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"Attending to the Fullness of Life"

Man standing at a counter being helped by a customer service representative
A recent delight: Mark getting his new ID card for his upcoming adjunct faculty role

As I've been prepping for our January #SharedDelightsGrow practice, serendipity arose in the form of an email about Ross Gay's conversation with James Shaheen and Sharon Salzberg on Tricycle's Life As It Is podcast arriving in my inbox. Entitled Attending to the Fullness of Life, James, Sharon, and Ross discuss this practice that has now been shared with the world in two books, The Book of Delights (2019) and The Book of (More) Delights (2023). Ross also has a beautiful book that was published between these two, Inciting Joy (2022), which is informed by his delights practice. If it's not clear, I am a FAN of Ross Gay's work, and he continues to help me think about the connection between delight and joy.

What's With You and Delight and Joy?

I get asked on the regular about my study and/or practice of subjects that might be categorized in the Western culture in which I live and work as silly or non-substantive or not serious or superfluous, or nice-to-have-not-must-have. Basically, just about every aspect of what I spend my time doing now is regularly challenged by somebody who thinks or feels that I've abandoned serious (worthwhile?) work, like more traditional lawyering (whatever that is), for non-serious work, like helping people attend to their well-being and better understand and communicate across differences. The undertone is akin to, "Awwww... aren't you cute?!" and sometimes closer to "What happened to you?!".

I also notice that people who are working with us, like members of The Inner Work of Judging, Cohort 1, often get asked questions like, "You're not stressed anymore, right, because you're in that Thought Kitchen program?" or "Oh, I thought you'd be smiling all the time since you're in that program about being happy."

Here's the thing, though-- the practices support me in paying attention to all of the things, including the pleasant as well as the unpleasant. In the words of Ross, I'm just trying to look at everything.

He elaborated in his conversation with James and Sharon:

James Shaheen: You know, you mentioned paying attention, "I'm just paying attention," and I loved it when you wrote you're not being optimistic, you're just paying attention. So do you think delight has shaped or even restructured how you pay attention?

Ross Gay: Absolutely. Yeah, for sure. Because there's all these things that I feel like just by doing this practice, I've gathered a kind of reservoir of things that now I know, "Oh, that's happening. That delights me," as opposed to it's just happening. I feel like it is a thing that I'm sort of like, "oh yeah, that's another thing that I love actually." Something like that. That's one of the things that I found myself arguing a bit with the delights as this kind of optimistic practice in part because I'm sort of like, one, in this practice, I don't mean to diminish the sort of fullness of life, the full complicatedness of life. But what I do mean to do is to attend very fully. That's my hope. And by attending very fully, it also means I'm attending to what is astonishingly beautiful. So that kind of thing of like, "oh, you're looking on the bright side of things," I say, "I'm not looking at the bright side of things, I'm just trying to look at everything." You know, I'm trying to look at everything. I'm very capable of looking at what's miserable.

James Shaheen: Well, that's kind of a default. I mean, that's not hard.

Ross Gay: Yeah, that's not hard.

To hear the entire interview, which is well worth the listen, click here.

Why Might You Want to Participate in January's #SharedDelightsGrow Practice?

One of my intentions for January's #SharedDelightsGrow practice is that we'll collectively get in some reps of looking at everything, the delightful as well the miserable, in the supportive envirnonment of our Thought Kitchen sangha.

My lived experience helps me understand that I am more inclined to notice the difficult while the delightful may pass right on by, which means I'm only taking in a portion of what's happening around me. By engaging with the delights practice, I am trying to look at everything by attending more fully to all that is arising around and within me. My lived experience also tells me that I'm more likely to continue practicing if I'm surrounded by others who are also engaging in this practice.

If this is landing for you, I hope you'll seriously consider my invitation to join this practice.

The Invitation to Practice

Each day, January 1 through 31, I am going to note a delight and share it on a thread in our Kitchen Forum. It may be a photo, short note, fuller note, or essayette.

During the week of December 25, I'll email onboarding instructions to anybody who has completed this form, which lets me know they're interested in joining the January 2024 #SharedDelightsGrow practice.

Then, on January 1, we'll begin sharing our delights on the thread in the Kitchen Forum, and when February 1 rolls around, we'll trust what is (or isn't) emerging and decide if we'd like to continue or not.

A deep bow of gratitude to everyone who has already signed up for the #SharedDelightsGrow practice, and I hope that anyone who is feeling a spark of curiosity sings out in the comments and/or signs up to join us.

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1 Comment

Sheila Spremulli
Sheila Spremulli
Dec 20, 2023

Hi Jill,

In the Prenatal Theseus and the TRANSITus LAByrinth Mythologium 2023 presentation I gave last July, I quote some of the following quote from Brad Blanton : "When we are willing to experience our anger and raise hell with others, our anger disappears or changes form after a period of heated exchange. When we begin to acknowledge the unacknowledged aggression and repressed anger, it no longer runs our lives.  Usually, a few other unacknowledged emotions show up too. In fact, there are always other feelings underneath the anger. Grief may show up next. As it turns out, there is usually a fund of unacknowledged joy buried under the unacknowledged anger and grief. The joy is buried so deep,…

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