In an effort to kick start my joy practice posts after a few months of hiatus, I rekindled one of last year's joy practices -- going through my photos to see what they needed to tell me. It has been both joy-filled and more laborious than I had hoped. Joy-filled because I loved getting quiet enough to hear what I needed to hear. Laborious because, well, everything is feeling a bit more laborious than I might like these days. This paradoxical experience of my own practice gave me a lot of food for thought about my current state of mind.
When our practices become strained, it is not a sign that we should cease the practice, but rather that we must find new inroads into them as well as clear some clutter in their way.
As any hiker knows, you must clear the brush sometimes to find the path. It's called bushwhacking -- and this week made me realize that I have some serious bushwhacking to do.
I began by asking myself -- why does my mind feel so cluttered? The answer, as is usually the case with most of life, is fear.
When we hear the word fear, we often think that it is that thing felt at 2AM that sets off all of our internal alarms, or what we feel if we hear a terrible diagnosis about a loved one. But fear comes in many forms, and I have come to believe that is the chronic subtle forms of fear that are the nastiest and hardest habits to kick. We come to live with those forms of fear like a limp after an accident that we never seem to lose, and so eventually cease to notice.
Right now, the whole world is filled with fear. Probably more so than ever in recent times -- as the language of war and hate-mongering and violence fill the air. In this atmosphere of toxic uncertainty, we find ourselves approaching what we now call "the holiday season" -- that theoretically most wonderful time of year, which now seems to begin right after Halloween and stretch on for two months of lights, music, and big shopping deals. A season during which we are urged to spend more than we have, eat more than we desire, and when those of us who feel lonely or fearful or uncertain feel even more uncomfortable having those lonely, fearful, uncomfortable feelings. In short, this is a very very tricky time of year for us all -- because fear is tap tap tapping at our temples, and most of us are having a hard time keeping it at bay.
So how do we clear the clutter of world fear, of stuff and food and family and more stuff? There is only one answer, of course. That answer is Love. But during this time of year, that Love can sometimes seems awfully elusive. Another paradox -- because this is the time of year for family gatherings and the giving of gifts. These should, of course, all be manifestations of Love. But we all know how often they are not.
These are the times where practice is most important. Ironically, of course, these are the times when practice can feel most difficult. For those of us who find our greatest joy in the outdoors, bending our heads to autumn's cold pelting rain and gale force winds for that walk that always clears our heads can feel less than inviting. For those of us who crave solitude and peace and quiet, the holiday sales and gatherings and music can feel like an intrusion on our soul. For those of us who already feel lonely and disenfranchised, the holiday parties and family duties can feel like an affirmation of all our worst fears and so be an excuse to just give up for a while.
That's when it's time to pull out the big guns of Love and joy and faith. Each of us has them. We just get tricked into forgetting what they are. They are the practices to which we return over and over again -- and have since childhood. They are the practices that we have thought we might outgrow one day, but come to realize are at the core of our being. For me, that practice is deep reading. Falling into the words and ideas of others and being caught in their grace.
On busy days when there is no time to read, this means setting my alarm for the wee hours of the morning and getting up to get quiet enough to let those ideas I need to read come in -- and then journaling about them. When I do this, I find that the ideas filter in more deeply, and so stay with me all day long for me to remember when I need them.
In my upcoming book, The Way of of Being Lost: A Road Trip to My Truest Self, I wrote, "When I was a little girl who felt lonely because her parents were always away, who felt peculiar because she wasn’t like the other kids, who felt nerdy because she loved learning more than being cool, who felt isolated because she lived behind big walls with no next-door neighbors to play with, who felt overprotected because her parents feared the perils of their own fame, books were my closest friends. No matter how I came to a book — in loneliness or confusion, in isolation or fear — I left in love. Books healed whatever ailed me and inspired me to live the life of my dreams.
They still do."
Books and words and the ideas they contain, the feelings they evoke, the joy they spark, the hope they give, save me over and over again. Every morning I wake up to my to do list and have the urge to jump right in and get busy. But every morning I resist -- and instead I settle in quietly to read and remember. And what I remember is always Love.
This past week, I started a new Instagram account to post my journey on my Way of Being Lost, leading up to and beyond my book launch. You can find it here, if you would like to follow me: IMVICTORIAPRICE
In it I shared my promised joy practice of photos and words. (Please see below for all of this week's musings.) Now, reminded by my core practice of deep reading, this week I will be expanding this joy practice to share some of the words, ideas, and inspiration of others in new posts. I'm excited about this. I have always loved writing down quotes that move me. Sometimes they take up whole pages. But limited by the pithy size of an Instagram square, I will be looking for that kernel of Love that can carry me through each day. Doing this and then sharing it with you, will -- I hope -- help us all through this upcoming holiday week.
As you travel to visit family or prepare to break bread with loved ones this Thanksgiving, take time to remember your own core practices -- whatever they may be. We are never too busy to invite Love into our hearts. When we do, it will always dispel fear, and help us show up in gratitude and grace and joy and hope and kindness and compassion to one another.
Wishing you all blessings and much cause for thanksgiving this coming week on your own joy journeys. We all all pilgrims of the heart.
And to carry with you, here are some quiet gifts of grace that came through me this week. May they bless you on your own journey home to Love: