A friend of mine shared a quote recently that keeps kicking around in my brain. In the book Journey of the Universe, Brian Swimme and Mary Evelyn Pope write:

“[J]ust as the Milky Way is the universe in the form of a galaxy, and an orchid is the universe in the form of a flower, we are the universe in the form of a human. And every time we are drawn to look up into the night sky and reflect on the awesome beauty of the universe, we are actually the universe reflecting on itself. And this changes everything.”

We are the universe reflecting on itself. We think we are separate, apart, autonomous beings — and we are — but at the same time, we are also the universe. We are the universe in the form of a human. I wrote about that a while ago, the notion that we’re all stardust, but my friend takes that concept a bit further. In essence, the tenet of our spiritual practice is that the universe is coming to know itself through us.

I like this picture because it’s cosmic and it shows an unfolding process. Photo by Mark Tegethoff on Unsplash

I’m not sure how to expound on that concept. It’s not easily explained and instead is more of a feeling or worldview. It’s the recognition I am me — a woman, a writer, etc. — but I am also more than me. There’s a “me” here that will live on after my death. Because I believe in reincarnation that means “I” was once a single-cell organism, then moved up the evolutionary chain to become a plant, then an animal, then a human. As a human, I have made a conscious choice to know the divine, but because I’m already made up of the universe, made up of stardust, that’s another way the universe is coming to know itself through me. I am a conduit, a channel, a vessel for the universe to express itself. We are all of us the universe but we’re wearing different costumes.

I hear frequently that “the world needs the special gift that only you have,” or that we all have our own unique genius. Usually I roll my eyes because it sounds like a trite throwaway, but when I think about the universe knowing itself through me, it takes my ego out of the equation. I’m not sure that makes a lot of sense but in essence I become aware of something bigger than me. My life becomes about more than what I want, what I don’t want, what I have, what I don’t have. My life becomes a spiritual endeavor where I’m dancing and playing with the universe as a co-conspirator. And eventually that play will lead me back to the source of all creation. In the meantime, the life I’m living is like a rose in bloom. Each petal, each experience unfolds and contributes to the rose in its entirety.

I dream of a world where we realize there’s more to us than we’re aware. A world where we recognize the universe knows itself through us. That as much as we think we’re interacting with the world, it’s also that the world is interacting with us. A world where we recognize with each experience we continue to unfold.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

I’ve woken up most mornings this week with swollen eyelids. On Friday I received two job rejections. My unemployment money runs out in a couple of months. I mention all this to set the scene — I’m not feeling all that peaceful, and in fact “anxious” is a better description. Maybe even a little panicked. How is this all going to work out?

When I called a friend and gave him the lowdown, he told me a story about a spiritual master who got caught in a rope while pulling water up from a well. The master stayed stuck for hours until a disciple came by and freed him. The disciple said, “You seemed so relaxed. Were you in pain?” The master replied, “I was in pain, it hurt a lot, but I also felt at peace.”

This picture will make more sense once you keep reading. Photo by Providence Doucet on Unsplash

I spent 20 minutes googling that story and can’t find it so my telling of it is not very adept. What stuck with me though is the moral of the story: that I can still feel at peace in the pain and in the struggle. What does that even mean? I’m not sure but I think it comes down to acceptance, which leads me to a quote I found while searching for the rope story.

Sufi teacher Hazrat Inayat Khan said, “Tagore says: ‘When the string of the violin was being tuned it felt the pain of being stretched, but once it was tuned then it knew why it was stretched.’ So it is with the human soul. While the soul goes through pain, torture, and trouble it thinks it would have been much better if it had gone through life without it. But once it reaches the culmination of it, then, when it looks back, it begins to realize why all this was meant: it was only meant to tune the soul to a certain pitch.”

Before I interviewed for the jobs that ultimately rejected me, I felt peace because I said to myself, “If I’m not employed yet it’s because I’m not meant to be. There’s more learning or healing or something I need to go through that wouldn’t be possible with a job.” When I say that even now I feel better. I don’t know why I’m struggling so much right now. I don’t know why things aren’t looking the way I want them to, but what I do know is one day I’ll look back and understand everything. I’ll see how my soul was being tuned to a certain pitch, but in the meantime, I’m still being stretched.

I dream of a world where we understand even pain has a purpose. A world where we sit with our pain, finding peace where we can. A world where we recognize when we’re going through hardship it may be because our soul is tuning to a certain pitch.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

This weekend held a wide range of emotions from the high to the low. On Saturday I went to a bachelorette party for one of my closest friends. We lounged by the pool, chatted, and generally celebrated her impending marriage. It was a joy to spend time with her and other close friends of hers for the sole purpose of having fun. But I had another event this weekend and it was not a bachelorette party.

A family friend of mine passed away a couple of weeks ago and it’s sent shockwaves through my community. I say that because no one could have guessed he would have passed away. He was one of the most healthy, vibrant people I knew. When I think of him, I see him with a huge smile on his face, beaming out joy to the world. He was the same age as my parents so his death has me confronting their mortality as well. Layered on top of that, I grew up with his daughters so his death hits me in another way that’s hard to express. Sunday was his memorial service and I cried through most of the ceremony.

black heart

Seemed appropriate. Photo by Bryan Garces on Unsplash

But here’s the interesting part: joy and sorrow get to coexist within me, within us. Even during the memorial service we could hear his grandchildren laughing and playing in the background. It reminded me both emotions can be present. That joy and sorrow can be like the yin yang symbol with a little bit of white in the black and a little bit of black in the white. In my experience life is like that. Attending a wedding can bring up grief about being single. A funeral can bring not joy, but appreciation at reconnecting with friends, even if the circumstances are sad. This weekend was a study in that for me — pairing joy with sorrow.

Two years ago I wrote a poem about a similar experience following the death of a coworker called “Big Enough for Both:”

Big enough for both
Grief and celebration
A funeral and a wedding
Loss and gain
Hurting and healing
All at once

That’s what life is like for me right now, maybe for all of us. It’s heartbreaking and heart-gladdening. It’s happy and sad. It’s frustrating and peaceful. It’s everything all at once. I want to parse things out and say, “Now is a happy time and now is a sad time,” but my life isn’t like that. It’s messy and chaotic and unpredictable. As I contemplate how to end this post, I can see my friend with a big smile on his face saying, “Don’t worry, it’s fine,” as in, I don’t have to make sense of it all, I don’t have to try to change life or circumstances. I can be here, in the moment, accepting everything.

I dream of a world where we understand life is messy, chaotic, and unpredictable — not only in terms of circumstances but also in emotions. A world where we realize the yin yang is an excellent portrayal of our experiences. A world where we understand that oftentimes joy is paired with sorrow and vice versa.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

This weekend I surprised myself. I did things I’d consider out of character — things other people do, but not me. I flew up to Ashland, Ore., for a quick up and back trip and started chatting with the woman next to me on my flight. During the course of the conversation I told her I didn’t have a car and wasn’t sure how I was getting to and fro. She said, “Well, let me give you my number and if you need a ride while you’re out there, give me a call.” I said, “Actually, what I really need is a ride from the airport to my hostel.”

She told me her parents were picking her up but she was sure they wouldn’t mind dropping me off. “Really?” and she replied in the affirmative. So I got into the car with a stranger that I didn’t pay to transport me. In my world you don’t do that sort of thing because it’s dangerous. Even getting into a lyft or a taxi provokes anxiety within me so trusting a total stranger is antithetical to my normal behavior. My whole weekend was like that. I made conversations with strangers. I stayed in a hostel and socialized in the evenings. Even staying in a hostel is unusual for me.

I looked for “character” and this is what I found. I like it. Photo by Антон Воробьев on Unsplash

Normally I stay in hotels or airbnbs because I enjoy my personal space. I’m highly particular and want to control as many variables as I can. However, due to financial limitations, and also the desire to stay close to town, I slept at a hostel. I’ve heard stories of people making friends with strangers or the magic of connection during travel experiences, but my magical experiences tend to involve thinking I missed my train but the train was running late. I barely ask strangers for directions much less make conversation with them.

It may seem like a small thing, but for me it’s indicative I’m trusting myself and the universe more. I’m starting to view the world as safe and friendly as opposed to scary and antagonistic. It’s for many reasons — the chiropractor I’m seeing, the work I continue to do in therapy — but what stands out to me is the way we experience the world and ourselves can change. How the world appears to us is not stagnant or stale. It’s dynamic and vibrant and we are the same. The title of this post is “out of character” but it’s just as true there are many facets to my personality and perhaps this Rebekah is someone I hadn’t met yet, but she’s been here all along.

My spiritual teacher speaks to this through his words and actions. His first initiate was a dangerous criminal who tried to rob him. That criminal completely turned his life around and became ethical, sincere, and devotional. No one would have predicted that person existed inside that criminal, but he did. And the same is true for all of us. There are internal people we know and internal people we don’t know, but it’s all us. And maybe “out of character” is like the people I met this weekend — strangers that become friends.

I dream of a world where we recognize there is more to us than we think. A world where we understand acting out of character just means a part of us is unfamiliar and unknown. A world where we realize we all have many parts and facets to our personality and perhaps it’s time to say hello.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

The word to describe how I feel right now is “churned.” I feel a swirl of emotions both due to my personal life and what’s taking place in society. I’m angry and sad and scared. I have compassion fatigue. I feel overwhelmed. I want to retreat to a hidey-hole. I want to punch certain people in the face. Did I mention I’m feeling churned right now?

I think a lot of people are feeling churned. The purpose of this post is to say first and foremost, you’re not alone. Second of all, I’m thinking about the reason behind churning. One of the definitions of churning relates to butter, as in milk or cream is stirred in order to separate the oily globules from the other to make butter. The churn creates something new.

Maybe this churn, this agitation, will create something new personally as well as in the world. I think about another time in my life when I felt churned. One such period was at 15; I went to Camp Anytown, which is a camp sponsored by the National Conference for Community and Justice that works to break down prejudice and promote diversity. Before attending the camp, I didn’t think of myself as a racist or prejudiced person. I was nice to everybody. How could I be racist and prejudiced? Well, I was and am. As many people have said, racism is embedded in our environment. It’s the air we breathe; it’s baked into the systems we operate. Our country was literally built on the back of racism. Of course that trickles out to other -isms too. They usually go hand in hand.


Really wish I could find a picture of churning butter, but a food processor pic will have to do! Photo by Irene Kredenets on Unsplash

The only way to root out those -isms is to confront them. To bring them in our face. To get churned up so they transform into something else. That’s precisely what happened at Camp Anytown. We shared our snap judgments of different races. We talked about media portrayals. We held panel discussions about our own experiences. And we changed.

I wonder if that’s happening for us right now. If we as a society are transforming into something new and this is part of the process. We’re in the painful part where the oily globules are separated from the other. We’re in the unsettled part where things are strange and disorienting because we can never go back to how it was before. The U.S. will literally never be the same after Trump’s presidency, for better or for worse. People may try to go back to the status quo, but it will be impossible after so much has been revealed.

That’s the role of struggle, according to my spiritual teacher. He said, “Just as all-round physical exercise makes the body fit, similarly appropriate psychic and spiritual exercise … leads to one’s psychic evolution and spiritual elevation. If one is keen to advance, if one wants to attain expansion as well as bliss in life, one must continue to struggle.”

I’m there. I’m struggling. We all are. And maybe it’s a sign of our evolution and elevation. How we’re all going to be better for it.

I dream of a world where we recognize struggle can lead to something better. Where churning means we’re in the middle of growing into something new. A world where we have patience with the process of transformation. A world where we understand churning leads to change.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Womb Time

A note about the audio this week: I ran out of space on Soundcloud and haven’t transferred over to a new location yet. The audio has been recorded but not posted on the new platform. Stay tuned.

This week as I thought about my job search, the image and metaphor that came to mind is being in the womb. A fetus needs time to develop, to grow, to gather strength for the outside world. And if the fetus enters the outside world before that process has completed, well, we all know what happens.

What’s funny about me is I came into the world impatient. I was born three weeks premature — so early I didn’t have fingerprints. Normally that’s a little anecdote I drop when I’m talking to pregnant people, conversing about their baby’s due date. This week though, it sunk in how much my entire life I tend to replicate my birth story. I want to rush the process, I want to do things NOW. Don’t make me wait in the dark, the unknown. Let’s get this show on the road!

Sometimes we need to be “in the womb.” Photo by Alicia Petresc on Unsplash

As I’ve continued to feel gratitude for unemployment, noticing what I’m capable of engaging with due to not working a regular job, I’ve felt safer, calmer. I’ve felt myself floating in the universal womb. I’ve said to friends and family, “Maybe it’s not a matter of the right job so much as the right time.” What I mean is the job is less important than the timing of it all. Maybe the universe wants me to sleep in a little longer, or focus on my health more, or finish up my book before I start working again.

Instead of feeling panicked, which yes, still happens sometimes, I’m imagining myself in the womb, understanding during this period I’m developing, growing, gathering strength for my next adventure.

My spiritual teacher says that “whatever happens in this universe of ours is nothing but an expression of Cosmic desire or Cosmic will … when a human desire and His desire coincide, then only does the human desire become fruitful, otherwise it is a sure failure.”

When I started asking myself, “What does my higher power want of me right now? Why is it that I’m still unemployed from a Cosmic perspective?” I felt better. I left the shame-based, “There’s something wrong with me or my résumé” place. I stopped beating myself up and instead realized maybe my higher power doesn’t want me to be employed yet. And this week especially, maybe my higher power doesn’t want me to be employed yet because I’m like a fetus in the womb, not ready to be in the world. But that doesn’t mean it’s not coming, because it will. Eventually all babies leave the womb, and that means me too.

I dream of a world where we understand if something isn’t happening, perhaps it’s not time for it to happen. A world where we realize even though we’re out in the world doesn’t mean we don’t continue to have periods of going back to a metaphorical womb. A world where we understand the grace and importance of womb time.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Every holiday I think about the one from the year prior. What was I doing? Who was I with? This July 4th was no different. In addition to reminiscing about last year, I also took stock of my life. I was reminded how much I’ve changed, how much my life has changed, and how some of my relationships have changed. There are certain people who are no longer in my life; not because they died (although there are a few of those), but rather because we grew apart. We have become alien to each other and don’t own starships to bring us together.

I cried over the loss of those relationships and all the while a little voice in my head whispered about making space for something new. I have a tendency to cling on to things far past the point of being healthy. Alexander Graham Bell has me pegged with his quote, “When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”

It’s important to leave space for something new. Photo by Dylan de Jonge on Unsplash

This week I’m looking at the open door. In terms of relationships, that means I’m noticing the new ones in my life from the past year. Or the old ones that are new again; in other words, relationships where I reconnected with someone from my past. By clearing out the old relationships, by letting them go, I’m making space for the new ones. I have the capacity to nourish what’s here because I’m not caught up in knocking on a closed door.

We have that saying nature abhors a vacuum. I abhor vacuums too, but not the ones that clean the carpet. Those I love. I abhor the life vacuums but there’s wisdom in acknowledging their importance. Of seeing the beauty in empty space because empty space doesn’t last. Soon it will be filled with something. Maybe saying goodbye to old relationships opens me up to better ones. It doesn’t mean the love died because for me anyway it hasn’t. It just means I’m no longer investing time and energy in cultivating the relationships that no longer serve me.

I’d love to throw in a spiritual quote here or make this post more profound but it’s not. The practice is a simple one that we all must learn. In order to make space for something new, we have to get rid of the old, whether that’s an object or a belief.

I dream of a world where we understand it’s important to grieve the loss of closed doors but also turn our attention to doors that are open. A world where we clear away what no longer serves us. A world where we realize nature abhors a vacuum and thus ultimately we are making space for something new.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

I spoke with a friend this week and she said she’s confused by events that start off miraculously and then wind up being a dumpster fire. Is the event still a miracle in that case?

Good question. It brings to mind a story I heard about a Chinese farmer who used a stallion to till his fields. One day the stallion escaped into the hills. The farmer’s neighbors lamented his bad luck but he replied, “Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?”

A week later, the stallion returned with a herd of horses from the hills. The neighbors rejoiced, congratulating the farmer on his good luck. He replied, “Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?” The farmer’s son attempted to ride one of the wild horses but he fell off and broke his leg. Everyone exclaimed, “Oh no! What bad luck!” The farmer said, “Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?”

Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows! Photo by Yan Ming on Unsplash

Some weeks later, an army marched into the village and conscripted every able-bodied young man they found. When they saw the farmer’s son with his broken leg, they exempted him. Was it good luck or bad luck? Who knows!

I have to be honest — my first reaction to the end of that story is to say it was good luck, but honestly, who knows? As the story demonstrates, life is a ceaseless up and down. There’s a reason we talk about the wheel of fortune, and I don’t mean the game show.

Time often grants me perspective, shows me the bigger picture. I see how the bad things led to better things and vice versa. Right now I have what could be characterized as bad luck: no job, despite my efforts. However, I have a glimpse of how the bad luck could be good luck. As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve slept in nearly every day for 3.5 months. I’m seeing the wisdom in the farmer’s attitude, that good luck can become bad luck and bad luck can become good luck. In yoga, we call this equanimity of mind.

To paraphrase my spiritual teacher, a person who views everything with equanimity, be it their home or the burial ground, gold or grass, their own children or their enemies, fire or water, lives in the world thoroughly cleansed mentally and spiritually, seeing beyond duality.

Here’s a joke for you: As I wrote the previous sentence, I heard someone vacuuming their car. I obviously have some internal cleaning to do and the universe wanted to underscore that point! It’s not a state I’m in frequently, but when I have more mental equipoise I feel better, unfazed by weal and woe. In a life filled with weal and woe, mental balance seems to be the key to sanity, helping us all cope.

I dream of a world where we understand the wheel of fortune keeps turning and good becomes bad, bad becomes good. A world where we maintain our equanimity of mind during booms and busts. A world where we find serenity and we know peace.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

“Life should not be motivated by fear.” I’ve heard that sentence hundreds of times but usually it goes in one ear and out the other. The message doesn’t land because my mind can’t compute the meaning. In some ways my life has absolutely been motivated by fear.

I’m applying to any and every job — some that I want and some that I don’t — because I’m scared. I’m casting as wide a range as possible because a part of me feels desperate. I’m like that person on Tinder who swipes right for every profile because I want someone, anyone, to say, “Yes, I’ll go out with you.” I get it. We say with jobs and with dating that it’s a numbers game so on some level it makes sense to apply for everything, to say yes to everyone. But on another level it does not.

Reach for the clouds! Or something. . . Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

I’m saying yes to everything because I’m scared that I won’t be hired anywhere. I’m not accounting for my own needs and wants. Instead I’m saying I’ll settle for anything. Sometimes that’s necessary. In my situation it’s not. I’m already living off of unemployment and food stamps. This is as low as it gets for me because I won’t be homeless — I have too many friends and family to allow that to happen. So this? This is the worst it will get for me given the circumstances.

What would my life look like if I wasn’t motivated by fear? What if my job search wasn’t motivated by fear but instead joy, service, or faith? What would be different? For starters, my mindset would change. I wouldn’t say “if I get hired” but instead “when I get hired.” I’d believe the right job is coming along at some point. I’d apply places that make use of my skills and talents instead of any job, every job.

Writing this my chest is tight and my breathing is shallow because a part of me is very attached to the fear perspective. I’m afraid to stop being afraid. But I want to and am willing to try something new.

My spiritual teacher says over and over again that the universe knows what we need and want before we do. That there’s a loving entity looking out for us, guiding us, giving us what we need. We don’t always realize it at the time; often it only becomes clear in retrospect. I’m finding that to be true for me. I won’t list all the reasons why right now but will say briefly that being unemployed has meant sleeping in every day for more than three months. As someone who didn’t sleep well for seven years, this is a tremendous gift and means I’m healing in ways I never thought possible. So perhaps my higher power knows what’s best for me after all.

I dream of a world where we are motivated by joy, love, service, and faith. A world where we hold out for what we want when we’re fortunate to be in a position to do so. A world where we realize our higher power is acting in our best interest and we surrender to that, trusting all is well.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

This post is from June 2010 but it’s still relevant for me.

Future tripping: obsessing and worrying about the future. Playing the “what if” game. You would think this is my favorite game given how frequently I play it. I construct an entire sequence of events before they even occur. I’ve been doing that this week because I’m planning a 200-person retreat taking place at the end of this month. I’m thinking about, “Who will be the lunch in charge? Who will take care of the kids? What happens if so and so turns up? What happens if so and so doesn’t turn up?” There are sooo many things I’m contemplating and so many outcomes it’s making my head spin.

I also think about how futile the whole thing is. Months ago my friend L’s sister was in town and they invited me to go out to dinner with them. Because of the timing and the location of the restaurant it didn’t make sense for me to go home first. So I started planning and planning and planning. Ruminating on where I would go after work. What I would do with myself. If I would try to read a book or whether I would practice qigong. If I would wander around Chinatown. Where would I meditate. What would happen if I meditated at a temple and then walked around afterward. So many things! So many possibilities! And you know what happened? The night we planned to go out to eat L’s sister got sick and they canceled. They canceled! I spent all that time thinking about what I would do and then none of it took place! All of my worrying was completely fruitless.

I’d much rather go on this sort of trip. Photo by Mantas Hesthaven on Unsplash

It was a nice reminder for me to live in the moment and stay present. It was a nice reminder I’d rather deal with things as they come instead of counting my chickens before they hatch. Because the truth of the matter is I have no idea what’s up ahead. I have no idea what tomorrow brings or even what the next 10 minutes brings. And since I’ve redefined my concept of a higher power, I know that no matter what’s ahead it’s for my good. So why worry? Why plan my whole life in advance?

Some things, like this retreat, require planning. Otherwise we might be sitting around twiddling our thumbs, but honestly, I don’t have to plan everything. I don’t have to think about, “Well what if this happens? Or that happens?” If it happens it does and I’ll deal with it then. Be prepared, yes, but not obsessive. I think that’s the difference.

In the case of going out to dinner with L and her sister, bring a book but also see how I feel at the time. Prepare but allow for all possibilities. I want to allow myself to still deal with situations as they come up and not hold onto what I think will happen like a dog chewing a bone. There’s no need to constantly replay situations in my head like a CD stuck on repeat.

I dream of a world where we allow ourselves to stay present. A world where we take things as they come one day at a time. A world where we release our fear of the future and instead live in the moment. A world where we know what’s ahead is for our own self-realization and growth and so we sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

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