Buddhism

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

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

The Five Noble Truths (according to the Beatles)

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I’ve been listening to the Beatles a lot lately.  In fact, even though their music has been a back drop to my life since I was a kid, I still can’t get enough of them.

What astounds me about the Beatles is their timelessness. They were my parent’s music, yet my kids love them as much as I do.  On one level their music offers these brilliant surface messages.  On this layer they act as an accompaniment to our daily rituals, our love lives, our hopes and aspirations, but then when we listen more, we are touched by something even deeper that speaks to our core….to who we really are as humans.

Few musicians, actually few artists in history, have done this as well as these four “boys” from Liverpool.

Along with my Beatles listening, I’ve been reading a lot about Buddhism. The Buddhists have the Four Noble Truths which speak to the basic core of the human condition….as far as I can tell, Buddha had it right…but dare I say? So did the Beatles.

"And these are the Fab Four Noble Truths."

In honor of two very different, yet impressively similar wisdoms, I’ve put together  a collection of core “Noble Truths” pulled from Beatles songs–words that echo in my heart every time I hear them…

The Five Noble Truths (according to the Beatles)

All you need is love

Turn off your mind, relax and float down stream

Nothing is real…and nothing to get hung about

Love is all and love is everyone

Let it be

   Ahh…such simple words, but oh so powerful as well.

Tell me, what did I miss here?  What Beatles lyrics ring true for you?

Goo goo g’joob to You,

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

 

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

 

 

 

Great Expectations (according to Luke Skywalker)

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Remember the scene in Empire Strikes Back when Luke is facing Yoda’s trials in the cave on Dagobah? There he faces Darth Vader in a lightsaber battle, only to find after decapitating him that beneath Darth’s mask is Luke’s own face.

That’s how I feel lately…..maybe minus the light sabers.

Some days I feel like I’ve been up against insurmountable “bad guys”, the kind of people who I seem to meet over and over again in my life. These people come in many incarnations, with different guises, but their MO is always the same.

They are never satisfied. These are people who beg for your love, yet nothing you do will satiate their need. Everything is conditional. They are what the Chinese call hungry ghosts. In China they depict these people as ghoulish beings with over sized stomachs and tiny mouths. Never can they feel full.

And so all along my life I complained incessantly about these people, who seemed to haunt me at every turn. I even wrote a book series about them (www.HungryGhostBooks.com) As far as I was concerned I gave and gave but never received.

In these scenarios I always saw myself as a bit of a hero—the do gooder. You know, like Luke Skywalker. I was the bold giver, who loves these people so much that she risks losing herself, wasting away, in some sort of glorious act of devotion…A picture perfect martyr, no?

Lately this whole Luke scenario keeps popping up in my head, especially when I’m meditating. I know this is weird, but once in a while, as I sit there alone with my breath, an intrusive thought pops up and I feel myself not as me but as these other people, the ones who have caused me so much trouble along the way. Part of me is thinking, “What the f#$@”and I try to push it down. When it doesn’t go down I push harder.

I’ve learned however that the most important part of meditation is to simply be with your thoughts. Don’t feed them, but also don’t fight them.

And so, that is what I did…I sat with the yuckiness.

In the process I’m learning something…I am not just the good guy in this movie I call “My Life”, in fact many times I am the never-satisfied one, demanding more of my friends, of my husband, of my kids than they could ever give. And like my adversaries, occasionally my expectations are so high that I put them in the position of the feeder, scooping their version of love into me faster than I can swallow.

This is a horrible thing to think about yourself, but I believe, like all of us, I too am a creature of the darkside. It cannot be denied.

When we’re in those dark winding caverns, we have a choice. With our light saber drawn we can knock our enemies down, we can run from their unshrouded masks, or we can acknowledge who they really are. Light and dark.

Rather than hating our enemies we can pause and acknowledge that maybe in some ways they are only us in disguise.

Loving one’s self, without condition, without expectation is perhaps one of the hardest tasks we are set out to do in this life. We all are hungry ghosts on some level, looking for an idealized  image that will never be, but when we wander the corridors of life, sometimes we see that glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel and we know, even in our darkest moments that each of us hold in our hands all of the beauty and perfection we ever wanted.

And we are forgiven….unconditionally.

In this maze that we all walk through, all we can do is love. I say that over and over again…it’s so simple but it’s perhaps the only real thing we can do.

Love and forgive.

May the Force be with you.

Peace,

Becky

 

 

Little Did I Know

 

I’m riding my motorcycle down Old Dixie Highway. The trees are arching overhead; thirty feet high. Below, the woods are thick with palmettos, gnarly oaks, and scraggly pines. The air is cool as it courses past my cheeks, across my arms. I am alive with intensity.

I am a new rider. This is the second time that I’ve ridden the historic Ormond Scenic Loop and I’m all in, focused intently on keeping up with the bike in front of me, watching my acceleration, braking when needed, turning with the curves.

As I ride, a funny tune pops into my head “ram, ram, sita ram.” It’s Sanskrit…and actually not a song at all but a chant I had been listening to the previous week, with hopes of gaining a sense of balance and calm that I have sought for a very long time.

So, as I focus intently on keeping my bike rolling and this little mantra chimes in my head, I smile. Here I am a Jewish housewife riding a motorcycle, singing a Hindu chant as I ride to Daytona Beach for a bike rally. But as absurd this may seem, in this little moment it makes perfect sense. I’m exactly where I should be. And although not in my wildest dreams could I have ever pictured myself in this situation, I’m where I always wanted to be. Simply here.

Of course, my mind still wants to rattle on. It wants to think serious, deep thoughts about my “complicated” life. My emotions want to take me on unneeded trips, egging me on with all sorts of drama, but my heart, this little thing in the center of it all, is simply present…there with the road. In this moment as everything stills the only things I know are the actions of my feet…my hands….my heart.

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I have recently taken up meditation as a daily practice…and I have to say as difficult as learning to ride a motorcycle has been for me, I think mediation is harder.

Just you try, telling this neurotic, obsessive Jewish girl to not think…to just sit and be. Ha! Preposterous.   But I’m doing it…with the help of my lovely motorcycle rides…and a dedication to end this cycle of suffering, to be the present for the people I love, and to bring joy to this world.

So, here I am, embarking on the hardest thing I have ever agreed to do… making a vow to myself to be with my heart…to no longer live in fear, greed and selfishness. I know I’m going to screw up. Of course I will! It’s part of the learning curve. There’s no exact road map for me to follow. I will make mistakes…just like I know I will probably spend many meditation sessions trying not to attach to the chatty noise in my head. I will still hurt and I will still fall, but I will try my best to do it with compassion, forgiveness and the heartfelt intent to make good in this world.

And so, I plan to write good stories, love my family, be good to my friends, ride my bike, sing goofy mantras, and mediate  all with the intent of doing what I discovered that day beneath the trees on my motorcycle…. Being here now with beauty, love, and joy.

There’s nowhere else to be.

Peace.

 

2015: The Year I Found my Heart

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I reclined back in a big, lazy boy chair in the office of Sue David, an 85 year old hypnotist who I had met a few weeks before. I didn’t even know why I was there really…curiosity I suppose.

Sue’s voice was even and calm and my mind easily followed it as she led me through a healing exercise. Guided by her words I envisioned my blood pumping through my body bringing nourishment and health throughout it.

I was listening, feeling calm and to my surprise completely in control…in fact I remember wondering what all this business was on focusing on healthy blood and such, when something she said, I don’t remember what exactly, triggered something deep within me.

It felts as if my heart burst open…flooded with love, like liquid gold pouring out in a perpetual ecstatic flow. Warmth covered my body and in that moment I knew all was good. All of it. Even in the suffering, I was loved.

I don’t think Sue’s intent was to send me into a euphoric journey, but for whatever reason it worked. I spent the next few days feeling a gentle, blissful high that no drug, no medication could equate with.

The thing is it kept going. I started doing self-hypnosis daily and because I’m not good at listening to what anyone tells me, I crafted my own version that somehow melds hypnosis with mediation, shamanistic journeying and prayer. Really, I’m just sitting alone in my bedroom, breathing deep and letting myself be, dropping the pretenses of all my fears, simply speaking to the darkness and the wisdom within. Maybe I’m talking to God, maybe I’ve connected to my soul, or maybe it’s simply mild psychosis….I don’t know…frankly what you call it doesn’t matter to me. Whatever it is, I go back to it whenever I can and let life flow through me, reminding me of who I truly am.

I could end the story there and you’d think “Well then, this chick has it all figured out” but quite the contrary. Life is life and the pendulum always swings, and I will tell you, glowing heart or not, this has been one f%*@ing hard year.

Probably too existential for my own good this golden outpouring of my heart opened me so far, so wide, that I was left no longer knowing which way to go.  I questioned everything…my purpose, my destiny…but instead of rewriting my book entirely, abandoning the solid path, of all things, I bought a motorcycle. So now rather than giving up on everyone I love, I not only have my devoted husband, my kids, and the strongest, most fantastic friendships I’ve ever had, but I also have a cute little Honda Rebel 250 that reminds me I can do whatever I set my mind to (plus gets me to 70mph on the open road!)

I have learned through my dear friend Marybeth (aka Marydreds!!) the phrase “let go, and let god”. I use it almost daily. And I tell you, when I let go of my need to control, my need to micromanage all the little outcomes in my life, miracles happen. These aren’t big miracles, like the parting of the red sea or anything, but instead they are little messages, signs, as if the Universe is saying “ yes….yes…you’re doing everything as you should.” It is in these moments I feel an out pouring of love towards myself, my friends, strangers, “enemies”!! I see their struggles, their fear, the pain, and love them unconditionally.

I’m just a baby on this road. I’m making it up as I go. Like all of us, my karmic path is thick with crap I’ve accumulated over a lifetime (or more!). Most the time it feels like I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m saying the wrong things, getting upset over silly stuff, feeling jealousy, greed, rage…but something has changed, just a little. I’m not taking it all too seriously. I’m standing a few feet back from my problems looking in and smiling, because for the first time I see the whole of it…like seeing the yin and yang, not for it’s separate pieces, but for its whole.

A few months back my wonderful friend Tim was teasing me incessantly for my overuse of the word amazing. Life is amazing…and it’s beautiful…but it’s also horrible and hard. The trick is as I’m learning from him is to walk the line, not get so swept up in the extremes. Bliss is fantastic.  Joy and euphoria are the things that make life sweet, but the higher you climb, the harder you fall.

The Buddhists, as I understand it, try to remove themselves from the wheel of life, the incessant spinning, the ups and downs. And so, following this logic, I go into this new year, standing back…ever so slightly, fully participating, yet also aware there is beauty and joy in letting go and not holding too tight onto the “should be’s” and the illusions of “ever afters.”

As I rode my motorcycle the other day over the huge bridge that crosses into Flagler Beach, looking at the expansive Atlantic Ocean I once again felt that ecstatic outpouring of joy.  As the blissful sensation filled my being I smiled knowing everything is perfect, just as it is.

Life is hard, but it is also magnificent.

I don’t have all the answers—not in the least, but I know right now, in this golden moment, life is good.

Peace.

May the wisdom of your soul whisper sweet words in your ear…and may you always be ready to hear it.

Happy holidays!!!

Love,

Becky

Street Performer Wisdom…

I was walking down the street on Beach Street in Downtown Daytona Beach when I saw a street performer, a drummer, maybe in his mid fifties enjoying our mellow Florida weather.  He had a little basket with dollar bills in it as her sat situated in front of a little vegetarian bistro.  I stopped and said hello and he looked up at me with a wonderful smile…one of those smiles that comes from deep in the heart.

He looked at me a kept on grinning. As I was going for my wallet and he said “What a beautiful woman you are.”  Now I suppose one could say he was simply buttering me up, or maybe trying to make a move but that is not the sense I got, he was seeing ME.  Not looking at my goofy pants I had on or the state of my wild curly hair, but he was enchanted simply because I was who I am.

Of course my ego was stroked  a thousand times…I can be insecure about these things, so yes, it made me feel marvelous. But it wasn’t about the surface stuff, I had the sense this this stranger, this guy on a street corner got ME.

We talked for a bit more and in passing I mentioned my husband and the gentleman said, “Well, tell your husband that Spice Man says he’s a very lucky man.”

Spice Man!  What a funny, wonderful man.  I wish I had got his picture to share because he was so beautiful too!

So, very appropriately I came across this marvelous little video shared by a friend on facebook this morning.  Forget the violence in the news, the insane politicians, the noise of negative self talk and fear that follows us all and  watch this video… and know that you are beautiful too.

Peace my friends.  Have a great day.