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Robbing Ourselves of Joy

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Cathedral in Nasbinals, France – September, 2012

Personal demons, we all have them. Almost a full year ago, there was a jail break in which many of my personal demons somehow found a way to erupt into my daily life. I brooded, I withdrew into silence, I had little patience for my students, my colleagues and my friends. My life partner was left wondering “who is this stranger?” With the barriers between inner and outer world disintegrating, I had to choose between engaging these demons or retreating even more from life. For those who have been following here, you know that I chose to engage these demons. My latest effort, the walk along the Grande Randonnée 65, has been the most intense of these efforts. I say “most intense” as it was an attempt to engage these demons without the guidance of an analyst, without the support of the significant people in my life, without the safety net of community and home. I went to France to be alone with myself, to force myself to be present fully on both inner and outer dimensions without the distractions of others and places which had enabled me to “avoid” this needed confrontation.

“Our personal demons come in many guises. We experience them as shame, as jealousy, as abandonment, as rage. They are anything that makes us so uncomfortable that we continually run away.” (Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart, p.29)

Ouch! Double ouch! That is likely the best description of how I have been dealing with my personal demons for a long time, continually running away; running, running, running.

“We do the big escape: we act out, say something, slam a door, hit someone, or throw a pot as a way of not facing what’s happening in our hearts. Or we shove the feelings under and somehow deaden the pain. We can spend our whole lives escaping from the monsters of our minds.

All over the world, people are so caught up in running that they forget to take advantage of the beauty around them. We become so accustomed to speeding ahead that we rob ourselves of joy.” (pp 29-30)

Guilty! Cuba, Mexico, Costa Rica, India, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Philippines, China, Canada! And this is just the running during the last eight years. It was only in France that I came, somehow, to “wake up” and stop running. And even then, it took about a hundred miles before I became aware of the fact that I had been running. Yes, I had literally been running at times on the GR 65. It took a lot to have me wake up. It took intense body pain and a literal confrontation with one of my ghosts to accomplish what meditation and psychoanalysis hadn’t been able to accomplish.

I am not fully there yet, but I am on the right path, my path. And, I am taking it slowly (doucement, aller doucement), one day at a time.


6 Responses

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  1. The Late Barbara Holland (one of my favorite authors) was adamant we always have sorrow: we have to carefully nurtures the pleasures of life. Joy needs tending.


    October 26, 2012 at 11:06 pm

    • I agree with you, we desperately need to nurture joy – but often we often don’t even know what joy is as we mistake altered states of consciousness or titillation or sensate (food/beverage/etc) experiences for joy. Whence comes this joy? It is there, always as a counterpoint to suffering.


      October 27, 2012 at 1:49 pm

  2. How do you differentiate between a nomadic character vs that of running? I like to think not all of your travells, or mine, or the next persons are necissarily all “running”, but a good portion a personal characteristic that we are nomads by nature and will always feel the need to move/travel/explore.


    October 27, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    • Good question, Dustin. I guess the only way to differentiate between the two is with regard to the intention. You are right when you say that most of my/our travels have been purposeful either as a tourist, for work, or for study. A good example would be my move to become a school principal. The move to Zenon Park and then to Shellbrook were purposeful. However the move to Mortlach and then Elrose were more “reactive” – “running” from situations that were too much to contain. Sometimes we wander because we are following, not leading. Following can be purposeful or it could be reactive (running). Being a nomad isn’t just about changing addresses or locations; it could also find its way through one’s work life as we move from one career to another. If one is following one’s interests and abilities, the movement is reasoned. If one simply drifts away from one job to another, then it is about running.

      You and I are nomads, there’s not much doubt about that. The expression “like father like son” holds here. Yet I can’t use being a nomad as a good reason for some of my wandering. Some of the wandering is done out of fear (fear of losing sanity), some is done out of wonder as I journey in search of more. I hope that I have given an answer that helps. Love, Papa


      October 27, 2012 at 5:23 pm

  3. Many of us have a lifetime of running.
    But to stop, is a gift.
    well done, old friend.


    November 6, 2012 at 8:12 am

    • It is good to stop running, even if it is only for a short while. It’s about stopping long enough to see where I am and who I am. Thanks, Viv, for your presence here and your friendship.


      November 8, 2012 at 4:10 pm

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