All meaningful practices require effort. In fact, much of the meaning comes from the effort. After (and while) working hard on projects, relationships, or creative endeavors, we feel satisfaction and contentment. Persistent practice reaps benefits.
In 2011, two years before I left academia, I embraced creativity. I took a poetry course, a self-portraiture class, and a path-finder tutorial that included daily writing and exploration. I dove into these experiences. They helped me understand and see myself differently. They awakened my heart.
On Saturday, after the farmer’s market, we sat on the back porch reading books. Currently, I’m rereading Pema Chödrön’s “When Things Fall Apart.” It’s the most dog-eared book in my library. I found it 20 years ago, while reading scads of self-help books. Pema’s words were so real and true.
A story from my last year in academia: It's the first week of term, students wrangling to get into my over-enrolled classes. After a long day, I receive a phone call from my sister: "Dad's in the hospital. They think he had a stroke." I start sobbing. Jackie quickly replies, "Joy, he's okay. The doctors are doing more tests, but it's probably a mini-stroke. He's okay."
Twenty years ago, I would have characterized my mind as a “worrying mind.” I worried anytime Mark traveled. I worried anytime I was on a plane (fearing a crash). I had middle-of-the-night worries about work: Am I prepared for class? How will I complete this seemingly endless to-do list? Will I get tenure? What if I’m rejected?
Years ago, when I was working long hours, feeling stressed, and focused on externals, I declared, “I just need to let go.” A wise friend looked at me and noted: “Joy, you can’t, all of sudden, let go. What’s one small step you can take?”