“We are joy. There’s nothing you need to do, to be joyful. Just allow it and be.”
Hmmm, hmmm, hmmm…
This sort of statement makes me crinkle my nose a bit.
On a core level, of course this is true. The endless striving to “get” somewhere takes us further from the joy that we really are, inherently. It’s resistance against life that causes suffering; acceptance is joy and peace. Just breathe and be, and you access joy.
…everything within me also sees that spiritual concepts must have practical applications to life and living.
Some people actually need to “do” something in order to get themselves out of their suffering, and in touch with their joy.
They need to…make different choices. Or investigate the fundamental truth of long-held belief systems and see if it’s time to drop them. Or sit in silence, connecting with the Now. Or call up their parents and apologize. Or quit their jobs. Or quit complaining. Or…well, it’s different for everyone, and no one has your answer. That’s where it feels tricky.
Joy doesn’t “happen to” you. It’s not out there, floating around in the ether, waiting to land. Nor is it something you can wring your hands to get, trying to be perfect and make all of the perfect choices.
Joy is cultivated.
Click to tweet that: http://clicktotweet.com/ddzek
“Being at one with what is doesn’t mean you no longer initiate change or become incapable of taking action,” writes Eckhart Tolle, in A New Earth, and later he describes the concept of “awakened doing.”
“Awakened doing is the alignment of your outer purpose–what you do–with your inner purpose–awakening and staying awake.” –Echkart Tolle
He describes how people in the state of “awakened doing” are, in fact, active. They’re making choices that cultivate joy. Those choices include bringing oneself back to presence or practicing/choosing acceptance of what-is. Not attaching to a result? Also helpful.
I can’t help but go to gardening metaphors, here–the seed, with all its potential, neither good nor bad but life inherent, needing conditions that cultivate its growth. Moisture, light, air, are necessary, and not battery acid dumped into the soil, not pulling up the seed and re-potting it every few days, not trampling the progress made with a heavy boot.
Overwork and over-commitment, numbing out with substances (including excessive caffeine, sugar, or wine), a constant litany of judgments that block you from seeing the good, making choices that keep you from being well-rested…all of these are the equivalent of pouring battery acid on the soil, creating conditions where it’s pretty much impossible for life to thrive.
How often do we make choices that make it nearly impossible for joy to thrive?
We connect to the joy within us when we make choices that are conducive to cultivating joy. Most of those choices have to do with releasing the things that get in the way of the joy, and that’s what I mean when I say that joy is cultivated.
Joy doesn’t happen “over there.”
Joy doesn’t arrive after you’re “fixed.”
Joy isn’t what you get after you’re “good enough.”
Joy is what you are–and–most people have enough baggage layered over that, that it’s time to make different choices, choices that cultivate joy, providing fertile ground for it to happen and for you to thrive in your life.
Clarifying the Joyful Choice
Here’s one question to ask yourself: What are the top 3 choices that you make, on a regular basis, that keep you from accessing the joy that you are and living from your joy?
Write them down, post it somewhere visible, and consider for the next week how different life looks if you make even slightly different choices in those areas.
The tricky point is not to attach to results or outcomes as you make different choices. Attachment to getting a joyful result is just another barrier to joy.
Joy isn’t what you get to experience after you “do all of the right stuff to get to the joy.”
To understand that there’s nothing more to strive for is a great relief, for most of us–but that doesn’t mean that there won’t be challenging choices, ahead.
I posit that there are choices to be made. Some of them can feel really, really tough. There are things that you can do, shift, or change that make an actual, tangible difference in our lives and the lives of others. Cultivating joy is one choice among many.
So what choice will you make, today?
So, then. Here’s what you want:
- Some kind of entrepreneurial business that’s thriving, running the gamut from Etsy shops to becoming a life coach–the type of thing you can run part-time, while making six figures, and still be home with the kids.
- “Eating well,” which really means a “clean” diet, which probably means going vegan and juicing.
- A regular yoga and meditation practice.
- A wardrobe full of flowy dresses, cowboy boots, scarves from Etsy.
- A pre-fab house with an infinity pool, decked out with a psuedo-Japanese minimalist style. Oh, and everything’s white.
Am I getting in the vicinity? It is possible that an elegant tattoo would also make this list. Possibly, dreadlocks or at least wild, flowy “beach hair.” That effortlessly tousled look.
If you look around the internet, at the blog posts and tinted Instagram pictures and Pinterest boards, there’s a ubiquity to what women seem to desire.
The ubiquitousness of the desires is actually not what worries me the most.
What worries me the most is the way I see women treating themselves to get “over there,” where the stuff is. What worries me is seeing how people beat up on themselves because they don’t measure up to an external standard. What worries me is that I see this as a new breed of perfectionism, one that looks “messier” but that ultimately ends up being the same thing.
What worries me is that we’ve traded in Stepford Wife perfectionism for what I term “boho perfectionism.”
The new standard to live up to involves proclaiming that you’re “messy” as you “live your dreams,” start a blog, and photograph your clean food. It’s not the quaint pressed aprons of the 1950′s housewife–that’s been traded in for the look that has a few “rough edges” to it.
It’s the “I’m trying really hard to not look like I’m trying hard” thing.
But I sense an undercurrent. Two, actually.
Undercurrent #1 is that the pink-tinted Instagram pics and the Anthropologie wardrobe and the green smoothies are just a new set of rules. Just because it’s a less rigid vision than the image of the perfect housewife who gets the perfect pot roast on the table by 5:00, doesn’t mean that anyone trying to fit the new, “messy” mold, is any happier.
Undercurrent #2 is that there is an epidemic of silent shame, largely fueled by the easy environment for comparisons that is the internet, that is felt by women everywhere who don’t have this life.
Women who actually have really good lives are looking right past what’s already there, thinking that the vision “out there” is what they want. They’re hustling to make it happen, and the fact that the vision is so ubiquitous is exactly what has me question whether or not it’s really what they all want, in the first place. It simply can’t be possible that everyone wants the same general thing, can it?
The Reality Check
Now, here’s a little piece that I’ll add in: I have some of these things. I’m not knocking having them. But I am going to pull back the curtain on them, to show the total truth of what “having them” looks like, for me. Here we go.
I have a thriving business. And guess what? It’s a full-time job. It is no four-hour workweek.
My home office is gorgeous and full of white-on-white design. A black and white photograph of Angelina Jolie’s back is on the wall.
But who cares how it looks, on nights when I’m burning the midnight oil, tired of sitting in that chair, tired of typing, tired of answering emails, tired of the low-grade guilt because I don’t have the mental bandwidth to promote the work of someone who has promoted mine?
I could show you an Instagram picture, tint the light, and you’d never know the entire picture: that running a business is the best and hardest thing I’ve ever done.
Another snapshot: I’m dairy and gluten-free. Such diets are touted these days as models of “great discipline” and health.
But let me also pull back the curtain on: the auto-immune condition that lead me to change my diet, the blood draws, the test results, the years of literal, physical exhaustion.
Let me pull back the curtain on being diagnosed with infertility and feeling like the dream of having a family is high stakes, riding on me and my “discipline” to eat in a way that will be conducive to my body not going into an inflammatory state, and killing off the few eggs I have remaining. * * See note at bottom
That’s the entire truth behind being gluten and dairy-free. Not so glamorous, is it?
I go to vinyasa yoga, two times a week. And I’ve been practicing yoga for years, but–I can’t do all the poses.
Even after several months of going to yoga, I don’t even have the arm strength to do a full chaturanga. When I tried going to yoga more often to build arm strength, my wrists swelled up.
Sexy, eh? So now I’m back to only twice a week.
Nope, Not Doom and Gloom
Let me be crystal clear: this is not “that post.” This is not the “I’m exposing how really, deep down, I’m miserable; woe is me; look at how I pay the price; yadda yadda yadda” post.
The examples I’ve given above are bringing transparency to the whole picture, rather than only showing the sides that look so great from an outsider’s perspective.
It’s not so dualistic as “good-bad.” Truth? I love running a business. I’d rather do that than anything else. Running a business, most days, feels like “home,” like the job I always wanted in my 20s and never knew it was possible to have.
I’m grateful that changing my diet has drastically improved my health. Such dietary changes don’t actually help everyone; some people with my same condition do everything they can, and their efforts make no difference in their health.
I love vinyasa flow and am pretty ecstatic about my small, simple studio. Going twice a week is actually enough, for me.
I’m just pointing out that since the entire picture of life is so rarely fully explained on the internet, perhaps it’s worth checking yourself, internally: are you pursuing things because you see what everyone else is doing, and think that’s where it’s at?
I’ve taken the time to cultivate that which is “uniquely Kate”: Obsessively watching videos from the Ironman Youtube channel and reading about heart-rate monitors and carbon-fiber bike frames. Or watching Animal Cops on my lunch hour, feeling the swell of “Justice was served!” when someone who abused an animal gets taken to court. Conjugating Italian verbs. Listening to Dr. Dre’s album, The Chronic, and wondering what he would say or do in a gestalt therapy session.
The other day, the completed works of Chopin arrived via Amazon; this summer I’ll be tickling the ivories again after a long hiatus. And did you know that I’m a classically-trained musician who got into college with music scholarships for playing…flute?
I know. My “cool factor” just went down several notches, I’m sure.
So What is it that YOU want?
So what is it that you uniquely want? Do you really and truly want the business? The yoga practice? Does drinking green smoothies and going gluten-free really lighten you up, really making you feel alive?
It’s important to decide before you use up the one thing that you’ll never get back (your time, your days weeks months years) whether or not the pursuit of those things is really going to be worth it.
It’s important to notice whether or not the pursuit of those things is grounded in what YOU actually want, or if it’s…what you’ve been sold. what you think you should want. what you imagine the happy people with the happy lives have.
If you’re hustling to get this life and it’s not pleasant, stop to ask yourself: Where am I trying to get, so very very fast?
If you’re envying this life, and noticing that those comparisons are crushing, stop to ask yourself: What’s available to me already, right here and now, that is uniquely mine?
Then, do me a solid: whenever you find whatever is uniquely yours, take a photograph of it, and Instagram the shit out of it.
** As loving as I’m sure someone’s intentions would be, I do not wish to receive email, suggestions, help, advice, etc., regarding infertility, parenthood, adoption, etc., etc.
“The participants who struggled the most with numbing…explained that reducing anxiety meant finding ways to numb it, not changing the thinking, behaviors, or emotions that created anxiety. I hated every minute of this part of the research. I’ve always looked for better ways to manage my exhaustion and anxiety. I wanted help ‘living like this,’ not suggestions on how to ‘stop living like this.’” –Dr. Brene Brown, Daring Greatly
Here’s what I know to be true: trying to find ever-more ways of managing the to-do list is the surest way to continue the cycle of equating your worthiness with your to-do list.
Do we need time management strategies that help our lives? Of course we do. This isn’t about saying “screw efficiency.” I’m not getting into dualities, here.
At the same time, what drives us the most are the “thinking, behaviors, and emotions” that create the anxiety, the overwhelm. That’s what we have to shift, first. Every other choice that we make will be in alignment with our highest and most purposeful selves if we shift from the inside, out.
Breathing Space registration ends on Friday, and I’ll be sending out the first lesson on April 30th. Let’s overhaul overwhelm, starting from within.