Space. | rejoyce letters, vol. 19

Hi Friend,

I'm writing you a shorter letter than usual this week as I want it to reflect the theme: space. I am consciously holding space for those who are suffering. This includes a few specific suffering individuals, the larger sphere of all the souls I have come in contact with (including each of you) who may or may not be currently suffering, and then expands to include humankind. 

[Aside: I hope it doesn't sound pretentious to claim to "hold space for the suffering of humankind"—that's not my intention. It simply feels right for me right now to reflect deeply on suffering—at the micro and macro levels—by taking time to deepen my understanding about horrific historical (and contemporary) crimes against humanity. I’m reading up, attending museums in Manhattan, etc.]

At times, it seems there is great suffering everywhere. And also, as Rainer Maria Rilke in Letters to a Young Poet reminds us: "...still, there is much beauty here, for there is much beauty everywhere." 

A key to connecting to the beauty surrounding you is making space in your life for it to enter by removing the obstacles (physical, mental, and energetic) and allowing.

I encourage you to create space in your life this week. Maybe with daily meditation (you can do it!), maybe with a social media "cleanse", maybe by donating possessions cluttering your physical space (you're probably never going to wear that Aéropostale halter dress from '09), maybe (if you are braver than me) by cutting processed sugar, or maybe by just pausing for 30 seconds when you do something routine (sitting in the car, stepping into the shower) to just be.

As Eckhart Tolle says:

"Stillness is the language God speaks, everything else is bad translation."

Though, sometimes, I know, it feels like there's no space, no stillness in your mind or life. Your mind is an overcrowded party full of annoying guests. Your life is a miles-long standstill traffic jam; you sit there, uncomfortable and angry, breathing in the fumes. (In moments like these, it helps me to revel in the transitory nature of everything in the physical realm. As Bob Dylan sings in To Ramona (a woke song, imo): "Everything passes, everything changes. Just do what you think you should do.")

So please know, if you are suffering, I am holding space for you to process your pain, even if your life feels void of space right now. Even if it feels like it will never get better. It will. Bob Dylan doesn’t lie. ;) Everything passes, everything changes. 

I promise you'll start seeing the beauty again. Sending love from my heart to yours. xoxo.

with Love and with Light,


p.s. As previously discussed, I dislike the word "should"—but I consider Dylan so aligned that his thoughts likely reflect his heart. I believe he's referring to intuition when he sings: "Just do what you think you should do." (Note: there's a huge sketch of him hanging in my apartment, so I could be biased.) Regardless, for most of us, it's likely better to do what we feel is best vs. to do what we think is best. 

p.p.s. THE GUEST HOUSE by Rumi (emphasis mine)

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them at the door laughing,

and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.

Striving. | rejoyce letters, vol. 18

Hi Friend, 

As many of you have likely gathered, I love quotes. In my apartment, you'll see little handwritten quotes taped up all over the place—walls, doors, mirrors. One quote I recently read struck me so profoundly I might make it the "theme" for my next few letters.

Artist Georgia O'Keeffe said:

"I have already settled it for myself so flattery and criticism go down the same drain and I am quite free." 

We live in a world that constantly says: Don't settle! 

On one hand, I do not believe in settling. That is, I don't believe it's ideal to throw in the towel, lower your standards, and live the scripted life everyone is tacitly telling you to accept. (I wrote on accepting back in volume 4.)

On the other hand, I think settling within yourself is one of the healthiest (and most difficult) things you can do. Getting to a place where you are self contained.Where you can confidently say, as the Beatles sing in Across the Universe, "Nothing's gonna change my world."

When we hear the societal message of "Don't settle!" it is often infused with striving energy. It's pitched in this package: Don't settle! Keep pushing! Keep striving! Work harder! These messages often inherently imply you shouldn't settle while working toward accumulating exactly what society says you should want. And that, for this, you should sacrifice everything (your time, health, energy) to push, push, push. Never settle. Never be satisfied. Always get more. 

And honestly? Fuck that.

Or, as Jesus (who, to my knowledge, was never recorded dropping any Aramaic, Hebrew, or Greek F-bombs) puts it in Matthew 16:26, NIV:

"What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?"

Still, our society is essentially obsessed with striving to gain "the world." We collectively worship the Alexander Hamilton mentality. I assume most of you are familiar with the musical Hamilton. (If not: slight spoilers ahead. Since they happened IRL in the 1700s and 1800s I don't feel bad for mentioning them. ;) 

Hamilton (a founding father of the U.S.) is this go-getter who always wants more. He's never satisfied; he works nonstop. His mindset is mostly celebrated and treated as noble.

To be clear: I love the musical. I saw it in Chicago, I've listened to the soundtrack a million times, and I think Lin-Manuel Miranda is a genius. Yet, I am becoming less and less enamored by Hamilton's striving mindset.Because I think at the core of this ethos of dissatisfaction is an internal sense of not being enough on the inside unless you can accumulate power on the outside

And I just don't think that ever actually works. I no longer believe in the promise of the external "power" that is acquired by striving.

In The Seat of the Soul Gary Zukav says:

"You are striving for external power. By striving for this reward and that reward, you ask the world to assess and acknowledge your value before you can value yourself. You place your self-worth in the hands of others. You have no power even if you win every gold medal that the world can produce."

Hamilton cared a lot about external power. He didn't have enough money, he needed a rich wife. His wife was not enough, he needed an affair. It's wasn't enough to tell his opponent his feelings, he needed to duel. 

Recently, I'm finding this steadfast commitment to never settling (externally) very unsettling (internally). It is, arguably, this energy that led to Hamilton's early death.  

But what if the idea that we must work really hard and struggle and strive in order to be powerful (and, therefore, fulfilled) is all a giant fallacy?

For most of my own life, I was addicted to striving.

I started with grades and sports. I was the valedictorian of my high school; I got nearly perfect grades in college; I played Division 1 basketball on a full scholarship and spent years trying to run faster, jump higher, lift more weight, score more points, get more rebounds. More, more, more.

Then, after graduation, I shifted this striving energy straight into the corporate world. More emails, more clients, more money. At my last software consulting gig, I was making $95 an hour. 


Yet, a chasm was growing within me. I knew deep down that how I was spending my days was not how I wanted to spend my life. I was not being true to my core; I didn't truly desire what I was "gaining." I could feel myself getting farther away from inner peace each day. It's almost as if I could feel the energetic equivalent of Jesus's words: "What good is it to gain the whole world—and lose your soul?"

This spring, I turned down a contract extension, and haven't earned a dollar since March. I do not regret it. My soul now feels more aligned than it has in my entire life. (Though there are still some shifts and some inner settling left to work through.)

Recently, while practicing aparigraha I was going through an old box of papers and found a folder with my "Strengths Finders" assessment I did for a class in college. I'd been moving around this folder with this packet of my five "strengths" for nearly a decade. (From PA > WI > NY). My very first strength, my allegedly strongest attribute, was "Achiever." I tore the piece of paper to shreds.

I'm no longer interested in external achievements; I'm interested in settling on the inside, on reckoning with my soul.

I am interested in this: What if I could be so settled within, so self-contained, that I fully believed I already had everything I needed? Could I be so settled that flattery and criticism always flushed right down the same drain? Could I say, John Lennon style: Nothing's gonna change my world?


"There is a basket of fresh bread on your head, 

yet you go door to door asking for crusts.

Knock on the inner door. No other.

Sloshing knee-deep in fresh riverwater, yet

you keep wanting a drink from other people's waterbags."

What if you drank the water of your own soul instead of working so so so hard to get water from the external world? 

What if you stopped striving and started living?

Would you, then, be satisfied?

Would you be free?

with Love and with Light,


p.s. Georgia O'Keeffe was born in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. (Fun fact for my Wisconsin friends!)

p.p.s. The striving mindset implies living in the future (for the result) rather than living in the present—which reminds me of the arrival letter I wrote in April.

p.p.p.s. My favorite Hamilton lyrics: "Look around, look around, how lucky we are to be alive right now." Applicable constantly, if you're willing to be present and look around. :)

p.p.p.p.s. Across the Universe features Sanskrit. (Jai guru deva om.) Namaste, homies.

Unexpected. | rejoyce letters, vol. 17

Hi Friend, 

I recently saw The Band's Visit, a musical about an Egyptian band who accidentally goes to the wrong town in Israel and stays the night there with the locals. 

After the show, my friend said, "If I described the plot, it would sound like nothing happened, but the entire experience was so emotional." (Sometimes how life feels, no?) 

My other friend said, "That show is like a poem." 

My friends are more articulate theater critics than me. My take: they mention Rumi in a song lyric (!), what more do you need? 

Now, I fully realize there is possibly no one else on the entire planet who'd get as excited as I did when the beautiful actress sang, "Is this a hymn? Is this a love song? Something ancient by a poet, maybe Hafiz, maybe Rumi?" 

It was a moment when two things I love—musical theater and Rumi—converged. I realize now that the true joy stemmed from it being entirely unexpected. I would've never expected to go to a Broadway show and hear someone sing about Rumi; it was a possibility my mind never entertained.

Later in the song (called Something Different) she sings:

"Nothing is as beautiful as something that you don't expect."

I've been contemplating expectations. In May, my meditation retreat leader said: 

"Expectations are like drinking rat poison and thinking it will kill the rat."

Still, most of us can't help but envision our lives working out a certain way. We think things should happen and that we should do certain things. We carry these expectations for the world (outer) and for ourselves (inner) around on our shoulders and, over time, they become terrible burdens.

I think we get so caught up in expectations because we believe:

a.) It's "easier" to live in the future than the present and

b.) We "enjoy" prolonging the illusion that we have control

Yet, ultimately, it is not easy and less enjoyable living with the heavy weight of expectations. It's kind of like working a job that's tearing your soul apart—yet it somehow feels easier to stay. It's likely not actually easier to stay, not in the long run, but inertia is powerful. Similarly, we've been drenched in expectations since birth—it's difficult to imagine life without them.

I wrote about clinging and practicing aparigraha—the Sanskrit word for non-clinging, non-possessiveness, non-attachment. Aparigraha has been applicable in many aspects of life, including releasing expectations.

You likely carry more expectations than you consciously realize (I know I do). For example: We think if we work hard, we should get financial security. We think we should find someone to marry. We think our partner should meet our every need. We think the baby in the seat next to us on the airplane shouldn't cry.

I mean, we actually think (consciously or subconsciously): a baby shouldn't cry. Then get upset and annoyed when a baby cries. Consider how absurd it is to even allow your mind to entertain the thought: a baby shouldn't cry. 

Drinking rat poison, you guys. Drinking rat poison.

Equally ridiculous are the inner expectations we have for ourselves. E.g.: I should work out more, I shouldn't have bought that, I should have texted her back sooner, I should've emailed him, I should call my mom, I should drink 8 cups of water everyday for my entire life, I should stop swearing, I should learn Spanish, I should go to the dentist at some point as an adult, etc., etc., etc.

An expression for this common phenomenon: Should-ing all over yourself.

There's likely some religious basis to this obsession with should-ing. The church is clearly super into the Ten Commandments; sermons often feel like long lists of "Thou shalls" and "Thou shall nots."

Well, no offense to Moses, but I'm working on cutting the word "should" from my speech (and thought) entirely, because I view "should" as a form of resistance. We are either resisting others (She shouldn't have said that!) or resisting ourselves (I shouldn't have eaten that entire pint of Ample Hills Ooey Gooey Butter Cake ice cream!) or resisting reality (It shouldn't rain!).

Resisting, to me, is a form of not loving. Not loving someone as they are, not loving yourself as you are, not loving the present moment as it is.One of my favorite spiritual adages is this: What you resist, persists. 

So when you drop the expectations, it can be (counterintuitively) transformative. For example, you may find you no longer eat the whole pint of ice cream, not because you think you shouldn't but because you'd rather eat in a more nourishing, loving way.

Love and acceptance can be transformative forces with others as well. I know when I say "drop expectations for others" it can sound like I'm saying "lower your standards." I am not. I am suggesting, though, you stop pretending you can control other people. You can control other people about as effectively as you can control the random baby on a plane. That is, not at all. But why would you want to? Mother Teresa says:

"When you're busy judging people, you have no time to love them."

And when it comes to dropping inner expectations, I'm not suggesting you abandon any "moral code." Should you steal, murder, or lie? Probably not. But when you operate from a place of Love, you won't steal, murder, or lie—not because someone told you "You shouldn't!" but because Love, in its natural state (which I believe is your natural state), doesn't do those things.

[Aside: Not stealing from someone because you feel you shouldn't is a fear-based action. (You fear getting caught.) Not stealing from someone because you care about them is a love-based action. The end result is the same, yet I'm beginning to believe in the underrated importance of underlying intentions.]

Ram Dass says: 

"It is important to expect nothing, to take every experience, including the negative ones, as merely steps on the path, and to proceed."

Maybe the point of the story of the Ten Commandments, of Moses climbing Mount Sinai and hearing God's voice, is not that we need to fill our heads with "shoulds" and "should nots"—but that we need to climb mountains and listen to the sky.

When you drop expectations, you create space for beauty, space for the divine. You don't need to live in the future when you can feel how beautiful the present is.

Nothing is as beautiful as something that you don't expect.

Expect nothing.

with Love and with Light, 


p.s. Rumi's take on poems and music (and musicals like poems?): "Poems are rough notations for the music we are."

p.p.s. "What you resist, persists" stems from psychologist Carl Jung's work. Jung takes it up a notch and says: "What you resist not only persists, but will grow in size."

p.p.p.s. My favorite book on shedding expectations is Byron Katie's Loving What IsAnd when Eckhart Tolle had his spiritual awakening, described at the beginning of The Power of Now, the two words he heard were: “Resist nothing.”

Wounds. | rejoyce letters, vol. 16

Hi Friend, 

I recently visited a friend who lives in a fun Boston neighborhood with some characters, including a group of burly men who often congregate on a corner, bringing their tiny lap dogs to scurry around their feet.

Then there's a mysterious woman. She is well dressed and frequents local establishments, behaving "normally" with one exception: everywhere she goes, she pushes and pulls four giant suitcases. 

"It's an unsolved neighborhood mystery," my friend explained, "No one knows what those suitcases are for but no one has ever seen her without them."

Regardless of their purpose, one thing is clear: they really slow her down. I saw her crossing the street which, given her baggage, took a very long time.

I'm not going to speculate about this stranger, but I will say: I have never witnessed a more perfect metaphor in the physical realm for what most of us do with our emotional wounds.

Drag them around, take them everywhere. Then, we wonder: why am I not getting where I want? Why do I feel blocked and stuck? Why does it feel like something is always in my way?

I think sometimes people hear the term "emotional wounds" and completely shut down. They feel that's territory reserved for those with reallybad childhoods (abuse, war refugees, etc.). I disagree; I believe everyone has emotional wounds (no one has a pain-free past), and, unless you do inner work to heal them, you're kind of stuck with them, like the suitcase lady, dragging them around wherever you go. Never leaving home without 'em!

I also do not believe in "ranking" emotional pain. 

When I was in seventh grade, a red headed boy dumped a blonde girl named Ashley. This breakup sent Ashley running through the hallways, sobbing inconsolably, globs of mascara streaming down her cheeks, to the guidance counselor’s office.

In the cafeteria, discussing anything else was impossible.

“The guidance counselor?” said a girl at my lunch table, voice thick with judgement.

“It’s a junior high boyfriend,” another added, as if her own life did not revolve around her own junior high boyfriend.

Not even fifteen, and already socially conditioned to scoff at emotional pain. 

Our society all but worships the mind (education is everything!) and the body (exercise! eat healthy!), but almost completely neglects the spiritual and emotional side of life. We've heard of the Mind, Body, Spirit trinity—yet even prioritizing mental health is often a stretch. Spiritual or emotional health is, generally, ignored.

By seventh grade, though I was experiencing intense emotions, I was essentially emotionally illiterate. I contributed to the lunch table with cruel attempts at sarcasm. In the car that evening, my twin sister and I shared this middle school gossip with our mother.

I still remember her response: “It’s good she went to the guidance counselor and it doesn’t matter it’s a seventh-grade boyfriend. Her pain is real to her.”

Her pain is real to her.

This is a perfect starting point for emotional healing. Acknowledging, without judgment: your pain is real to you.

Another realization that helped me begin healing emotional wounds is this: Blaming is not healing. (I am not condoning the cruel actions of the people who've hurt you. But I am emphatically stating: Blaming is not healing.)

But why heal the wounds? Why face the pain? Why not just let leave the past alone? 

I believe the present moment is the most powerful moment—but there is an immense difference between healing your past and ignoring your past. Emotional wounds, like physical wounds, fester if ignored. 

Then, they can unexpectedly surface and ruin something for you: a romantic relationship, a work opportunity, a friendship, etc. (At least, in my experience.)

Identifying patterns can help: Do you always break up for the same reason? Do you attract the same kind of people over and over? Do your friendships get to a certain point but never advance into the deep connection you crave?

These patterns can point toward your invisible "suitcases"—the things you're subconsciously dragging around with you that are blocking you. (In my opinion, only when you face something can you truly let it go.)

And the beautiful part: when you heal and release your past you create space in your present—space for joy and love and peace and abundance to enter your life.

Pema Chödrön's book Awakening Loving Kindness opens with this line:

"There's a common misunderstanding among all the human beings who have ever been born on the earth that the best way to live is to try to avoid pain and just try to get comfortable."

Which reminds me of my homegirl Anaïs Nin's quote I shared a longer version of a few weeks back:

"Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death."

I realize now that instead of running away from my pain my whole life, I could have been running toward it, toward healing, just as Ashley ran through the hall to the guidance counselor.

Of all the Rumi quotes I love (and, as you know, there are many), this is the one I'm considering getting tattooed on my side:

"The wound is the place where the Light enters you."

There is a judging, human side of me that wishes that you, specifically, do not have any emotional wounds. That you've never been hurt at all. That, as you read this, you cannot conjure up a single painful memory. 

There is also a spiritual, divine side of me that knows wounds are integral for growth. It knows there's nothing wrong or bad about emotional wounds—a wound is simply a state one must go through. Wounds are part of the whole. The light with the darkness, the yin with the yang.

There is nothing wrong with wounds.

But it is up to each one of us to let the Light in.

with Love and with Light,


p.s. I recently found this quote"The doors to the world of the soul are few but precious. If you have a deep scar, that is a door. If you have an old, old story, that is a door. If you love the sky and the water so much you almost cannot bear it, that is a door. If you yearn for a deeper life, a full life, a sane life, that is a door." —Clarissa Pinkola Estés

Faith. | rejoyce letters, vol. 15


Hi Friend,

I keep a running list of English words that are consistently misused. "Faith" is in the top five. (Other commonly bastardized words: "Beauty" and, of course, "Love.")

When people think "faith" though, most immediately think "religion" which causes the word to be extra charged. I was hesitant to title this letter "Faith" because I assumed those who've had negative experiences with religious organizations could find it instantly off-putting. Yet, I had to remember I'm writing this for me (though I'm grateful for everyone who reads), and I have, personally, begun radically shifting my perceptions around faith. 

I grew up attending a lot of church, where people would ask me things like: "Do you have faith in Jesus?"

Generally, what they meant was: "Do you believe in this set of facts about Jesus and his life?" (You know, the classic manger > empty tomb Christianity continuum.)

I now consider this approach the opposite of faith. Faith is not about how you believe in a set of "known" facts; faith is about how you approach the unknown, the unseen, the non-physical.

Anne Lamott, author of my favorite writing book Bird By Birdsays:

"The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely."

I love that quote because it flips on its head how most people view faith. Faith is many things—but it is not forcing your tightly-held belief system down the throats of others.

In the Bible, the book of Hebrews, chapter eleven, verse one says:

"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."

Funnily enough, as a child, when I was asked my favorite verse, I'd often say this one. (I pompously believed myself too original to say something cliché like John 3:16.) (To be clear, little me didn't have a clue what this verse meant. :)

Turns out I still have Hebrews 11:1 memorized; when I was contemplating faith, it popped into my head and its profundity stunned me.

The evidence of things not seen. 

Faith is about the unknown, the utter uncertainty of it all—and stepping into that abyss not overcome by fear, but with a sense of hope. A sense, you could even say, of knowing. Not knowing exactly what will happen but trusting that the forces of the Universe—or God, or a higher power, or Spirit—are guiding you along the way.

Faith that life is not happening to you but is happening for you.

The concept of the "leap of faith" is attributed to Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard calls it a "qualitative leap." To him, the element of the "leap" is a prerequisite of faith; faith is not a gradual incline; it's a jump. 

Here's my personal interpretation of the "leap of faith": In order to live peacefully within ourselves (and in the world), we need to accept paradoxes within us (and outside of us); paradoxes which defy rationality. If we try to reason or to explain our way to meaning in life, we will almost certainly fail, and, likely, be overcome by fear and anxiety. So, we make a mental leap out of the realm of logic and into the realm of faith. Kierkegaard says:

"If I am capable of grasping God objectively I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe."

He also says:

"To have faith is to lose your mind and to win God."

[Aside: This quote really reminds me of the idea of freedom from thinking I discussed last week. We have a tendency to worship and cling to our minds, our thoughts, our so-called knowledge, but sometimes clinging is destructive and guarding knowledge can prevent you from true understanding. As philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein duly notes, "Explanations come to an end somewhere."

I want to be clear: though Kierkegaard uses the word "God" I am not exclusively discussing faith in a Western, Christian God. Not at all. (I think "God" is another wildly misused word, though I won't dive into that today.)

For me, leaping is key to cultivating a faith that is both personal and powerful. It isn't blindly believing in doctrine, but peacefully surrendering to the Divine.

Indian philosopher Shrii Shrii Anandamurti says:

"You are never alone or helpless. The force that guides the stars guides you too."

These days, I find myself leaping back and forth a bit.

Some days, it's difficult to feel a guiding force; the uncertainty stretching before me seems terrifying. 

Others, I face that same uncertainty with a solid sense of hope. Not because I have any logical reason to hope—but because I have mentally leapt from the realm of logic to the realm of faith. It's less thinking, more feeling. I can feel myself connected to the guiding force of the Universe, connected, in fact, to all life around me, from the chirping Robin in the Prospect Park to the homeless person on the F train. And through this connection, I also feel myself being led, as the planets are led in their orbits, as the waves are led to the seashore. 

As Rumi so beautifully and simply puts it:

"As you start to walk on the way, the way appears."

And when I have a day connected in faith —it truly doesn't matter to me, in the slightest, what doctrine anyone else "believes" in.

I say this with love: Although I'd gladly discuss it with you, I do not care what religion (if any) you identify with; believe what you want to believe. But if your life right now feels full of fear and anguish and sorrow and suffering—I've been there. And I strongly feel there is a more peaceful way to live. 


The force that guides the stars guides you too.

with Love and with (star) Light, 


p.s. Though it's impossible for me to imagine reading Bird By Bird without an interest in writing (I've been interested in writing since first grade), I also consider it a great book on living. The full title is Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. (The quote above doesn't come from this book but gives you a taste of Lamott's insightfulness.) Also, if you want to talk writing, feel free to email me; it's one of my favorite topics. :)

p.p.s. A couple Kierkegaard gems for you: 

"Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced."

"To dare is to lose one's footing momentarily. Not to dare is to lose oneself."

Freedom. | rejoyce letters, vol. 14

Hi Friend, 

During a cold spell in my first NYC winter, I was working from home, leaving only for errands. One day, while readying myself to face the cold, I had an epiphany. Like most epiphanies, it came when my mind was quiet and it was about something obvious I'd somehow failed to notice up to that point.

The epiphany came in the form of this question:

Why am I putting on a bra right now?

It made no sense. I'd also be wearing a bulky sweater, a huge winter coat, and a scarf. I had no plans to remove any of those items until I was back in our sweltering apartment. (We don't control our heat, so our apartment is Caribbean-level hot all winter.)

And yet, though I'd been running errands in my coat for weeks, I'd never considered not first putting on a proper bra.

I realized, a bit angrily, that I'd been programmed. I'd been playing out an engrained societal belief ("Before leaving the house, you must put on a bra") that's arguably excessive in summer, but in winter, for me, it's idiotic. 

To me, bras are uncomfortable. As is being cold. So, why was I choosing to subject myself to an unnecessary layer of non-comfort?

In short, I wasn't choosing: I was acting subconsciously. My definition of the opposite of freedom is this: operating at a level of subconscious decision making which results in thinking and acting in ways that don't serve you. 

This is a simple example of me self-sabotaging my own personal freedom.That day, I went forth onto the frigid Brooklyn sidewalks braless and never looked back. Running winter errands sans bra: 10/10. Will do again next year.

The Fourth of July had me contemplating freedom. I reject the notion America is a "free country" when millions of Americans consistently operate in this "opposite of freedom" zone: making subconscious decision after subconscious decision that are often unnecessary and/or personally (and globally) damaging. 

Maybe wearing a bra doesn't strike you as damaging, so let's take things up a notch:

Is someone addicted to pain killers or money or binging and purging or alcohol or social status—regardless of citizenship—truly free? I don't think so. I think freedom has more to do with how you live than where you live. If you're ensnared in "uncontrollable" damaging self-made routines, then, in my opinion, you aren't free; you're metaphorically imprisoned. 

Even if you aren't addicted to a substance, it's worth investigating if you're addicted to compulsive thinking. Do you ever stop thinking while you're awake?

I first heard of the idea of being addicted to thoughts from philosopher Alan Watts. Eckhart Tolle expands upon it in The Power of Now (which I'm re-recommending and re-reading!) where he says:

"Not being able to stop thinking is a dreadful affliction, but we don't realize this because almost everybody is suffering from it, so it is considered normal. This incessant mental noise prevents you from finding that realm of inner stillness that is inseparable from Being."

If you think constantly—thought after thought after thought—you aren't listening. It's like you're talking nonstop, all day, to yourself. You inevitably swirl. 

It can be difficult to imagine your mind free from thoughts, so start here: Can you imagine your mind free from worry? 

We all know worrying is wholly pointless; still, many of us do it constantly. This upsets us, so we worry about worrying. The inevitable swirl. So: why are we thinking in a way that doesn't serve us?

Because we are not free from our minds. Allowing your mind to worry is operating at a level of subconscious decision making which results in in thinking and acting in ways that don't serve you. The opposite of freedom.

Worrying never serves you. Jesus said [Luke 12:25-26 NIV]:

"Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?"

Nevertheless, worrying persists. My modern spin on Jesus' message:

"Who of you, by worrying, can make this airplane depart a single minute sooner?"

Airports breed worry. I spent hours last week at JFK thinking over and over: "I hope our flight doesn't get canceled, I hope our flight doesn't get canceled." A total waste of my mental energy. [It did not get canceled; I had nothing to do with it.]

I mentioned when my bra "epiphany" came my mind was quiet. I've had some big epiphanies in the past six months—about my past, about mental patterns I've been stuck in for years, even about my future. 

Once you notice an unnecessary or damaging subconscious pattern, you interrupt it because you make it conscious. Only when you see a damaging pattern can you break free from it.  However—you need a quiet mind to see. I do not get clarity through thinking, I get clarity through listening.

Watts says:

"In order to have something to think about, there are times when you simply must stop thinking. Well, how do you do that? The first rule is don't try to because if you do you will be like someone trying to make rough water smooth with a flat iron and all that will do is stir it up. 

So, in the same way as a muddy, turbulent pool quiets itself when left alone, you have to know how to leave your mind alone. It will quiet itself."

For me, daily meditation has been an incredibly helpful tool in allowing my mind to quiet itself.

Rumi says:

"Let the waters settle and you will see the moon and the stars mirrored in your own being."

On the other side of constant thinking is more than just freedom from the mind—there's starlight, too. Or, maybe, they're the same thing.

with Love and with Light,


p.s. It's worth noting half of the population almost never deals with bras. Oppression is often inversely correlated with freedom. I.e. The more oppressed a group of people is, the less free they feel. How are women less free than men? The most undeniable example is women are forced to cover two regions of their bodies in public and men are only forced to cover one. (Of course, neither are free by this metric compared to every other animal species—which covers zero.)
p.p.s. I believe a free country is possible, just like I believe world peace is possible. I also believe freedom starts at the individual level—as does peace. Inner peace precedes world peace. Inner freedom precedes world freedom.

Devastation. | rejoyce letters, vol. 13

Hi Friend, 

I played basketball through college. As one of the tallest people on the court, I usually played Center. My job on offense, essentially, was to set picks, shoot lay-ups, and rebound. 

Or, as my coach sometimes put it: "Get back in the paint, Novacek!"

I'd occasionally get bored with the limited confines of my role, or feel desperate when we were losing, so I'd step outside of my "area" and take a jump shot.

This generally resulted in one of two outcomes:

a. I'd miss the shot and get yelled at. Maybe even subbed out. It would be deemed a horrible shot.

b. I'd make the shot. In which case, it would be deemed a good shot.

I've been thinking a lot lately about overcoming fears. The truth is, we likely all have a self-imposed "paint" in our minds. The areas where we feel safe and comfortable operating, the familiar routines and thought patterns we return to again and again. We probably even have people in our lives who are (explicitly or implicitly) telling us to stay there. 

But we never expand our games—i.e. grow—if we don't step outside of the "known" areas and act.

We've all heard we need to "overcome our fears" but I think the concept is often packaged in a sterilized, commercialized way and the packaging can strip the idea of its inherently profound meaning.

It's easy to visualize a contestant on The Bachelor saying, "I've been terrified of heights forever, but I went on a private helicopter tour of Aruba with Anton, and finally overcame my fear. Now we're in love."

We can all roll our eyes at that—but the thing is, these variations of "sterilized" overcoming-fears examples are everywhere.

I mean, I just made one. (This is getting strangely meta but I'm going to go with it.) I just claimed taking the occasional three-pointer in college was a wild risk. 

The truth is: at the time, it actually was! And yet, we all know that people who are truly good at basketball, the masters of the sport, the professionals, would not call a three-point shot a risk. They'd never label shooting a three as "overcoming fear." They would call shooting a three pointer: playing basketball.

So the question becomes: do you want to be a master at the game of life or do you want to be the equivalent of a so-so Center on an average team in the Patriot League with a decent hook shot but a terrible free throw percentage? (:

I'd wager Rumi would object to labeling the metaphorical occasional outside-of-your-range jumper as "growth." Rumi would likely say: burn your fear-based comfort zone to the ground. Devastate your expectations.

His poetry advocates for total destruction of mental limits and routines. Of breaking out of your self-made prison with an ax. Of falling, hard. Of escape. Of—even—dying before you die. And, to him, this is not just recommended, it's necessary in order to live a life of love.

Consider this Rumi poem in full:


The way of love is not

a subtle argument.


The door there

is devastation.


Birds make great sky-circles

of their freedom.


How do they learn that?

They fall, and falling, 

they're given wings.

My favorite part of this poem is everything. :) I like how he equates love and freedom, a comparison we don't see often in our possession-obsessed "put a ring on it" culture. I like how he points to animals—consistent teachers on the path to becoming more connected to the universe.

And, my favorite line: The door there is devastation. I spoke of the importance of unlearning a few letters back, referencing Yoda's quote, "You must unlearn what you have learned." And I still believe unlearning—essentially, breaking free from the lies you've been fed your whole life— is an integral step to freedom, yet, maybe "unlearning" is too academic a word for the experience. 

"Unlearn" can summon, perhaps, the image of erasing a chalkboard. In my personal experience, Rumi's word choice is more apt for this process:devastation of the old way of thinking. So much so that you can't fathom going back; you can't return to your house of fears if you've burned it down.

It's not merely a step outside of fear, it's changing your entire perception of how you view the world—seeing your life through a new lens. A love-based lens rather than a fear-based lens. In Byron Katie's book Loving What Is she writes:

"You're either believing your thoughts or questioning them. There's no other choice."

Rumi's poetry often gets at the power of questioning—and destroying—tangled, fear-based thoughts, and then, even, transcending thought and acting not on thinking but on feeling

Do birds go to class where they learn the intricate aerodynamics of flight? Of course not. They fall, and falling, they're given wings.

This next quote comes from the beginning of a Rumi poem called Quietness:

Inside this new love, die.

Your way begins on the other side.

Become the sky.

Take an ax to the prison wall.


I (briefly) referenced the concept of "the other side" last week, referring to the other side of pain. I believe in the possibility of a joyful, love-filled, and peaceful life, and I believe the way there almost always requires utter devastation of old world views. Dying before you die. Rising from the ashes.

Not only 13th-century poets believe this. Price Pritchett, business advisor and author, puts it like this:

"The real limits won't box you in, but the false ones you're carrying around in your mind are a self-imposed prison. So how do you break out of jail? Through surrender. You have to forfeit some of your old beliefs and sacrifice some of those 'sensible thinking patterns.'"

And writer James Baldwin says:

"Any real change implies the breakup of the world as one has always known it, the loss of all that gave one an identity, the end of safety."

Take an ax to the prison wall. 

The good news is after you burn down your old house (likely built on the shaky foundation of fear anyway), you can rebuild it exactly as you desire. A house on rock, not a house on sand.

At that point, you're on the other side of the game. So if anyone ever yelled at you: "Get back in the paint!" You could look at them and say, "What paint?"

with Love and with Light, 


p.s. I recommend Loving What Is especially if you're trying to heal (or strengthen) relationships. It provides awesome tools for letting go of expectations, and asks you to actively participate in your own healing. Byron Katie calls it "The Work" which is basically a framework for intense personal inquiry. She says, "Love is so big that you can die in it—die of self and be fully consumed in it. It's what you are, and it will have all of you back to itself again." She also bluntly calls out a lot of people for clinging to damaging thought patterns (the book contains interviews with people upset by various things). In her opinion, suffering is optional. (Note: as with all books, take what resonates and leave the rest.)

p.p.s. You can read the full Quietness poem here

Transmute. | rejoyce letters, vol. 12


Hi Friend, 

I recently experienced the David Bowie exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum, and ever since, I can't stop thinking about ch-ch-ch-ch-changes. (:

Bowie was an artist who clearly had no interest in stagnation. When I think about change, this quote by writer Anaïs Nin comes to mind:

"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death. Living never wore me out so much as the effort not to live."

I love that. It reminds us our lives are not unlike the lives of flowers: ever-changing. And to resist change is, truly, to resist life. Your cells are constantly reproducing and replacing themselves. Can you imagine a rose refusing to bloom? Or a rose refusing to wilt when its season of blossoming is completed?

Changing is living. I think we—as human beings—have a special gift, though: the ability not only to change and to grow, like a kitten into a cat, but to transform and transmute, like a caterpillar into a butterfly.

"Transmute" is not a commonly used word (if you're a spiritual book junkie like me, though, you see it everywherehaha), so here's the definition:

transmute: verb. to change or alter in form, appearance, or nature especially to a higher form.  

It's often used when referring to alchemists, legendary people who transmuted base metals into gold.

One famous story of transmutation is Jesus's first miracle, turning water into wine at a wedding in Cana.

As a child, I was always less than impressed by this wedding story. Partially because I didn't drink wine as a child. And partially because it seems a rather blasé miracle debut, no? I mean, we're talking about the dude who we all know is going to rise from the dead later in the book, you guys, so why is the pastor preaching on this wine thing, yet again? (Little me could be quite judgey and spent most of Church doodling and passing notes.) (No offense, JC, you have an open invite to any party I ever throw.)

Now that I've learned the benefit of reading the Bible symbolically instead of literally, I can't believe how much this story moves me.

[Aside: One unexpected side effect of my meditative practice and spiritual work is Bible stories that were pounded into my head as a child are suddenly imbued with symbolic meaning. Trust me, no one is more surprised by this than me.]

Is there anything more inspiring than taking something so ordinary and prevalent and transforming it into something so divine—not average wine, the best wine, and after everyone else had assumed the party was over—and doing this with nothing but the power within you? 

When I think of something that is literally everywhere, I think of water. Look at a map of the world, the clouds in the sky. When I think of something that is energetically everywhere, I think of pain. Pain, like water, presents in many forms—physically, emotionally, mentally—and can range from discomfort to agony, but is, at its core, suffering. 

Most people, consciously or subconsciously, kind of pass their pain around, and then pass it down, from generation to generation. We all know this. We all know children who play out the exact same struggles as their parents. We might even be those children. But what if we didn't have to be? What if we could transmute? 

French philosopher, activist, and mystic Simone Weil puts it like this:

"Pain and suffering are a kind of currency passed from hand to hand until they reach someone who receives them and who does not pass them on."

That quote is taped to my door. We often hear of the importance of paying forward acts of kindness—and obviously I think that's great—but I think the sister concept of not passing on your pain is wildly underrated. A co-worker once told me when I worked in corporate: "Don't make others miserable just because you're having a miserable work day." 

But it becomes tough—because then, what to do with the pain? Most of us would like to run from it, hide from it, or dispose of it somehow, and ASAP. Weil provides an alternative:

"We must not wish for the disappearance of our troubles, but for the grace to transform them."

Obviously, transmutation might not be easy. Spiritual growth can hurt; refining gold takes fire. But we possess more power to persevere than we generally give ourselves credit for. And on the other side—the other side of sitting with, feeling, and receiving pain and suffering without passing them on—are states of being so astonishing they're irreducible to words. (I feel I've experienced very brief flashes of these states. "Peace" and "joy" probably come closest to describing them. A peace, as Paul says, that surpasses all understanding.)

But you cannot get to the other side if you spend your life running away from and avoiding pain. As Rumi reminds us: 

"If you are irritated by every rub—how will your mirror be polished?"

This is what I'm beginning to believe: To resist change is to die. To change is to live. And to transmute is to live consciously. To live with intention. To live in a higher form.

Why drink a life of water when you could drink a life of wine?

Why settle for a life of base metals when you could be living a life of gold?

You are the alchemist. And the party isn't over.

with Love and with Light, 


p.s. David Bowie went through a serious third eye phase. Shout out to the sixth chakra! Rest peacefully, Ziggy Stardust.

p.p.s. Book rec this week is Anaïs Nin's Henry and JuneOnly read this if you want to read about lots and lots of sex. It's extremely sensual (and it's nonfiction, which is wild). It's also beautifully written and Anaïs, as expected, delivers mind-blowing quotes.

p.p.p.s. "Many of us spend our whole lives running from feeling with the mistaken belief that you cannot bear the pain. But you have already borne the pain. What you have not done is feel all you are beyond the pain." —Bartholomew

Essential. | rejoyce letters, vol. 11

Hi Friend,

Last week I wrote about the power of not clinging—physically, emotionally, or energetically. I believe creating space in your life (i.e. letting go) is one of the most empowering things you can do. I know I still have plenty to release, and I'll likely write more on that in the future.

And yet...the question that comes out of so much letting go is: what to do with all the space? Is there anything we can hold on to?

I have days where it seems I have let go of so much that I feel a scary, unsettling way. I mean, right now, I'm 29 years old and I don't have a job and I don't have kids. And I'm not job searching and I'm not trying to have kids. Those facts, alone, leave me "outside" of "normal" society. Some days, it feels I could float into the air like an aimless balloon and drift away.

I was recently at a baby shower and my kind, pregnant friend was introducing me and another friend to someone else. 

She said, "This is Laura, she lives in Boston and works in pharmaceuticals. And this is Joyce. She lives in Brooklyn and is a stay at home...a stay at home Joyce."

I laughed, of course. It is a humbling way to be introduced—humbling in a healthy way. Humbling the way standing barefoot on the seashore lost in the immensity of the roaring ocean is humbling. Or standing outside, neck back, throat exposed, inhaling the infinite night sky. 

Maybe everything truly beautiful is humbling. 

It makes you want to shed your ego like a dead snakeskin and connect with something bigger—and that's where I am now, exploring what there is to connect to when you aren't connected to things "normal" society expects.

Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote in his book Meditations:

"24. 'If you seek tranquility, do less.' Or (more accurately) do what's essential—what the logos of social being requires, and in the requisite way. Which brings a double satisfaction: to do less, better.

Because most of what we say and do is not essential. If you can eliminate it, you'll have more time, and more tranquility. Ask yourself every moment, 'Is this necessary?'

But we need to eliminate unnecessary assumptions as well. To eliminate the unnecessary actions that follow."

Aurelius' question, "Is this necessary?" is an excellent gauge to help eliminate extraneous actions, words, and thought patterns. Is it necessary to share that embarrassing story about a friend? Is it necessary to revisit that mistake you made five years ago? Is it necessary to complain? Is it necessary to scroll through the comprehensive history of your friend's friend's dog's Instagram account at one in the morning? 

It's a simple yet profound tool to continue the letting go process and practice aparigraha or non-grasping. Or, to put it less eloquently: to cut the bullshit. 

Yet I appreciate Aurelius isn't advocating for doing nothing. He isn't encouraging sedentary, boring lives. He tells us to do what's essentialwhich immediately made me think of this quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's book, The Little Prince (which I coincidentally gifted at the aforementioned baby shower): 

"One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eye."

So: what is essential? 

Obviously, there's a realist take on what's necessary to stay alive—food, water, sleep. But I'd posit that is not what Saint-Expuréy and Aurelius are getting at. 

Let's operate under the assumption we're doing basic necessary actions adequately in order to have made it this long. And, likely, you could eat, drink, and sleep exactly as you are right now and continue surviving for years. I am in the fortunate position of not being too interested in navigating how to survive—I want to know how to live. Or, perhaps even, how to thrive

Personally, I believe making that jump (from surviving to thriving) requires extensive inner reflection and exploration, which often pushes us toward connecting with what is essential.

Rumi says:

"The animal part of us that wants more and more

flares and dies, feeds and sleeps.

But there is an essence inside variability

always quivering with the joy of returning

to the origin.

Live inside that ray."

He's reminding us: we are more than beastly instincts; we can transcend our animal tendencies. An essence inside variability. 

[Aside: the words essential and essence both have the same Latin root, esse, which means "to be."]

I recently watched a documentary that began with this anecdote: a man on his death bed said to his wife:

"Remember this always: each morning, the moment you take your head off the pillow, you have all you need."

Maybe we already have what is necessary. Maybe the essential—the "something bigger" many of us long to connect to—is already within us.

Live inside that ray.

And if you can't feel that ray, that essence inside variability, if you feel you don't have everything you need, a kind reminder: there's nothing you need to get outside of yourself to feel it; it's an inside job. Rumi:

"Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it."

It is an ongoing process, connecting to the essential; a constant practice to feel the essence inside variability. 

Meditating helps me feel the ray within—and gazing at the vast ocean or the infinite night sky helps me feel it, too. And in these precious moments of inner connection it becomes crystal clear to me that I could never drift away aimlessly, because I am not merely connected to the essential—I am essential.

with Love and with Light, 


Clinging. | rejoyce letters, vol. 10

Hi Friend, 

I had a different letter written for this week. It was "done," contained three lovely Rumi quotes, a Tolstoy gem, and even led with a funny anecdote from my childhood. 

And, yet, I could feel it wasn't quite right; it lacked clarity and authenticity. But I was so attached to different pieces of it—the story, the quotes, the specific book recommendation—that, despite its shortcomings, I tried to force it to work. I edited it for hours until I finally realized I was doing with it what I am guilty of doing in many areas of my life: clinging. 

When we cling to things—possessions, people, even ideas—we are sending out some doubt-filled energy into the Universe. 

We are, essentially, subconsciously saying: I need to hoard this. I live in a world of lack. If I can't hold on to this money or this friend or this idea—what will I do? There isn't enough for me. I am surrounded by scarcity.

This is a completely fear-based mindset, and one, I admit, I find myself occupying more often than I'd wish. (Me, on Saturday: But if I don't send this exact letter, even though it's not working, then what will I possibly write about??? as if I had entirely exhausted all topics worth contemplating in nine weeks. Lol.)

By clinging, I was ignoring the abundance surrounding me.

Right after college, my roommate and I would throw parties in our Madison, Wisconsin apartment. They were very classy: cheap beer, cheap liquor, loud music. We even had special plastic shot glasses made exclusively for jägerbombs. I'm talking unprecedented levels of sophistication, you guys. (:

When we first started hosting, we'd get very worked up about who was or wasn't going to attend (at least, I can't speak for her, but I certainly did). We worked at this huge tech company with tons of young people right out of college—tons of people who would attend exactly this type of party all weekend. But—would they come to our party? What if no one came? What would that say about us?

In fact, for our first couple parties, I'd spend the first hour or so, you know, ignoring the people who did come and getting all worked up about who wasn't there, sending out frantic, tipsy texts from my Blackberry. (#hostessoftheyear)

The parties got a lot more fun when we loosened our metaphorical grip—when we committed to the idea: We are going to have fun tonight no matter who comes. (I know it sounds cheesy—but it's true and it's likely applicable in more areas of your life than you currently realize.) When we, in short, let go.

Because it's almost impossible to have a fun party when you're clinging to these expectations: Everyone (we choose) must come. And everyone must have fun.

I'm using this example because I think it illustrates energetically clinging well—an area I'm working on. I think of energetically clinging like this: Getting so emotionally caught up in what "should" be that I have no space to appreciate what is. 

Energetically clinging is a bit more difficult to express than the classic example of possessiveness: clinging to objects. 

If you find yourself opening overstuffed drawers of decades-old tee shirts, I recommend the popular book by Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. It's easy to mock. In fact, I was at a recent party where people were excessively making fun of it. (There were also no jägerbombs, though, so can it really be called a party? ;) Jk.) But I think the book is genius, especially the first half, entirely dedicated to discarding possessions. I.e. Letting shit go. 

Clearing physical clutter can lead to releasing mental clutter. For example, for years, I harbored the vague notion I might get my MBA. It seemed reasonable and respectable, and is a good path for many. However, when I was doing the Marie Kondo method on my books about five years ago, I was all: "Accounting book—donate! Economics book—donate! Management theory—donate! The Great Gatsby—I need multiple copies!" The process made me instantly and peacefully realize I'd never be applying to Business school.

I've gotten pretty good at not clinging to possessions (downsizing to an NYC apartment helped even more), but I still find myself mentally and emotionally clinging to people and ideas and expectations; harboring the notion that I don't have enough friends or enough ideas or enough inspiration in my life. Since I often have this mentality of lack, a Rumi poem called The Road Home really struck me. 

Here's the beginning: 

"An ant hurries along a threshing floor

with its wheat grain, moving between huge stacks

of wheat, not knowing the abundance

all around. It thinks its one grain

is all there is to love."

I never imagined I could so profoundly identify with an ant. But how can I avoid this fear-based mindset of lack and transition into the love-based mindset of abundance? In short: by letting go.

There is a beautiful Sanskrit word, aparigraha, which means non-possessiveness or non-grasping. In addition to deepening my meditation practice, I am enjoying this ten-minute Aparigraha yoga sequence a few times a week to help me let go. 

I also have the joy of living with two lovely creatures who constantly remind me of the importance of not clinging, my cats, Tywin and Arya. The thing with my cats—which is difficult for me, somewhat of a natural clinger—is if you try to force them to cuddle with you, if you pick them up and put them in your lap, they will, 999 out of 1000 times, jump off your lap and run the hell away from you. This isn't hyperbolic, I've actually tried a thousand times. ;)

Yet, if I just relax around my apartment, my cats will occasionally jump into my lap and purr for hours. It is bliss; only a fire could make me move. 

So, these animals help me perfectly convey the beauty of not clinging: When you energetically let go of expectations, you create space in your life so wonders can effortlessly come to you.

with Love and with Light, 


p.s. It is also important not to cling to the past. I realize this is a bit mainstream (haha), but if you really listen to Frozen's Let It Go lyrics, they're spot on. (And, debatably, about spiritual awakening. :) I mean: "And the fears that once controlled me, can't get to me at all.") (I saw Frozen on Broadway with my sister in April and it's breathtaking.)

p.p.s. Another beautiful show tune about spiritual awakening is Wicked's Defying Gravity. I don't consider that one up for debate. "Too late for second-guessing / Too late to go back to sleep / It's time to trust my instincts, close my eyes and leap."

p.p.p.s. We are most powerful by what we put down.