November 15, 2017

Investigating our Beliefs

As young children, we inhabit our bodies and breathe naturally. We’re open, present, curious, and real. Slowly and steadily, we receive messages that we should be better or different, conditions on our acceptance, so we stop being real and begin to protect our hearts. Most of us experience hurt, loss, or trauma, and to cope with these unpredictable circumstances, we unconsciously build more layers of armor. We find strategies that help us survive. These strategies work for a while, but they’re not true medicine. To heal, we must—in small, safe ways—remove the layers and investigate what’s underneath. With awareness, we investigate thoughts, beliefs, and judgments that protect our hearts and limit our choices. With compassion, we heal our soft, tender places—the places underneath—and we become more alive, real, and whole. Eventually, we return to the presence, wonder, and curiosity of childhood. We trust, again, in our innate goodness: we are lovable because we exist—no extra conditions.

Some of our most-believed thoughts aren't actually true. They're old tapes playing in our heads. We get used to these tapes. The message might even go unnoticed, but it stays in our psyche. We can't heal if we continue to harm ourselves with untrue, unkind words.

I have many ongoing open wounds. One is an old (untrue) shame story: I’m unlovable and not enough. Another is an old (untrue) control story: I’m responsible for the world. My relationship to these stories has changed. For years, I unconsciously lived through these tainted filters. Then I spent years healing with writing, therapy, meditation, awareness, and self-compassion. I allowed (and still allow) myself to feel what I feel. Now I see limiting beliefs sooner. If I recognize them soon enough, I don’t listen to the voices. If they slip past me, I correct my course more quickly. This takes presence, compassion, and patience.

Interestingly, we can witness our self-judgment and then judge ourselves for judging, which causes more suffering. We heal by investigating beliefs from a larger, kinder awareness. Noticing our inner speech, asking if it's true, and letting go—little bit by little bit—of limiting beliefs while opening to possibility.

It's helpful to have gentle guidance in this process. Here's a short meditation:

Investigating our Beliefs
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November 3, 2017

Embodied Awareness

We spend most of the day in our minds: thinking, analyzing, judging, remembering, planning. Thinking is helpful. Our human brains can solve complicated problems in creative ways. Thinking holds an important place in our lives. Yet most of our lost-in-thought time is not spent with creative problem solving. It's spent in the past or the future, ruminating or worrying, daydreaming or over-planning. This kind of thinking exhausts us. And it removes us from our bodies—bodies that are rich in wisdom and insight. As John O'Donohue wrote, "Our bodies know they belong; it is our minds that make our lives so homeless."

As you read this post, notice your body. We often hold tension in our shoulders, jaw, neck, and belly. Be aware of your body and send internal messages of release, melt, and soften. Allow yourself a long exhalation. 

The body-scan technique is used to reconnect with our bodies—to see where we readily feel sensation and where we feel numbness or judgment. It's a chance to relax—the practice is done lying down—while also being awake. Our bodies are wise. They can provide insight and deeper awareness. We only need to look inward, let the thinking-mind rest, and re-engage our alive, beautiful, wise bodies.

Perhaps not in this moment, but sometime soon come back here, create comfortable lying-down conditions, and listen to this guided meditation:

Body Scan --
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October 24, 2017

Look for the Good

A quick glance at the news tells us what’s wrong with the world: political wars, violent acts, and natural disasters. These are not to be ignored. We live in a complicated world and to make a difference we must face hard truths. But if we focus solely on what's wrong, we become scared, frustrated, and hopeless.

There’s a negativity bias in our brains. We come by this honestly, through evolution. Negative news, which seems to “sell”, feeds directly into fearful, primal parts of our brain. Yet our more evolved brain allows for awareness, discernment, focus, and compassion. And it's important to recognize: where we regularly rest our attention becomes the habit of our mind. Our thoughts reinforce fear or love, greed or generosity, anger or peace.

We can choose to rest in love, generosity, and peace. Not as a way to ignore injustice in the world, but as a way to more skillfully act and contently live. When we look for the good and stay for 3 breaths, embodied, we build new awareness, and we begin to see more good. This brings more ease to daily life and provides renewed hope in the world.

Looking for the good can occur in small, ordinary ways: notice when someone smiles, pause after completing an important task, watch a sunset, accept a compliment, look for kind acts, or feel the sun's warmth on your face. It's okay to pause and take in the good. It's okay to slow down and enjoy life. You can begin right now with this short meditation:

Short Gratitude Pause

October 13, 2017

How Are You?

Within my mindfulness courses, I repeat many mantras. One of these: "It's okay to not be okay." We practice staying with what's difficult, becoming intimate with not-okayness, and applying self-compassion. It's okay to not be okay and it's okay to be happy. Most important for us is to feel what we feel. Open to our inner-experience with kindness and grace.

Many people have inquired, "Joy, I understand it's okay to not be okay, but what should I do when someone asks 'how are you?' I don't want to pretend I'm okay if I'm not, but I also know this person doesn't want a complicated answer. How do I respond in a genuine way?"

I think we can all relate to this question. As we live life more true, it no longer feels comfortable to say "I'm great!" when our internal weather is much more complicated. The day after my mom's funeral, I participated in a CROP walk that ended in the very church basement where we ate lunch after mom's service. I felt raw and vulnerable, like my insides were on my outside. Someone I knowwho attended mom's funeral—asked in an everyday way, "Hi, Joy. How are you?" Wide-eyed and stunned, I had no response. Yet in that moment I realized "How are you?" really meant "Hiya!" or "It's good to see you" or "I care about you." It's not really a question. It's become a generic greeting; an unconscious reaction.

Once I recognized this cultural habit, I began a new practice. When someone greets me with, "Hi. How are you?" I rarely answer the question (unless it comes from a friend who genuinely wants to know). Instead, I reply, "It's good to see you." On a quick pass-by, that's enough. If we linger, I might ask a question or wish the person well. No one notices when I don't answer the "how are you?" query, which gives me further evidence it's not really a question but a statement, a greeting.

I'm not sure this is the best way to handle "how are you?" but it feels true to me. I genuinely do wish people well, even if I feel crappy. So, "I hope you enjoy the day" or "It's good to see you" are truthful. And if someone doggedly asked again, "How are you?" I'd answer in a real way (though this has never happened).

I'm also more aware of my own greeting style, trying to be honest, open, and kind. If I find myself blindly asking "how are you?" or responding "fine" on autopilot, it's a chance to pause and begin again. To look someone in the eyes and say a genuine "hello" or "I wish you well." I see you and I care. At a basic level, this is enough.

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October 9, 2017

Navigating Life and Web

I started this blog years ago, while I was a statistics professor. Something deep inside me longed to share in a different way. My posts began as explorations of teaching. Gradually, they morphed into discussions of authenticity, vulnerability, and wholeness: bringing heartfulness into the heady world of academia. Perhaps some of you followed me back then as "Joy of Statistics." When I switched careers, my focus changed to mindfulness, compassion, and being with everythingthe joyous and the difficult. "Born Joy: Mindfulness" was launched. Yet at its core, this blog stays the same: writing from my heart, sharing insights and struggles, hoping to connect with anyone interested.

For you long-time blog readers, I want to provide an update. I've added pages to this blog. Everyone in marketing tells me: "You MUST have a website." Because I feel comfortable here, with the style and feeling of my blog, I decided to create a website(ish) within this space. 

My business URL,, now points to my Welcome Page. Please visit if you're curious about all my offerings. In particular, you might be interested in bonus pages I created (freebies with heart): Self-Care Page, Gentle Reminders, and Guided Meditations.

I'd love to hear from you. What do you think of this space? Does it feel inviting? Is information easily accessible? Is there something additional you seek? I welcome all feedback, as well as ideas for new posts and meditations. You, my dear blog readers, are the heart of my business and my practice. Thanks for being here and thanks for being you.

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September 28, 2017

Look Inside: A Month of Mindful Healing

In the last two years, I've grieved and healed. Not just for the losses of people I love, but from long-ago wounds and limiting beliefs. In the process of sharing my stories, I realize that everyone is healing. And we all seek refuge in presence and realnessour vulnerability connects us. 

I created a new e-course, A Month of Mindful Healing, based on the awareness practices that help me grow, heal, and change. The complete course is contained within a 70-page multimedia document: written teachings, guided meditations, writing prompts, videos, reflections, mini-assignments, and photographs. Here are two sample pages from the class:

Open your heart to who you are.

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September 22, 2017

Noticing What's Underneath

This afternoon, I had a routine conversation with a potential client. I prepared my notes and readied to call, knowing I'd done this many times before. Still, I felt fear and doubt. My relationship with fear and doubt is long-term and sometimes unpredictable. I took a few deep breaths and made the call, recognizing fear but not letting it control my listening or speaking, nor my ability to stay present. The call went well: kindred spirits talking and details decided. A new opportunity to practice and teach mindfulness.

Just now, as I sliced tomatoes and peppers, I had an insight: my fear was not about the phone call; it reflected my circumstances two years ago on this day. September 23 is when my dad, sisters, and I made decisions about mom's end-of-life care. We had to decide, without consulting her, whether to extend her life via medical machines or to allow her to die. The news stunned us in its suddenness yet we all agreed, through tender, broken hearts, to let her go. We held a compassionate vigil, working closely with hospice nurses to ensure she didn't suffer. It was both deeply painful and vitally important.

This—much bigger and heartbreaking—decision is where my fear and doubt arose. The phone call was just a phone call. When I'm open and aware, I notice my internal weather. If a storm brews over a routine action, I need to look closer. On this particular day, I needed to cry and grieve. To put my hand on my heart, and bear witness to my pain. To remind myself that we made the best decision we could under terrible circumstances. I have no regrets about those last hours with mom, yet fear and doubt arose because that's what emotions do. Underneath is sadness. And deeper underneath is trust in my capacity to stay with everything.

I don't know why this anniversary resonated so deeply with me. Grief is unpredictable, just as life is unpredictable. I wonder: who else is walking around today—or any day—with a tender, vulnerable heart? This helps widen my circle of compassion, for myself and others. Life is difficult, wondrous, heartbreaking, and beautiful. How do we stay wholehearted and awake? I think we do it together, as community. Sharing what's real and true, and listening with kindness; hitting the pause button and connecting with each other; bearing collective witness to joy and sorrow and everything in between.
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