Thursday, September 01, 2011

joy diet

I've lost my joy. She ran off a few months (years?) ago and was last seen skipping down the sunny path with my old companions serenity, grace, and gratitude. I miss her, miss all of them, my old friends. It took a lot of years to find them and to get rid of my bad old bar pals, anger, despair, and emptiness. It's been so long since I felt like this that the old sense of calm and wonder I used to live with every day seems like a dream. I see from that post I was struggling with the same thing in 2008. It's worse now, my connection with the Universe having fallen into serious disrepair like a pretty house long left behind by those who loved it.
Yesterday, as I was leaving home, I grabbed a book I've had forever in case there was a line at the bank. There was, of course, and so I opened Martha Beck's The Joy Diet for the first time.

Somewhere in these boxes that were going to Mexico, I've got another of Beck's books, Finding Your Own North Star. There are several of these helpful volumes around the house, wisdom filled tomes I've always imagined would jump start my spiritual practice if it ever lapsed. The thing about lapsing, though, is it's hard to notice when it's happening. Only when I am settled into old habits and patterns do I look around and realize my sweet friends have moved on and the old ugly crew's slavering at the gate. Googling a little this morning, I see that Martha Beck's books are big with Oprah and her crowd. I'll try not to hold that against her as I commence the once a week reading of a chapter in Beck's book.

Let me repeat: once a week. One chapter a week, with practice in between. One. Seriously? I quickly finished the first chapter in the bank line yesterday and was advised by the calm, focused Ms. Beck that I need to be still for 15 minutes once a day. My monkey mind slaps its tail and screeches its outrage at the very idea.

Stillness is not in my current repertoire of states of being. I am jumpy and easily startled, feeling on high alert every waking moment. Late at night, I've been practicing the beginning positions of Tai Chi with a friend. We've been running through the positions over and over, fast as we can, trying to get it down. Beck's introduction includes the suggestion that I use her book as I would learn Tai Chi, practicing one single form for an entire week before moving on to another. Ja! Ja ja! One form, one movement, for a week. I mentioned this to my friend and was pleased to see that his incredulous response to this absurdity was similar to mine, a big-eyed "What? One??"

A few years ago, I acquired a horrific case of poison ivy. Driven by the desperate itch to consult a dermatologist, I was shot up with antihistamines and put on a Prednisone dose pack. I find the energy and focus that comes with steroids quite intoxicating. My voice takes on a seductive huskiness reminiscent of old movie stars. I sleep two hours a night and leap from my bed at first light unrefreshed, but caring not one whit. The aches and pains of mid-life vanish and in their place comes a tight thrumming sensation in my muscles. Alas, that wondrous feeling of being all speedy without the speed is complicated by a barely-under-the-surface rage. When I found myself bellowing about the misdeeds of a juvenile court judge in the courthouse, a ranting, raving, public diatribe rich with words like "cocksucker" and "fucking bastard," I realized something was amiss.

That is how my brain feels of late, as if I am ramped up on a dose pack, a wide eyed, no sleeping, can't focus, monkey minded dervish in constant motion, running, running, running. I have to stop. I know this on an intellectual level, and I think I got a feel for it yesterday when Beck's suggestion to practice silence resonated with the part of me that cherishes my old connections with joy, serenity, grace, and gratitude.

The monkey's bounding around right now, ricocheting off the inside of my skull, brandishing lists of things to do, frenziedly pointing at this task and that one, every bit of it needing attention right now. Sit in silence for 15 minutes a day? For a week? As Beck says, "I chafe wildly at this agonizingly incremental way of learning," but learn I must. I think it will be easier this time because I'm re-learning, and it's not all new. As we say in AA, "you already know more than you will ever use, now you have to put it into practice." I know how to get that connection back, I just have to do it. I hope Beck's book will help.

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