During my podcast interview with the author Francis Weller, we talked about our collective grief as a culture and the loneliness (from disconnection) we are all experiencing. When he said, “We are all settling for counterfeit joys instead of real joy.” I knew exactly what he meant.
We are settling for the hit of dopamine we get when our phone dings, for likes on Facebook, for a curious hunger for followers. We are settling for distraction instead of looking into each other’s eyes more of the time. We are settling for numbing instead of feeling our full range of emotions – numbing our aliveness in the process.
We are starved for real connection.
For the material. For what we can hold in our hands. I find myself longing for the days of curly phone cords that could stretch under my bedroom door and into my bed. For the kind of boredom that leads to creative impulses. For the availability I had to serendipity and connection on a city bus- before everyone’s heads were bowed in unison, faces aglow, scrolling and tapping their approval.
When I set intentions for my time this week in Oaxaca (a little recon mission Laurie and I did so that we can bring a larger group there in 2020) I was imagining my hands in the black clay. I was imagining tasting the new flavors of chiles and Oaxacan string cheese and squash flower blossoms. I was imagining indigo dye on my hands as we learned from a master Zapotec dyer how to take an insect (a tiny grey pill bug creature) and transform it into the most glorious crimson pigment. I imagined the candy-colored walls with cracks and graffiti on them – the glorious wabi sabi technicolor of every calle.
For me, for my artist spirit, for anyone with a creative soul, this is real joy. Not the counterfeit kind, but the kind you can smell and taste. The kind that wakes you up, the makes you remember something ancient in your bones. The kind that opens your heart.
I think this is why I’ve been writing with Laurie for so long. More than 15 years ago, she introduced me to this practice of Wild Writing, where a group of women sit in a circle and write for 15 minutes at a time from a prompt. We write as fast as we can, without the pen leaving the page. It’s personal essay and Laurie sets a high bar for keeping it real and telling the truth. She showed me the magic that happens when we show our true selves to one another. It costs us something (some courage and vulnerability) but we are rewarded with deep connection, an understanding that we are not alone and the catharsis of letting what is alive in us move through.
Not everyone wants to roll this way, but my favorite people do. We are the ones that can’t stand small talk. We are the ones want to hear each others’ stories. We are the ones who aren’t as afraid to die as we are to live without having truly lived.
I was chatting with a yoga teacher recently for 1440 and when I asked him how he got into yoga, he replied, “The usual way. My girlfriend dragged me! But at the end, as I lay in savasana, I wept. Maybe for the first time in a long while. It woke up something in me. Healing began to happen. My heart cracked open.”
There is something about getting embodied that allows for more of the real joy I am talking about. It is the antithesis of the virtual joys, the counterfeit joys, the ones mediated by a screen. It’s about being intimate with the world. Being touched by life.
How do you ground yourself in what’s real?
Do you dig your hands in the dirt?
Do you swim? Do you knit?
Are you worried about this culture of settling for counterfeit joys?
Would love to hear from you.
And if you’re feeling the call to wake up with me and Laurie in Mexico, we still have some spots open for our January and March 2020 trips. Wild Writing, photography, eyes wide with color. It’s a life-changing reset – a way to reorient you back to your heart and creative spirit.
Some praise from the incredible women from our last trip to San Miguel:
I won’t forget how it feels to talk to women and not talk about stuff that doesn’t matter. We have so much in common; so much to share. I won’t forget to write. I won’t forget what it feels like to create – to go to that place where time doesn’t exist. I exist to live and love and teach and hug. Finally, permission to be me, I’m worth it. What an experience this has been. –Jan Stamos
What a magical week exploring the town of San Miguel de Allende with Laurie and Andrea, and unearthing the stories I have buried inside of me! From morning coffee on the rooftop of our amazing B&B, to a delicious food tour in this ‘foodie’ city, to finding hidden pathways rich with color, I felt my creativity come alive under the gentle guidance of these two wonderful women. I highly recommend placing this retreat at the top of your bucket list! –Beverly Ash Gilbert, Artist . Author . Color Consultant
I love to travel. Being in a different place wakes me up out of the routines I cling to for, I suppose, a sense of security, or maybe because it’s so hard to do plunge into something new. Somewhere during my early morning layover in Houston after a sleepless redeye flight, I wondered, “Is a week in a new place with people I mostly don’t know going to be worth all this?” I knew the answer was YES! as soon as I arrived. Laurie and Andrea carved out a warm, safe, comfortable, hassle-free space that let me and the interesting women I’d spend the week getting to know relax, laugh, connect with a mostly dormant (for me) creative place, write (or not), and explore (or not) one of the world’s most beautiful cities. I’ve already signed up for next year. Only this time I won’t take the redeye. –Janis Chan