Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Joy Diet - What about nothing?

I'm still waiting for the joy in nothing. While I've been able to practice nothing most days, I have not felt joyful about it. I will keep at it. Patience, patience, I tell myself.

Patience is something I offer quite easily to other people, but with myself I often want the answers now. I have a sneaky suspicion I need to be compassionate with myself, persisting with the practice until I reach a point where I can feel the joy in doing nothing rather than approaching it with dutiful compliance. Hopefully, as the weeks of practice accumulate, I’ll find ways to get in touch with that empty space with a greater sense of peace and joyfulness.

One of the techniques I’ve found really helpful is one I picked up from one of Eckhart Tolle’s books: to be like a cat watching a mouse hole patiently, curious about the next mouse to appear. When I wait for the next thought to appear, it paradoxically takes longer to come. More nothingness between the mind-chatter!

Because I live in a noisy city, my mind can get snagged by sounds in my environment, taking my thoughts along on a train ride that carries me great distances, hopping from car to car, before I realize I was supposed to jump off that train of thought miles ago. To try and remedy it, I pretend I am surveilling my mind from a dark room (or van) with lots of monitors in it. When a sound or a thought enters the picture, a small light or screen corresponding to that impulse lights up, then goes dark. I don’t label or analyze any of the thoughts that light up the monitors, just notice that something lit up and forget about it (hopefully).

So far, I only skipped one day this week and I found that the next day’s meditation was more difficult. It almost seemed as if the backlog of mental noise that hadn’t been released into the “waterfall” was now damming up the works. Perhaps that is one of the values of practicing daily?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Beginning The Joy Diet

Jamie Ridler has organized another voyage through her online book blogging group, The Next Chapter. Although I don't know whether I am ready to embark on this journey and I'm a newbie at blogging, I don't want to miss the boat. So I'm hopping on and hoping for a fun and enlightening ride through The Joy Diet, by Martha Beck.

Because right now I've got so many things on my plate, and other things lurking on the edges of my plate, I wonder if I can take on one more thing. But hmmm, the first thing Martha Beck wants us to add to our daily diet is nothing. Sure, I believe I can do that! Yet I know from past practice how deceptively simple it sounds, and how difficult it is to consistently do. Perhaps, knowing that others are taking this trip will help me keep from jumping ship.

What I'm looking for during this journey is a reconnection to joy that might help positively shift my inner experience as I make major transitions in my life. In letting go, I have felt that my moorings have been cut and that I'm adrift. The process of becoming has often been, for me, fraught with anxiety and confusion, mixed with fear of the unknown, mixed with hope for the unknown. I am hoping that the joy diet will help me become clearer and more connected to my self. To rediscover and reconnect with my own inner moorings. To fully enter, enjoy and savor this transition period instead of worrying.

The discussion group is taking each of the 10 practices a week at a time and is open to all. Feel free to join in. I'm looking forward to the journey!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


The fishing net is tangled around my ankles, but I’m not on a fishing boat, not on a pier, not anywhere near the water. I’m on Delancey Street, just having enjoyed a sublime gelato from il Laboratorio del Gelato. I stumble a bit, hobbled like a steer caught in a gaucho’s bolo. Miraculously I manage to not fall over. I wonder how a fishing net wound up on the street on the Lower East Side. A cruel joke of the gods? Who is the fishing god anyway, Neptune? He must be getting me back for all those times I tweaked his nose as I passed the Dakota on the Upper West Side. Funny, the things we do without worrying about the consequences. In ancient times, we must have been ever mindful of our smallest actions for fear of angering such gods. My transgression could have meant being ostracized because my actions would bring Wrath upon not only my head, but the entire clan. Life’s rhythms are changed by assumed consequence. Once a rule was made up – say, don’t step on the cracks or you’ll break your mother’s back – it would probably first become a personal habit. Or it might be encoded into a whole community of walkers with a head-downward creed of humility in the service of paranoia. A cult of watching where you walk.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What was lost

The bottom of the lake is where she imagined the ring would be. Darlene hadn’t listened to the little voice inside. Until that afternoon. As she set out for her journey across the lake in the canoe, she thought about taking off the ring and putting it in her pocket. It was a ring her grandmother had given her, the last time she visited. The last time she heard her grandmother’s sweet and soothing voice in real life, not in her head as she often did now. Her grandmother handed her the ring, a ruby set in bright yellow gold, telling Darlene how she and Grandpa visited India when they were much younger. How the smells of the market lingered in their clothes and hair and how they were reminded of their trip whenever they followed their noses down East 6th Street in New York. The ring immediately spoke to the newlyweds, and although they already had their diamond engagement ring and solid gold wedding bands, it felt like this was a ring that symbolized the new adventure they were setting forth on together. As Darlene excitedly slipped it on her finger she felt a jolt of envy then, of her grandmother’s lifetime of travel and adventure. Perhaps the ring’s new home at the bottom of the lake was a signal to leave old envies in a cold, deep sleeping place. Darlene would have to take the next step.