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When my friend, Cindy, wrote “What’s sparking joy?” on her Blog, Yarnstead, she asked the question:  “So, how to get back to that top ten, how to recapture the focus I came back from Alaska with last year?”

Good question!  So much on my mind.  I wanted to call her for coffee and chat, I expected her to be at Saturday service at FUS but instead, days later, I write.

I know, I know. Yes, yes!  I know.  How?  And not just how to recapture the focus for sparking joy, but also, how to hold focus in the midst of whirling chaos.  How to recall and return to it when the immediate fires are put out?  How not to dissipate that wonderful energy on those immediate fire that inevitably flare up.

Yes, good question.

Travel inspires clarity and focus.  Leading up to an adventure, somewhat for months, usually for weeks and definitely for the days before leaving, focus and energy narrow to laser consistency.   Planning, preparing, packing.  By the day we leave, I am probably at my peak of future focus.  And the object is utterly clear.  Then, the focus shifts from future to present.  Absorbing what is in front of us every day, walking out the plan and improvising.  Yes, there is still some future focus but it is immediate future — catching planes, reading train schedules, noting the days museums are closed, nap times, and finding restaurants.

Traveling is a time of dedicated clarity.  And I’ve felt this way during almost any kind of travel—going to NYC for Thanksgiving, Mexico for the beach and China for Julia.  The clarity is always palpable.

While traveling, I wonder and ponder and imagine.  I can imagine a larger chunk of my life better spent.  How would I craft this life of mine if I could maintain such precise focus for my daily  round?  And I daydream.  I resolve to simplify my life, to declutter all the time wasters, daily debris and nonessential tasks and apply my laser travel focus to my current goals.

Whoa, if I could only do that . . . . Whoa!

Stepping onto the plane to Madison, I resolved to turn my attention to three tasks:  developing Julia’s next school year as a year of travel for the two of us, working a newish writing project and deciding whether to re-commit to teaching mindfulness.  These goals are somewhat inter-related and could become more so if I dive deeper into them.  On the most practical level, I would rejoin the gym the week we got home and work out when Julia was in therapy three afternoons a week, thereby repairing any backsliding resulting from vacationing.

And then, we came home.  Instead of anything I imagined, time and energy was  . . . dare I say, what it felt like . . . wasted . . . on cutting down my terrace gardens and then moving many, many plants to other garden beds and scrambling to get Julia some transitional therapy and finding new therapy opportunities for her.  Both of these tasks are not yet completed and are time and energy suckers.

And that energy bounce I get at homecoming is dissipated.

Home for five weeks, I finally spent a few hours this morning on our travel year.  I did not get back to the gym until school began and I’ve hardly thought about the writing project and teaching.

What’s more, for awhile, I’ve tried to talk myself into making the best of it all.  I imagined I could spark my joy because, after all, I was working in my gardens which is my favorite practice and I was meeting with some new and interesting people as I was reorganizing Julia’s therapy life.  That is, until I had to admit that rearranging my gardens or Julia’s therapy life was not what I wanted to be doing. I wanted the routine I had already chosen to remain in place while I decided how to radically change life.

And yes, I am spoiled and privileged. I came home from something fabulous to food, shelter and friends!  Why am I whining for more?   And, I had the energy to deal with the immediate fires that presented.

But the original question—how do I get back to that returning focus?—is still nagging.  The only proposal I can bring to it right now is my practice. It is my sitting practice.  My gardening.  The practice of returning to the beginning, to begin again, to take a new breath.  To return.  And to return again.  To weed and to plant again.

What of that marvelous burst of clarity and energy?

I don’t know. Is practice still the answer?  At least, an answer.

At least, for now.

Cindy, thoughts?