Friday, October 30, 2009

The Joy Diet - Treats

So here's where we find ourselves this week - in the land of treats! They're everywhere, they're everywhere! I love treats! I work for treats! I practice gratuitous treating! It's what has gotten me through the highs and lows of my life.

Each week in this wonderful journey through Martha Beck's The Joy Diet as part of Jamie Ridler's online book club we read, practice, and inwardly digest a particular menu item. This week's subject was treats. Some parts of this adventure have felt difficult, required some digging. This one feels like walking on a beach and finding one more beautiful shell or rock after another.

Write down a list of smile sparkers: good jokes, great color combinations ( sometimes just someone's laundry line makes me smile), running into friends spontaneously, listening to children or grandchildren laughing, the delicious crisp little center of bok choy or crunch of a good fall apple, a gorgeous day, swirling leaves, a glimpse of our majestic river, singing with kids, the notes my husband leaves me if he's unexpectedly gone out all kinds of silliness.

Write down things that delight your senses: the fragrant oil my yoga teacher strokes into my hair at the end of a class, good poetry read aloud, music for any mood, snuggling with my four year old grandson, my neighbor's crab apple tree - in spring it holds a breathtaking explosion of blossoms, carpeting the sidewalk as they drift down; in summer it provides a welcome pool of shade; in fall it is voluptous with it's small fruits; in winter it's gray bark and wild scramble of branches accept all kind of lights to make an intriguing sculpture; and this week I happened to get to the orchard where we'd leased a tree just as they were pressing apples into fresh cider. It was nectar from the gods! Boy, was I smiling with each sip!!

Practice divine decadence! We don't have tv and I tend to like "good" books, movies, etc. saving what I consider junkier reading for the beach or travel. But when I'm watching my grandson and he'd be busy or napping I'd turn on the tv at my daughter's. She had tivoed "America's Next Top Model." I started to follow it somewhat, and one morning she had some cheesecake sitting on the counter. So I made some coffee, sat there watching all these thin young women going through their paces, as I was savoring a delicious piece of caramel cheesecake. I suddenly saw myself from the outside and started laughing out loud, thinking "If my friends could see me now!"

I do hold treats out as a reward for getting unpleasant tasks accomplished. If I finish vacuuming, I can sit and have a cup of tea - in a real little pot. Or maybe I'll sit on the steps and watch the trees, clouds, and sky. Or sit out on the porch in a good rainstorm and feel the mist blow in on me. I'm a cheap date, easily pleased with small things. And they are everywhere.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Joy Diet - Risk

Looking back over the past 30 years I see a long trail of risks I've taken. One of the advantages of getting older is having a history of successes as well as all the failures accumulated. So in reading this chapter of Martha Beck's The Joy Diet in preparation to join Jamie Ridler's book club discussion, I've found myself thinking about some of those milestones. And the line pops into my head "What have you done for me lately?"

Are there risks now that I need to work through to get to my heart's desires? For example, one of the things I really want is to deepen my art, to continue to build skills and techniques, but more to find what it is that I'm in a unique position to express. A small step toward that would be to get out on a regular basis to go look at art. There's a lot available where I live. I'm only an hour and a half out of NYC. I've been saying for several years that I need to get on a train and go down by myself, even four times a year. I don't see myself being afraid to do that. I'm pretty comfortable travelling by myself. But unless I plan something with a friend or family I don't do it.

Maybe a risk would be to enter a competition. I know that challenges result in my work taking off in new directions that I usually find very interesting. But I hesitate to enter beyond an occasional local show that I'm comfortable with.

I did do a small thing for myself yesterday in yoga class. I've been recovering from a back injury and decided that yoga would be helpful. I've been really careful in class, babying myself a bit. For the first several classes I'd avoided trying the shoulder stands because I found getting into a position like that difficult - whereas it used to be so easy. But yesterday I decided I was ready to try and it felt fine. A little thing - but it made me so happy.

I've put in a picture of a plane for this menu item. Last night I had a dream that I'd had to fly someone in a plane. I'm not a pilot, but I managed this successfully. After I delivered them to wherever they needed to be, I remember looking at the plane and thinking "But now I have to fly it back by myself." and I was thinking that maybe I'd just hang around for awhile. Till spring.

The thought entered - but if you wait till spring there might be water in the gas and the engine could falter. You might forget how you landed the plane. Maybe you'd better just go now.

I think this dream fits risk - it might be better to go now.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Joy Diet - Creativity

This group reading of Martha Beck's The Joy Diet is turning into quite an adventure. It's certainly not for the faint hearted. Jamie Ridler organized this online book club - and I enjoyed it through Desire. Having gone away and gotten out of my rythms, I'm behind and don't feel like I'm doing justice to the practice, but want to add my response to the fourth menu item - Creativity.

I thought I'd love this one. I'm creative. I'm pretty open to new ideas. But I didn't find much new in this chapter. Some of the more controversial exercises such as looking at traits of your "enemies" to see what relates to you and might be useful, or the dichotomous thinking, I've worked with a little before. And maybe it would be good for me to do more with those - but right now, I 'm not interested. I want something juicier. The sentence that did resonate a lot with me was one relating to building our lives without consciousness: "Their plans for living come from half-formed inclinations and other people's demands, meaning their creativity is never targeted at resolving the issues that really matter to them."

So the previous chapter on figuring out desires is critical. I know that my nature is often to coast. It's not that I don't work hard - but my work hasn't always been directed to what I'm most deeply interested in; I haven't taken the time to figure that out. Sometimes I have been lucky in stumbling into something that I think "Hey, I love this." "I'm good at this." And sometimes I've found myself going through motions because I was doing what outside forces suggested or required. I've often been someone who could say -"Well, this is good enough." It's easy for me to make do, to tolerate a certain amount of dissatisfaction.

There was a lifestyle consultant who spoke at a meeting I attended who said something that impressed me. It was that we lose a lot of energy putting up with small things that annoy us. She was talking about organizing your work space, looking at your systems of operation, figuring out what you could do to support your work rather than detract from it. And her words came back to me when I started thinking about desire and creativity. For me, that is a place I need to spend some time cleaning up my act and getting in closer contact with my desire. I know the creativity is there - it will manifest itself if I can remove some of the emotional clutter.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Joy Diet - Desire

I am late with this post. I have not accomplished a visual to go with it. But this chapter was really important to me.

I worried beforehand, before reading this menu item, that it would not be about me. I felt like I was in a pretty good place in my life. In your 60's, if you're lucky, you might feel like you have the basic things that you want out of life. For me that means a good partner, kids who have more or less settled in their lives, health, grandchildren nearby, interesting things to do, some passion about work, supportive friends, enough money to take care of necessities and some wants.

But when I read Martha's description about figuring out what we really want, I realized that I did still have some unfulfilled desires. That there were things worth digging around for.

Let me tell you how this hit me.

The reason this post is so late is that I went to visit an aunt who lives at some distance for over a week. While there, I had no access to my usual supports - friends, computer, routines - and limited access to other family. I took my Joy Diet Book and notebook with me to try to keep up my practice. In the midst of some rather barren days, I found that working with this chapter stirred up some juices, got me thinking excitedly about things that I'd like to make happen for myself.

My aunt lost her husband over a year ago. He was a dear, they'd been together for a long time. Now she sees nothing in her future. When I asked her what she might look forward to, she cited a couple of tv shows. I'm sure that if she were able to work with a book like this earlier, she might be in a very different place in her life. I've seen how dead a life is without desire. And I'm not going to give it up.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Joy Diet - Truth

This was a tough week! The menu called for continuing the practice of Nothing each day and afterward to answer some questions, trying to get past the nontruths we regularly tell ourselves. The questions are not that hard on the surface. But I had a great deal of difficulty answering them most days. I could answer "How am I feeling?" and "What hurts?" easily with regard to my physical being. I could answer to some extent emotionally. The questions that asked about the stories that I tell, whether they are true, whether they work for me, whether I could come up with another story that worked better, were hard. I don't always know these things. Given my mood on any given day I tell different stories. Some of these I've known for many years and tried to work through them - so I can offer various perspectives. I'm very good at role playing - I can put myself in my parents' positions, my daughter's, my husband's, my friends', my previous employers', the people who look at my art. I can make excuses for anybody, including myself. And I can be hard on everybody, especially myself.

I feel frustrated with this week. I don't feel like I did a good job. What did come out of it was a greater awareness to pay attention to what I'm feeling and to decide what the best story might be.

My vision card expresses my feeling about trying to get at the truth, slippery as it can often be.
If you want to see what this online book club is about and read how other people respond to the diet, you can find Jamie Ridler's blog here:
You're welcome to join us! It's never too late.