The Art of Conversation

As I've been writing my book about joy, I've found myself thinking a lot about conversations.

My journey back to joy began with a conversation -- with myself. An honest though searing tete-a-tete in the mirror about all the ways I felt I hadn't lived the life I had hoped to have lived -- and what I needed to do to change that disappointment in myself. About the conversations I had never allowed myself to have and the ways in which I hoped finally to allow myself to have them.

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The Democratic Republic of Love

If you had told the teenage or twenty-something me that, during what may later come to be regarded as the most divisive and important election of my lifetime, I not only had not engaged in, but actually had avoided political discourse, I would never have believed you. If you had told me that, by the time I was 50, I would have come to believe our government so irrevocably broken that I no longer felt compelled to participate in conversations about how to rebuild it, I would have said you were nuts. And if you had told me that I would be at best completely dispassionate about every single candidate who put forth their name to run for president in this campaign, well, frankly, I would have thought I had either suffered massive brain trauma or completely sold out. But all of those things have felt true during this political season.

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The Geranium Thief

This is one of the most joyful memories of my childhood.

I was about thirteen. My parents had been divorced for about two years, and my father was driving me home from a visit with him. We were just cresting Laurel Canyon, heading down into the valley, when suddenly he pulled over in front of a nondescript one-story ranch-style house set back from the street behind a low wall.

"Do you see those deep purple geraniums?" he asked me.

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The Bird is Always Right

But under every color of skin, every uniform, every political affiliation, every sexual orientation or gender identification, every nationality, religion or ethnicity, every size body, every ability or seeming disability, I believe there is an individual at least part of whom has never felt like there was a box to check, an initial to choose, a profession to pick, a lifestyle to live that fully fit who they felt themselves to be. All of us -- and I do believe that in one way or another this is true of all of us -- have wondered at one time or another in our lives why the descriptions in the book didn't match the plumage that we feel. 

The solution to those fears is not to squeeze ourselves inside the box. The answer to our dilemma is not to pick a letter of the alphabet and try to live it with as little misery as possible. And the healing of the world is never going to be creating more labels that reduce everything to more meaningless iterations of Us and Them. 

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Learning to See

I photograph as a spiritual practice. It’s a spiritual practice for two reasons. First and foremost, photography is the healing of what I wrote about in last week’s blog — my old belief, fear and sadness about not being able to be an artist. I have photographed my whole life, yet I never once have thought of myself as a photographer. I lived with a photographer for ten years, and as the driver on so many photo journeys I was given the opportunity to look, to see my surroundings more deeply. I took pictures of so many places in my mind. But when I photographed, it was only for myself in small, unadventurous, safe ways. 

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Red, White and My Blue Period

As I wrote in a recent blog, a few years ago I had the great honor of working with the incredible Susan Griffin on some memoir pieces — which ended up becoming an essay entitled “The Unholy Trinity of My Self-Loathing”.

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This Meadow. This Morning. This Me.

This week my Joy Practicum began in earnest, when I settled into my sweet space here in the Catskills, began catching up on all my emails and other correspondence after a month on the road, and started focusing on my writing my book.

Wait! That sounds suspiciously like work doesn't it? Where's the Joy part of that Practicum? Well, that's what I asked myself all week.

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Humble and Kind

I have just completed the final week of my interfaith/interspiritual seminary program. On Tuesday night I took my self-written vows in front of my spiritual community, and on Wednesday night, I was ordained. Yesterday, in a beautiful ceremony at the Riverside Church in New York City, I graduated. An extraordinary four-year journey has come to an end.

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