“I believe every time we make a fundamental shift of consciousness that opens a circle into a spiral, we face a kind of death. Sensing this impending death, we move through a period of fear, facing our demons. Like gargoyles, these demons are the protectors of the gates of transition.” The Way of Joy(excerpt)
As a kid, I grew up with some heavy-hitters from the arts world hanging out in my family’s living room. The classical pianist Vladimir Horowitz (Volodya to friends) played the piano in the living room of our summer house when he was too nervous to go home during a thunderstorm; Frank Loesser, humorist extraordinaire and composer/lyricist of shows like Guys and Dolls and How To Succeed in Business without Really Trying, used to try to convince my younger brothers and me to chop up my composer father’s piano with a hatchet; and Martha Graham listened to my young dreams to become an actress and looked directly into my eyes and told me I must always follow my dreams.
I think that one of the most important things I learned from being around these “big names” in my daily life was that being a star does not mean being protected from our inner demons. I learned very quickly that uncertainty, those nagging inner nay-sayers and crazy-makers, are a companions in our life’s journeys with our successes as much as our failures.
One of my treasured friends, the brilliant playwright, theater performer, and teacher, Jean-Claude van Itallie, once told a story in an improv class that I absolutely loved. It is about Milarepa, the great Tibetan hermit, singer, teacher who, it’s been said, lived a thousand years ago.
Vicki Dello Joio, founder of The Way of Joy: A Spiritual Fitness Program, is a teacher, speaker and performing artist. Integrating over 40 years of Chi Kung practice with other martial arts as well as her work in Yoga, Feldenkreis, physical fitness and theater, Vicki has developed a dynamic set of tools to increase awareness, transform obstacles into opportunities and enhance creative potential.Book: The Way of Joy, CD: Short Meditations for a Busy Life.
I believe that welcoming the cycles of expansion and contraction is vital to our harmony.
The natural world teaches us there is a time to open, a time to close, a time to be at full peak, a time to lie fallow. I can think of no expansion on this planet of living beings that is not followed, in some way, by contraction, which in turn is followed by expansion, then by contraction. The pattern is simply part of being in a living, breathing world.
To polarize aspects of these cycles as “good” or “bad” means that we end up separating from the world around us—a world where blossoms open to the sun and close at dusk, where the ocean swells and recedes with the tides, where day turns to night which then turns to day, where our very breath and pulse depend on the constancy of the expansion and contraction of our lungs and our hearts. — The Way of Joy
What is one of the lessons you’ve learned during a time of post-expansion contraction?
When you Embrace Wholeness (Tao), you move into a state of wisdom—fully present with all-that-is—without falling into the trap of polarities—good/bad, doing/being, expanding/contracting, etc…The Observer Self provides the key that opens us to that larger vision, creating a personal connection to the cosmos. —The Way of Joy
Have you ever felt joy in your heart at the very same time you had tears in your eyes? This might have happened during times of great joy—such as seeing a new-born baby—or times of profound sorrow, such as saying a final goodbye to a person or animal companion when you are acutely aware of the deep love you have shared at the same time you feel struck down with grief and loss.
I believe with all of my heart that it is only when we truly embrace the whole of our experience, we are able to live our lives with presence and power