October 13, 2017

How Are You?

Within my mindfulness courses, I repeat many mantras. One of these: "It's okay to not be okay." We practice staying with what's difficult, becoming intimate with not-okayness, and applying self-compassion. It's okay to not be okay and it's okay to be happy. Most important for us is to feel what we feel. Open to our inner-experience with kindness and grace.

Many people have inquired, "Joy, I understand it's okay to not be okay, but what should I do when someone asks 'how are you?' I don't want to pretend I'm okay if I'm not, but I also know this person doesn't want a complicated answer. How do I respond in a genuine way?"

I think we can all relate to this question. As we live life more true, it no longer feels comfortable to say "I'm great!" when our internal weather is much more complicated. The day after my mom's funeral, I participated in a CROP walk that ended in the very church basement where we ate lunch after mom's service. I felt raw and vulnerable, like my insides were on my outside. Someone I knowwho attended mom's funeral—asked in an everyday way, "Hi, Joy. How are you?" Wide-eyed and stunned, I had no response. Yet in that moment I realized "How are you?" really meant "Hiya!" or "It's good to see you" or "I care about you." It's not really a question. It's become a generic greeting; an unconscious reaction.

Once I recognized this cultural habit, I began a new practice. When someone greets me with, "Hi. How are you?" I rarely answer the question (unless it comes from a friend who genuinely wants to know). Instead, I reply, "It's good to see you." On a quick pass-by, that's enough. If we linger, I might ask a question or wish the person well. No one notices when I don't answer the "how are you?" query, which gives me further evidence it's not really a question but a statement, a greeting.

I'm not sure this is the best way to handle "how are you?" but it feels true to me. I genuinely do wish people well, even if I feel crappy. So, "I hope you enjoy the day" or "It's good to see you" are truthful. And if someone doggedly asked again, "How are you?" I'd answer in a real way (though this has never happened).

I'm also more aware of my own greeting style, trying to be honest, open, and kind. If I find myself blindly asking "how are you?" or responding "fine" on autopilot, it's a chance to pause and begin again. To look someone in the eyes and say a genuine "hello" or "I wish you well." I see you and I care. At a basic level, this is enough.

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October 9, 2017

Navigating Life and Web

I started this blog years ago, while I was a statistics professor. Something deep inside me longed to share in a different way. My posts began as explorations of teaching. Gradually, they morphed into discussions of authenticity, vulnerability, and wholeness: bringing heartfulness into the heady world of academia. Perhaps some of you followed me back then as "Joy of Statistics." When I switched careers, my focus changed to mindfulness, compassion, and being with everythingthe joyous and the difficult. "Born Joy: Mindfulness" was launched. Yet at its core, this blog stays the same: writing from my heart, sharing insights and struggles, hoping to connect with anyone interested.

For you long-time blog readers, I want to provide an update. I've added pages to this blog. Everyone in marketing tells me: "You MUST have a website." Because I feel comfortable here, with the style and feeling of my blog, I decided to create a website(ish) within this space. 

My business URL, BornJoy.com, now points to my Welcome Page. Please visit if you're curious about all my offerings. In particular, you might be interested in bonus pages I created (freebies with heart): Self-Care Page, Gentle Reminders, and Guided Meditations.

I'd love to hear from you. What do you think of this space? Does it feel inviting? Is information easily accessible? Is there something additional you seek? I welcome all feedback, as well as ideas for new posts and meditations. You, my dear blog readers, are the heart of my business and my practice. Thanks for being here and thanks for being you.

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September 28, 2017

Look Inside: A Month of Mindful Healing

In the last two years, I've grieved and healed. Not just for the losses of people I love, but from long-ago wounds and limiting beliefs. In the process of sharing my stories, I realize that everyone is healing. And we all seek refuge in presence and realnessour vulnerability connects us. 

I created a new e-course, A Month of Mindful Healing, based on the awareness practices that help me grow, heal, and change. The complete course is contained within a 70-page multimedia document: written teachings, guided meditations, writing prompts, videos, reflections, mini-assignments, and photographs. Here are two sample pages from the class:

Open your heart to who you are.

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September 22, 2017

Noticing What's Underneath

This afternoon, I had a routine conversation with a potential client. I prepared my notes and readied to call, knowing I'd done this many times before. Still, I felt fear and doubt. My relationship with fear and doubt is long-term and sometimes unpredictable. I took a few deep breaths and made the call, recognizing fear but not letting it control my listening or speaking, nor my ability to stay present. The call went well: kindred spirits talking and details decided. A new opportunity to practice and teach mindfulness.

Just now, as I sliced tomatoes and peppers, I had an insight: my fear was not about the phone call; it reflected my circumstances two years ago on this day. September 23 is when my dad, sisters, and I made decisions about mom's end-of-life care. We had to decide, without consulting her, whether to extend her life via medical machines or to allow her to die. The news stunned us in its suddenness yet we all agreed, through tender, broken hearts, to let her go. We held a compassionate vigil, working closely with hospice nurses to ensure she didn't suffer. It was both deeply painful and vitally important.

This—much bigger and heartbreaking—decision is where my fear and doubt arose. The phone call was just a phone call. When I'm open and aware, I notice my internal weather. If a storm brews over a routine action, I need to look closer. On this particular day, I needed to cry and grieve. To put my hand on my heart, and bear witness to my pain. To remind myself that we made the best decision we could under terrible circumstances. I have no regrets about those last hours with mom, yet fear and doubt arose because that's what emotions do. Underneath is sadness. And deeper underneath is trust in my capacity to stay with everything.

I don't know why this anniversary resonated so deeply with me. Grief is unpredictable, just as life is unpredictable. I wonder: who else is walking around today—or any day—with a tender, vulnerable heart? This helps widen my circle of compassion, for myself and others. Life is difficult, wondrous, heartbreaking, and beautiful. How do we stay wholehearted and awake? I think we do it together, as community. Sharing what's real and true, and listening with kindness; hitting the pause button and connecting with each other; bearing collective witness to joy and sorrow and everything in between.
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September 11, 2017

Open to Possibility

The past few weeks, I've been focused and productive: revamping my website, finishing a new e-course, and teaching mindfulness workshops. Amid abundant yet busy days, I recognize my need to pause; to take a break; to gain a fresh perspective. When I don't pause—when I try to push through and work harder—my creativity wilts, my writing weakens, and my ideas stall. 

As always, the trick is to remember to remember. To prioritize short pauses: a walk around the block, a 5-minute meditation, or a heartfelt connection with another person. These ordinary actions widen my view. Instead of seeing deadlines and limits, I see possibility. I better understand when it's time to stop and when it's time to keep working. It's my own awareness calling me back: slow down and pay attention. What's the next most skillful step?

External sources rarely tell us to rest, pause, and slow down. We must do this for ourselves. It's beneficial to our health and well-being and, as importantly, it sparks creativity, compassion, and insight. We can practice together, in this very moment (our chance to remember to remember):

Open to Possibility
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September 10, 2017

Unique Expression

Some wise words from Martha Graham: "There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it."

There are many ways we block our unique expressions; ways we hide our own light. It's easy to list our faults, but difficult to see our beauty. Yet if we allow for our own goodness—if we see it, embrace it, love it—it touches everyone around us; it touches the world. When our unique expressions live and dance together, the world is bigger, brighter, and more beautiful.

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September 8, 2017

Pause and Look Inward

My friend Miriam just called. During our conversation, she asked about my day. I replied, "Lot of doings. But some days the doings just have to get done." She laughed at this, knowingly, then confessed she was grocery shopping with her one free hour of time. Though we try to cultivate our being-ness, we must finish work, run errands, and attend to others.

Much of our day is focused on externals, and it's easy to lose track of what's going on inside us. If we ignore emotions as they arise, they squeeze out in unskillful ways. At the end of a long day, I can be angry with Mark, though my frustration lies elsewherewith uncooperative technology, my own high standards, or lingering grief. If I attend inward, then I'm aware of my emotionsnot misplacing them on others. And I'm aware of my body, recognizing the need to shift positions, stretch, and move. 

Life is busy. Interruptions happen regularly. Still, it's possible to pausefor 3 breathsand check in with ourselves: notice the state of our thoughts, emotions, body, and breath. The more we practice, the more quickly we notice. Choices present themselves in the pauses. Even when life is busy, we can find a little more ease. And on those days when we think, "I can't possibly pause or attend inward," that's when we most need the practice. Give it a try now (if not now, when?):

Brief Check-In With Yourself
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