peace

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.

Just the Beginning – a poem

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Thoughts,

too many to name,

populate my head,

speaking half-truths as if they were the authority.

Today I decide-

That no longer will I let the roaming beasts roar,

no longer will I let

the illusionary needs of hungry ghosts

dictate who I may be.

Today, for the first time

I look myself in the eye

and say

no more

to cloud building

no more

to idol constructs

no more to games

where we’re all slated to loose

Today

I stand here naked

Not wanting,

Not needing

but being.

Be here!  Be love!  Be mighty!

Rest your worries, my love.

The end is not near…

this is just the beginning.

Life without Exclamation Points

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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

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

Waking Up

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This morning I woke up in a horrible funk…once again angry at myself for all the ways I’ve declared myself a failure. It seems to be a pattern lately, waking up in despair.

So, since it’s Sunday and I don’t have to get the kids off to school I decided to try something different. I slipped on some clothes and walked down to the beach. When I got there the morning sky was glowing, rays of sunlight pouring through the clouds onto the ocean’s surface.

I stepped in the sand and did my morning “yoga” prayer to the sea, then settled myself on a step at the beach walkover. With no particular plan I ripped out half a page out of a notebook I had brought along. I then began scrawling all the things I “hated” about myself—all those things that ran through my head while I laid in bed most mornings…my neediness, my lack of order, the ways I’ve clearly fail my family, friends and myself….all my inadequacies. I didn’t hold back one bit.

Then with pleasure I shredded the half sheet into little pieces and stepped into the water. With a smile on my face I tossed the paper in, watching the little fragments flutter into the ocean like a flock of tiny birds on their final flight.

I then walked back to my seat, where my notebook and pen sat. In front of me was the remaining, blank half sheet of paper.

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Looking at it I decided it needed to be filled. And so I began to write a response to those negative words that were now part of the waves:

This is you. The one here in this moment, connected to the ocean, connected to God. Fear is just a distant whisper—a memory of need and loss. It serves no purpose anymore.

You are here—magnificent, with all the knowledge you need in the palm of your hand. You are the light that streams through the clouds, the breeze that blows, the changing tide. Your heart breaths light.

Chaos and order are just perceptions. The world is both—neither good nor bad.

I hereby free you from your obsessions, your worry. These are distant calls. They are no longer needed in this magnificent place.

Now—tell this to your heart! Worry and self-hatred are no longer you.

You are beauty, light, and love.

And so, I came back from the beach feeling calm and clean, free from my worries.

It’s going to be a good day.

Peace,

Becky

www.beckypourchot.com

A Good Depression

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Sometimes being in a slump is a good thing

Lately, these days I feel useless.

I feel needy and insecure. It’s not a great place to be. Trust me.

In fact I find myself avoiding too much contact with friends because frankly I’m embarrassed. I’m afraid my neediness has gotten to a point where they feel obliged to intervene, giving me advice on every little worry I have. They see I can’t fix it myself, so they reach out to help.

Over and over my friends (and most frequently, my husband) suggest ways to run my business, how to manage my personal life. This is because I ask them….beg them to help me solve my problems. They give me pep talks, cheer me on, and tell me where I’m going right and wrong. This is wonderful. I know they do this out of love and I cherish that, but at some point I have to stop asking for help.

I have surrounded myself with fixers. They’re my favorite kind of people. In fact, I’m a fixer too! We see problems and we solve them. And most importantly, if we see people suffer, we are there to help.

Lately I’m two people: first I’m this horrible, insecure girl who feeds off of her own neediness, putting up the white flag of distress all the time, because she’s too scared to take responsibility for her own actions. I hate that part of me, more than any other part. It makes me ashamed to even write it. BUT on the other side  there’s a deeper part of me, a beautiful, strong, proud self that KNOWS the answer ….or a least has the courage to make a good guess.

So as I’m sitting here on my porch, enjoying the magnificent Florida spring weather, I say this: Yes, I am in a slump,  yes I am doubting myself. Lately my worries are taking charge, but within that darkness I am seeing where I fall short, recognizing that I am sometimes weak, sometimes scared. And that’s okay.

Strong people are people who aren’t afraid to be weak. They are people who know when to ask for help, but they also know when to say “I got this. I’ll fix this one on my own.” www.beckypourchot.com

The End of the Story

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I feel as if I’m ending a chapter in my life “story”.  It was a wonderful chapter, maybe one of the best in my book thus far, but its time for the next one, so the story can continue on.

And so, as I was journaling today, I decided to write out an ending for myself as if I was a character in my book.

Here’s what I came up with.  (As far as I’m concerned, its all true!)

…She looked in the mirror and saw not what she wanted them to see, but what was really there…her new forming wrinkles, her blemishes, her fly away hair…but also her beauty, her strength, her vibrancy. She was magnificent, not because she was anything particularly special, but because she was all she could be–herself.  And in that moment she noticed a glow, burgeoning in her chest.  She watched it emerge, growing in intensity, until it was shining brighter than 1,000 suns…it was light, yes, but more importantly, it was also love.

This, light emerging from her depths, held it all, the love she felt for her sweet parents, her brothers, her friends who made her smile, her magnificent husband who holds her hand through it all, and all the people before her. This heart shone with love for everyone who has ever crossed her path, for every animal, for every leaf. But most of all, it shone for her.

And as she recognized this, the light spoke:

“You have been exactly who you were supposed to be all along. All the noise, all the chatter, all the demand—that was just air, an illusion, a subtle breeze.”

And now as she stands looking at herself in the mirror, she knows that all that she feared was a myth.

Love. This glowing heart.  It has always been here, and it will always remain.

“You are forgiven Becky. You are marvelous. I am always here.”

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Falling in Love

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Late in 2014 I decided something big…something life changing. I decided I was no longer going to live my life in fear. This is big stuff coming from a girl who was diagnosed with every anxiety disorder known to the psychiatric world by the age of twelve.

But here I am in the new year and it’s working.

The changes are subtle, and probably not noticeable to even my close family and friends, but I feel a shift. Sure, the fear is still there, however what’s different is how I respond to it.

As the anxiety grows, I take note of the tension in me, my wild heart, my racing mind. Then I look at my fears and I say, “This has been nice and all, but it’s time for me to move on.”

And I do!

I’m a busy person. I love to take on lots of projects, set lots of goals, see lots of people, and connect with the world. It’s who I am…and it’s the way I learn and grow, but a full calendar will also get my anxious brain spinning. A busy life is food for anxiety. If I don’t keep my worry in check it blossoms into something ugly and very unhealthy.

Love is the opposite of fear. I’m finding when I nudge fear aside, I can make room for love and when I do really good things happen.

With this in mind, when I start feeling scared I stop and say to myself, “Hold on a second! Take a breath. Now look around for the love.” And when I do, it appears—in the way my husband holds my hand, the way the light from the sun shines between the trees, the way my body feels resting beneath my favorite blanket.

Love is all around. It’s not always big and monumental. In fact it’s usually small and delicate, hidden in the places we’re afraid to look.

And so in celebration of love I’ve been writing love letters to myself. Using the model created by Neale Donald Walsch in his series Conversations with God. I’m allowing myself to do the same and talk with God.

God thinks I’m great. “He” thinks all of you are amazing too. He’s our biggest fan! What I like most about this God that I channel is that he speaks without fear. He is pure love. He’s the voice that we’re all scared to listen to, because we’ve been told our whole lives that we’re subpar, that we’ll never reach our goals because we’re just not good enough. That’s bullshit! You and I know this. It’s fear at its finest.

So sure, maybe this God I’m talking to is just an aspect of me, but I don’t care. There’s something so deep and empowering about these letters. This is me at my finest—without fear.

And so I’m doing this, this weird soul searching path to freedom. It’s kinda nuts, I know. Even the people I love had deep doubts about it. But for the first time I have faith in me. My life is about growth, becoming who I really am. Amazing things are happening as I open up to love.  What’s really cool is that I’m realizing these amazing things have always been there, but now I’m just allowing myself to see them.

Love is there. It’s there because we believe it’s there, because we allow it to exist.

There’s no need to be afraid, because when you fall, love is there to catch you.  Let yourself fall in love!

Peace,

Becky