close my eyes and breathe deep. All it takes is maybe five breaths now to settle back into a place of joy. The longer I sit the “lighter” I feel. The weight of my thoughts and worries is lifted and I feel more at ease. I often notice a little smile on my face as my heart opens up with joy.

What I’ve learned from this new found “power” is that the weightiness we give to life is not real. It’s just a heavy illusion, layers of thoughts that act like veils, covering all that simple joy that resides at the center of it all.

I will be honest, some days my tools have been less effective. Sometimes I’m out with friends and I’m so wrapped up in whatever is going on that I lose my center and some days, alone I dig myself in so deep in my mind that it takes several “tools” and some hearty distraction to get me out. The more I learn to recognize my states of being and the more I train myself towards this lightness of being, the easier it is to get there.

I was told back when I was a kid that the mental illnesses I was diagnosed with would be with me always, however I no longer identify myself as “sick”. In fact I’m healthier now than I even have been before. Sure, I may brood more than the people around me, but rather than allow myself to be a victim of my mind, I choose to use my weakness as a point of growth.

I look back to when I was a teenager, trapped in my fear, and I think, “Holy cow! Look how far I’ve come.” I struggle, yes, without a doubt, but I also, for the first time feel like I’m the one in charge as I learn to navigate this wonderful life.

Peace to you,

Becky

 

Diving for Gold

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Just four days ago, my husband and I drove south from our home in Flagler Beach, Florida, towards Key West. As we made our way along a thin stretch of highway that connects an archipelago of islands  I started seeing ads for scuba diving adventures.

I had always fantasized about diving, but the thought of it also terrified me. My slight fear of the ocean coupled by my experiences getting sea sick kept it from ever becoming a reality.

Yet somehow, out of my mouth I heard myself say to my husband: “Let’s go scuba diving.”

The terrified, wimpy-self in my head thought, Are you crazy? We don’t scuba dive.

But bold me pressed on, “Come on…Let’s do it!” I said out loud, convincing my husband .

After all, everything else in my life lately has been about letting go, facing my fears, why not do this one too? This trip to the Keys was a bold move in itself as we were leaving the kids longer than we ever had before and I knew my husband, celebrating twenty years together, had issues to resolve that would certainly come up during this trip.

When Shawn gave me the okay I called a Key West based scuba diving outfitters called Try Scuba Diving, Key West and scheduled our trip. The next day we met these three great guys, our guides: John, Stephan, and Peter.

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The boat was neatly organized with a row of vests, air tanks, flippers, and such. On the boat was a sweet German couple who were visiting the US, bounding from adventure to adventure on a Florida whirlwind trip. Our guides created a mellow, happy mood that instantly put me at ease.

However when the boat pulled into the bay, I panicked wondering if the motion sickness meds had time to take effect, but the skies were crisp and blue, the water calm and emerald green. The summer breeze blew against my face and within moments I had forgotten to worry about sea sickness. I was perfectly fine.

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We stopped in the shallow water…just four feet deep to try out the vests and tanks and learn the basics of diving. I settled myself down in the water and found myself at ease breathing through the tank.

We got back in the boat and headed to our official dive spot for the day. I was ready to go. We plunged down into the water and suddenly things didn’t feel so easy. There had been a storm the night before so things were a bit cloudy—maybe with 15 foot visibility. We could still see plenty, but it wasn’t the picture perfect, crystal clear Jacques Cousteau moment I imagined and I felt a little closed in.

I was in an alien world. I could not speak, ask questions, or even really communicate through facial expressions. Nothing was real. Nothing went by the rules of this world, not even the way I propelled myself through space. It was life with completely new guidelines. And although it was exciting on some levels, my scared, control-freak self constantly wanted to take the reins and swim back up to the surface.

At one point during my initial panic I noticed my diligent guide was pantomiming to me, his hands going slowly up and down over his chest like a Tai Qi master.

“Breathe,” he was telling me. I understood!

Instantly I let myself relax and feel my breath. It wasn’t so bad.

As time passed and I learned to regulate my buoyancy with my breath I started to feel as if I had some control. Although that scared little voice in my head was still chatting away, I found a way to turn her volume way down.

The fish were cool. I even saw a giant crab and a turtle…but that wasn’t what this trip was about for me…this time around it was about mastering my fear of the unknown and most importantly letting go of my need for control.

When I realized we had made our way back to the anchor of the boat, I saw our guide give us the sign for “up”. I felt my heart sink.

No….I want more! I thought. But sadly this trip was over.

On the boat ride back my husband and I looked at each other and smiled, high on our fantastic underwater adventure.

“When are we going to do this again?” I asked and together we discussed the logistics of getting our kids out scuba diving with us next time.

Something happened on that trip to the Keys. I found gold, but it wasn’t in the form of a coin at the bottom of the ocean, nor was it in a “mermaid moment” where I felt completely free and alive swimming about.

Instead I found gold in the work, in the effort of calming myself, finding my center. The gem of my Key West trip came from the struggle, from that little battle I had with my terrified ego, who wanted nothing more than to swim to the surface and hang on for dear life to that boat.

My treasure came from refusing to give in to that dark, timid side of myself and instead, nurture that piece of me that whispers: “everything is alright” “have faith” “you are safe”.

Just as I had anticipated, in spite of our wonderful water adventure, the car ride home with my husband, brought up a lot of the relationship grime, that I knew we had to deal with.

As we talked I noticed that many times in my relationships I’ve wanted to flee—just like I did in the ocean. It’s as if I want to say, “Alright. I’m done with this shit! Bring me back to the boat. This is too hard!”

But now I’m wondering if I can treat my relationships more like I treated that dive. Don’t feed the fear…instead listen for that other voice, the one who loves us unconditionally who is there whispering in her sweetness- “Do not fear. You are okay.”

I tell my daughter from time to time that the bravest people aren’t the ones who go out and do things fearlessly, but the ones who are scared and do them anyway. I think I’m one of the brave ones. (As are you!)

Bravery comes in all forms, whether its in getting in a boat and diving deep under the water, or looking at your relationships head on and acknowledging the ways you may struggle with your capabilities as a good friend, a wife, a parent, a lover.

Sometimes the treasure isn’t in a tangible object like a shiny coin, but in Love itself. The bounty comes from making the choice to not swim for the surface, but instead to stay deep down, even when things feel scary.

Today and every day I take a dive into the ocean of my own heart, and whatever darkness, whatever murkiness I uncover I keep on swimming, because I know from my depths everything is okay.

Keep on swimming.

In Love,

Becky

 

What Do You Want?

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I stumbled on a funny little exercise in “The Way of Mastery”, a book my meditation group is reading.

In the chapter they suggest meditating for just five minutes, clearing the mind, and then asking yourself “What do I want?” The authors tell you to write down what comes to your mind for seven days of this and then on the seventh day reading through them all.

“Ha!” I thought when I read this. “This will be easy!”

So I sat down and quieted my mind. I tell you, before I got the breath number two, those wants were rushing through my head in full force.

“I want a hot tub,” I thought.

“I want that cute dress I saw in the store.”

“I want one of those sugary “morning buns” I had when I was a kid…the ones my mom used to buy us as a special treat, that were slightly crisp on the outside and hot and chewy on the inside…yeah, I want one of those.”

“I want a new motorcycle. Ooh yeah…I shiny, red one. A Harley!”

“I want to be able to get on my motorcycle and ride wherever I want to…be gone for a week…or no! A month! Without a concern for money…or any of my responsibilities”

This thought made me pause.

“I want freedom.”

“I want to respect the path that each and every person is on.”

“I don’t want anyone to suffer.”

“I want to know Love.”

I noticed then that I felt a shift in my heart. No longer was I dreaming of buttery cinnamon rolls, or fast motorcycles, no longer was I grasping at the air for things that are untouchable. Instead I was yearning for something within me. And as I did this, I could feel this deep desire well up, radiate through my body, release through my pours.

This feeling wasn’t fueled by needy wants, or those unfulfillable dreams that only lead to more desires. This was something fiery, laden with passion and heat. It was alive.

This feeling was the desire for connection, not on the material level, but on a deep soulful level. I wanted then a contact with something beyond the mundane…something so real, I physically ached for it. This was Love…right there in all its shining glory. Right there.

Turns out the one true thing I truly wished for had been with me all along.

This doesn’t mean I don’t want that morning bun…I really do! But it means that I understand those sort of things are fleeting. A morning bun leads to needing a cup of really good tea, which leads to wanting a brand new thermal insulated mug for my tea to go in. And on and on…

In truth, I suppose, it’s not the actual morning bun I want. Maybe it’s the pleasure, the joy, the happiness that that little pastry brings me.

One of the goals of this exercise is teach people that there is no sin in wanting good things. We are no less spiritual because we dream of winning the lottery or buying ourselves a sports car. Wants are wants. The first goal is to love who we are…and that includes what we yearn for.

Love the pleasure a cinnamon roll gives you. However don’t think that that cinnamon roll or that Lexus is going to be the answer to your prayers. They are moving targets that dissolve in your arms when you hold too hard.

Go ahead! Yearn, want, cry out for what you love. There is no shame in passion…just don’t forget to recognize its source is something deeper…something that’s been with you all along.

Morning buns, hot tubs, and motorcycles are all temporary.

Love is eternal.

Catching Sunbeams: The Delicate Art of Stopping Time

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This weekend I went to a symphonic concert featuring the music of one of my all-time favorite bands-Led Zeppelin. Hearing the music performed live was intense and wonderful, perhaps one of the highlights of my decade.

As I sat there in the darkened auditorium and watched the violin bows moving in a synchronized dance, beneath the lights that poured on the stage, I felt as if the music was rushing at me like a wild wind, sometimes forceful, sometimes delicate. Two hours of perfection. When my favorite song, Kashmir played, I listened mesmerized. I didn’t want it to end. I wanted sit there into the night, just soaking in the continuous rolling, luscious sound.

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Yesterday I saw a post on Facebook that made me think of this previous night. A friend was talking of the inevitability of change and reminded me of one of my favorite aphorisms: “This too shall pass.”

This saying works great when things are bad, but what about when things are really, really good? Like that moment during Kashmir. I didn’t want that to pass. I wanted to hold on tight to it and not let go.

Time is a tricky beast. It is slippery and the more you try to hold on the quicker it slips away.

I experience this a lot in life. I try to grab onto time, but it never stays, in fact the harder I grab, the faster it slides from my hands. I want constancy in my life. I want to preserve the magic, the goodness, maintain in those perfect moments.

The other night my eight year old twins were lying on the bed with my husband and I all wrapped up in the blankets, when my sixteen year old son came in and jumped on the bed too. In a rare moment we were all there rolling in bed, laughing in one big tickle pile. It was ridiculous and wonderful. I was laughing so hard tears came from my eyes.

However moments later, as these things go, someone got elbowed, another got tickled too much and the crying began. That precious little sliver of time was gone, as quickly as it came.

It seems just as we get a hang of things, they change. It’s incredibly frustrating. Some days all I want to do is yell out “Wait! Wait! Please stop. Can’t we rewind a minute?” Yet this life of ours is tenuous. It is a beam of light pouring in through a window. It cannot be caught. It can’t be held. And no matter what you do that sun will drift past your window, in its continual dance forward.

I’ve learned a little trick that I use from time to time in those good moments. Rather than worry about losing time, I take it all in, breathe and smile and love it for what it is, not for what it should be or might be tomorrow. When I allow for this perfect balance, it feels as if I actually become the moment. I cease to be the woman who is obsessed with preservation and become one who just is.

When I sat in the concert hall I tried this technique. I refused to give into my desire for control and power and I simply listened. I closed my eyes and let myself feel that music fully…so when it ended it was okay, because I knew there was another moment to come, and another and another, and they were all good.

Eventually the show was over and my husband and I with our two friends walked over to my favorite bar for a drink, and that was perfect too. Every moment was different, brand new…and every moment was perfect in its own beautiful fragility.

It feels as if we have little control over our lives…but I sometimes wonder. What if in fact we have absolute control? What if we treated these moments as if they were just a tiny feather resting lightly in the palm of our hands and opted to not hold on? If we did this, I mean REALLY did this, would those moments…or even life itself…. become timeless?

I think yes.

Change is necessary, loss is inevitable, but when we sit back and just let the music play, everything works out just as it should.

The Reason I Keep Falling off of Chairs

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Me standing on a chair circa 1973

My mom has a story she likes to tell.

I must have been about one and half. I was wandering about our little two bedroom house when I discovered my little rocking chair in the living room. Being new to the whole world of furniture and my toddler capabilities I decided I would climb it.

So I pulled myself up, got my chubby feet on the seat and stood. Ta-da! I could see the world from a whole new perspective. Now, keep in mind that was probably one of the first times I had climbed a chair in my life, so this was a Mt. Everest achievement.

My mom clapped and I smiled at my victory… I then proceeded to fall off, right onto the floor. I laid there and cried and cried, and then as the story goes, I picked myself up and climbed again.

But the show wasn’t over yet . After doing my little victory dance at the top once again—I fell a second time and cried, of course.

My mom says this cycle went on and on, over and over.  Climbing…victory…tears…crying…climbing…victory…tears…

I can only imagine this must have been funny—if not heartbreaking—to watch.

I tell this story because I feel as if I am that child again. Over and over and over I fall back into old patterns, heart broken, aching in confusion and doubt, yet here I am standing up again, climbing, climbing, climbing. I keep doing it no matter how hard…or how many times I fall. And let me tell you I want to give up. Many times I want to go running back into my mom’s arm and say “I quit. I can’t do this anymore.”

However what I instinctively knew as that toddler was that everytime I climbed that chair my muscles got stronger, my coordination got better, and I grew as I person. I became more of who I was supposed to be. And in spite of the bumps and bruises and the seemingly futile activity I pursued, I was going somewhere—somewhere big—not just to the top of that chair, but I was paving the way for the real mountains I would climb, for the miles I would run, and all of those other insurmountable tasks I would achieve in my 43 years thus far.

I keep “climbing” in my life now because I know in the depth of my heart that there’s purpose to this madness. Honestly I’m not even sure of my end goal, but I’m going to keep trying and eventually master the art of the fall.

I understand now that that the act of failing, suffering, and hurting are as important as the victory on the hill. These are the times we stand back and say “whoops, maybe I need to take this next climb slower” or “maybe I should try a different approach.” The power is in  process, not just the victory.

Ultimately I know my life is about more than just standing high to see the world, its about the bruises as well. . Maybe someday I’ll look back at to where I am now, and be able to say “look at all those marvelous times I fell….and climbed again.”

May your falls be graceful, your victories grand.

Peace to you.

Becky

P.S. I wrote this blog post and went into my photo files hoping to find a cute baby picture and lo and behold there’s me standing on a chair. I don’t even recall ever seeing this picture before. How weird is that?