Entries by Martha Beck

Celebrating the Ebb Tide

You are an ocean. You’re about 60 percent plain water, with an admixture of chemicals that approximate the sea in which your most ancient ancestors evolved. Also like the sea, you are tidal. You ebb and flow. Your heart and lungs continuously contract and expand. Your circadian rhythms alternate between alertness and sleepiness. You also have ultradian rhythms, multiple physical systems that ebb and flow within each day. Ultradian rhythms control things like your hormonal levels, heat regulation, appetite, and nostril dilation. (Yes! Nostril dilation!) Unfortunately, you’ve had your natural rhythms disrupted by a culture that praises you for working continuously, and makes you embarrassed or ashamed of the need to rest. But in high performing roles, from musical performance to office work, human beings function best in bursts that max out at 90 minutes. These work periods are interspersed with at least 20-minute periods of R&R (I myself find […]

Imagic-nation

I have two magical daughters. This story concerns the younger one, Elly, who as a toddler befriended an imaginary red fox. I won’t divulge the fox’s name, because he told it to her, not me. I used to hear her side of their conversations. “My friend Leah said God is everywhere,” I heard her say when she was three (she was in the empty kitchen, I was in the adjoining room). “Does that mean God is sitting on me?” I think this is a solid question, though I didn’t hear what the fox answered. The first time Elly visited me in the California countryside, a red fox–rare in these parts, where grey foxes prevail–walked in front of our car, stopped, and stared at us calmly. We began to give her fox-themed gifts. The holidays, when my kids come to stay, got ridiculously foxy. Look: This year, the day my daughters […]

This Holiday: Remember the Elur Nedlog!

I don’t think people talk nearly enough about the Elur Nedlog. True, I never talked about it myself until it occurred to me a couple of months ago, but that is no excuse! The Elur Nedlog is the Golden Rule spelled backwards. Where the Golden Rule says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” the Elur Nedlog says, “Don’t do unto yourself anything you wouldn’t do unto someone else.” I think the sentiment has to run both ways. That’s just math. So especially in this season—this festive holiday fairyland strewn with its festive holiday fairylandmines—I plan to hang onto the Elur Nedlog the way your cat would hang onto you if you took it out for a nice ocean swim. Before I do any little thing unto myself, I’m going to ask if I would ever, ever do that thing unto a random other person. I […]

Manifesting 202

I don’t often yammer about “manifesting” because I think the whole topic is a bit cheesy. On the other hand (she said, blushing) I know it works. Call it the Law of Attraction, call it selective attention, call it karma, call it long distance and tell it to jump off a bridge if you want—the plain truth is that we basically experience the world we think into being. I’ve been mulling this over for years. I wrote my most recent book—Diana, Herself— as “fantasy fiction” so I could describe the magic I experience without being institutionalized. But after all this time, I’ve only just noticed a detail about manifestational technique that (she said, blushing harder) has made a huge difference for me. I want to pass it on to you. We all know (she said, trying to make everyone blush) that focusing intensely on something, then letting go of all […]

Like Ten Thousand Knives When All You Need Is a Spoon

It’s been a long day, and I’m almost out of spoons. I have a couple to use writing this, but I’ll need a good sleep to forge more spoons for tomorrow. Does this sound odd to you? Let me tell you about “Spoon Theory,” my current preoccupation. Spoon Theory is a real thing—you can find it in Wikipedia, listed as a neologism (a phrase just entering popular usage). Spoon theory is the brainchild of the wonderful blogger Christine Miserandino, who has Lupus. She explained life as a Luperian (is that a word? A neologism?) by using spoons to represent the energy it takes to do things. According to spoon theory, every task we ever do—getting up, taking a shower, driving the kids to school—costs a spoon. Most people, most of the time, have dozens of spoons. But there are times when some of us wake up with only ten, or four, […]

How to Live Your Truth

“If you think life’s a vending machine where you put in virtue and you get out happiness,” a character on the TV show “Six Feet Under” once noted, “then you’re probably going to be disappointed.” Most people find this out the hard way. I suspect you did. The times when you obeyed all the rules and got punished anyway, ate righteously and still got sick, worked yourself half to death to achieve a goal only to feel depletion and disappointment rather than the happiness you expected — the happiness you paid for, by God! For thousands of years, wise observers have pointed out that whatever’s in charge of the universe “maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” And for thousands of years, the rest of us have answered: “Wait — what?” No matter how routinely […]

Be Honest: How to Do What You Really Want

One of my more embarrassing memories is the day in high school drama class when I was assigned to deliver the famous monologue in which Lady Macbeth loses her freaking mind. Bumbling my way through history’s worst rendition of that scene, I suddenly understood why actors are always asking, “What’s my motivation?” I had no idea how to portray Lady M because I couldn’t imagine what the heck made her tick. At the time, I blamed my abysmal acting skills, but now that I’ve lived many additional decades and watched 800,000 episodes of Law & Order, I realize my horrible performance wasn’t entirely my fault. Lady Macbeth is incomprehensible because after years of secrets, lies, and manipulation, her mind is such a mess even she can’t find her way around it. She lives in a private hell, and as she puts it, “Hell is murky.” She’s constantly scrubbing at her hands, but […]

The Storm Before the Calm

No matter how many times I experience The Storm Before the Calm, it always sneaks up on me. I never recognize it until I’m fully lost in it; bruised, drowning, desperate for relief. Storms are devilishly clever at disguising themselves. “I’m Hurricane Bob!” “I’m Tropical Storm Betty Sue!” “I’m Low Pressure System Barry Manilow!” Don’t let them fool you. No two storms have the same name, but they all wreak the same kinds of havoc. Of course I don’t mean literal storms. I’m talking about periods of intense disturbance we go through prior to deep and lasting personal growth. I suspect we all have these Storms Before the Calm. But I don’t think most people recognize them. So it’s about to get unbearably metaphorically meteorological up in here. A Storm Before the Calm begins long before we see it. It’s born in deep wanting—maybe a subtle itch, maybe a yearning […]

May all our scores be very low

Doggie Do-Good Camp was supposed to last two weeks. That’s a long time to be separated from a dog you’ve just adopted, but when we got Claire, our emergency backup Golden Retriever, it seemed necessary. She was anxious, jittery, and unresponsive to even simple commands. After two weeks, a Doggie Do-Good trainer called to report that Claire needed more time. “Claire is one of the cutest dogs we’ve ever worked with,” said the trainer. There followed a charged silence. The trainer took a deep breath and added, “Her scores are, er, very low.” It was hard to contradict, but still, harsh, dude. All our lives we’re taught to jack up our scores, fight for every point we can get, compete for rank like hyenas fighting over filet mignon. After a full month of Do-Good Camp, Claire came home with a dim, flickering concept of the word “Come.” Mainly she just figures […]

Make of yourself a light

I’ve heard from so many of you in recent days, weeks and months about how we can get by during a period when the news from the world feels cruel and dangerous. I wanted to talk to you directly about the helplessness many of us feel at such times. The Buddha’s last words were, “Make of yourself a light.” As a tribe, it’s my wish that we may all be lights for ourselves and each other in times that feel dark.