Sample text for All the joy you can stand : 101 sacred power principles for making joy real in your life / Debrena Jackson Gandy.

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Counter In many ways, this book is a sequel to my first, Sacred Pampering Principles: An African-American Woman's Guide to Self-Care and Inner Renewal. It is a spiritual synthesis of my "learnings," insights, peaks, valleys, and triumphs and challenges on the journey to finding and expressing my own joy and sacred power.

I teach, speak, and write about joy, peace, power, ease, and grace because I am learning to bring them more fully into my own life, not because I have mastered them. And to the degree that I have been able to make them a reality in my life, part of my life's work is helping other women make them realities in their lives also.

Over these past few years, especially since becoming a national author, I've been striving to fulfill a pact I made with myself and God -- to practice what I teach, to have my life represent a possibility of "having it all" with ease and grace. I didn't just want to write about it. I wanted to live it, using my life as the testing ground, the practice field, the living laboratory.

Over the course of the personal self-care journey that led up to my writing Sacred Pampering Principles, I sought to live-the-talk, walk-the-walk, and integrate into my life and spirit what evolved into the 24 sacred pampering principles that became the foundation of this first book. As each of these principles started to take root and become real in my life, I could feel myself starting to change -- in a very, very good way. I could feel something starting to percolate and bubble up from a place deep down inside of me, something that felt like it had been trapped and held captive for a long, long time.

I've come to realize on my spiritual path that sacred pampering is a mind-set, a new paradigm, and a way of life, not just something I do. Yes, when I first started down the sacred pampering path, I thought pampering was about taking more bubble baths and treating myself to more pedicures, massages, and facials. I thought it was about eating more nutritiously, being sure I got my exercise, making "me time" a priority, and doing more activities that I really liked. At that time in my life, I thought pampering and self-care was only about outer grooming and doing a better job taking care of my body. I've come to realize that this is a very small slice of it, but by no means all of it. Sacred pampering means something much more, much deeper. It means living life from a place and in a way that nourishes and renews your mind, body, and spirit ongoingly.

Sacred pampering, as I define it, is about (1) aligning your life with what brings you joy; (2) choosing to do what energizes and renews you; and (3) doing what nurtures and fortifies your mind, body, and spirit. Sacred means "important, highly valued, worthy of reverence and respect." So sacred pampering is about honoring and practicing self-care first, instead of last or least.

Little by little on my journey, I discovered that as I made sacred pampering a way of life and as I started aligning my actions, interactions, choices, and behavior with what brought me joy, I started triggering a release of power from within that seemed to have been buried. I was becoming more and more aware of a deep inner reserve of power that I didn't even know was there. I was coming to realize that pampering was but the beginning of the journey, not the final destination.

Making sacred pampering an integral part of how I live and move through life has not been easy, because it has required personal transformation. I've had to roll up my sleeves to do some serious spiritual and emotional housecleaning. I've had to clean out old beliefs, behaviors, and words, and get rid of the clutter, chaos, confusion, and stinkin' thinkin' that lingered in the hard-to-reach nooks and crannies of my life. Making the shift from self-care last to embodying a self-care first approach to living has required that I overhaul and reshape how I use my energy, and how I see my life, myself, and my body. Making sacred pampering real in my life completed just the first phase of my personal transformation process. The next part of the process involved my more fully accessing, channeling, and expressing the inner power that was itching to be released and set free.

And I wasn't alone. As I read letter after letter and card after card sent from readers of Sacred Pampering Principles from all across the country, other women shared that they, too, were experiencing something similar -- a bubbling up of something inside as they started internalizing and applying the sacred pampering principles to their lives. As they began to integrate the principles, they, too, began to experience this awakening of a deeper inner power and inner joy.

It was at the fifth session of the Annual African-American Women's Advance (not retreat) in 1998, For Sisters Only: Sharing, Healing and Renewal, for which I am founder and executive director, that I finally made up my mind to write about this power and joy I was (re)discovering and beginning to set free. During the opening circle of introductions, I listened intently as each woman shared what compelled her to attend this transformational, all-sistahs event. I listened as a common theme began to emerge from this diverse cross-section of women who were attending from the local Seattle area and from cities across the country, and who ranged in age from 25 to 70. Women felt disconnected from their power and were hungry for reconnection. They came to the event with a spiritual thirst; they wanted to feed their spirits; they wanted to drill deep and tap into their well of sacred inner power and joy that they knew was there but didn't know how to fully reach. They came to the Advance hoping that this experience would help them reach it. It did then and continues to do so for the women who attend.

It was then and there, as I sat in the opening session of the Advance listening carefully to women share their stories of what brought them to this event, that I decided that my next book, the one you are now holding, would guide women on a journey of, one, accessing and expressing their sacred power, and two, of experiencing more real joy in their lives. I've learned that our sacred power naturally emerges when we reconnect and get in synch with the positive energy force of life. Our sacred power is divine power that seeks to be expressed -- and indeed, must be expressed if we want to experience a more deeply fulfilling life.

My hope is that as you journey through the pages of this book you will  begin to understand what is at the essence of being able to manifest the desires of your heart, and you will get clear on what has been getting in your way. You will begin to see joy as the natural expression of your spirit, and power as your ability to affect and shape yourself and your reality.

Remember this: you were created to play big, not small. Playing big is your innate and inherent right -- your birthright. All the Joy You Can Stand introduces you to dimensions of your joy and sacred power that, until now, may have been partially hidden, buried, or eluding you. All the Joy You Can Stand invites you to blow the lid off, to play bigger and to more fully step into your joy, your power, and your greatness.

God heaps on you all the joy you can stand, but we keep giving God an itsy-bitsy cup to fill. So if you want more but aren't experiencing and receiving more, it's you limiting you, not God limiting you. I invite you to trade in your cup for a bucket.

I pray that you accept my invitation.

Library of Congress subject headings for this publication: African American women Religious life, African American women Conduct of life