It turns out that farming involves more preparation and repetitive work than I anticipated, and I anticipated a lot. This has proven to be its own gift. Often, when I'm working, I listen to a podcast or a documentary. This morning, in a documentary, I heard something that struck me.
"God doesn't want your service if there's no joy for you".
The word God doesn't resonate with everyone. You can switch that out for your highest self, your ancestral guides, your community or whatever feels right for you. What joy opens us up to is new possibilities. Without joy, how could we envision a world without prisons or capitalism or extractive, transactional relationships?
For me, having tasted joy has expanded my heart and mind and given me the will and inspiration to try and transform what in this world looks broken or harmful. After feeling the joy of belonging, all the places where we don't feel that can be highlighted. And if we're lucky, we can stay open and curious and imagine all the ways we might bring more joy, by healing the root causes of what hurts in us and in the world. The point is that joy is a portal and it is both as necessary as service work and it is a form of service.
My best efforts and my best ideas haven't come from the depths of depression or the chaos of burnout. My best self and my best offerings to this world have come from feeling safe, rested, loved and enchanted by the majesty of this world.
Maybe it's the same for you. If it's not, then please keep going along the path that brings forth your wisdom and innovation. Each of us needs different medicine and each of us has unique medicine to offer.
You deserve to taste and feel and breathe in joy without apology, for no other reason than you are here now. And if that feels too flimsy, if your inner judge bristles "That's not good enough", let them know that your joy has the power to help you contribute to repairing, renewing and rebirthing this world in its time of danger. We need you.
Every time that you have felt powerless or helpless cannot be undone. Difficult as those times have been, it would be doubly tragic to step away from your power in the places where you can help. If you're not sure of where to start, know that you don't have to chase joy. Perhaps, for now, your work is simply to notice where it appears and how it feels and to remember that and use it as your true North as you navigate this world.
That can look like finding places in your body that feel neutral, without tension or pain. If you live with chronic pain, maybe that means placing reminders of your joy portals close to you-- these could be photos, playlists, flowers, gifts from beloveds, your most comfy clothes. It helps me to take photos or write on sticky notes all the things that help me reconnect with joy. At any given time, that might be: the smell of wild roses, tea with the right amount of milk and sugar, saying no to something I don't want to do, mixing herbs for a ritual bath, seeing photos of my nephews, soaking my feet after a long day.
When we become overwhelmed by the mire and muck of this world, it's almost like a veil settles over us and we can forget how to return to joy. In the Greek myth of Theseus and the minotaur, Ariadne gives Theseus, her love, a ball of thread as he travels into the labyrinth to slay the minotaur. If he loses his way, he can retrace his steps. I encourage you to bring your own thread. It may tangle or catch on hedges, but if you find yourself turned around, you have your own path to follow. Or you may very well stumble upon someone else's thread and the blessing of their company.
Into the labyrinth we go, unarmed, but not defenseless. Into the heart of something we cannot see, so that we can turn destruction into generativity. In whatever ways we may be unprepared, we can hold onto hope that allies and guides will surround us and the way will become clear. May our light blaze long and strong in the face of this world's confusion and may we pull back the veil and taste the blessings of the sweetness of the world to come, anchoring the heaven of love and justice in this timeline, in our own lifetime.