I used to not laugh very much. I’d insist on only hear the most perfectly told stories. I was very hard to please.
One day I realized that these high standards of mine for what I found humorous held me back from enjoying more of life. Laughing and enjoyment are ideals for me, so the more I am experiencing a sense of joy, the more I am living close to that ideal.
For better or for worse, – probably for the very best 😉 – it took me a long time to realize the fruitlessness of my high standards. My high standards for enjoyment may have stemmed from playing too much of a certain video game, in which nearly every second you’re blowing something up or being blown up, in outer-space no less. It was an incredibly fun game, but whenever I left the video game world I didn’t reap nearly the enjoyment and fulfillment that I now do from this more vivid world in the ‘Real Life’ game that I find myself playing 24/7.
Even after I stopped playing the video game, I noticed that I still demanded a lot from the world in order to feel wonderful. Only when I wrote an exceptional paper, aced a test, or shared a great meal with friends did I allow myself to experience a deep sense of fulfillment and joy. Today, all that has changed, and I’ve drastically lowered my standards for what I find fulfilling and enjoyable. Now I sometimes find merely touching the bark of a tree and dropping a tennis ball to be one of the most delightful activities of my day. Gravity is very fun to play with.
During my week of homelesness in NYC and the ensuing 6 months of moneyless adventures, I trained my consciousness to find joy in the simple pleasures of life. In spite of all the materialistic programming of American culture, those two journeys in my life were the times when I felt the most rich. Very minimal material possessions opened my mind to discovering all of the intellectual and spiritual riches within. I also began deeply appreciating the Beauty of the natural world, as well as revering all the life – animals, people, and plants – existing and flowing so harmoniously around me. No longer fettered by distractions of the media, pop-culture, or what other people thought of me, I experienced a great freedom from attachment and worry. My eyes slowly but surely opened to the treasures present in every moment, regardless of external circumstance.
Now, back in a land of materials, currently staying with my parents in a cozy home with many worldly luxuries, I’ve found myself getting upset with events that I’d otherwise consider trivialities in the homeless / moneyless life. In a sense, it’s much easier to be aware of the spiritual treasures of the present moment when there are not any material possessions to grab our attention. Yet, like with anything, with practice I believe it’s possible to gain that same level of wonderful awareness that keeps us completely open the presence of spiritual riches regardless of how much materialism we might find ourselves in.
Gandhi Knows Best
Over the past few days, I’ve rekindled my relationship with one of my favorite of Gandhi’s mottos,
“Do it with Joy or not at all.”
Joy has become a central focus of my consciousness and my meditations. I’ve spent a lot of time consciously breathing and thinking of joy with every inhale and exhale. Also, when I juggle or walk, I think of joy. Sometimes when I’m doing a walking meditation and focusing on joy, I’ll sporadically release an ecstatic squeal. Who knows what my parents think of these celebratory noises, and really, no matter what they think, I’m not going to hold back that delight.
Thinking of joy in and of itself feels amazing. No matter what we are doing – whether it be washing the dishes, taking out the trash, grading papers – we always have the capacity to think of joy, and in our thinking we can quickly experience the realization of that wonderful thought 🙂
To this amazing ability we have to consciously choose or thoughts and focus on what we’d like to experience, I say Hallelujah!