I am sitting at Afrikando, a chic West African restaurant in Seattle on a Monday evening in January 1999, enjoying my monthly dinner and dialogue with my mentor, Miss Maxine, a bodacious and sassy 70-year-young wise woman. Miss Maxine and I convene on the third Monday of each month for what I call our Wisdom Circle. The Wisdom Circle is my opportunity to "sit at the feet" of one of my elders and ask questions about life, relationships, marriage, sex, money, raising kids -- whatever my heart desires. As my mentor, she helps guide, nurture, and prepare me as I mature deeper into womanhood, into wisdom, and into myself. She also acts as a sounding board for my ideas, projects, and aspirations.
This particular evening, I brought along the proposal draft of this book. I had been working on it for the previous couple of months and it was finally completed. I was very pleased with it. I wanted Miss Maxine to read it before I put the finishing touches on it and shipped it off to my literary agent.
After we had placed our dinner orders, I proudly slid the notebook containing the draft of my book proposal to her across the table. She put on her glasses and took her time carefully studying each line of the double-spaced, thirty-page proposal. Fifteen minutes later, she closed the notebook abruptly with a loud snap, took off her glasses, and leaned toward me across the table with an intense, penetrating look on her face. She asked, "So what is it that All the Joy You Can Stand
really provides for women? I'm still not sure after reading through your entire proposal."
I thought to myself, "What do you mean, still not sure?" I was caught off guard and a little taken aback, to say the least. I had expected to hear glowing compliments on how well the proposal was written, how descriptive the writing was, and how well it captured the message and intention of the book. Well, I should have known better. Miss Maxine doesn't play. She shoots straight from the hip. No holds barred. She then instructed me to answer her question using a metaphor.
She sat in silence waiting patiently as I looked down at the table, trying to gather my thoughts and develop a response. After a couple minutes of pondering her question, I looked up and explained, "What comes to mind is a river. Life moves with a flow and a rhythm to it like a river, and when we know how to go with the flow, our lives work." I went on, "I believe that all of us want our lives to work. We want to know how to go with the flow, but instead, many of us are swimming upstream against the current. Or we have gotten lost in a side stream somewhere, caught in an undertow, or the silt in our lives is weighing us down, muddying our vision, clogging our spiritual channels, and impeding our ability to flow."
"Yes! Go on, go on," Miss Maxine said excitedly. "Say more about the silt!" "Well," I said, pausing again as I struggled to find the words that would most clearly convey my thoughts, "silt is sand, dirt, rock, and mud that accumulates in the bottom of a river and clogs it up. Many of us have accumulated mental, emotional, and spiritual silt in our lives, and we don't even know it. Or if we do know it, we don't really know how to clean it out."
I was feeling it now. The words were starting to spill out of my mouth. I continued, "Our internal silt can take the form of denial; drama; struggle; not being true to ourselves; self-sabotage; self-doubt; and self-defeating thoughts of lack, limitation, and fear, while the external silt can take the form of toxic relationships, negative judgment, destructive criticism, psychic attacks from others, depletion of our spirits, invalidation, and physical or emotional abuse. This silt needs to be dredged, cleared out, and removed so that our lives can become clear and we can experience the flow again."
"Mmmmm. Very good, very good," Miss Maxine replied. I exhaled and leaned back in my chair, glad that my explanation had sufficed. Miss Maxine wasn't done with me yet, though. "What you just explained," she rebutted, "tells me why you are writing this book. Now tell me what All the Joy You Can Stand
is actually going to do for women." I furrowed my brow as I struggled to articulate what, up until a few minutes ago, I thought my proposal did quite well. Then slowly, like a morning fog lifting as the sun rises in the early morning hours, I began to really get it. "All the Joy You Can Stand
is a journey through 101 principles that help you dredge your life, remove the blocks, and clear away the silt so that you can experience more joy, free up your power, and get back in tune with your true self!" I exclaimed.
Leaning back in her chair with her hands clasped across her lap, Miss Maxine beamed a big smile of satisfaction and responded, "Bull's-eye, my dear! That's it! We must first dredge out our lives and clear away the silt before we can fully tap into, rediscover, and reclaim the power and joy that is trapped beneath the layers of sediment, rock, and mud. And All the Joy You Can Stand
gives us the dredging tools and the dredging process. Is this what I hear you saying?" she queried. "Yes, Miss Maxine, it is," I replied with new resolve and clarity. "It certainly, certainly is."
For me, this conversation with Miss Maxine shed a whole new light on the purpose of my book. And it also let me know that my proposal needed some more work. Yes, I thought to myself, this book is about recovering our joy and our power, freeing them up, and retrieving them from places where they've been buried for far too long. But first we must become aware of the silt and acknowledge that it exists.
Silt can be dangerous because it doesn't descend on you in one fell swoop--it kills your spirit quietly, gradually strangling and depleting it day after day. We quietly suffer from the symptoms and telltale signs of the silt creeping into our lives and sneaking up on us, a little bit here and a little bit there. On the outside, we may look like we're doing fine, while on the inside, we are hemorrhaging spiritually. For many of us, this erosion has left holes in our souls and a trail of other effects: loss of motivation, procrastination, loss of energy, loss of passion and enthusiasm; feeling unfocused, unfulfilled, disorganized, always on the go, off center; being unsettled, anxious, nervous, indecisive, irritable, fidgety, or feeling as if your life has become one rushed, hectic, stressful routine.All the Joy You Can Stand
offers a process for increasing the presence of joy in your life and the expression of your inner power in your love relationships, in your friendships, in your work, in your marriage, in your behavior and your choices, with your kids, in your business, with your finances, and in your body. You will learn how to increase your "joy tolerance" and your "joy threshold."
By the way, how much joy can you stand? I'd like to suggest that it's much, much more than you are currently experiencing. Having a fulfilled life is the Creator's intention for you and for me. We must remember: we are created with an innate right to fulfillment, joy, health, and prosperity. Manifesting a fulfilled life means making real a life that is complete, optimal, deep, and rich. Manifesting a fulfilled life is not a pie-in-the-sky notion or an exceptional reality to be experienced by a select few. We should know that it is available to each of us. The more joy you can stand, the more God gives you. The more joy you can stand, the more of it you experience.
I believe that if we knew what silt needed to be cleared in order to recover our joy and power, and if we knew how to clear it, we would. Now you have a process--a process for tapping into and actualizing more of your divine potential, more of Who You Really Are.
So sisterfriend, get out your shovel, your backpack, and your traveling shoes. I invite you to join me on this journey of coming into your power, to standing in it, speaking from it, feeling it, knowing it, and expressing it, ongoingly. It's time to do some dredging, some serious dredging that is long overdue. It's our time. It's your time. It's your appointed hour, and this silt has got to go!
Excerpted from All the Joy You Can Stand by Debrena Jackson Gandy, Author of Sacred Pampering Principles. Copyright © 2001 by Debrena Jackson Gandy. Excerpted by permission of Harmony, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.