When I decided to take a break from blogging this past winter, it was because I felt that I had reached the end of a road. A twisty tumultuous hilly hard fun fabulous -- yet too often too frantic -- road. A road that always ended up in the right place, but frequently went through hell to get there. I had to stop taking that road for a while and hear where and how to go next.
That's all a metaphor though, because even though I got off that incarnation of my joy journey, I have remained on the journey we're all on: Life. Not only that, I am literally journeying every day. Because I am still intentionally homeless.
This week marks my one-year anniversary of not having a home. This week marks my one-year anniversary of living my life on the road.
When I tell people that, it often doesn't compute.
Cool! They'll say. So where's your stuff? Where are you based out of?
Well, that's the point, I reply. I don't have stuff. I am not based out of anywhere. I have one small storage unit with the stuff you can't just dump.
I live on the road. Like 365 days a year.
That's when they often cock their head like my dog Allie does when she hears barking in the distance. I know what it means, the cocked head signifies. There's a dog out there somewhere. But how do I get to her?
You see, as romantic as the idea of intentional homelessness is, as amazing and awe-inspiring as living on the road truly can be, not having a home is often also just plain challenging.
So even as I was stopping my blog this winter and trying to be still enough to hear which "road" to take next, I was still on the move. Not just from California to New Mexico to Tennessee to New York to Texas to New Mexico to Florida to South Carolina to New York to New Jersey, but on the move inside.
Which is to say, this year has been a doozy. But the best kind of doozy. The kind of doozy where every challenge after obstacle after issue after fear after problem after challenge has come to the surface -- and after the initial OH FUCK or NOT AGAIN -- you come to realize that they have all been not only utterly and completely necessary, but that you have grown in ways you never could have imagined possible.
But to grow like that instead of just curling up in a heap and wishing it would all just STOP, you have to change your mindset in a huge way. You have to recognize that exactly what is happening is exactly what needs to be happening, no matter how hard or discouraging or disheartening or just plain fucking scary it feels.
In doing that, everything shifts. Suddenly you realize that you are being taught, in the most profound way, to be something that you have always wanted to be: Present. Present to What Is.
That's why, when I reconfigured this website, I decided to have it reflect this incarnation of my life. Not the OH FUCKs. Not the NOT AGAINs. But simply the I'm Here and I'm Ready to Learn. Again. And Again. And Again.
That's why this website is less focused on my once-a-week blog capturing all the turmoil and trauma as well as growth in grace -- and more on the day-to-day practice teaching me to live.
Pretty much every day I post a practice: A photo and a short blog about that practice. I've picked these topics, because they reflect my life right now (and I also just love alliteration): BEAUTY BEING BOOKS FLIGHT FOOD FUN PATHS PEOPLE PLACES SOUL SOUNDTRACK STORIES
Some are self evident. BOOKS (and audiobooks) are my constant companions on the road. Whole months can go by when I don't see anyone I know well. No close friends. Only people I meet along the way. That can sometimes feel disorienting, even lonely. To read is to have a friend wherever I go. To listen to someone read to me is to have an intimate conversation. I don't know what I would do without the joy brought by the sweet exchange of words.
The same is true of music. Music is the constant SOUNDTRACK of my life. Yesterday I called my bestie Pamela because a totally corny song from the 1970s was playing on the radio, and I just missed having someone to sing with -- but most of the time it's just me blasting the tunes and belting it out, in off-key harmony! I get to sing along with people who have been my musical "friends" for decades. That always brings me joy.
Some of my practices have to do with learning to really see and enjoy wherever I may be on the road. Seeing beneath the surface or the strangeness and really getting to know PLACES, talking to its PEOPLE, walking its PATHS, eating its FOOD, and spending time with birds, my fellow Friends in FLIGHT.
This is the Practice of Presence -- to be wherever I am now, really enjoying it. Not wishing I were someplace else -- missing someplace I've been or planning where I am going next. Even when it's sweltering in a too hot bed in an unfamiliar AirBNB with inadequate air conditioning during an unexpected East Coast heatwave, as I was last night. I try to be present in ways I never would have thought possible. I remind myself: Be here now. Listen, lean, learn! (Sweat, bitch, moan. NO! Be present. . .and so it goes. . .)
Most of my practice reflects the primacy of the real path I am on -- my spiritual path. A path that always includes appreciation of BEAUTY -- seeing deeply wherever I am and finding something beautiful there (and usually photographing it, which always brings me joy), daily lessons in BEING (really learning how to be present wherever I am, whatever is up, however I feel about it), and every Sunday a reflection on my SOUL journey (this is my opportunity to write on this page what I write in my journal every day of my life -- my reflections on our Divine Journey). I love these three practices so much. They soothe my soul and make me remember why we are all here.
And one is just a reminder to myself: Never forget to just have some damn FUN. Joy = Fun = Joy. Sometimes it really is just that simple!
The last practice is STORIES. Last year's Stories were all about me. But this year, my plan is to begin recording some of the amazing stories I hear from other people on the road. So stay tuned for the update of that podcast.
Then every Thursday or Friday, I post a blog about some larger idea that has circulated up over the course of the week. That's why this week's blog is called Practice Makes Present.
Because here's what I have been learning during my first year of intentional homelessness: When you take away all of a person's toys -- the props and places and people and plans, addictions and actions and adulation -- you suddenly see what has been under the surface all along. All the stuff you've been encrusting over trying hard to pretend really isn't there.
Have you ever moved house only to realize that your supposedly neat and tidy abode filled with furniture and art and stuff stuff stuff has merely masked myriad dust bunnies and cobwebs and mold stains that were accumulating all along but just unseen or ignored?
That's how I have felt this year. Having taken away my daily routine and its concomitant old habits, all that crap just cropped right up. How did I face it? Well, eventually I realized that all my OH FUCKs and NOT AGAINs didn't get me anywhere. I had to start sweeping, scrubbing and cleaning. That daily mop up routine is what I have come to call Practice.
Without all the distractions that had become my comfort zone, I began to be present to what was and what needed to happen step by step. To me, practice means you begin develop a series of go-to ways of showing up to your life and to other people in ways you didn't know were possible. You learn to listen to yourself and others. You learn not to overreact. You learn to self-soothe and be kind. You learn to be kinder and kinder to others. You begin to really get that we're all in this together, because you can't just hide behind the people and places who make you feel safe.
Because here's the bottom line: We have to feel safe in this together, or none of us are safe. And safety, as I am learning to feel it, comes from practicing presence. Being there in the only fundamental truth there really is: We Are All One. And when one of us is bullied, is terrorized, is afraid, is treated unkindly, is ignored, is disdained, is discouraged, we all suffer.
What it all boils down to is that all of my practice is just about showing up and being present in as much love and openness of mind and heart as is possible every single minute. Even if it scares the shit out of me. Even if I want to run and hide. Even if I wish I could just bury my head and start over again tomorrow. Show up. Be present. Love. And do it all over again.
Practice makes present.
And presence is Love.
But, of course, my dear old friend Rainer Maria Rilke said it best when he wrote about times such as these when we are alone with the unfamiliar presence that has entered us; because everything we trust and are used to is for a moment taken away from us; because we stand in the midst of a transition where we cannot remain standing."
As we pass through that transition, we discover "the new presence inside us, the presence that has been added, has entered our heart, has gone into its innermost chamber and is no longer even there, is already in our bloodstream. And we don't know what it was. We could easily be made to believe that nothing happened, and yet we have changed, as a house that a guest has entered changes. We can't say who has come, perhaps we will never know, but many signs indicate that the future enters us in this way in order to be transformed in us, long before it happens."
Studies have shown that 85 - 90% of what we fear will transpire never does. Which means that we walk around being afraid of things that are as likely to happen as my dad dipping a bunch of people into vats of wax and turning them into art pieces. What is even more extraordinary about that statistic is its corollary: We then spend an inordinate amount of our lives doing things to assuage those worries about shit that will never happen: We plan, we fret, we overwork, we try to anticipate the worst, we talk or think about it incessantly. This is why the Practice of Presence is so important. It breaks the cycle of future think. If anxiety is ingratitude in advance, presence is Thank You Right Now.
I think this is the greatest gift I have learned from living on the road. Living that Thank You Right Now. Because I KNOW that I do not know what tomorrow will look like. I KNOW that I do not know who I will meet or where I will eat or what I will see. So I just practice being present right where I am -- and in that way, as Rilke wrote, a new presence is born every single day. The Presence of Love.
I made a vow to myself to do this for at least two years. So here's to another year of deep learning and practicing presence. Speaking of which, I'm off to walk my Allie and see how many irises have come up next to the sweet white picket fence up the street on this heatwave day on the East Coast. Why? Because I am here. She has to pee. And we need our morning jaunt. Together. It really is that simple! Practice makes present is perfect. Right here. Right now.
TO RECEIVE A WEEKLY EMAIL FROM DAILY PRACTICE OF JOY, PLEASE SIGN UP HERE: