Michael Bernard Beckwith and his wife, inspirational singer-songwriter Rickie Byars Beckwith, share The Secret to divine grandparenting
Interview by Pat Burns,written by Colleen Sell
Twenty-five years ago, Michael Bernard Beckwith founded the Agape International Spiritual Center in Los Angeles, a trans-denominational spiritual community that currently has 10,000 local members, thousands in its live video streaming community and hundreds of thousands of friends worldwide. Michael chose the name Agape — a Greek word meaning “unconditional love” — because of his deep belief in the presence of God in every person and in the power of that divine love to create a great life and a better world.
That is the underlying message running through Michael’s services, lectures, films and books; through the songs he’s co-written with his wife, singer-songwriter Rickie Byars Beckwith, director of music and art at Agape; and through Agape’s ministries and outreach programs. It is the essence of the teachings Michael contributed to the highly acclaimed film and book The Secret. It is also what Rickie and Michael are helping to instill in their grandchildren — not only through their wise counsel but also through their living example.
“Religion is sort of what you do. And children watch you,” Michael says. “Our grandkids watch what we eat [a healthy vegan diet]. They watch us with their parents. They watch us being in spiritual community, being of service to others, being generous and kind.”
He also says that when grandparents’ actions mirror their religious or spiritual beliefs, it has a positive impact on their grandchildren’s spiritual development.
For Rickie, spirituality is “all about kindness” and integrity. “One of the greatest things we can do as grandparents is to live a good life that includes them,” she says.
Despite their full professional and spiritual lives, Rickie and Michael make a conscious effort to include their seven grandchildren (the eighth is due in September) in their lives and to be an “organic part” of their grandchildren’s lives.
“We don’t have to go to Disneyland or Six Flags. We can cook, do some art, make music together,” Rickie says. “They just want to be with me, and I just want to be with them.”
Fortunately, most of the grandkids live in Los Angeles: Tyler Michael Arthur Beckwith (21), Chief Siah Beckwith (13), King Che Fela Beckwith (7) and Jada Selah Muldrow (8). Dudley Perkins Jr. (14), Ezra Zuriah Sopretti Perkins (8) and Nokware Ceclaime Perkins (2) live 300 miles away in Las Vegas.
“My daughter moving to Vegas has made things a little more complex,” Rickie says. “So I’ve learned to just
drop everything and go, because I need to see my grandson while he’s a baby.”
“Even if it’s only for a day,” Michael adds.
A day with one or more of the grandkids might include going roller-skating or to the movies, the beach or a museum, or out to lunch. Or they might come over to Baba (as the kids call Michael) and Grandma’s home for a sleepover, to just “hang out,” or to walk and talk — which offers a special opportunity to impart values to grandchildren.
Michael explains how kids have “one kind of conversation with their parents” — about school, chores, activities, time to go to bed and the like. “But as a grandparent, you get to have a much wider conversation. You get to talk about life,” he says. “You can ask certain questions about the kind of person they want to become or the contribution they want to make to the world, and it leads to other questions.”
Those are the kinds of conversations Michael had with his own grandfather, and they “still resonate” with him.
The most important thing, this loving couple agrees, is to spend time with their grandkids, to be fully present in the moment and to enjoy them.
It’s No Secret…
that Michael and Rickie’s work has wings:
• Rickie’s new book and CD is Let My Soul Surrender, an intimate look into how the spirit works through her in the creation of her music. In her own voice, she pulls us into her living room, her front porch as a child, a temple with His Holiness the Dalai Lama or out on tour with James Brown. Available at www.rickiebb.com or at Amazon and at other fine book outlets.
• Michael is the author of the award-winning book Spiritual Liberation, featured teacher in the best-selling book and film The Secret and originator of The Life Visioning Process. He has appeared on The Oprah Show, Larry King Live and on his own PBS special, The Answer Is You.
• Video: Program preview of the PBS Special The Answer Is You. (6 min.)
• Video: “Michael Bernard Beckwith Video Bio” introduces Michael’s work with Agape (2 min.)
Colleen Sell is the editor/anthologist of 36 volumes of the bestselling Cup of Comfort book series, author of Ten-Minute Zen and The Everything Kids’ Gross Cookbook, and former editor-in-chief of two award-winning magazines. Her three children and six grandchildren are the pride and joy of her life.