joy

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

Life without Exclamation Points

question mark, exclamation point, ampersand, and other punctuation symbols - vintage letterpress printing blocks in small wooden typesetter box with dividers, isolated on white

Life came to halt last week and it was all because of one very tiny computer malfunction…

My exclamation point key stopped working.

Yes, I know in the real world this is no big deal. Its one key out of 30-some, but being without it affected me in interesting ways.

As a writer, I know better than to litter a manuscript with exclamation points, however when I chat with my friends on facebook, I like to do a lot of exclaiming…because that’s how I talk, with lots of drama, excitement, passion. In person I communicate loudly, dramatically, flapping my hands like a baby bird trying to leave the nest, pantomiming life’s dramas with animated finesse.

However with that punctuation mark missing my words just lay flat.

All of this happened at an interesting time. I had been oscillating between really happy and really miserable—singing in the morning, crying in the afternoon, and ready for bed by five. From a psychiatric perspective one might say I was “rapid cycling”.  Personally, I just saw it as growing pains. I was processing a lot of new information and like a teenager exposed to rapid life changes, I was feeling moody.

My friend, who for better or worse, has had a front row seat to the pageantry of my emotional ups and downs found my keyboard predicament amusing. After a hearty dose of teasing (and flaunting his own exclamation capabilities), he paused to point out a possible advantage to my predicament.

He suggested that maybe without the highs (as expressed with exclamation points) that maybe the lows wouldn’t be so bad.

I smiled at the notion that a punctuation mark could change my mood …but then again…I thought. Why not?

And so as a silly experiment, instead of taking that five minutes necessary to fix the key, I decided to let it stay broken.

At this time I was also trying out another experiment: mindfulness—letting go of negative thoughts, letting them pass through me, like watching birds migrating down the coast, each one moving by slowly, silently without significance.

And so the days without my favorite punctuation mark progressed. It was frustrating at first. My words didn’t have their normal power, but something else was happening as the mindfulness began to set in, I was watching my intense thoughts pass through me.

At first this made me feel kind of dull. I wasn’t used to the quiet.  I thought to myself,

What do I fill my head with when the intensity is gone?

The answer was astounding: in the quietness, in this life without exclamation points, there was something hidden…JOY.  Love in its purest form.

I’ll be honest, I’m not sure if there was any correlation between my broken computer key and my feelings of rapture. Could my missing punctuation make me feel more calm or was it the gentle acceptance that nothing in my mind needed to be grasped so tightly? Or maybe it was a little bit of both.

I do like to think that by removing the exclamation point I symbolically let go of some of the drama in my head. I don’t know for sure, but it’s fun to think about all the same.

I’m just beginning this lifelong path to mindfulness. It’s probably the hardest thing I’ve chosen to do, but I’m tired of the roller coaster. Sure, I’d like to keep the nice rolling hills, but I’m ready to say goodbye to the violent ups and downs.

Now, I’m not saying I’ve given up on excitement or passion. I love life and will gladly live it with a happy heart. I just want to start recognizing those overwhelming emotions—the useless, fear based ones that cause me so much suffering.  I’m ready to let them go.

I can do this and I will. It’s going to take a lot of love and perseverance on my part, not to mention forgiveness and a dedicated willingness to change.

Since I started this story I’ve fixed the exclamation point on my keyboard and I’m going back to telling my stories with pizazz, however something has changed. I am now a little more conscious of my highs, my lows, and the glorious feeling of life in between.

Peace,

Becky

Check out my books at www.beckypourchot.com