*Follow the message to the end to read about an upcoming Winter Solstice event. Friends with a paid subscription will find a link to a 15-ish minute reflection and stress reduction practice after the solstice message, perfect for the week ahead.
You are here, and somehow, in writing this to you, so am I. So, breathe that in and sit for a moment with the awareness that you are alive in this moment.
This moment finds me wondering if I can live joyfully into the sorrows of the world. And what would it cost me not to?
This week, I read a quote from Gary Haugen the founder and CEO of International Justice Mission, an organization working to eradicate human trafficking around the world. This organization does heavy work, rescuing kids from sex trafficking in developing countries. A writer friend asked Gary his secret, how has he not burnt out doing this hard, important work for nearly thirty years. His response: “Joy is the oxygen for doing hard work.” Joy: the discipline that allows him breath, space for air, the oxygen for the flame within. For him, joy ignites the moment and alchemizes the hard, much like a candle flame. It seems so small and yet the alchemy, the illumination, is so much more than it appears.
There is a cost to finding joy enough to loving this world and my life. Yet the cost to not doing so is far greater, I know to be true. So this week I dug in deeply to a discipline of cultivating joy within the moment just as it is. Sort of like softening into Santosha, the peace of contentment. And much like a candle flame moving within the air, I am able to see the shadows and brightness each day shift and dance together and apart.
It’s a costly kind of love, this discipline of hope and joy. It means I have to give of my attention and of my heart. It means I have to risk my shield of cynacism, and pay in the practice of conscious breath and prayers for peace in some challenging moments. It also means I have to be willing to use my imagination and allow myself to be led by the very little things toward the light of joy. Oh, and it means I have to be willing to stand up for what I know to be most important, so that my own work is ignited in the world.
Joy this week was the patter of rain on our picnic table and composting leaves; barren tree arms reaching in quiet stillness; a misty morning fog keeping all in a grayish white sillouette. It was peeling potatoes with my daughter; being stopped in my tracks by a morning sunrise that literally made me gasp, “O!” It was cleaning my house while listening to a podcast then breaking to eat a brownie. It was sitting in the early mornings alone with my tea and my journal, gazing at the colored lights of my Christmas tree. It was finding a small, nearly dead tree to bring home and revive to life. And it was preparing for the upcoming winter solstice night, gathering food and singers and praying for a full house and enough room.
But this is my story. Yours is the particular story you find yourself in during this time, at the intersection of all that is done and all that is undone. What might it cost you to find joy in this moment? What might it cost you not to? How might this allow you to alchemize life and live joyfully into the sorrows of the world, like shadows and light shifting together and apart?
Gary Haugan made me think of my incredible friend Victoria. I never asked her how she found joy and kept at the hard and important work she did in saving children’s lives. Yet, I remember her laugh and it was alchemy indeed.
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Join us this coming Wednesday, live or online for the Winter Solstice Celebration of Light and Life: In years past, the Winter Solstice meditative movement event was my favorite offering through Jala Yoga. 2019 was the last live event we were able to hold. Every year, for ten years, we came together as teachers and students, as community, in the Shepherdstown Community Club / War Memorial Building to move and rest, to lift up the light together for the hope of less aloneness, less hardship, more illumination within our hearts and the world. The event has always been a donation based one and all proceeds supported local folks. That last year, we collected money for Annie Carpenter who had late stage breast cancer. The offering was made to support her and in honor of my beloved friend Adrienne who died from breast cancer earlier the same year. My heart was broken that year and this event gave me hope.
So here we are again—I am being led by my heart to offer the event, this year on the darkest night, that I may remember, that community may remember, we don’t need to fear the darkness. That coming together within the long night—be it literal or figurative, gives rise to hope and to love.
This is a long post and I hope you’re still here. And I hope you’ll be with us on Wednesday, December 21 from 6:30-9 at the community club in shepherdstown at 102 W. German St. My beloved friend Victoria Slater-Madert shone her bright force of light in this community and on me. I hope to honor her work and her family with this event. Join us in body or spirit. You can support the fund if you’re not able to attend here: https://gofund.me/865bcf05 and light a candle that night, breathe long and slow, call a friend you love. Or join us in person. We’ll be streaming this online too so keep watch on Wednesday for a link to join if you’re not able to be in town with us. All levels and body’s are welcome and will be made safe and accessible. My friends, I know beyond all shadow that there is hope to be given and received.