thanks to Kelly Pratt of Athena Village for inviting me to participate in her Get Your Groove Back campaign, where she features 30 women to tell their stories of how they got their groove back and a song that inspires them. here is my story:

meet joy agcongay

gentle marketer. fierce appreciator.
gardening mentor. creative contemplative.
introvert with unhealthy aversion to uppercase letters.

get your groove back - day 19 - joy agcongay - gentle marketing

settling into silence to listen

years ago, i realized i had gotten lost. too much input from the world. too much consumption of information and too little of whatever “not consuming” was. i found a silent retreat and felt called to try it.

i loved it.

silent retreating became my personal creative pilgrimage twice a year. once, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and in late winter around my birthday. the weight on my shoulders lightened each time i drove down the windy coastal highway to Big Sur and navigated the switchbacks up to the cliffside hermitage.

while the physical distance was important, i should mention that at this particular monastery, the location made it impossible to call out. no internet. no cell phone reception.

if i told you i had a blissful weekend of gorgeous silence, that i savored each full moment of solitude or got lost in meditation, i would be lying.

i did it often enough that i recognized my personal patterns and over time, accepted them: panic two days before. drive carefully to make it in time to check in but arrive before dark. unpack. walk back down the switchbacks to stretch my legs. collect my meal from the communal kitchen and eat. set up my desk for writing and whatever creative activity i had packed in the car.

cue the unknowns: hours, sometimes a full day, i would struggle. a lot. couldn’t focus, couldn’t write. agitated. shouldn’t i be enjoying this? what a privilege to be able to take time to nurture myself!

eventually, the inner voices protesting, panicking and criticizing would quiet. i eased into a tentative friendship with solitude and silence. i could be present to what was happening. i didn’t need to worry about other people, or taking care of other people. i let myself choose how i would spend my time without external pressures and let myself trust this renewed connection as a safe place to be.

and yes, each time i had a fully restorative experience. i might not have meditated on the mountain, but i could let myself dive deeply into that time: on my creative practice, walking as meditation, listen to nature…things which bring joy to…me, Joy.


i’ve been a gardener most of my adult life after college. i confess i have always chosen where i lived based on the garden potential. i’d walk straight through the house into the backyard.

my father transformed our San Diego backyard from a hard-packed clay hillside into a lush, terraced year-round food garden. bittermelons, Asian greens, summer and winter squashes hanging from our old swing set and ethernet cables he repurposed. he mulched and composted long before it came into vogue. as he got older, the annual vegetables evolved into a fruit tree orchard with varieties of avocado, bananas, sapote, cherimoya, citrus, loquat and persimmon. their friends would regularly visit to pick up bags of produce to take home.

i let my gardens languish as i got busy with my career, probably a symptom of when i start to feel more lost in my life. when my father became ill, i took time to be with my family, completely neglecting my own garden. my mother, sister and i tended to him.

when he passed away, i reconnected with gardening. i’d applied to become a local master gardener before he became ill and returned home just in time to take the classes.

i threw myself into gardening, keenly aware it was part grief therapy, part staying in connection with my father. from afar, i’d instruct my sister and mother to do certain tasks in my father’s garden. it was a new personal practice and creative pilgrimage, except i didn’t need to drive anywhere. i found solace in the solitude and silence in my own home.

marketing as a creative & spiritual practice

i primarily grow food, but have incorporated native plants, flowers and herbs into my garden. i keep experimenting. i never stop learning. i work with nature in my garden, rather than forcing it.

but sometimes the weather doesn’t cooperate and you get peach leaf curl on your stone fruit trees or your tomatoes get blight. or you find a banana slug on your Napa cabbage! or the irrigation system gets blocked and your tender seedlings die.

things happen.

i’ve found my two practices of regular silence and daily gardening are useful metaphors i use to keep perspective in the marketing work i do. if i’m not nourishing myself, if i get worked up and distracted, i stop hearing my own truth and wisdom.

then doubt creeps in and i listen to others more than what my inner voice is saying, or override what i know to be true about the way i operate in the world, i’ll struggle more than i need to.

when i work with clients, we both feel when we’ve hit a boundary that they are not ready to cross. AND THAT IS OK. i don’t push. we flow like water around the obstacle rather than spin in the eddy behind it.

you don’t have to change who you are. work with who you are, with what you have right now. that’s enough. we’re fortunate to have access to tools and platforms we didn’t have even a few years ago. you can find an authentic way to market your business in a way that works for you.

i don’t expect anyone truly exploring their entrepreneurial path will have a joyful-meditation-on-a-cliffside-monastery-overlooking-the-Pacific experience.

if you’re stuck with your marketing, try a different approach: develop listening practices: one for your inner voice and another with your audience.

listen when you feel that “hard stop” boundary emerging and be curious. honor who you are right now.

marketing tools and strategies can be learned. if you practice listening, i promise you can market your business like a badass.

my “get my groove back” song”: pure imagination from willy wonka and the chocolate factory (1971).