This is what joy feels like

5 airports and 3 countries in 32 hours. I’m bone-weary, and still not home. Home nowadays is the little Bedouin town of Dahab on Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, and there’s still a 90-minute drive through the rocky desert to get there. But first, I’m treating myself to a weekend intermission at a beach resort in Sharm El Sheikh.  

I spent July in the US to get vaccinated and purge a few things left in storage. I dined with friends, hiked in the Santa Fe mountains, and relished in the small luxuries like clothes dryers, garbage disposals and well-stocked grocery stores. People asked me how it felt to be back in America; it was familiar and comfortable, like a well-worn pair of jeans. And yet. I was ready to be gone again.

This morning I roused my jet-lagged brain with a swim in the crystal water of the Red Sea. As I write to you with my computer on my lap, I witness the visual silence where sea-dark meets the faded blue of steam and sky; the humidity hides the Saudi coast from view, just as the sounds of pop Egyptian music and rapid-tongued Russian tourists mask the gentle roar of the waves. Resort vacations aren’t my kind of thing, I think. And yet.  

Chest and throat tighten. Heart warms and expands far beyond my body, to the point of pain. My eyes are wet with tears, and I’m smiling. Such strange, contradictory signals… what is this? Ahh, yes. This is what joy feels like.

People ask me why I’ve chosen to live in this part of the world, and Dahab in particular. “I can play outside,” I reply, thinking of my daily swims and beach walks and yacht outings and biking up the coast to snorkel at Blue Hole. I love the quirks and beauty of it all: packs of goats roam freely through the town; the neighbor’s camel pokes his head above the yard wall to watch the cars go by; the little brown boys do flips into the water; the earth-rust moon rises over Saudi Arabia as the call to prayer calls us back, over and over again, to what is most important.  

Or perhaps it’s less about what I see and do, and more about the energy of this ancient land: a land of pharaohs, the sun god Ra, and Exodus. I felt the same full-body YES in Israel, which is only a day’s drive away. Just up the road is Mount Catherine, where many scholars believe Moses received God’s message on stone tablets. Over five thousand years have witnessed polytheist and Abrahamic religions here, their followers worshipping the same Ground of Being in their own ways, fertilizing and drenching this arid landscape of rock, sea and sky with their faith.

Sure, there’s plenty I don’t like: the garbage, the poor treatment of stray cats and dogs, the lack of modern conveniences. Once I caught sight of my next-door neighbor slaughtering a protesting goat, its blood draining into a trough. And yet. This is Life, pulsing, raw and real, not masked and polished and subdued by western civilization. Compared to the authentic energy here, the developed West feels flat and desaturated, like an aging photograph. Perhaps the Light is felt more strongly in contrast to darkness, without the average muddying of grey.

My life isn’t right for most people, but it’s right for me. Joy is a constant undercurrent nowadays, bubbling to the surface at random times; simply walking down the street in my Bedouin neighborhood can surface an open-hearted smile.

I’ve exchanged cerebral consulting for coaching disruptive entrepreneurs, helping them create authentic, impactful lives and businesses. The joy I feel in every 1:1 conversation tells me that yes, I’m in alignment; I’m allowing that which wants to be born through me.  

Joy happens when we find our particular spot in the tapestry of this world, deepening our roots and allowing life force to flow through and between us.

Have you felt joy lately? The sensations of joy are the breadcrumbs that lead us back home to ourselves… the home that’s always there deep within us, but perhaps covered with the rubble of should’s and expectations and assumptions about who we’re supposed to be.  

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