My former colleagues from CSU Channel Islands gave me the Becoming Journal as a parting gift. Michelle Obama put out this journal with prompts and quotes to accompany her memoir. Her point seems to be that we all have a story worth telling we just all haven’t written it… yet. I’ve been writing in this journal for two years. Recently, I’ve been taking it more seriously. Like, maybe I really am becoming… 

I’ve been on what I would call an intentional spiritual journey. The pivotal moment for me occurred in the middle of a podcast where the guest was talking about being more human and I broke off into a run that had me chanting that I didn’t want to be more human, I wanted to be more spiritual. I feel like I have the humanity thing down pretty well. I like to think of myself as a devout human.  I’ve spent a lifetime struggling with religious dogma and figuring out a spiritual chord that could resonate with my soul. I was raised in such a beautiful church environment where my momma played the piano and songs continued into our home. Mom had a way of explaining lessons so my eight-year-old self could understand. The church broke up years before I lost my faith. Although it didn’t survive, that giving spirit that moved walls and fed the homeless was ingrained in me as possible. I’ve longed to replicate that for Kody, but where could I begin having strayed so far and comfortably from organized religion? 

In the last two years, I’ve been on a self-guided spiritual journey in search of what I can believe and will believe. Part of my search has me randomly walking in the library or bookstores to see what lands in front of me. Part of my search has me listening to birds while holding yoga poses in my backyard. Part of my search has me paying close attention to facial expressions on strangers or rather, friends I haven’t met yet. The majority of my search for spiritual enlightenment has me connecting what I gain from paying attention to what I feel in my heart as a truth. During my random walks through books, two bounced out at me, Happiness Becomes You: A Guide to Changing Your Life for Good by Tina Turner and Jesus and Buddha The Parallel Sayings edited by Marcus Borg. 

The neatest thing about not knowing what you believe, at least for me, is that the possibilities are endless and everything has the potential to magically mystify. Nothing is off the table. Hence, my recent practice of chanting nam-myoho-renge-kyo. I’m basically taking Tina Turner’s advice in Happiness Becomes You. I didn’t know chanting was a thing before I got to know Tina a little better. My eyes landed on her pink outline on the cover and I was intrigued by both the title and the author. Tina’s been chanting for years and credits that meditation towards mystic law and a devotion towards good intentions, because she truly believes cause and effect are a thing. I mean, that’s my interpretation anyway. She breaks it down nicely on pages 54 and 55, but I didn’t start practicing this newest edition to my yoga workout until page 123 when she mentions praying for each person in her audience before a show: 

“I visualized my audience and prayed that I could be whoever each person needed me to be that day in order to inspire their dreams, invigorate their hope, and recharge their souls. I prayed to spark in them a joyful revolution of the heart.” 

Isn’t that just a lovely sentiment? Here’s Tina Turner chanting and praying for her audience individually to experience a jolt of joy straight to the heart. I find that kind of intention at once simplistic and awe-inspiring. When I first started reading Happiness Becomes You, I wasn’t of the mindset that I’d change the course of my own meditation and prayer. I picked the book up out of curiosity and as a means of getting to know Tina better. When I read early on about her chanting groups and nam-myoho-renge-kyo, I didn’t picture myself capable of remembering this chant that is not only foreign to read, but I’d not heard it either so I was pretty sure I’d say the whole thing incorrectly. Then, she broke it down a few pages later and offered the pronunciations. Well, before I was totally aware, I had it memorized. I placed my yoga mat on the tile in the backyard and thought the chant over and over without bringing it to my ears. What would it hurt? So, during my oscillations between cat pose and cow pose, I began my chant in a light whisper. One thing I’m certain about is that taking actual steps with the intention of trying to feel better, counts. Those steps count and they add up and eventually, the baby steps, light chants, and deep breathing matter enough to fill my soul’s cup a little. Littles add up. Like little sips are gonna make eight ounces eventually. Anyway, so Tina Turner says, “Whatever stage of life you’re in right now, always move forward, rolling like a mighty river, ever forward.”  She goes on to say that “now that my river has passed the age of eighty, within my heart I feel more youthful than ever.” That’s the spiritual practice I want to nurture, where I can look to the future when I’m eighty as a light promise, a hopeful day. Or, that I can look at May 7, 2022, when Mom would have turned eighty as a hopeful day of light. 

My spiritual journey has also led me to a little bedside book called Jesus and Buddha. The scripture from the bible is familiar to my upbringing and the following scripture from Buddhism reminds me of how my mom would explain scripture to me after church. The relatable way that Tina writes candidly about her journey and relationship to spirituality along with her age, ties the connections I’m making with a bow.  That Tina mentions her age with a kind of light-heartedness and spiritual delight is not lost on me. That she shares her spiritual journey in detail as I continue moving through my own path towards divinity and grace, our intersections are not coincidental. Here’s the thing, I don’t have to believe they are random or coincidental, I can believe the universe isn’t random and my place in it, less so. The greatest thing about belief is that we can. 

Just like Jesus and Buddha before me, I can choose what I want to believe and random doesn’t live here. Through Tina’s enjoyment of life and prayers for her listeners to find the joy she lives with, I prepare to celebrate my mother’s birthday.  It might look like my mom’s favorite peppermint chocolate in Kody’s lunchbox. It might be eight candles stuffed in a double-chocolate cupcake that my little family leans in to blow out together. Or, it might be a simple message painted in water on the sidewalk in remembrance of the water-play Mom would create on her porch for the neighborhood kids. Like the dove chocolate wrapper that claims: “your vibe attracts your tribe,” or Tina Turner’s promotion of nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we’re in this together.  We are in this together. 

This life has every right to become you. Through writing and listening and reading, I’m learning what it means to become me. 

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