Recently while being interviewed on The Practical Minimalist Podcast (click pic below to listen) the lovely interviewer asked me a question I wasn’t expecting.
Beth, what are your spiritual rituals and practices? I froze for a moment.
Just earlier in the conversation, I had been describing how I got my start in coaching as a health coach but that my work had been transforming, that I felt I was destined for deep soul work. Here I was talking about my desire to help people uncover their deeper truth on a spiritual level and I didn’t have a clear answer when it came to my own practice.
Yes, there was a time in my life where I saw just how important it was (crucial really) to create space for my clear spiritual investigation and it required ritual. In order to practice consciousness in my life, I needed to create the space to feed it everyday.
I have played around with different spiritual modalities, as many have. I have attended church, workshops on “A Course in Miracles,” yoga class and self-development weekends galore. I have gone on long walks in nature, meditated, hung on every word of Pema Chodron, Eckhardt Tolle, Marianne Williamson and Byron Katie. I found the divine in the darkness of a theater, in acting class, in the delicious poetry of Tony Hoagland and Tennessee Williams, in books about near-death experience accounts. I visualized. I manifested. I have volunteered with regularity. I made it a point to create the space for my spiritual self to come alive, to access her. That time was so so important, and I highly recommend it, and I’m by no means done.
But lately, I had to be honest, I had no “spiritual practices” persay.
So I answered with my truth.
Podcasts and Voxer are my spiritual practice right now.
That was as good as it got. As a parent of a preschooler and an infant, I’m awoken every morning by baby cries. There is no meditation. There is no working out. Sometimes, there is no deodorant. The clean food I used to savor and fuel my body with has been replaced by protein shakes (and sometimes Quackers) or else I don’t eat. My body and mind are constantly pivoting, stimulated, and on task. Days, nights. It feels like 24/7. It is gorgeously all consuming and exhausting. Right now, I can’t imagine going to a Quaker service with my four month old or taking the time out of running my business to take a soul stroll. I have no idea how people will small children meditate with any regularity whatsoever.
There will be a time where all of this is possible again, and not in the too far distance but for now, for now, my spiritual practice consists of podcasts and Voxer.
I listen to Oprah Soul Sessions on the way to drop my son off at preschool. Often times, the baby is crying in the background as I’m driving with one hand and trying to keep the pacificier in with the other. Often times my son is yelling that he wants to listen to Moana. Not THAT song! A different song! But I listen as best as I can. I listen to the words of all these incredible artists, spiritual teachers and cultural icons that Oprah has interviewed over the years from Maya Angelou, to Pema Chodron, Ram Dass, to Cheryl Strayed and Ru Paul. And each one says the same thing in a different language. Each one of them has a different anecdote, a different perspective, but it casts in incredible web of sameness and deeper truth that affects my day in the most beautiful way. It elevates my awareness and my consciousness that day and makes me more likely to act from love. It’s so simple and so powerful. I get 45 minutes of soul food.
I have also started Voxing with my girlfriends. What is Voxer? It is an app where you can leave voice memos for one another, and this is the easiest way for me to connect with other women. It is hard to schedule at this time in my life but of course, I still need community and connection and I’m realizing how much I thrive from FEMALE sisterhood at this point in my life. Because I don’t have to schedule or type, I can share what is going on with me while I’m holding my baby or when I’m holed away pretending to go to the bathroom. I share my life insights and what am I going through and support them in their journey as well. Most importantly, it helps me to dialogue with MYSELF, to process my experience as a mom, a wife, a coach, a business owner before I an swallowed by a sea of ego-based reactivity and fear. I let myself be messy. The more I am able to speak my truth out loud, the less my fears and ego based thoughts own me.
This got me thinking, however, about how we tend to compartamentalize spirituality.
Living life consciously and fully awake is the ULTIMATE spiritual practice.
We can’t wait to access it until we have the time and space. Our spiritual self is always just a breath away. Literally. Our spiritual self lives in the pauses between stimulus and response, being being triggered and choosing love or fear.
Yes, the divine lives in nature, in the silence of a meditation room or yoga studio, in an altar, in a church, in a temple, a synagogue, on Mount Everest, but it also lives in the electricity of a dance class, in standing up for what you believe in, in how you treat the Starbucks barista, the driver next to you or the family member who voted for Trump! How we RELATE to our lives and the sentient beings IN it is our practice. Our spirituality does not live in a separate box from our physicality, our sexuality, our relationships, our interests, our politics and our professions.
It lives in the interactions with these things, in HOW we relate them, and that is always within our control.
Regardless of whether I can meditate or take a walk in the mountains (which of course are awesome and help me to access my spiritual self more swiftly), I can choose to breathe through being triggered when I’m with my son. I can choose to respond with love when my ego is flaming red. I can choose to operate differently my circumstances, the people I come into contact with and my own ego.
That is what it is all about anyway. Finding out who we are underneath the fear and the ego. The more our ego challenges us, the more we learn.
Right now, my kids and our political climate are my ultimate spiritual teachers. To operate from deeper self is a discipline and it happens IN life, not outside of it. That is where the practice really is. And because I love my kids so desperately and their futures are so important to me, I’m willing to do the work with this that I wouldn’t be willing to do in a meditation studio. It is trial by fire, not usually serenity, but the job is the same.
Adopting a dog from a shelter is a really powerful spiritual practice. So is extending peace to an estranged family member. So is handling a scary diagnosis. So is civil political activism. So is dealing with the customer service representative from Amazon.
I know there will be a time where I can have an Eat, Pray, Love journey and revisit Beth outside this identity, but right now, I’m trying to find the practice in the moments life has to offer me, and it’s offering me lots of juicy challenges, usually followed by staggering beauty and huge aha’s.
These days my practice centers around podcasts, in the words of my girlfriend’s voice memos, around laughing instead of crying at my intense postpartum hair loss. It is in my writing to you all and feeling deeply expressed, in being kind to my body when my hips won’t fit into my pants with buttons, surrounding myself with perspectives that elevate my heart and mind in an easy and convenient way. It is about breathing. It is in buying the best coffee possible. It is about taking a hot shower every couple days or having a cup of tea when the babies are finally down before I promptly fall asleep, but it is practice nonetheless.
Sometimes in life it is about taking the reigns and creating the space for your desires, no excuses, no justifications. Sometimes in life super clear ritual is necessary. But sometimes in life, we need to surrender to our circumstances completely and let THEM guide us and grow us and stretch us, and use the tools we have to swim through them from a conscious place.
We don’t need to wait until we are ready (or until there is the space) to operate and listen to our deeper selves, right now, as life is.
Life, is, after all, our greatest spiritual teacher, and it starts right now, today.
Speaking of which, I think I’ll put on a podcast.
Rock On & Be Well,