There are moments where I wish life was wrapped up and under my control, but I also want openness and ease. I crave certainty, but I’m most alive when life unfolds in messy and beautiful ways.
Like many people, I hope for a quick fix — a magic pill that lets me leap over difficult circumstances. This is the craving of my small mind. When I listen to the big mind of my heart, I find wisdom: I only grow if I do the hard, honest work, knowing I’ll begin again and again.
People ask me about my photography. They inquire about necessary equipment for beautiful bokeh or quick tips for stunning images. My response is bare bones: watch light, slow down, pay attention, try new things, and make mistakes. It’s not about the equipment; it’s about how we see the world. Beneath these questions, I hear the longing of our small minds: If it’s about the equipment, I have a quick fix; I have an easy path. But photography requires time, patience, and commitment. A new camera doesn’t make art and beauty. That’s supplied by our souls.
When I teach meditation, I have people sit in chairs. No cushion needed, just a chair. There are no perfect conditions for mindfulness. We sabotage ourselves by thinking change must be grand or circumstances must be perfect. There is great gain in a 3-breath pause. Regular meditation, for just five minutes, creates a clearing. The practice: show up, be present with honesty and gentleness, and start again when needed. No quick fixes in meditation. No quick fixes in life.
During my time in academia — working long hours, feeling important yet equally feeling unworthy — I focused on equipment. I bought new books. I searched for the perfect floor rug, serving bowl, or colorful scarf. I used multi-stage, expensive skin lotions. I longed for new camera lenses. Yet this external focus removed me from what I most needed: self-kindness, connection with my inner compass, and space to listen inward.
My current life is less complex. With simplification, I gain clarity: It’s not about the camera, it’s about how I see. It’s not about the clothes, it’s about how I feel inside. It’s not about the meditation bench, it’s about how I stay with myself: stay as I would with a close friend. We often seek externally that which is only found internally. A contented life is not about equipment or circumstances. A contented life is built brick by brick from the inside out. Each day I remind myself to slow down, pay attention, and be kind; to start exactly where I am; to trust that everything I need is already inside of me.
Joy Jordan is both a teacher and student of mindfulness in Appleton, WI. She lives, teaches, writes and photographs with a curious mind and an open heart. You can find her at BornJoy.com.