spirituality

Life Beyond the Minivan

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When I was about ten my mom got me a book called What’s Happening to Me by Peter Mayle and Arthur Robins. It was pretty much the hippy parent’s guide book to puberty, complete with cartoon sketches of sperm and girls in training bras. I remember my friends and I would flip to the pages of girls and boys in their varying states of puberty and marvel at what we would become in a few short years.

The thought has crossed my mind that it wouldn’t have been cool over the past couple years if the guys who wrote that book had made a version for us forty year olds, you know: “So You Want to Buy a Motorcycle: Revelations of the Midlife”, with cartoon drawings of 40 year old women getting their kids out of the minivan, or men test driving convertables.

For me, and I think a lot of women, the metamorphosis in our 40s is less about changes in our bodies (though that is happening as well!), but more it’s a transition from our mundane existence into finding our true selves.

My life is good. It always has been. I have a wonderful husband who listens to me and provides for the family as much as we need. My kids are smart and clever and (relatively) well-behaved. We have always enjoyed family dinners, vacations together, evening bike rides in our quaint little beach town, but a few years back something inside me started tugging. Actually it did a lot more than tug, it shook me to my core. I’d wake up in the middle of the night, and the room would feel cold, my heart beating deep in my chest, in what felt like an out of body experience. It was as if some external source was telling me “You needed something more”. I had no idea what was going on.

During my days I’d look at my husband, my kids and feel riddled with guilt. How could I even entertain the idea of being anything but a mom and wife to these good people? Yet as the months passed I kept feeling it, this calling, a yearning for a life beyond carpool lanes and grocery stores.

Pretty soon my thoughts began to wander and I started planning imaginary escapes to far away places, scheming more and more on ways to get away. These were all fantasy of course, but their presence in my mind became so prevalent that it took on a sense of realness.

Meanwhile my life outside the house was getting more and more exciting. I had made lots of new friends and my writing career was budding. I was more socially engaged than I ever had been before, but as I did this I became more detached from my family. It was clear that I was happier when I was out and about, then when I was home.

One day, in the midst of this change, I visited a friend who is a hypnotist. During hypnosis she did a basic healing exercise where I was asked to visualize the blood in my veins going to and from my heart. As I followed her words something remarkable happened—it felt as if my heart had burst open with joy, like a warm white light was glowing from my center and I was filed with an overwhelming sense of wellbeing.

For days afterwards, I swear I felt like I was a teenager who had just found herself a new boy friend, totally in love, but not with a single person, with everything! The people I met, the songs on the radio, the play of waves on the shore were all divine.

Unfortunately after a few days the sensation wore off, and I returned to my sense of isolation. So, with guilt as my constant companion, I went into therapy hoping to bring myself emotionally back to my family. Talking to someone worked in the short term but inevitably I always returned to a state of yearning.

Around this time I bought myself a motorcycle and taught myself to ride. This was a wonderful, empowering outlet for me. So, I continued with my writing career, took regular walks on the beach, and kept tapping into things that brought me to a place of wholeness. Peace became my prerogative.

Around this time I took up mediation and fairly quickly I was able to tap into that heart center that I found in hypnosis. On command I was now able to awaken that inner joy. My daily practice became an exercise in simply being love.

As I read spiritual books and quotes from the masters I realized that the thing that had been calling me had always been my own heart. It was a call for joy. A call for divine love. I awoke to the possibility that maybe conditional love had driven my life thus far….an unhealthy play of give and take, neediness and want. I was seeing how flawed these sort of relationships were and was learning that unconditional love, even in small bursts, was completely possible.

Of course, knowing a truth does not make releasing old habits easy, so one day, still steeped in the muck of guilt and desire, I told my husband I wanted to get away alone. One night. I reserved a room in a bed and breakfast about an hour out of town, packed my bags and rode my motorcycle away from home.

While I was there, I spent time alone journaling, writing letters to the people I love, listening to music and crying, purging myself of the twisted pain I left back at home. In the morning my host, (who I’m pretty sure was an angel), fed me and shared her stories of travel and motherhood. She was both a spiritual being, deeply connected to that same love I was uncovering, yet also wonderfully present and grounded as a mother.

As I watched her cook breakfast for her guests while pausing to wipe dirt from her two-year-old’s face, I had an ah-ha moment.

I had compartmentalized my spiritual awakening, separating the divine sense of yearning and adventure from my plain, seemingly mundane sense of family. All this time I resisted my role as a wife and mother, opting for something outside myself.

As I rode my motorcycle home that day I felt a change. I got it. Life is not always about outward adventure, it’s not always about attaining the next big goal, sometimes it can be (and more often is) beautiful and subtle.

What I had been searching for was actually with me all along. Love is within, it is in the details of a leaf, the creases of your lovers eyes. There is nothing wrong with looking outward, there’s nothing wrong with yearning, in fact desire is what pulls us forward, but it’s when that yearning, that sense of seeking takes possession of you that the problems occur. When illusion and desire become your master, the path home is obscured.

What I have learned on this journey is that Love is alive in EVERYTHING…it’s not out there waiting for you on top of some big mountain, or hiding in some deep cave or in some sacred book or some magical mantra. It is right there, in the mess of cracker crumbs that your child left on their chair, in the completed art project hanging on the wall, in the playful teasing of a friend, in the greeting of a stranger, or the dance of clouds across in sky.

The call I heard those nights a few years back was not of some external being telling me to run away, but instead it was my own heart asking me to find my source.

As I walk this daily path away from fear and towards my heart center I am reminded that guilt, worry, jealousy, anger are all just spoiled children vying for attention in my mind. They need not be given power. In fact the less we give them, the quieter they become.

Love is calling. Listen to its song and you will be free.

Peace is in your palm.

In Love,

Becky

Making Love with the Universe

 

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Back in college I had my fun. I dated a lot of guys…and yes, I will admit, slept with almost as many. I loved the pursuit, the thrill of the chase. I loved the rush of endorphins, that beautiful feeling of falling into place with some sexy, long haired musician, poet, or chem studies major. Together we’d get into this great groove and in doing so we’d both feel this wonderful rush, that illusionary high of falling in love.

Unfortunately the fun never lasted. At some point either I’d see through the guy’s theatrics, or he’d see through mine and the grand illusion would fall apart. We’d be left looking at each other thinking, “We’ll this isn’t at all what I thought it would be,” and so, we’d both go our separate ways, each seeking out the next wild ride.

I think I was more into the act of falling in love, the seeking part, than I was into the actual relationship. I loved that starry eyed, dreamy reassurance that all was right in the world when I was pursuing someone. It was during these times of “falling” that I felt best about myself, confident, at peace, all was right in the world. As our eyes locked I felt okay, because he “loved” me and I “loved” him. It was a wanting game to the nth degree, both of us in our subtle ways using each other to fulfill the illusion of wholeness in our hearts.

This is a lonely way to do things. It feels so good in the short term, but in the long term you’re left feeling empty, either angry at the other one for not being what you imagined or loathing yourself for chasing after something that was never quite real.

Now many, many years later, as a married woman to a good husband for twenty years, with three kids, love looks a lot different. It’s slower, more subtle, shared in a smile, a brief hug, or a moment at the dinner table with the kids. There’s no sparklers, no fireworks—not usually anyway.

This is both good and bad. On the upside, with marriage there’s no gnawing sense of yearning, no continual search for the non-existent Holy Grail. Marriage is a good place to rest and just be. However I think as married people we start to feel a little lost, as we look back at the “fireworks years” and wish for the excitement, that shower of adoration from another person, and that cosmic, love-struck sense of belonging. As adults we end up having to find that balance between 4th-of -July-Amazingness and that homey need for comfort and stability.

I have to say that I am a seeker by nature. Whether I’m fueled by some professional curiosity, wanting to try a new food, travel, or just ponder life’s big questions, I love to be in the thick of things, because that’s where I learn best. To some on the outside I may look like a woman who is never satisfied, not unlike the “me” from my college years, but instead I see myself as a woman hungry for understanding, determined to uncover life’s truths, and live a fully engaged in life.

So in my pursuit, this question of “what is love” has fascinated me a great deal. That one little word seems to describe SO many moments of my life—from listening to Pink Floyd with my boyfriend in his dorm room back in 1993 to watching my husband hold our son for the first time, to enjoying good conversation with friends at a local burger joint. These are all love, without a doubt.

So, here I am, seeing love in all these many forms, but I’m still faced with an eternal question that keeps coming back: Why am I not wholly satisfied? Why do I still seek love? Why at the end of the day, do I still feel this little spot of emptiness that whispers “I want more”?

Lately, as I do my daily mediation, listen to music, dance, drive in the car, I ask this question to myself, then let the answers percolate from my heart. When I do, I tell you, the answer is compelling. It comes on strong. So strong, in fact that I find it hard to ignore.

In these moments of quiet I find myself “being love”. My whole being feels like it is actually falling in love. Not with a person this time, but with everything.

It’s crazy…like that college romantic tingle I used to get looking into some guy’s eyes, only this love is not fueled by anyone on the outside. Instead, it’s fueled from me. Everything has a glow. It’s ALL love. Suddenly the songs I hear aren’t just about “getting the guy” they’re about finding love within myself, with my family, with the world! It’s ecstatic grace.

Life lately is one great trust fall, not into anyone’s arms, but into the cosmos. As I dance within this strange, beautiful truth, I see that everything I sought in college, in my marriage, maybe my entire life is right here as a pure, simple light that shines on everything.

In these moments, I am a lover, not to any one person, but to it all. I am loved (as you are!) by the vastness of everything-call it Buddha-mind, Adonai, Krishna, the Universe, Christ—whatever you wish. To me it is simply called “Love”. The thing I wanted all along.

I’m new to this path. …and yeah, it’s not perfect. In fact, that hole still feels like it’s there, just much, much smaller. Lord knows, I will fall in old patterns. I’m a pro at old patterns! But that’s the fun of it all, falling, dusting yourself off and trying again. Perfection is just a goal, not an end point.

Love is there…the trick is to not spend too much time chasing after the illusion of what you wish it could be, or trying to hold on to moments or people, because they felt right at one time … instead the secret is to just hang out and savor the really juicy stuff, the eternal stuff, in the spaces of quiet of our meditations, where we love ourselves, no matter what, and where we love others, not for who we want them to be, but who they truly are.

And so I say to you…

Make wild passionate love…with the sky…with the grand roaring sea! Do not be afraid to love this great planet and the beautiful people who grace our lives, for when you let go and truly love, everything that you love, loves you in return. There is nothing to fear out there. Nothing. Let your heart guide the way, step forward, and savor our divine connection.

Peace,

Becky

Beautiful and Broken: Redefining Depression

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I have been depressed…well, I think that’s what you call it. I have felt unmotivated to write, uninterested in finding a job, failing to eat right, or care for my home. I have detached myself from my family and opted for time alone.

Then this morning I woke up at 4:30am, as I do sometimes, and I simply starred into the blackness of the room. Rather than overthink and brood (like I do so well), I just breathed in and out and allowed myself to shed myself of all the noise, the guilt, and the feelings of inadequacies that stirred within.

As I did this I tried something. I let the darkness speak back to me.

With gentle, loving firmness it said:

I see you running around in life, chattering away in your head, trying to make something of this little existence of yours.

“Ta da!” you say. “Look at me. I’m a writer!”

“Ta-da! Look at me I’m a good mom!”

“Look how lovable I am!”

But it feels empty doesn’t it? Because these labels, these actions are less about You as a human being and more about what you want people to think of you.

“I am a woman who writes good novels”

“I am a woman who organizes events”

“I am a woman who makes people happy”

or on the flip side what you tell yourself when you’re alone….

“I am needy”

“I am a disaster”

“I am mentally ill”

…and on and on and on…

These definitions are you if you choose, but really, if you ask me? I think you’re just using these labels as a disguise for the real wonderful YOU that you are.

Be depressed if that is what you want.  This is your choice but recognize that darkness is only what you make it. Perhaps this “bad” feeling you have is simply the sadness of letting go—letting go of who you think you should be.

Depression is about fear, but I know you, you’re not really afraid, not deep inside. Inside you know the Truth of who you are. Depression is just another mask you wear.

Picture this—Imagine those marvelous little selves that you have created, each a beautiful work of art. Imagine all these versions of “you” hanging as paintings in a gallery, on the walls of a museum. You’ve got one titled “Mom”, one titled “Writer” one titled “Fun loving”, one titled “Clever” Look how nicely you’ve treated these images your whole life, with their nice golden frames, so perfectly placed for everyone to see.

But think of this, maybe they are not You. They are likenesses, merely facsimiles of you. The truth of it is that your “you-ness” is constantly changing, a moving target. You will never be the image on the wall, not really anyway, and the more you try to preserve yourself as those exact paintings you will fail, because those pictures are static and you, my dear, are not.

So now, as you stand there in front of your masterpieces, imagine yourself, one by one pulling them off the walls, as aggressively as you’d like. Imagine even, if you’d like, splitting each of them over your knee, sending an echoing crack through the museum.

And when you are done, settle yourself on the floor around the broken frames, the torn canvases, the paintings you called “you”.

And as you sit there, looking at the mess, let yourself feel sad. Feel that loss, that realization that maybe you’re not really who you said you are. Maybe you never even were. And as you look at the debris let these words come to you:

“Without those paintings I am nothing,”

Pause for that for a second and say it again: “I am nothing.”

It feels scary, maybe?

BUT What if…just what if… in that nothingness you are in fact everything…an absolute duality of all and nothing. What if as you shed these “supposed to be’s” you become simply YOU.

Look around at how beautiful and broken you are: a glorious, glowing fragment of all that there is.

Yes, you are mom, you are writer, you are friend, you are fun and clever but you are those things not because someone told you that’s what you are, you are those things because it reflects your essence, your Truth. In the end people don’t care about the “ta-da” they care about You.

Don’t be afraid to be nothing…because out of the rumble of emptiness comes beautiful, glorious You.

You are not depressed my dear, just walking the path of continually letting go.

An Education of the Heart

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I’ve been having dreams about college lately. In them I’m wandering down long hallways, finding new passageways and discovering hidden stairways. I love these dreams as they represent something playful and curious stirring in me.

My waking life lately is a lot like college. From time to time I have that bubbling feeling of excitement in my stomach, that passion and curiosity that I remember only from my college years.  However rather than studying academics I’ve been exploring the inner workings of my heart.   It brings on a lot more challenges than just getting a term paper finished on time but I’m finding the benefits of knowing myself are infinitely rewarding.

The best part about this “college experience” is the people who’ve come into my life. I look around and see my world is full of teachers–not the academic type…in fact, quite the contrary.  Their lessons aren’t derived from books, but from listening to their hearts, living life, and making mistakes.

So, in honor of my current teachers I’m doing something a little different.

Below you’ll see my “life course book” –you know, like those college course books that students get before the new semester, only my classes are hand picked and taught by some of the most special people my world…

Becky’s College of the Heart

2014-15 School Year

Course #1 The Power is Yours                                                                                       

Teacher: Daniela

My friend Daniela is sunshine. She is bright and open and has taught me to believe in myself, with a spark of optimism that doesn’t fail. Keep going. Don’t give up. Be the awesome person that you are. At one point in my life I would have been skeptical of Daniela’s optimism, doubted all that shiny positivity, but now I get it. She sees the good in people and fosters it, with honesty and love. She’s my cheer leader, shouting from the sidelines: “You’ve got this, girl!”

Course #2 Happiness is a Choice                                                                                            

Teacher: Tim€

Tim and I are fellow authors and I consider him one of my closest friends. Tim and I have an odd sort of mentor/mentee relationship. I resist pretty much every lesson he teaches me, however 99% of time I cave a few days later and I accept that he’s right and willingly take his lessons to heart. Our friendship is a more than a little antagonistic, but that keeps it interesting.

I remember when I first met Tim he was always humming to himself some song that nobody knew but him and I thought “This guy must be repressing some awful stuff. No one can possibly be that happy all the time.” Now that I know him better I see that most of the time he actually is just that—happy. He takes life as it comes and most importantly sees the world without that fear/worry lens that has followed me most my life. He’s optimistic, even when things are hard.

Among the many things Tim has taught me, I think most importantly I’ve learned that happiness is a choice. We have control over who we are, 100% of the time. This contradicts everything I was taught growing up, but somehow it has clicked lately. Tim’s blissful balance is rubbing off in every way.

Course #3 The Mind meets the Heart

Teacher: Lenny

Lenny is a big Italian business man (definitely not a mobster, but you might mistake him for one). I met him, oddly enough, while lifting weights at the gym. What I love about Lenny is that he does business with his heart as much as his head. He feels out his strategies, not letting heart or heart take too much of the call. Although all our conversations have been between huffs and puffs on the equipment, I have gained a great deal of practical wisdom from his insight on business and life. For me Lenny has modeled focus, drive, and a willingness to take calculated risks.

Course #4 The Inner Workings of the Heart

Teacher: Victoria

I have known Vicki for about a year. She is the heart component of my education. She is in her late 50s and by trade a sex therapist. In Victoria’s world love is like a flame that must be tended to and stoked, while at other times it must be disciplined and tamed. Vicki has taught me that this fire is who I am and that I needn’t apologize for my flame’s intensity. It simply is. In fact that fire in our belly, that passion is what makes me and this life we lead so wonderful.

Course #5 Speak and Your Subconscious Will Listen    

Teacher: Sue

Sue is a magnificent eighty five year old woman hypnotist. She’s teaching me about the dark caverns of my mind, where life whispers in secret symbols and shares ultimate truths. In this realm of the subconscious there is no reason, just purity and faith. Speak to the subconscious, tell it your desires and it will listen. And so for the past month, that’s just what I’ve done. Under her guidance, I have been breathing deep, closing my eyes and delving into the dark world, where I whisper my secret dreams, taking charge of my life, fearlessly.

I am stunned as I reread this list. It amazes me that there are so many incredible people in my life who are willing to take me under their wing and share life’s awesome secrets.   And this is only the tip of the iceberg! My husband, my kids, all my friends, my parents—they are teaching me too, every moment I am with them.

How about you?

Tell me about a teacher in your life.

What “courses” have you taken with them?

Peace,

Becky

www.beckypourchot.com

www.ThatsSOBizarre.com

When Joy Slips In

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I walked down to the beach this morning.  We live just a few blocks away in a wonderful, small beach town in Florida called Flagler Beach.

As I walked I felt this welling of joy.  Absolute happiness.The conditions were right, the air the perfect temperature, the sun hanging low in its morning position…but this feeling wasn’t coming from the outside, this was welling up from inside, percolating like a bubbling spring.

As I stepped barefoot on the asphalt, it hit me, like it always does. The fear.  The caution. I have been taught for most of my life that ecstatic joy is in fact a bad thing–a symptom of a mental illness.  You know, the M word: Mania.  Up until this past year I’ve been the most dutiful of bipolar patients..constantly guarding against the “craziness” that might slip in.

But something happened when I went out on the beach this morning.  Out there with my toes in the sand I did my routine sun salutation, like a yoga prayer to the rising sun.  And as I brought my arms upward and gazed at the crystal blue sky I heard a voice.  Not a crazy voice…just me in my most open state.

The voice said simply, “Don’t be afraid of joy.”  And I smiled.

This was not a crazy feeling.  In fact, it was the exact opposite.  This was being truly alive.  Connected.

So please, tell me what you think.  Should us bipolar folk regulate joy, our connection with the divine in order to protect against a treacherous down swing? Do you “normal” people out there temper your happiness in order to protect yourself from hurt?

I’d love to hear your input on this one.  In the meantime I’m going to savor this joyous glow…..

Peace and joy to you,

Becky

http://www.beckypourchot.com

The Year in Review….Sort Of

I have a lousy memory. Details that everyone around me can recall are just hazy thoughts, like a dream I barely remember upon waking up.

The thought of this used to make me panic. I worried about the precious moments slipping away from me, but while I lament over not being able to remember the details of my children’s first step, I don’t linger on the past, because quite frankly, I can’t remember it so well.

This fuzziness of my history makes time feel very slow. Events that happened a year ago feel like ages ago. People always say “time speeds up as you age” but for me it’s the opposite. My life behind me is just a jumble of faint emotions, blips of reality.

So here I am living in this little bubble of the present and it’s not so bad. I take a lot of pictures and I make sure the people around me keep reminding me of our stories.

For what little memory I have, I will say last year, I really struggled with my shit.

Boy, did I!

But I think all that “shit struggling” was actually the best part of the year. I faced myself head on and wrestled my demons. I looked at the anger, fear and desperation in the eye. I faced the things that were hurting myself and the people around me and smiled at it all playfully.

Although I am FAR from perfect, sometimes, rather than beating myself up for my shortcomings I chose to sit down and chat with my little demons:

“Hey, demons,” I say, “We’re in this together, you and me. We can’t do this life thing without one and other. So let’s make this work. Nastiness is who you are and as shameful and embarrassing as it feels at times, it’s a part of who I am.”

It’s then in this conversation, that I see that my demons are not pulling me down. They are in fact a staircase, supplying the very structure from which I will use to climb to higher places. I will always have my flaws (and some pretty big ones), but I forgive my demons, just as I forgive myself.

To the people I love, I apologize for any nastiness, pettiness, and greed I may have shown you this year. In my heart I want only the best for all of us, just sometimes my demons get in the way.

I wish I could say this year I’m going to figure it all out, that I’ll become a perfect mother, wife, friend, writer, but I realize there’s no winning in this game, just trudging forward and forgiving along the way.

Besides, life would be no fun if we figured it all out, right?

As a side note: I’m excited to tell you about my next book, out April 1st, —Open Souls—all about meeting and greeting your demons. If you want more information you can go to the website and register to be notified about its release.

www.opensoulsbook.com

Peace to you all!