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Women I Admire Series

Featuring Martha Beck

Martha Beck: sociologist, life coach, best-selling author, columnist for O-The Oprah Magazine, and speaker.

Martha Beck has written several outstanding books including ‘The Joy Diet’, ‘The Four-Day Win’, Steering by Starlight’, ‘Expecting Adam’, ‘Finding Your Own North Star’, ‘Diana, Herself’, and ‘Leaving the Saints’. My obsessive tendencies lead me to check all of them out from the library and read them in a matter of weeks. I’ve also adored her wisdom in her monthly column since 2001 in O, The Oprah Magazine.

As a woman in recovery from an eating disorder, sexual abuse and assault, a professional and mother, ‘Leaving the Saints: How I Lost the Mormons and Found My Faith’ had a deep affect on me. I immediately identified with feelings and life questions Martha eloquently describes through her pages and was already crying by the dedication, ”They say that religion is for people who are afraid of going to hell, and spirituality is for people who’ve been there. If you’re in the second category, this book is dedicated to you.” I devoured the book longing for a deeper more intimate connection with my own spirituality and making peace with religion.

The most poignant chapter for me is called ‘The Light’ where Martha describes a near-death experience during surgery. “It was just a ball of light but instead of blinding me, it seemed to make my eyes more able to tolerate brilliance…I can also tell you that as it grew, it touched me, flowed into my material body, and that this was the most exquisite physical sensation I have ever felt. Now it poured right through me, and there was no need to have faith anymore. There was no need for anything. Only the vivid, drenching, infinite presence of love and peace and joy. It was…home. I was home. I was wrapped in the arms of Love itself.”

After reading these words, I found myself placing my hand over my heart whispering Amen, sister. I’ve never had a near-death experience but I’ve most certainly had multiple spiritual awakenings that are so difficult to describe yet felt deeply throughout every fiber of my body.

Last week I had the privilege to interview Martha on the phone while at a local cafe called Courageous Bakery where the wifi password is survivor. In that moment, I too felt “at home” and absorbed every word she spoke.

We started the conversation talking about her recent move across the country at age 55 with her wife Karen, adult son, Adam who has Down Syndrome, and her dogs. She was literally in the midst of unpacking boxes as we spoke. Martha moved from her beautiful ranch on the Central Coast of California where she lead writing workshops and trained students in her thriving Wayfinder Life Coaching Program to a picturesque forest in Pennsylvania, just a short drive from New York. Below is a picture she recently posted on Instagram which radiates Gratitude and Spirituality right in her backyard. 

Martha, what prompted this move? ”I had an overwhelming sensation to do something and I paid attention to that inner voice. I’m currently working on a new book called Maelstrom, which is the follow up to Diana, Herself, and the second installment of The Bewilderment Chronicles series.”

When I told Martha I was in awe of her bravery and fearless soul, she responded “I’m not fearless, I just hate pain so anything I can do to move away from pain. I can work through grief or embarrassment but I can’t do depression.” She then quoted Daffy Duck, “I’m not like other people, I can’t handle pain.” Martha was sick as a teenager and struggled with autoimmune diseases. She was in great pain, depressed, and anxious. She experienced massive suffering, started therapy in her 20’s while earning her doctorate and was completely time starved and had to switch course. She would advise people to “cave in early, the moment you feel it, move away from the pain and into the light. Even a worm can do it but humans have a harder time. Go where you feel the least suffering, the least toxic, you don’t have to die to feel this good, do it while you are alive!”

Leaving the Mormon church was an act of courage, I said. She explained that standing in the world having written ‘Leaving the Saints’ was the most vulnerable time in her life because the Mormon community referred to her as satanic and she experienced a lot of negativity, fear, and threats by releasing her story to the world but deep down knew it had to be told.

I was curious to know how an enlightened soul spends her day and she graciously took me through her routine. “I like to sleep.” I asked if that’s how she had so much vibrant energy? “I only have a lot of energy for things I’m passionate about. Anything I find boring I can only spend about 20 minutes on.” “I spend an hour in meditation in the morning covered in bird seed, I still need to make friends with some of the beats in the forrest. I also engage in inspirational readings by some of my favorite authors who are also my friends- Byron Katie and Steven Mitchell. I love anything mystic, Taoism, Hindi, Indian, Sanskrit.”

After her ritual she heads home for morning communion with her family then spends her day writing, coaching, and teaching a creative writing for personal growth class online which she really loves. Martha keeps to a hard 5:30 p.m. stop in her work day as suggested by her son Adam, so they can enjoy a glass of red wine and dinner together. She dedicates her evenings to spending time with friends and family. I was in awe of her seemingly simplistic yet full life that appeared to have so much intention behind all of it.

We are not unique, we both believe everyone has the capacity to connect on a deep spiritual level there just needs to be desire, awareness, and consistent practice.

I could have talked to her for hours and wanted to bottle up all of her spirituality guidance but she had to carry on with unpacking and her writing and I had to advocate. I was meeting members of my community in solidarity for a Walk-Out in honor of Dr. Christine Ford and survivors of sexual assault. A coincidence all of this lined up, at the right place and the right time? I think not. It was surely a God Wink that I was exactly where I was supposed to be glowing with gratitude for this rare opportunity to speak with one of my siritual mentors and share her insight on this precious limited time we have here on Earth.

I wanted to commemorate our conversation in a way that felt authentic to the experience so I had a shirt made which will remind me of the 30 minutes I had on the phone with Martha Beck and the inspiration she provided to stay woke!

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- MARCUS AURELIUS

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