happiness

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

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

 

The Paradox of Wanting

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After my most recent book came out my friends and family thought they had me pegged, “Olivia is clearly you,” they’d say.

Olivia is my female protagonist– A sexually uptight, neurotic owner of a cupcake shop in St. Augustine, Florida. Now, if you know me at all you know I’m far from sexually uptight, I don’t live in St. Augustine, nor do I own a cupcake shop. Neurotic? Well, maybe.

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Olivia has a problem in Open Souls. She found a box, opened it up and now she and Brad, a complete stranger, are both watching their identities dissolve as they slip into their own Pandora-like journeys.

At first Olivia finds herself in a state of spiritual awakening, suddenly aware of the beautiful details of the life, completely liberated from her fears. With this comes a sexual awakening that brings her an exquisite sense of self-awareness and freedom.

However after getting a taste for the divine, she is hungry for more. Crazed and manic, she finds herself a hopeless being of want, lust and desire.

While Olivia is not me, her story is my own; tasting happiness, but never being able to quite hold on to it.  Her story–our story is one of never ending desire.

The things I want: appreciation, love, attention, understanding… good food…sex! They are all ethereal. Moments in time that pass. In fact, in my experience, the act of wanting repels the exact things I want. The more I want, the more the more my desires run away, like a child wanting a rainbow so much she chases it to exhaustion, only to watch it fade, never to return.

Such a paradox we live in! Wanting, wanting, wanting in an endless loop. What an exhausting job it is to be the child chasing the rainbow.

I don’t know much, but I do know that we can never truly have what we think we want.

However if we sit back, let the breeze blow against our skin and simply BE, we might just realize that everything we truly desire we’ve in fact had all along.

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I am proud of Open Souls. 

To help spread the word of my little book, Open Souls is free on Kindle between July 16th and 20th. Check it out!

Get Open Souls Free Here.

May your wants be little and your hearts be full.

Peace,

Becky