Month: June 2017

Book Club: The Power of NOW

Books Inspiration Spiritual Exploration Yoga/Mindfulness

Book Club: The Power of NOW

Becoming Finders, my book club, met last night. There were laughs and wine and cheese and chocolate…all the staples you’d probably imagine. But there was also insight and listening and sharing and connection – which can feel like a real treat when you find it.

We chose The Power of NOW – A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle. A dense read with some very simple advice on how to stay in the “Now” as well as some lengthy mind-bending takes on the mind and the ego.

Tolle is described as a “contemporary spiritual teacher who is not aligned with any particular religion or tradition,” and I like that description because it feels welcoming to me.

I’m not even going to try to summarize the book for you, because honestly, I can’t. It’s engaging, challenged me in a good way and I definitely recommend it if you’re curious to learn more about how time is an illusion, how pms can deepen your spiritual practice or how spending too much time thinking about the past ages you faster than you may like. He pulls on teachings from various traditions. There’s a lot to take in.

I liked how the whole book was basically about mindfulness but I don’t think he used the word mindfulness once.* It seemed creative that he was able to describe mindfulness in 229 pages without using the actual word, however, the book was first written in 1999 and I don’t know that “mindfulness” was a trendy buzzword back then. *Please correct me if I am wrong, but I don’t recall the use of the word.

One of our group’s discussion questions asked if there was a single point or an “ah-ha!” moment for you in the book. For me, that came in chapter 9 which is titled, “Beyond Happiness and Unhappiness There is Peace.” He talks about cycles of life and the section was about success, failure, doing and sickness. Page 183 explains,

“Growth is usually considered positive, but nothing can grow forever. If growth, of whatever kind, were to go on and on, it would eventually become monstrous and destructive. Dissolution is needed for new growth to happen. One cannot exist without the other.”

Wowza. That slapped me in the face. I shared it with the group because we are a group of 6 women, and it often comes up how much we do and how busy we all are. Not in a competitive way, but it’s just our collective nature it seems. So I thought they could relate. I find myself growing a family, growing a soap business, growing and deepening all of the important relationships in my life through continuous work and dedication and lastly, growing fresh herbs in little pots on my porch. All of these things bring me joy, but they all simply cannot continue to grow at all times. I find myself feeling somewhat lost in the down cycle or the wake of a period of extreme growth.

“Your physical energy is also subject to cycles. It cannot always be at a peak…Many illnesses are created through fighting against the cycles of low energy, which are vital for regeneration.”  page 184

I actually love to do nothing, but I often feel like I’m forgetting something important that I should be doing. That makes me think: even though I love to relax, I’m not super comfortable with the idea of it quite yet. I’m so conditioned to do. A great opportunity that I get many times a day is through play with my kids. I actually enjoy playing babies or making up silly games and dances. When I can be in the flow of it, I’m allowing myself to relax. When I feel distracted, I realize that I’m trying to “do” my way out of something and try to refocus.

This book helped me be a watcher of my thoughts and observer of my self. I’m curious to see how the ideas are expanded on in A New Earth. I’ve already checked it out of the library…

Next week I’ll be taking a brief pause from writing as I soak up some sun.

Happy June!

A Game Changer

Family Identity Inspiration Motherhood Simplicity

A Game Changer

Every once in a while, you meet someone or read something that touches you so deeply that it literally changes your life.

In the summer of 2012, when I was only a mother for about 6 months, I was walking through Suburban Station in Philadelphia as I had every day for years. Breastpump and work bag in hand, I hurried to my platform but out of the corner of my eye a magazine cover pulled me immediately towards it. The cover is the one you see above. You may have seen it, read it or read about it. It started a large conversation.

Written by Anne-Marie Slaughter, a top woman in government at that time, this op-ed article shook me to the core – in a good way. Her main message was that the infrastructure of “work” in America is incompatible at times with a woman’s need/desire/want to be available to her family while still maintaining a serious and escalating career.

Anne-Marie found that by the time her sons were in their teen years, she needed to be with them more and stepped down from a major career role to switch gears back to academia to be more available and closer to home. She lived in Princeton, but only on the weekends. At that time, Slaughter was commuting to Washington, D.C. Monday through Friday and was with her family on the weekends only.

Okay, so that is completely unlike most of our lives, I know. Her message wasn’t even to leave the workforce altogether and be with you children, but somehow that planted the seed for me that it was OK for me to do so. And that has become one of the most OK moves I’ve ever made.

Shocked by the desire to be a stay at home parent, I literally didn’t recognize the emotion at first. The incessant pull to move away from a career that I had been working towards and in the direction of my life at home felt alien to me. A life of singing and dancing, pajamas and walks in the park. Literally. Let’s remember this was a day when I had one child and I was so elated to be home that every single day felt like vacation. Like all honeymoons, that wore off, and I write about that love its evolution here and here. Nonetheless, I still love my life at home parenting with all the new challenges it presents to me each season.

So when I saw this smart, career driven woman identify a flaw in the system and see that it is literally at odds (yet possible) to have a career and a growing family, I felt connected to her. Even though our lives could not be more different, even though she was not telling me to go and be with my family and throw my career to the wind. I saw a deeper message in her story which was one I’ve chosen to live by – you have to follow your heart and do what feels right for your family and your inner compass.

I’d like to clarify that I see having a career and a growing family as an amazing choice for many women, just that it was not for me when my children were babies. I could not handle the mental challenge, the constant switching of roles between work and home. I felt constantly interrupted and that broke me down. I literally fell apart inside. I was physically ill all the time. I also still feel like a piece of me is a failure because of this. Why couldn’t I just make it work like so many others? Why couldn’t I hold it together?

I admire the women that can handle the juggle and I know that is a weakness of mine. But I’ve chosen to turn it into a strength by making my life at home as rich and fulfilling as I choose. And now that my kids are growing and they are both older than 3, I’m starting to feel the pull to be away a bit more. So I’m turning towards developing a work life that makes me feel alive and lets me create. Creative small business is where I’ve found a new home in the work world and although it’s light years different than a political career in Washington, D.C., the work makes me come alive.

Were it not for Slaughter and this piece, I’m not sure I’d have come to the realization that it was time for me to leave the paid workforce for some years, find my center at home, refuel and move on in the new direction I find myself.