new age

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

 

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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?

Confessions of an Agnostic: Why I Believe in God

Twice in my life now have I had the odd feeling of waking up…not in the literal sense, but more, I suppose in the metaphysical sense.

It’s very weird, and difficult to talk about because it is so personal. We’ve all experienced it, I’m sure, we just deny it because it messes with everything we take to hold true.  I’m not crazy, though I have certainly been treated as such for most of my life. In fact its the exact opposite of crazy.

The first time it happened it was very abrupt.  It was terrifying.  I literally thought I was dead.  I was sitting on my boy friend’s bed talking with him when I was hit with this sensation of divine stillness. The chatter in my mind stopped and I was just there. Purely Me. It was beautiful and frightening at the same time.

The self I had spent 19 years with, listening to her strive, worry, and grope and  was gone.  I mean completely gone, leaving me with this thing, this feeling I suppose one could equate with God.

I remember two friends of ours knocked on his dorm door and we let them in.  As they spoke I could hear everything.  Beneath their words I could hear their fear, their need for love and acceptance.  They soon left and I told my boyfriend what was going, crying for the loss of self.  He assured me I was okay.  He had known this feeling himself.  This in fact was something to welcome, he told me.

The months went by and like a good student I l asked questions to my boyfriend who seemed to know exactly what this was all about. But time passed and the magic of his insistent wisdom wore off.  It was all replaced with a new fear–a fear that I was loosing God, that it was slipping out of my hands, leaving me in the world alone.

Anxiety engulfed me like a raging fire and I plummeted into my own personal hell.  Suddenly no choice seemed like the right one.  I was paralyzed with the fear of failing God.

The boy friend and I went our separate ways and I eventual found my balance.  I did the only thing I could do, resorting to the comfort of psychiatric drugs and talk therapies that brought me back to this world.  I do not look back at this period of my life as not good or bad.  It is what I needed to do at the time.

So life went on.  I grew and learned, and continued to hold the unspoken knowledge in the back of my mind that this God-ness I experienced might very well be real, that love is all there is, but whenever I thought too much about it I was sent literally into panic attacks, for fear that the demons wouldn’t slip in again.

So now 20 years later I have an amazing family and devoted husband, life couldn’t be more perfect.  But for a long time I was not satisfied.  I wanted more.  I wanted the other, not what I had, but everything else.  I complained incessantly about people..my friends no less.  I didn’t just expect perfection from myself, I expected it from everyone else.  While I could feel God on my walks on the beach I couldn’t control my fear and anger.

So, this next part I’m hesitant to say, because it just feels so odd.  In the reality I help for 20 years this was not supposed to be.  I was not supposed to feel God every second of everyday, to look at everyone I meet with compassion and love.  These are not things meant for this little neurotic Jewish girl. My story went like this: you are helpless, the world is out to get you, you will try but never suceed.  Yuck!  I’m done with those thoughts.

I’m letting go of my need to be good. No, I’m not turning into some crazed sociopath.  Good is something that is my essense, I don’t have to try  I am good, because I let myself be…and sometimes I’m bad. If you saw what I ate for dinner, or what thoughts jjust crossed my mind, you’d see) But bad is all part of it…so ultimately that’s good too.  Does that make any snese?

I am the one writing this book. I choose where I go.  I have control because I have faith in myself.  I am God!  As are you! We are beautiful.

Love Has Come for You

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As a child I was taught that love was something earned, specifically by keeping the people around me happy. This wasn’t about entertaining them so much as it was about emotionally feeding people’s needs. It was a pretty big job as a little kid and to this day it still takes on too much weight.

Now I’m understanding something, though. Love is not the emotional unit of two people grasping at each other because the world is too big and scary for them. Nor is it holding on so tight that the other person can’t move. Love is freedom, love is awareness, and ultimately love is connection.

Love is huge. It is the biggest thing in the universe. It is what makes everything tick.

It is diving into the world without fear. It is connecting from the heart, not from the socially constructed brain that says “love right or die”. It is living free, liberated from the fear that you might be abandoned and left hopeless on the side of the road.

Healthy relationships are about two beings who stand alone, yet perfectly together. As we tap into that cosmic love we acknowledge it within ourselves and each other.

Being human it’s easy to slip into a place of fear and wanting. We’re so attached to what we call reality that the threat of loss feels too much to bear. We don’t want to be alone, but what I understand now is we’re not. Not ever. Love is a force that pervades everything. It is more than our wants, then our fears.

Although I will always carry with me the loaded scripts I’ve been given as a child, I hope as I move forward I can pause to acknowledge the magnificent love within myself and everyone else and no longer feel the need to feed people to feel safe.

Love is alive around us reverberating in the trees, in the water, in our hearts. It is who we are. Our job is not to be security blanket for the people around us, it’s to lift the heavy bindings and let people fly free.

Peace,

Becky