suffering

The Secret Behind My Exceedingly Spiritual Pajama Bottoms

In two weeks I will be flying fifteen hours over land and sea to Maui, where I will stay for a personal retreat in the guest house of spiritual teacher Ram Dass. I’m excited, nervous, honored, and thrilled all rolled into one big bundle.

I began meditating three years ago, inspired by several of Ram Dass’ books and videos and since have developed my own flavor of practice. As I work on myself, I am noticing subtle, and some not so subtle changes in the way I do life.

But none of this “spirituality thing” looks as I expected it to. Rather than heading towards a life of serious contemplation, as I thought I might do, I seem to be lightening up, laughing more. In fact, the deeper I go into my practice, the more it seems I have inadvertently signed on as an actor on some sort of cosmic sitcom. I’ve become Lucille Ball in yoga pants!

On any given moring I might find myself feeling joyous, alive with the breath of existence, but then by noon, mad because I’m stuck scrubbing my kid’s pee off the bathroom wall. No one ever told me that oneness with the Universe would involve Lysol.

I’ve always pictured real yoginis to be soft spoken and kind, to wear dangly crystals and Om themed jewelry. Although I may own a bit of Om themed paraphernalia, I have also been known to laugh loudly in public places, swear like an angry pirate, and occasionally dress like one too. And yes, I’m that mom in the minivan chanting Sri Ram with gusto, while pulling into the McDonald’s drive-through.

So you can imagine three months ago, when I applied for a personal retreat with Ram Dass, I was a little anxious. I mean, I buy my underwear at Walmart and take my kids to Chick Filla on a regular basis. How could me, the lady with Super Girl pajama bottoms, qualify for something so sacred?

The thing is that spirituality isn’t about how groovy your pajamas are. This thing we call spirituality is not about the trappings, what books you read, classes you go to, or retreats you attend.

In the end it’s about learning to be still and listen. It’s about stripping away everything you think you are and listening to your own true voice…a voice that is so pure, that sometimes it ceases to be your own and becomes that of the cosmos.

The joy of life is that it’s so incredibly awkward at times, so demanding, so puzzling. It’s as if we’ve been put on this earth to solve this enormous jigsaw puzzle and all we can do is pick up one piece at a time, smile when we find one that fits….and laugh when we don’t.

The truth is that our daily lives and our spiritual lives are not mutually exclusive. In fact, being in the thick of things is where we seem to learn the most. In my life, my current, my most challenging spiritual exercise is playing referee in the screaming matches between my son and daughter. Trust me, it takes a true Aikido master to neutralize the sibling rivalry in my house.

One of the phrases I’ve heard Ram Dass mention in his videos is “There’s nowhere to stand.” I say this to myself a lot. I realize that my life—actually all our lives—teeter between the divine and the earthly. It’s a dance of form and formlessness. I am simultaneously a women, with the power to alleviate suffering in the world and a proud owner of a Toyota Sienna Minivan. Similarly, I exist somewhere between being a divine being of light and love and a bi-weekly Target shopper.

When I choose to not hold on to either state of being, and simply hang out in the beautiful state of is-ness, I am absolutely free. That’s when the two worlds merge and things get really, really cool.

For me laughter is the place where the housewife and goddess meet. It’s the sweet spot between realms where golden divinity and fumbling humanity coincide, where the goddess and the housewife settle onto the couch of life together, turn on TV and watch the comedy unfold. As they sit there, watching maybe Lucy and Ethel in their first yoga class, the housewife turns to the goddess, smiles says, “Life is really hard, but it is also so beautiful.” The goddess gives her a loving grin, puts her hand on her leg and says “Yes. This is very true.” She then pauses, glances down, begins to chuckle and says, “By the way, nice pajamas.”

In preparation for my trip to Maui, I am choosing to not prepare. I can only be what I am in the moment. No more, no less. In the great words of the great yogi and canned-spinach condenseur Popeye: “I yam what I yam”.  I am a student and a master. A child and a teacher… and of course, a housewife and a goddess.

Namaste, my sweet friends.

Becky

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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.

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

Night Vision

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Author’s Note: I was having trouble sleeping the other night, so I got up and started writing.  I have to say I was a bit surprised when this came out….

Once there was a princess, who had everything she ever wanted, but her life still felt empty. So, one night, while the palace was asleep, she slipped out the iron gate into the woods. The girl followed a trail of silver light along a path, lead only by the beckoning call of frogs within the wood.

Deep in the forest of pines, she stopped and stared at the moon. Away from the castle, this moon was much more beautiful than she ever knew. There beneath its brightness, she found herself smiling, experiencing a happiness she forgot she knew. So, alone among the oaks and pines, she danced in her shimmering gown of gold, her lithe body making silhouettes against the moonlit ground.

Every night, intoxicated by its greatness, she went into the wood and danced, sure that she could feel the moon’s silver kiss on her skin. In her gratitude, she brought her dear moon gifts: a white feather, a beautiful stone, and a deep green leaf. And although this celestial being did not speak, she decided she needed no thanks, for its constant glow alone was all she asked for.

Then one night, when she stepped out onto the trail, she could not see. The frogs did not sing, the crickets did not chirp. Her path was total darkness. Stumbling her way out to her space in the forest, she looked up to the sky and called out.

“Oh, moon? Moon? Where have you gone?” But there was no answer, only the cool breeze of the whispering wind.

The princess in the golden gown went home and wept. She cried, angry at herself as it dawned on her thatperhaps this moon, this creature of the night, was never hers to begin with.

What sort of foolish girl falls in love with the moon? she thought.

In her grief she was left empty… just a hollow girl, alone.

One night sleep refused to come. She lay awake in bed, her curtains open, looking to the black sky. Breathing long, slow breaths, she felt as if every golden spark of joy she ever knew was lost in the woods during the nights before.

As she lay there gazing at the subtle movement of blackened clouds, she heard a distant call.

Hoo, hoo, hoo….

The call of an owl.

She had heard once that owls were messengers of death, and in her sorry state death seemed dully appropriate.

Death of love, death of hope… she thought under a heavy dose of self-pity.

Hoo, hoo, hoo, it called again.

She covered her head with a pillow, but the owl kept on calling.

Fed up, she went to her window and opened it. On a nearby oak stood a white owl, its yellow eyes looking at her. It ruffled its feathers as if mocking her sorry state.

“Go away,” she called to it, but it merely flapped its wings and flew to a closer branch.

Determined to scare off this harbinger of death, she ran out of her room, down the stairs, out the palace gate, and onto the trail. The owl up ahead flapped its wings and glided in complete silence to a tree ahead. She followed.

And so it went–the owl, moving from tree to tree and the princess following behind, determined to scare it far away from the castle. This went on for quite some time until the princess paused and looked around. She was deep in the woods, alone, in the dark, without her moon.

However in that moment something strange happened. She realized that even without the moon above, she was not blind.

Far from it!

In fact, her eyes had become so well adjusted she could see the details in the bark of the trees, the dancing leaves on their limbs, and the tiny movement of small creatures on the ground.

Hoo hoo, the owl called again.

Then there, in this subtle darkness, she felt a change within herself. A warmth grew from within her chest. Her own heart was alive with radiance. This loving energy flowed outward towards her hands, her legs, her feet, until she was wrapped in that same luscious joy she felt from the moon, but tenfold!

As she stood in rapture, she wondered if maybe it was not the love she received from the silent moon that had driven her dance, but something grander, something that reached beyond the sky, beyond the forest…outward, full circle, then back into her own heart.

And so that night, beneath the cloud covered sky she danced, bathed not in moon light, but at light that came from within.

To this day, you will still find the princess in the golden gown out dancing in the forest. Sometimes it will be with the wise, old trees, the playful frogs, or the noisy crickets, and sometimes it will even be with her dear old moon, but regardless of who accompanies her each night, one thing stands the same: you will always find that princess dancing with joy, illuminating her world with her own golden heart.

 

Authors Note: To me this is a story about being pulled by our own desire for happiness, and the mistake we make grounding it in material things–people, objects, places, believing that they will cure your woes, but in the end all  these things are fleeting. Like the princess in the golden gown, it’s not until we learn to find that inner joy-that love of Self that we can be truly content with ourselves and our world.  The moon didn’t have all the answers, only the girl did, within herself.

All you can really work on is yourself.  That’s it. As my friends Tim and Marybeth say, “It’s an inside job.” 

That it is.

May you  dance everyday of your life by the golden glow of your heart.

Peace,

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?