Last night, for the first time, joy circle met in public, on the outdoor patio of a downtown restaurant. We were surrounded by tables of young hipsters (the men bearded, the women in cateye glasses and/or handmade purses), fairy lights, and fountains, the sky slowly darkening over the busy park opposite. We opened circle as we traditionally do, left hand palm up, right hand palm down, connecting palm to palm all around, breathing deeply together. I passed around the goddess cards and everyone selected an archetype to ponder while ordering bruschetta and wine and creme brulee.
Over and over again in joy circle we practice asking for what we want. We ask in great detail, stating our desires, casting our nets wide, writing our desires out, illustrating them. Ordering at a restaurant is such a perfect exercise in desire, and I did not hold back. The first thing that spoke to me was an Italian rosé that could only be ordered by the bottle.
Now, a few months back, I was invited to participate in an evening of stand-up comedy. I have never, ever, ever done anything resembling stand-up comedy in my life, but I felt challenged by the outrageousness of it, and I accepted. I spent the next few weeks feverishly researching stand-up, watching comedians perform as I worked out what I wanted to say and how to say it. In the course of this research I came across a wonderful comedian who was offering a seminar in LA on a weekend I would happen to be there anyway to give an herbal workshop. Not just a comedy seminar, a visualization/manifestation/spiritual service comedy seminar. I mean really. It was calling to me. And, it cost far more than my bank account could justify.
But I’ve done that to myself all of my life, shutting doors to the things I love, telling myself I can’t afford my own desires, that I don’t deserve my own dreams. It’s no way to live. I’ve learned that prosperity consciousness is all about saying ‘yes’ to everything the world offers, and then engaging my intelligence and joy to create the means. So that’s what I did. I inhaled, purchased the tickets, watched the credit card go through….exhaled, and then set about conjuring back the money.
The next morning a new customer phoned in an order for 40 soaps. Two days later, an email arrived out of the blue from a friend whose apartment I’d sublet years ago, asking for my address because he’d forgotten to return my deposit in 2009! In just three days, I made back three times what I spent on those tickets.
So now, sitting there with the rosé calling me, I knew I had to order the whole bottle, though I wasn’t sure how I’d pay for it. I asked for eight glasses and passed them around the table. We toasted to joy, and to changes. We laughed, and ate, and plotted. I fly to California today and, when I return, I’ll be off to graduate school. I won’t be able to continue facilitating joy circle the way I have been. Tonight was a birthday of sorts, the circle born anew as a cooperative group of co-leaders. And it was goodbye to what has been nearly a full year of this weekly discipline, holding space for whoever might show up, throwing myself bravely into the ring week after week.
So we toasted changes, and endings, and beginnings. We shared brags and desires. I looked around the table at this incredible group of shining faces, dear and inspiring and brilliant friends, and felt so filled by what has come about. Blessed, grateful, sustained.
There is an exercise we do in joy circle that I learned from Briana Schuck, and I think she learned it from Mama Gena. We had done it at our last gathering, a gathering that opened with nearly fifteen minutes of solid laughter. It’s called ‘Thank you, it’s true.” We sit in a circle, and someone goes into the middle. One by one, each person in the outer circle gives the person in the middle a sincere compliment. The person in the middle looks them in the eye and says “thank you, it’s true.”
There is a sort of alchemy that happens, something built from hearing lovely things about yourself and, instead of brushing them off, really drinking them in…and then being allowed to honestly appreciate the beauty of people you may have just met. It’s warming and sincere and it settles into you. It’s nourishment. It’s why herbs aren’t enough for me, why I believe we need the interplay of plant medicine and nourishment of a less tangible kind, the healing that comes from a strong circle, or an inner smile, or a circle dance.
As I sat at the table, lit by fairy lights and the glow of beloved faces, replete with good conversation and wine and creme brulee, the waiter–an obliging, cheerful, mustachioed gent–came around with the bills. He was wonderful, and we had made sure that he knew it. I pressed him to take a goddess card and he selected Ishtar: Defend your boundaries. Love yourself enough to say no to others’ demands on your time and energy. (particularly appropriate for someone so engaged in the service sector!)
I asked him for my bill. He winked and told me it was taken care of. (that whole bottle of rosé!)
Looking up from his card, he said “may I ask–how do you all know each other?”
And a chorus of voices from around the table–some barely out of their teens, some far older and wiser than I–voices I’d heard for the first time today, voices I’d known for years–spoke out: “It’s because of her!”
And I realized they were talking about me. Part of me wanted to deflect it, but that part is getting weaker every day. I let this moment sink in. These beautiful women, this incredible circle. I planted this seed. I wanted this community, and I created it for myself.
Thank you. It’s true.