For our first month together we are going to focus on Joy. Joy!
I came to choose this for the first month of AC.E. based on a survey I had sent out to the original group. The number one rated topic to be covered in AC.E. was joy, and I was surprised. And not because I thought joy wasn't important. More because joy was my entry point into sobriety - the foundation - and it dawned on me that of all the things I could teach you in HSS, this should be the first. Instead, it's kinda like salt, a flavor we add to a lot of what we do, that we don't ever really talk about all that much. We definitely don't take time to focus on it and it alone.
In December 2012, sick and tired and dying and starting to look for ways out of my life, I decided that maybe I needed to check myself into some sort of retreat. My birthday was coming up, and because it was the only time in the foreseeable future where I'd have a long weekend (MLK day), I booked a weekend at Esalen. Because it was last minute there were only two courses left - one on tantric yoga, and one called Awakening Joy. It was a bummer of a discovery. Tantric anything was not happening, and I had zero interest (or hope) to awaken any sort of joy in myself. But I wanted to go sit in a hot spring in Big Sur and drink kale tea, so I booked the latter.
The program began Friday night so I took Friday off of work and reserved a car to drive down the coast. I had every intention of leaving by 10am, but I woke up and started smoking pot and by 5pm I was still in my bed at home, smoking joints, watching Lost reruns for the millionth effing time. I was on the fence about going at all, fantasizing about staying at home all weekend and just getting fucked up, but the thought of going back to work on Tuesday and lying my face off about eating granola in the woods was too much. I had to go.
So at 6pm on Friday I packed a few joints, grabbed the rental car, and sped down the 101 in a rain storm. At this time in my life I was so wound up I couldn't be by myself unless I was drinking or stoned - even riding the elevator up to my apartment was torture. The entire drive was painful, and I clenched the steering so hard I thought I might break it off with my bare hands. Just miles away from Esalen, driving along a windy patch of road in Big Sur, a rock slide broke loose, hit my car, and blew out my front tire. At this point, I'm almost sure that God is trying to kill me, and because I have a flare for drama I scream at the top of my lungs Is this all you've fucking got? Which is right around the time I I realized I didn't have cell service. So there I was in a rainstorm, in the dark, on a stretch of deserted highway, ON A CLIFF, with a broken car, and no cell phone. Which is, as we all know, exactly how dumb white female accountants from the Bay Area get killed in horror movies.
But, longest story ever made short, I didn't die, and made it into the retreat just past midnight. The next morning I stumbled into the meditation Yurt (yes I said Yurt), and that's when I met James Baraz, and meditated for the first time in my life, and that was also the weekend I felt for the first time since I was a kid that thing I'd been trying so damn hard to find at the bottom of a wine glass or a paycheck or a dress size - joy.
I drove back to San Francisco Sunday night with every intention of never drinking or smoking anything again, and got stoned before even making it back to my apartment. But the seed was planted, and even though I would tumble further into the valley before I would even try and stand up again, I didn't lose the understanding I had gotten that weekend: I had a bigger life trapped inside me.
Because that's what joy does. Even when it's just for a minute in the middle of your fucked-up mess, even when it's just during an intermission in the haze of your life: when you feel it, really feel it, it haunts you until you find it again. Joy is patient, but it's also relentless in its pursuit of you.
Check to October 2012, when I finally get sober. I find things like Eckart Tolle and Gabbby Bernstein, and then one day, in what must have been 2013, my old friend James' book almost flies off my shelf at me (okay just kidding that isn't a thing, I just noticed it), and this time I decide I'll read past the introduction. So this is the turning point for me (along with Gabby's work). This is when I start really going after joy - when I buy the trampoline for my desk, when I start coloring with crayons, when I start waking up in the morning and dancing to rap, when I start to come back to life. This is when I start to put up post-it notes, and sing in the tub, and run through fields (literally), and make terrible, TERRIBLE Memes, like this one below, which is my first Meme ever. (Incidentally I'm drunk and stoned in my drug dealer's kitchen).
Anyway. I know I make a lot of grandiose statements. But I hope you hear me when I tell you that if Joy hadn't found me when it did, or that if I hadn't made Joy a priority in my life, none of this would have happened the way it has. Joy was the thing that infected me first.
Putting this module together was eye-opening for a few reasons. First, we tend to think Joy is such a one-note thing, like Be happy! I thought I wouldn't have much to say on it, but it turns out I had more to say than I had time to say it. There are more layers to Joy then we tend to think (or at least, I tend to think). It's complex and big and interesting.
Second, I've realized how much easier it was for me to find joy when I was just starting out and such a mess. It's actually gotten harder for me to remember the awe-some that life is and the joy that's available at all times now that I'm more pulled together. Which is just to say that it's a practice, and one that comes easier to those of us who are in the places that hurt the most. You may not believe me, but I do believe the places that always seem the farthest away from joy are actually the places closest to it.
Which is to say, this is SUCH an interesting topic (LEGIT INTERESTING!), and I hope you love the lecture, and also that I'll be right along side you, because I have as much work to do on this joy thing as anyone else (students for lyfe!).
With all my love and JOY!
I lied about short lectures. This lecture is NOT short. It's an hour and seventeen minutes. But you've got a month! Please check out the slide deck linked here, slide 32 is your action items for the month. I LOVE YOU.
Here is your meditation for the month! It's a guided meditation. You can download it from dropbox (Link to meditation will be updated soon!)
If you are looking for a book to complement this month's message, I recommend Awakening Joy by James Baraz.
Group Coaching Call.
The coaching call will be hosted live on the third Monday of each month. The link to join will be mailed to you the day of the call.
The replay will be available immediately following the call. All questions and answers (including mentioned resources) will be posted in your respective FAQ page.