Wednesday, December 10, 2014

My Do-Over Life: 4 Years Later

Some people believe that four is the number of completion. There are four seasons, four directions, four elements, four cycles of the moon,  four horsemen of the Apocalypse, and, of course, four Hunger Games movies ...  I'm not sure of its karmic significance, but four years ago, I began this blog as a chronicle of my spiritual journey. I wasn't so bold to announce that I was on a quest for spirituality, but that's exactly what it was — and continues to be. And four years later ... here I am. 

I began writing about my interest in Buddhism and how I was incorporating the Buddha's teachings into my daily life as a writer, Mom, friend, sister, etc. I embarked on a new phase of my life and I found writing about it helped. I suppose I shared my experiences as a means of validating them. Some of my blog entries received praise. Some people ridiculed me, pointed out my typos and grammatical lapses, gaphawed at my home-spun Buddhist-Catholic wisdom. (And yes, I do realize that was not a reflection of me as much as it was of these critics.) Accepting this criticism was a gift since it marked a tremendous hurdle to cross as a writer and a person, who used to look to others for my value.
Where it all began ... 

Over the past 48 months, since I launched this blog, I've accomplished a lot. I reported stories for NPR and Marketplace. I attended retreats at Thich Nhat Hanhs' monastery in Mississippi and studied with Rabbi Rami Shapiro in Tennessee.  I stopped smoking after more years than I care to recount of being addicted to nicotine. I joined a 12-Step recovery group. I've met a lot of wonderful people along the way and have been inspired to keep going on my path.

In the past four years, I've also experienced significant loss. My marriage legally concluded, and I had to let go of the dream of having a "traditional" family.  I said goodbye to my friends, Jenniffer Franks and Wendy Rooney Beadle, both of whom succumbed to cancer. I've seen age take the form of wrinkles and jiggles and aches that weren't present in my youth. I've set aside longed for outcomes that I realize (now) were egocentric aspirations. (For example, I will never be Terry Gross' replacement on Fresh Air.)

Of course, I had a lot of starts and stops. Dating again after 15 years of marriage was an eye-opener to say the least. Online dating was a major fail, with the exception of meeting a few really nice guys who are now my friends. Only when I let go of my idea of love and romance did I meet Jason. We've been together now for almost three years. Amazing. I've learned to create a new "traditional" family in a new home of my design.

My career has also seen it's share of twists and turns and continues to unfold in interesting ways. Over the years, I've had to resign accounts and quit jobs to remain healthy spiritually, emotionally and physically. Freelance writing seems to suit me. Although the uncertainty of income is difficult at times, I love the freedom it affords. In the past year, I have written a book (or two), which is the realization of a long-held goal.

I've learned so much over the past four years! That's certainly self-evident in these 120+ blog entires. Recently, I've been asked to share some of my experiences as a teacher for the Institute for Conscious Being. In my workshops, I teach students how to use writing as a tool for spiritual practice. Indeed, I've found writing and meditation have a lot in common when it comes to discerning truth. 

When I consider all that has transpired over the past four years, if feels like a rebirth. I was given another chance by — for lack of a better term —God, who I perceive to be a compassionate power far greater than me and my ideas. 

I believe we all have lives within our lives. Every day, when I wake up I have the chance to respond to life in a healthier manner. And that wake-up call is not just in the morning when I first get out of bed. Waking up can happen at anytime, any minute of any day. At anytime, I can stop and determine to live a healthier and more authentic life. I don't have to wait until 12:01 a.m. on January 1 to give up negative habits or start practicing positive ones. As soon as I discover a motive, intention or response that I'd like to change, I can change it.

In her book, No Time to Lose: A Timely Guide to the Way of the Bodhisattva, my favorite Buddhist nun, Pema Chodron says, "At some point, we need to stop identifying with our weaknesses and shift our allegiance to our basic goodness. It’s highly beneficial to understand that our limitations are not absolute and monolithic, but relative and removable. The wisdom of buddha nature is available to us at any time." 

The Way of the Bodhisattva was written by the 8th century Indian Buddhist scholar Shantideva. It outlines the method for becoming a wisdom being who will return again and again (as necessary) until all sentient beings reach enlightenment. In this way, a bodhisattva is sort of a fire fighter of the Buddhist world. She will will not rest until every cat, dog, fish and cockroach is carried out of the smoke and flames of delusion to spiritual safety. Yes, it's a big job, to set aside my ego and see the perspective of others. But as Chodron puts it, "Life is too short to stay addicted to ego." 

And so I continue on. I have no clue what the next year —let alone next four — will bring. I do know that the seeds of healthy intention planted four years ago will continue to grow and flourish as long as I tend my garden well. Thank you for joining me on this journey and reading along.  

xo -B


  1. It's interesting to read your journey. As a student (as I have been over the past year with the Institute of Conscious Being) I sometimes think the teachers, such as yourself, as having arrived. In some way it is reassuring to know that we are all on a journey, mostly parallel but sometimes touching.

    I'm not too much into Buddhism, but I appreciate the concept of mindfulness. This is hard thing to keep to in ones own being. But it is a noble regard that sometimes seems wildly absent when I look around the world.

    For future things, I feel that we have to follow our own arrow, and we hope to point it in the right direction, but we can't see far enough to discern a destination, if there is one.

    So, I appreciate your writing, and managed to ramble a bit if not on top of the topic.

  2. Hi Brigid,
    I enjoyed reading about your journey. I am a Licensed Spiritual Counselor with Centers for Spiritual Living and new to Columbus, Ga .

    I like to think that we are all on our own separate journey, traveling in time and space, back to our connection with the One. Sometimes as we delve in and out of our Oneness and we are catching glimpses of the Truth, we know all is good. These are just fleeting moments in time. And yet somewhere and in a string of moments, our connection with the One seems to last a lifetime.

    Deep meditations and contemplations are the vehicles that can take us there. Joy and Ecstasy are the results of the connections.

    May you be safe and protected.
    May you be peaceful and happy.
    May you be healthy and strong.
    May you have ease of well being

    Theresa Slusher RScP

    1. Hi Theresa! Thanks for reading the blog! Good to know another soul on the path. I definitely find a great deal of inspiration and understanding in meditation, but it is applying that work "off the pillow" where the real practice begins for me. Thank goodness (as Pema Chodron writes) "Everything along the path is workable." All best to you. -B