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,