February 16, 2018

Born Joy Has Moved

Friends, the time has come for me to transition from my little blog to a larger website. I'll leave this space as-is, but my new blog posts, meditations, and course offerings will appear only on the new site

Please join me at my new, flexible, spacious site: BornJoy.com. (It's still cozy.)

Thank you, deeply, for your support, kindness, and presence. I hope to see you over here.

January 24, 2018

Working with Fear

We live in uncertain times. Amid groundlessness, it’s natural to feel fear. Specific fear about circumstances or vague, roving fear about life. The mental storyline of fear is “something is wrong.” And this wrong-ness is projected inward at self or outward at other. Either way, it constricts our mind and heart.

Florence Nightingale said, “How very little can be done under the spirit of fear.” I disagree. Oppression and injustice occur when we’re plagued with fear. War and violence sprout from fear. Yet I think Nightingale’s true intention was this: meaningful change comes from wisdom, love, and compassion, not fear. If we seek meaningful change in ourselves and the world, we must work with (and through) fear. Once we’re intimate with fear, it no longer holds power. Fear talks a big game, but when we turn toward it—embodied and aware—fear morphs from a scary monster into a small, harmless character.

Turning toward fear takes courage and patience. It’s not a one-shot deal. It’s a life-long commitment to growth and healing. My fear manifests in the solar plexus and sometimes radiates through my chest. Fifteen years ago, fear felt overwhelming and impacted my entire life. Like many, I came to meditation out of necessity. I had to do something differently. Gradually, I transformed not the fear, but my relationship to it. Instead of pushing it away, I began to allow for and feel fear in my body. I stayed, breathed, and inquired: What is underneath? What needs my care and attention? Fear and anger are protectors of our heart. Underneath is often sadness, hurt, grief, shame, or loneliness. And underneath that is our basic goodness and our inner wisdom. 

It’s a brave path to become intimate with fear, but it needn’t be a punishing path. We can work with fear in small, doable, kind ways. When we stay with—instead of resist—fear for just three breaths, we create new habits. When we notice fear and its untrue storylines, even once, we build awareness and wisdom. When we feel what’s underneath, for any amount of time, we open our heart. It's possible to form a new relationship with fear.

We can begin together, in this moment, with a short meditation:

Working With Fear

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January 10, 2018

Spread the Love

When I volunteer in prison, it includes both group and individual sessions. The pastorals are rich, meaningful, and sometimes difficult. The stories I hear—real stories from real people—are heartbreaking. I try to be a mirror for the inmates. I let them know where they’ve grown and changed and how their meditation practice inspires me. I look them in the eyes and speak this from my heart. Almost always, it brings an inmate to tears, even the biggest, toughest guys. Seeing his own goodness reflected back at him is a revelation. Rarely is he told the ways he’s good, wise, and inspiring.

Like these inmates, I need my own mirrors: friends who support me when I’m caught in fear or doubt. People who reflect back to me the big leaps I’ve taken, the lives I’ve impacted, and the special qualities of my work. Like many, I judge myself most harshly, so it’s helpful when others send a softer, more truthful message. A reality check, not from an effusive place but from a heartfelt place.

We can all look more closely at the people in our lives. They have goodness and light inside them. It radiates in different (sometimes surprising) ways, but it’s there in everyone. What is this person’s special quality? What do I really appreciate about him? How does her unique light shine? These are things we can share with each other. Our lives are wondrous, short, and precious. There’s no reason to hold back: Tell people why and how you love them; spread gratitude and appreciation; share from an open heart.

[This post is part of my Truth Tuesday series, which appears weekly on Facebook.]
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December 28, 2017

Forgiving Ourselves

Recently, I perused old journals. It was painful to read the vicious words I wrote about myself. Pages and pages of self-judgment (at times, self-hatred) followed by pages of halfhearted self-encouragement, all of this on a repetitive loop. I longed for something different yet wasn't sure how to proceed. In the 20 years since those journal entries, I became unstuck, moving from self-hatred to self-compassion. This process was (and is) complex, effortful, and individual. There's no magic potion that heals our wounds, but I've noticed patterns, essential ingredients in moving forward:

1. Start with self-kindness.
In my 20s, during the heavy self-hatred days, I felt far removed from self-love or self-compassion. They were ridiculous to consider. I read books about loving myself yet never believed it was possible. And this blocked my growth. For most of us, it's hard to make huge internal leaps, but we can take small, ordinary steps. Kindness is accessible. We offer kindness to strangers as well as friends. It's a place to begin with ourselves: How can I be kind to myself in moments of pain? How can I be kind to myself when life is difficult or when I make a mistake? Basic kindness is the starting place.

2. Make well-being a priority.
People ask me, "How did you become so wholehearted, brave, and intentional?" The short answer is this: I committed to myself and my well-being. I just kept showing up as-is (messy, crabby, peaceful, anxious, or happy) and practiced mindfulness in a variety of ways. Instead of looking outward, I began to look inward. Before I could prioritize well-being, I had to understand it: What activities (and people) nourish me and what activities (and people) deplete me? The things that nourish memeditation, nature, intimate gatherings, photography, gardening, and yogamay not nourish you. These are individual choices.

Consider the important elements of your own well-being. Make these a priority. There are copious distractions in this world and it takes effort to sustain well-beingPeople often respond "but there's not enough time!" Indeed, life is full, but if there's time to check a smartphone, "like" things on Facebook, or unnecessarily overwork, then there's time for well-being. Choose with intention.

3. Continue for life.
This is not a one-shot deal, it's a life-long practice. I still experience fear and self-judgment, often daily. I resist uncomfortable circumstances. I get crabby. But I notice these unhelpful habits and redirect my energy. I smile at myself more easily. I practice self-compassion. There's never a time where everything is wrapped up: all neuroses gone, bliss every day. A vital part of mindfulness (of life!) is remembering we can begin again in any moment. We can begin again with self-kindness and prioritize well-being. We can forgive ourselves and trust thatin this momentwe're okay. 

If we accept ourselves as-is, we can finally make the changes we seek. Here's a meditation to get you started:

Forgiving Ourselves

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A Month of Mindful Healing

My e-course, A Month of Mindful Healing, comes straight from my tender, brave, vulnerable heart. Throughout the course, I share personal stories of loss, hurt, shame, growth, happiness, and healing. I've lived and tested all the practices (meditations + writing + daily awareness exercises). If you choose to join me, here's a weekly outline of our journey:

WEEK 1: Healing What's on the Surface
~Small, doable mindfulness exercises 
~Guided meditation on opening to vulnerability
~Writing prompts on vulnerability, feelings, and unmet needs
~Awareness practices to create more nourishment in daily life
~Daily inspirations + meditations + writing prompts

WEEK 2: Healing What's Under the Surface
~Short, encouraging video
~Investigation (meditation + writing) of internal beliefs and letting go of limitations
~Description and guided application of self-compassion
~Awareness practices to create more freedom and choice in daily life
~Daily inspirations + meditations + writing prompts

WEEK 3: Healing What's Around Us
~Guided reflection + writing prompts to discover core values and what matters most
~Four-step process to get unstuck and move forward with intention (includes guided meditation)
~Guidance on healing and changing relationships
~Awareness practices to create more intention in daily life
~Daily inspirations + meditations + writing prompts

WEEK 4: Healing Our Hearts
~Guided meditation on opening the heart
~Writing prompts on joy, happiness, and creativity
~Description and guided application of loving-kindness
~Awareness practices to create more play and happiness in daily life
~Daily inspirations + meditations + writing prompts

EPILOGUE: Meet Yourself Where You Are
~Guided reflection + writing prompts on change, growth, and healing
~Suggestions for moving forward
~Short, encouraging video (includes a loving-kindness chant)
~Additional daily awareness practices
~Short meditation on beginning again

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December 13, 2017

Chant of Good Will

I first heard the "Chant of Good Will" at a meditation retreat. Each night, a hundred of us chanted the loving-kindness phrases. The simplicity and repetition of these words allowed me to quickly take them into my heart. The practice came home with me. I sing the chant while driving, doing household chores, or setting up chairs for meditation class. And if I'm feeling frustrated or judgmental, I chant. It brings me back to love and intention.

There's a lot of noise in our world: righteousness and self-promotion; angry chants at peace rallies; loud music filled with empty words. The good-will chant provides a different avenue. It expresses wishes of loving-kindness, peace, and happiness for ourselves and others. Not as a way to ignore what's difficult, but as a way to wholeheartedly live in this complex world.

One of my meditation students asked me to record this chant, so she could know it in her bones. My initial reaction was fear: I don't have a nice singing voice; I can't stay on pitch. But my final response was "yes, I'll record it." The process itself a practice in humility and loving-kindness. Imagine if this chantimperfect and wholeheartedwere sung by 1000s of people. It begins with just one of us. Play my recording and sing along. Let it be messy, real, and from your heart.

May I be filled with loving-kindness, 
May I be well. 
May I be peaceful and at ease, 
May I be happy.

May you be filled with loving-kindness, 
May you be well. 
May you be peaceful and at ease, 
May you be happy.

May we be filled with loving-kindness, 
May we be well. 
May we be peaceful and at ease, 
May we be happy.

The Chant of Good Will:

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December 7, 2017

The 3-Breath Pause

It's an interesting human habit: when we most need a pause—a little room to breathe—we're hesitant to take it; we keep pushing forward in a haze of busyness and distraction. A cycle that's magnified during the holidays, as we're encouraged to celebrate, spend, and consume. Yet what we really crave is space, ease, and connection.

If you're reading this post, some part of you already knows what you need. This is our deeper awareness calling us back. When I'm lost in busyness, moving too quickly, there's a voice inside me (kinder and gentler than my pushy inner-critic) that says, "Slow down. Take a few breaths. Open to possibility." 

I've learned two things about the pause:
1. "Not enough time" is the voice of fear. There's time for a 3-breath pause. 
2. Even if it feels edgy and uncomfortable, a pause resets our system. The pause works.

One of my mindfulness students confessed, "Joy, when you first talked about a 3-breath pause, I thought the '3' was arbitrary and the idea too simple. But then I started taking these 3-breath pauses and they work. I feel better." In awareness practice, it's not the amount of time that matters most, it's the regularity. Taking breaks throughout the day. Pausing to notice all aspects of our life, in small, ordinary ways. These make a difference. Little bit by little bit we cultivate more mindfulness, compassion, and ease. And we live life more true to ourselves.

There's time for a short pause: Take three intentional, embodied breaths. Or stay longer and listen to this short meditation:

Short Pause: Rest and Reset

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