I do yoga. Believe in therapy (in some cases. Lead a horse to water, you know?). Try to eat organic and have had my sanity saved by acupuncture. I pray, try very hard to make ecological decisions at every opportunity, and respect most practices that help you on your spiritual journey. However, despite knowing and accepting the value of medication, I have never really done it. Except for those last 10 minutes vegging in yoga class, the benefits of quieting one's mind.
Then, I read mom of five Rebekah Borucki's new book, You Have 4 Minutes to Change Your Life: Simple 4-Minute Meditations for Inspiration, Transformation, and True Bliss.
Tall order, that title. But it works. This book is one part memoire, in which Rebecca, founder of the wholistic lifestyle blog Bexlife.com (with whom I share a book agent, the lovely Wendy Sherman!), digs into her early life, including a childhood wracked with poverty and fundamentalism that discouraged her spirituality for years, bad relationships and a life of general chaos.
These stories lend to Bex's message of the power of meditation. She breaks down the practice into steps that are entirely practical, like how to sit, how to hold your hands and body, and specific scripts you can borrow during your own mindful practice. The approach is digestible without being condescending or cheesy. In other words, it is just another tool to get you on your way.
Have a listen to this awesome interview, in which Bex shares about her own journey, and guides you through a meditation (might not want to try it while driving).
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Read the interview on single mom meditation with BexLife
Emma: I’m very happy to welcome Rebekah Borucki. You might know her as Bex from BexLife, which is her brand and her blog. She bills herself as a meditation guide, which is no small thing as I have learned by reading her new book which is called You have Four Minutes to Change Your Life – Simple Four Minute Meditations for Inspiration, Transformation, and True Bliss. You can get it on Kindle, Amazon.
Just backing up, making it about me for a second, I have done all kinds of self-help, physical health, psychological health, but I have never been a meditator. I don’t know that I have really ever meditated seriously outside of the little 10-minute thing at the end of yoga class. This book, it’s really a life changer because it’s not just about you’re going to sit quiet in a certain position and do something, it’s really about changing your whole life, and your whole perspective. So that’s my little plug for the book.
I’ll tell you, Rebekah, I know her because we have the same agent who introduced us. Thank you so much for being here.
Rebekah: Thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here.
Emma: You are an awesome woman. You are a doula, a yoga instructor, you’re a mom of five, you live on a farm in New Jersey and you have chickens and worms, and you have a TV show.
Emma: I’m jealous because I love my city life, but I have country fantasies and there’s always compost and chickens. That’s the extent of my country fantasy.
Rebekah: So your entire country fantasy is about poop and poop because that’s about what compost and chickens are.
Emma: You’ve had such a long and interesting life, which we’ll dive into. You had this very chaotic childhood. You had rough young years, you were a young mom, babies, lots of violent relationships, but then you have now gone on to do all kinds of wellness and amazing things through yoga, meditation, workshops, retreats. Why meditation? Why is meditation your first book? Why is that the one thing that sticks out for you?
Why meditation changed her life
Rebekah: Meditation is the thing that completely healed me. My work is my healing journey. It’s not strategic, none of it was planned. It was the revealing of my story that allowed me all these opportunities to do this really cool stuff. Without my meditation and prayer practice, I would be dead, and that is no exaggeration. Of course, it’s the thing that I want to share first because it’s the thing that I think has been most powerful in my life.
Emma: For somebody that might be completely unaware of what meditation is, or have just some vague ideas that it’s something you have to go to Nepal to do it with the Beetles in the 60s or something, what is it? What’s the one line description of what meditation actually is?
Rebekah: Dang, I wish I had my book in front of me. The way that I describe meditation is a way of showing up for yourself saying, yes, I see you, I see that you’re worthy of being heard, you’re worthy of spending time on. The thing I think that we, universally, need and desire so much as humans is just to be able to feel supported and seen. That’s what meditation does for you without any outside help. You’re just showing up for yourself. That’s the way I practice it, and I think that that’s what it really is. I come from a religious background. I am a practicing Christ follower. I don’t want anyone to get scared and freak out and run away after I say that, but Jesus went out and meditated, prayed in the desert all the time. It was a way for him to check in with himself and all that is. That’s how I use it. It’s just a way to check in and see how I’m feeling and to ask myself how I want to show up for the next moment in my life.
Emma: You know how I understand it, or how I came to understand meditation, it’s really a practice that I was already kind of doing informally. I don’t have a religion and I don’t come from a religious background, it’s my understanding of God. It’s where I find God inside of myself. Which is how I might connect outside of myself too. I think that’s the thing. Like the touchpoint. There’s a truth inside of you, while you might feel completely out of control, overwhelmed, your own worst enemy, but there is a perfect essence in you. The meditation is just an exercise to get in touch with the perfect essence inside you.
The meditation is just an exercise to get in touch with the perfect essence inside you.
Rebekah: Oh, 100 percent. We have this thing, you can call it your inner God voice, you can call it your intuition, no matter what it is. The thing about things that are true, it doesn’t matter what you call it, or how you believe them to manifest. The truth is we do know all the answers, we do have them inside of us, but they’ve been obscured by self-doubt, other people’s opinions, all the things that happen when you just live in the world. Meditation allows you to kind of sit down with yourself for a minute and peel back those layers of that muck that has been covering up that intuition over the years, and get to that inner voice. As we make that a practice and do it again, and again, and again, that voice becomes more confident, more inclined to speak up and get loud, and it also comes a lot faster. Where I used to have to sit for hours or days or months with a question to figure it out, now I just sit down and I ask a simple question and I get the answer immediately. It’s so apparent because I have that practice of checking in constantly.
Emma: It’s an exercise, that’s exactly what it is. You reference your yoga instruction a lot as those two going hand in hand, you might not be able to do a position, or any positions to start off, but you can condition your body, you can condition your mind, your spirit. It’s all part of one giant human experience.
Rebekah: I love being human. Being human is the best. It’s so cool.
Emma: Except for when it’s the worst.
Rebekah: You know what, it’s still the best. It’s like all the juiciness of those moments, those really bad moments too which I didn’t appreciate, and it is part of my perspective shift. What an amazing opportunity that we have to get to be here on this planet, in this space, and in this time. Even the most terrible things, it’s just such an opportunity to be able to learn and grow, and you don’t get it again. It’s temporary and all the cliche things like this too shall pass, I just take it. I’m like, alright, thank you, this is super cool. I will get through this and I will learn from it, and I’m so appreciative of this gift.
Emma: Your book is very tactical. If you’re going through chaos, you’re going through a crisis, you have body issues, you really break it down. It’s for women. I feel like this book is largely for women. It speaks to very much the female experience. It’s tactical, this is how you sit, this is how you hold your hands, these are some mantras that you can say. But you really build it out in a way that’s so relatable, and you tell your journey which is significant. You came from a really chaotic, very poor, too many people crazy, childhood, that you had to fight through to get to this cute chicken and worm poop Jersey life.
Rebekah: And you know what, I’m still working through it. I still have my haunts, I still have my stuff, I still am someone who— I have anxiety. It’s not even something I can talk around. I still experience anxiety, I still experience symptoms of depression, and they’re things that I manage, but I’m very left brained about everything. One thing that I think people are going to understand from this book is that I am someone who is a linear thinker. I’m a big subscriber of stoicism. I’m very much an, it is what it is, person. So how am I going to show up for what is? Shit happens, but how we react to it is divine. I am not a person who looks for a lot of meaning in things, or reason in things, but rather opportunities to be better through whatever happens. I’m not like, why is this happening to me? It’s just, this is happening to me, now what can I do to navigate it?
Emma: That’s the big theme of your book and I love it. You take the victimhood out of a lot of the situation. It goes back to the title, You have Four Minutes to Change Your Life. I feel like that’s one of the big themes of our time, especially with moms I will say, there’s almost like a pride that people have in being busy and overwhelmed. I’ve written a lot about that. I’m curious what you think. My take on it is it just perpetuates itself because everybody’s saying that. Like I’m important because I’m doing a lot, or I’m productive because I’m doing a lot, or please help me because I can’t help myself because I’m so overwhelmed and freaking out. Your whole thing is that’s life, that is going to happen, but you have choice. You have choice in how you’re going to respond. Your feelings are legit, but they’re just feelings and they will pass, and you can work through them, you have control. You really wrap up the gift of control and you give it to the reader.
Rebekah: Free will comes a lot from my religious background.
Emma: Really? How?
Rebekah: This idea of free will. I think that we abdicate a lot of responsibility in our lives, the spiritual and the non-spiritual alike. The spiritual is we say it’s all in God’s hands, and I’m just going to leave it to the universe, and the universe has my back. Oh God, I just said a Gabby Bernstein book title. I love her.
Emma: I know you did. You totally did. I like her too.
Rebekah: There’s this idea of always relinquishing control where I feel like we’re really in collaboration with the universe always. We have to let it in. We have to open the door. When I pray, one of my favorite proverbs, it’s an African proverb, it’s when you pray move your feet. It’s that prayer without deed is dead. It means nothing. It’s my job to take control. It’s my job to take the responsibility of free will that has been bestowed upon me by my creator and run with it. That’s why we’re here. Otherwise, we could skip this whole humanity thing and just go straight to the everlasting, to Nirvana, to Heaven, to wherever. We’re here to have this experience and to create something from it.
Emma: God helps those who help themselves.
Emma: It’s a balance too, in the spiritual realm, between accepting responsibility and relinquishing control. I don’t know. Speak to me. I struggle with that. I really always feel like I am responsible for my happiness, or I am responsible for my feelings in my life. At the same time, I also know through experience the more control I let go of, the more powerful I am, but it’s still a struggle. I still find myself trying to control other people, or control a work situation, or a relationship. So where is that balance between taking responsibility and relinquishing control?
Rebekah: Well the balance is, and you kind of just said it, you’re trying to control other people or trying to control a work environment. There’s two categories of things; things that are within your control and things that aren’t. The things that aren’t within your control you’d be best to leave alone. You can definitely control, or have influence on the environment by creating a way of being inside of it. You can have control over a relationship with someone else by showing up in full honesty and full expression of yourself and then being met with the same.
I’m in constant awareness of things that are mine to take on, and not mine to take on. The stuff that isn’t for me, I do leave alone. I tend to easily, and this is through practice, say this isn’t my thing, this isn’t my bag, and I’m okay with not even having an opinion on it, and really leaving that worry aside. That leaves room for me to take a lot more control in things in my life and pay a lot more attention to things that I can change. That’s my practice every day. How can I show up? How can I make the situation better? How can I be better for the world? When I do that in truth, it’s really easy. It’s kind of like the Law of Attraction. I really do attract the same from people. I don’t tend to have a lot of crappy people in my life or people who don’t take responsibility for themselves. They tend to just see that I’m not about that, and they back away.
Emma: That’s a conversation you can only have with certain people. I find the same too. In the space that I work in, in particular, I end up talking about dating relationships a lot and I often encounter women who are like, “All guys are blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” They just have one horror story after another about dating, and that’s a very common theme I think around women. Guys are lousy, and there’s no good guys to date or marry. I’m like, “Okay, I believe your experience, but that is not my experience.” What? God loves me more than you and just shoots better guys through OkCupid to me than to you? That’s not what’s happening. But it’s happening on another level. Either you’re open to that conversation or you’re not, I find. I don’t know. I guess this is a question for you, maybe I’m looking for a little professional advice. Are you able to have that conversation with people that are not necessarily believers? That are like, oh no, guys are jerks, or the world is unfair and I’m a victim. How do you bring those people around to take responsibility and realize what they’re attracting and co-creating themselves?
Rebekah: To be very real, it’s not that those people don’t show up. It is very easy for me to say the thing, to says, “Maybe it’s you. This is what you’re bringing to the table. This is what you’re attracting.” I can’t say that it’s always a conversation, because a conversation has to be the back and forth, and a lot of times it ends there. I do try to, in all circumstances, to be very compassionate and to have my words received well. It doesn’t mean I sugar coat it. I play to my audience. I will say, this has been my experience, or yes, I’ve been there. Look, I was in one abusive relationship after another, emotionally, physically, and verbally. I’m not a stranger to being a victim of some really terrible circumstances. At some point, and I’m not saying that the abuse was ever excusable, but at some point, I had to sit and ask myself what part am I playing in this? Why does this keep happening to me? When I got real with my answer, again, I didn’t deserve it, but I was putting myself in a place where I was letting that into my life. I had to change myself to be able to attract the right person for me and to attract the kind of love that I wanted.
Emma: A friend of mine said it best, she said, “Every situation that you’re in, you co-created.” And that, if you’re not used to thinking like that, that is asking a lot. That is really a big paradigm shift. One that’s ultimately really powerful, but it’s a big shift. I just saw a book at a bookstore, I have to read you the title. It’s Sarah Schulman and it’s called Conflict is not Abuse. I think it’s a little bit sociological. The subtitle is Overstating Harm, a Community Responsibility, and the Duty of Repair.
Emma: Yeah. I think I need to get her on this show. Culturally, I think that’s some big movement we’re doing there.
“Culturally we love a victim. We love to see victimhood in each other because it gives us permission to make excuses in our life.”
Rebekah: Culturally we love a victim. We love to see victimhood in each other because it gives us permission to make excuses in our life. Again, it doesn’t mean that terrible stuff doesn’t happen to people all the time. It’s not that we welcome in every bad thing that happens. I’m not saying that if I go out and I get assaulted, that I played a part in that, but what I do play a part in is my reaction to that and how I use that moving forward and how I talk about it moving forward, and the type of blame that I put on myself moving forward. I’m a big fan of responsibility not as self-punishment, but as freedom. When I take responsibility I create so many choices for myself, and so much freedom in my life. It’s me saying I get to tell my own story. I get to create my own future. Where victimhood is that I’m trapped in someone else’s story.
Emma: That’s an interesting way of putting it. Because it is really about the story. It’s all about the narrative, it’s a story that you tell yourself who you are, it’s how you introduce yourself to others, how you present yourself, then that’s the relationship in all things. That’s a really great way of putting it. How does this all come back to meditation? Because that’s part of the meditation, you walk us through stories and you change the stories.
Rebekah: My meditations are heavily based in mantra and affirmative mantra. It’s a lot of me rewriting my story and telling it to myself again, and again, in a “positive” way, to reframe old stories that I’ve been telling myself to create new feelings in myself. I say in the book that you don’t have to believe a mantra or an affirmative mantra for it to create change, you just keep saying this thing again, and again, and again. It’s basically self-hypnosis. We’re being hypnotized all the time by all these other things that are going on, like other people’s opinions, commercials, billboards, magazines, whatever. We’re constantly being told how to act, who to be, what to think, so why don’t we take back that power and do it for ourselves? When I’m sitting in meditation, when I’m getting quiet and asking myself questions and being curious about negative feelings that are coming up for me and then reinforcing positive feelings with mantra, I’m taking that power back, and I’m hypnotizing myself in a way that allows me to be powerful and to take control of my own life.
Emma: You have a really great story in the book about being a kid and you would go out collecting bottles and cans with your dad because you guys were really poor, really, really poor. You had been carrying one narrative about the can collecting, but it changed. Tell us that story.
“You had been carrying one narrative, but it changed.”
Rebekah: I must have been seven or eight years old, my little sister would have been four or five years old and what I didn’t understand to be true— I mean, I know now that my dad was collecting cans to pay our bills, but I thought it was strictly for toy money or whatever. He used to take us out on train tracks and through dumpsters and wherever people would leave behind cans. We weren’t in the city, this wasn’t something that anyone did. We’re out in, basically the suburbs, collecting things out of trash cans for money. Looking back on it, even as a pre-teen, a teenager, and then as an adult, I was horrified and humiliated and I was so angry with my father. There was this story that he wasn’t even a real man if he couldn’t support his family. Why would he do something so shameful? There was a story that we must have looked ridiculous and everyone must’ve known how poor we were, and how irresponsible to be taking these little girls out on train tracks, and we’d be covered in ticks and bugs, and get poison ivy. All this mess associated with this chaos.
I sat with myself in meditation, which was kind of like a hybrid meditation self-hypnosis session, where I really brought myself back to that time, a time of collecting cans with him. What I discovered through this process of going really, really deep, and really being in that moment with him, is that it wasn’t a shameful, embarrassing, or scary scenario at all. I loved doing that with my dad. I loved spending time with him. He was such a playful man. He was so young at heart, we had so much fun together. I was so excited to be able to earn this money, collect this treasure and earn this money to buy toys. He would always take us to Kiddie City, which was a toy store, I think it’s out of business now, but he would take us to Kiddie City afterward and I remember buying My Little Ponies and Mr. Potato Heads, and whatever I was spending my money on at the time. It was a thing that I loved to do, and again that was the pureness, the purity of the moment. It was only those layers of other people’s opinions, and my own opinions of the way things should be. All of that muck that got layered onto the experience that brought shame to it. The experience itself was good.
Emma: You even went into the visuals. All of a sudden the broken glass and the cans became sort of this glistening, beautiful things. The whole story. There’s movies where five different people see the same scene and they all have their own version of it. It’s almost like tapping into your own parts of yourself to retell the story. At the same time, what I hear you say, you’re not dismissing the uglier parts of it. You’re not dismissing the shame or the humiliation, or those other things that you experienced later in life as false or wrong, you’re honoring those at the same time.
Rebekah: No, I mean I felt the feelings, but I need to understand where those feelings are coming from. Are they coming from truth? Or are they coming from a made up scenario? Or somewhere that doesn’t matter? I’m sure a lot of people did look at us and say shame on him, but who cares? We were having a great time, he was supporting his family, I was doing what I wanted to do to earn money for toys. It's like I really have to come down to brass tax and say does this actually matter in my life? If I’m going to make it matter, what does that mean for me? If I’m going to let other people’s opinions matter to me and have such influence on my happiness, that means that I am a slave to other people’s opinions for the rest of my life. I have to make that decision that they don’t matter. Again, this is my very left brained pragmatic approach to things, but I think that that’s what we need more of, is asking ourselves how does this actually serve me? And if it doesn’t, leave it alone.
Emma: Right. You’re giving people the power that they already have by doing that. That’s what the whole book is about. It’s like, yeah, I get it that you feel bad about your body, and that’s legit and I appreciate that there’s a lot of messages about women and weight, and all of these youth, and all of these things and that’s real, those are real, but guess what? You have a gorgeous fucking body that’s amazing, and healthy, and strong, so let’s get you in touch with that version of it too.
Rebekah: Or maybe it’s not so gorgeous, and we’re gonna deal with that too. It’s like, my body is this perfect, awesome, machine created by God, that birthed these babies or whatever, it also has some parts that aren’t conventionally beautiful. I can sit with that, and worry about it forever, or I can get on with the business of living life. The beauty industry and the messages that we get, while I am working in really hard in different areas of my business and my platform to change that narrative, it’s not going to change overnight. I want to be happy today. So, I have to make decisions that are going to allow me to be happy today.
Emma: Can you walk us through a little meditation right now?
Rebekah: Oh my gosh, yes. Let’s do a quick one. Let’s do a quick one, and one for— Let’s do something for re-centering and kind of taking ourselves out of the chaos.
What I want everyone to do right now, if you would be so kind, is close your eyes and just bring your attention to your breath as it is in this moment. One of my favorite laws of the universe that I repeat often is that something changes just by observing it. When you’re checking in with your breath right now, I don’t want you to try to change it in any way. If it’s short and shallow, or if it’s deep and long, it’s exactly what it should be, because it is communicating where you are right now. It’s giving you all the information for you to take in and to work with, and to create the situation that you want to be in. So, bring your attention to your inhales as they come in through your nose and travel down the back of your throat, fill your chest and your belly, maybe swirl around in your seat a little bit. Then allow that exhale to come up and out of your mouth and release any tension that you might be feeling. Follow that pattern. The inhale filling you up, reaching all parts of your body, and that exhale releasing any tension that you’re feeling.
Know that in this moment, and in all moments that you take time to just pay attention to your breath, to just be in the moment, that you are honoring yourself with self-love, that you’re saying that I see you, you deserve to be heard, I love you, and I am invested in your happiness. No matter what has happened to me, it is not who I am, not in this moment. No matter what chaos is swirling around me, that is not who I am, that is not who I am in this moment. No matter what stories I am telling myself about why I can’t, or why I’ll never be, or why I’m not enough, all I need to know in this moment is that I am here, and I am aware of all that is, and all that is is me and my perfect intention, and my easy inhales and exhales.
When I give myself permission to be still, I give myself permission to feel fully, to express truthfully, and to honor all thoughts, all feelings, all distractions, to just teach me more about who I am in this moment. I thank all thoughts and all distractions as teachers. I release them in return to my breath.
In a few moments after another three breaths, you’re going to open your eyes and return to the world. You’ll return to the same situation. Nothing around you will have changed. You will look the same. You will have the same amount of money in your bank account. You will be in the same relationships. One thing that has changed is that you have given yourself time and permission to check in, and know, that stillness is available to you in every moment. That no matter what is happening around you, you have a choice to find peace, to be peace. Three breaths. Inhale fully, exhale release. Inhale all the way, letting your breath fill every part of your body, exhale complete release. One last time with a smile on your face this time. Inhale, feel energy, feel all of you, exhale, release any tension. And open your eyes.
Emma: That was awesome. I needed that. Thank you.
Rebekah: Thanks for giving me that time to do that.
Emma: No, on behalf of everyone listening, I am just envisioning everybody in their car. I hope they do it while keeping their eyes on the road though, that’s what I was saying.
Rebekah: Keep your eyes open, sorry about that.
Emma: Or they’re listening to it while they’re watching their kid's soccer game. You can close your eyes during that.
Rebekah: Oh yeah, soccer is boring, nobody wants to see that.
Emma: So what’s next for you? You’re pushing your book, you have your TV show, you’re online, you have your blog, your online community which is awesome. I have joined recently. What else is going on?
Rebekah: What’s happening really big for me right now is entering in this next phase of personal development for myself and bringing people along with me. I’m working with a fabulous life coach, Lauren Zander, who just wrote the book Maybe It’s You. Which is a must read. I think I recommend it more than I recommend my own book.
Emma: Well that’s what we were just talking about. What was the common denominator of all the lousy guys you’re dating, or all the lousy experience? You’re the common denominator.
Rebekah: Yeah, totally and it’s so much more than that. It’s easy to say maybe it’s me, but it’s again, there’s this joy in finding that our. I’ve created this new private Facebook community, that I love, love, love, love, and I’m revealing a lot of my personal work in there. It’s getting deep and my hope is by the end of the year to have another book deal in the works. That’s my next big goal.
Emma: Awesome. Our mutual friend Wendy Sherman hopefully will help you bring that to fruition.
Rebekah: Get to work Wendy.
Emma: Listen up. Alright, BexLife, Rebekah Borucki. You have to check out her stuff and read this book. It’s a quick read, but it is both super breezy and practical, four minutes, but it’s deep. It changes your paradigm. It’s an important book. Thank you.
Rebekah: Thank you.
Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post's ‘Must Read” list.
Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.
A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.