Be Here Now

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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Inviting Joy to Dinner

It seemed like any other night.  I had made mac and cheese, sliced apple wedges and put them on the table.  My seven year old son talked happily about a new video game, while husband listened and scooped noodles on his plate.  I settled in my chair and looked across at them and smiled.  Although on the surface this night was uneventful, the undercurrent of my own emotions was radically different.

Over the course of the previous four years, I had been undergoing invasive fertility treatments in an attempt to have a second child. I had become pregnant with my son easily, but now this second time, after two miscarriages, things were not happening.

For anyone who has had infertility issues, you know it is laden with frequent doctor visits, aggressive medicines, and invasive tests.  However these are small in comparison to the emotional pain one faces each month when your desires fails to come to fruition time and time again.

Although I spent a lot of time worrying about the outcome of each month’s treatments, here, at the dinner table with my husband and son I was feeling a departure from my normal worried brain.  To my surprise I was not staring into space yearning for a baby, but in fact quite the opposite.  Looking at the two of them that night, something had clicked for me in that moment.  My heart was warm with satisfaction, absolute joy, realizing that all I ever needed ever was to be here in this moment.

I don’t know what stirred it on the particular night, but something cracked open in me and I saw that life was good…more than good, it was beautiful.  Yes, I didn’t have that little baby, the sibling for my son that I longed for, but there in the moment listening to my husband and son chat about this and that, I saw that there was nothing to pine for.  I had everything I needed.  I knew then that a new baby need not be part of the equation for my happiness.

Two days later I went into the clinic for the final injections.  This was to be our last attempt.  I was done trying.  I was ready to accept my losses and enjoy what I was given.

However on the final appointment I went in and lo and behold, I was pregnant. With twins!

I look back on that time and wonder if something had clicked for me at the dinner table, that the act of releasing  my desires was exactly what I needed. Once I was no longer after my goal, it was now coming for me.

Eleven years later, I sit at the dinner table and look at my husband, teenage son and my beautiful ten year old boy and girl and smile with that same feeling of warmth in my heart that I felt that night and know that this is good. Equally as good.

The funny thing about joy is that it can’t be chased or grabbed at.  It’s like seeing a reflection in a lake and trying to pull it from the water. The minute you declare to the world “I want happiness!” It slips from your hands.  It’s not something you can have – like that baby I dreamed of.  I was chasing after it so hard that it evaded me. But now I know, happiness isn’t something you own, it’s something you are.

I had told myself over and over, “A baby will make me happy,” but what I didn’t realize is that nothing can make me happy…except me.  If I was discontent in a family of three and someone dropped another child into the mix, nothing says that I would then be happy. In fact I can pretty much guarantee if I was unhappy before, another child would not fix that.

My joy that evening eleven years ago with my husband and son came from being in the moment, content with where we were, three happy beings sharing a meal together.  Nothing more.  In that uneventful night, I had inadvertently opened up the window to my heart and allowed the beauty of the present moment to wrap around my soul.

After the twins were born there have been joyful times, but also some very difficult ones. I am still continually amazed and grateful for their presence in my life, but I know it is not their role to give me joy.  I have to do that myself.

The twins did not fix anything in my life, in fact they made it whole lot more complicated, however I am learning the importance of pausing, breathing, and making the space for joy to slip in, no matter where I am or what I possess.

The bottom line is if we stick to our old habits of dissatisfaction we will always find new things to yearn for.  Sure, I might have my babies, but what about getting a new house, or a new job? Dissatisfaction is a choice. The cycle is endless unless you choose to stop it.

We’re the only ones who can open up that window in our hearts and let the joy in, but we have to find ways to cultivate it.  This means finding ways to listen to our own hearts – through quiet, reflective activities like prayer, mediation, dance, walking, time with the people we love.  The more we relax and free ourselves from our desires, the more the light shines in.

Life is filled with gifts – from the act of witnessing the dew on a petal to the arrival of a brand new baby.  Whatever it is, it’s our choice to see the beauty.

May you always let the light of joy shine in.

Peace,

Becky

Love everyone, tell the truth…and bake cookies

cookie

Picture in your mind-India, 1970. Young Americans in the prime of life have arrived in droves to a foreign land with hopes of finding a guru who will give their lives meaning.

At one particular ashram is a guru named Neem Karoli Baba (also known as Maharaj-ji). One of the “kids” who stumbled onto him was Richard Alpert, a former Harvard professor who coincidentally had just been doing a lot of acid with colleague Timothy Leary. Well, for Richard (now Ram Dass) the acid wasn’t enough, which was why he came to India to find the real answers. And apparently he did.

So one day at the ashram Ram Dass was pissed off. Not only at everyone in the camp but also at himself. I can only imagine that living on a diet of bland lentil stew and being in close quarters with a bunch of hippies with hang ups was not an easy thing to do.

So all the students were sitting around their guru eating (lentil stew), when Ram Dass showed up late. He was still pissed. Maharaj-ji sensed his frustration and said kindly, “Ram Dass, come join us…remember love everyone and tell the truth.”

Well, I’m guessing Maharaj-ji’s words just pissed him off more. Not liking how he felt towards his friends, Ram Dass took a deep breath and began slicing an apple.

He knew serving food in anger was like feeding people poison, so he slowly went from person to person serving them apples, looking deeply in their eyes, until he felt love for each and every one of them. And it worked! After serving them all he felt a sense of calm and peace and was no longer angry.  Just handing out apple slices changed his whole state of mind!

Fast forward to 2016 (yesterday!). Now it’s me who’s pissed. Like Ram Dass…I was feeling mad at everyone, especially myself. My life seems to be riddled with heart wrenching conflict and I was having trouble seeing any way out.

That morning Polishing the Mirror by Ram Dass had arrived in the mail. As these things go I happened to open right to this story of the apples and the guru. The timing was perfect.

Inspired by the tale, I decided to bake. I made cookies, but not like I normally do. As I cracked each egg, scooped out that tiny spoonful of salt, then compacted the brown sugar deep into the measuring cup I breathed and smiled. As I divided the dough onto the cookie sheets I sung along to music, totally in the moment.

When the cookies were done, they looked perfect. I packed them up in little containers and delivered them to the important people in my life.

As I handed them out I allowed myself to feel unconditional love to the recipients—that same love that Ram Dass felt towards all his potentially annoying hippie friends.

Love everyone. Tell the truth.

I love this notion. I hope to devote my life to these words, but, I’m no fool. I promise you, some days it will not be easy, because people make me mad! They really do. No one sees things the way I do. Their goals, their motives seem diametrically opposed to mine..and quite frankly sometimes they’re just plain ridiculous!

But…but! I love them.  Because between the space of “you and I” is “US”.   And sure, it’s cheesy and hippie-dippy but WE are one. That gap we feel between us is only imaginary. It’s a construct we have all created. When we look deeply at one and other, down to the core, we see only love.

I can’t fix people…I can’t change them…and on some days I can’t even understand them, but I can love them and in that process of truly loving others, I am truly loving myself….and the world.  You can’t feel one without the other.

So maybe next time you’re making food for your friends or family or even just handing a beer to a friend, think of those words: “Love everyone. Tell the truth,” and see what happens.

Let me know what happens. I’d love to hear your stories.

Peace. Namaste.

Becky

P.S. Happy Valentine’s Day!!