Machine Maintenance: Joyful Action
Don't you know yet? Fling the emptiness out of your arms into the spaces we breathe;
perhaps the birds will feel the expanded air with more passionate flying.
-Ranier Maria Rilke
A vacation is what you take when can no longer take what you've been taking.
Sometimes life happens in a way that makes you want to take a second-look at your whole world. In January of 2015, I lost some serious footing and slipped at the base of Rainbow Falls on the Big Island of Hawaii. It would have been a good way to go; all the ingredients made up the perfect time to die: in paradise, dear friends, doing life's work, peace in my heart, crying laughing from the joy of being alive while singing as loud as I could trying to drown out the overwhelming sound of a waterfall. I mean c'mon. So, when my body managed its adrenaline-superhero-jedi starfish magic to stick around for whatever else is supposed to happen after singing with a waterfall, I was definitely surprised and humbled to the core. The remainder of the trip was even more amazing, with details and affirmations most people would hardly believe.
When I returned home, re-evaluation of my everything became the number one priority. As I looked at what needed readjustment, I became certain of at least one thing: I sure didn't stay alive to have a crappy time during the rest of my stay on Earth. I decided to commit to doing my best at the things that were meaningful to me as often as possible. I only wanted to offer gestures of joy, love and gratitude to the great volcano of life. More than that. Life was my offering to the volcano of life.
The following is neither for the faint of heart nor the lazy. This has been an ongoing conversation in human history (joy, compassion, kindness, etc.) I'm well aware that I'm not saying anything new. But maybe, juuust maybe the timing is right and you're ready to start something different. To create more joyful moments in your life, it takes giving yourself more credit for your experiences, knowing the difference between joy and relief, and making time to find out what your definition of joy looks like.
Below are some tips that have helped me stay dedicated along the way and will hopefully provide guidance as you begin a practice that works for you.
1. Give yourself more credit for what you've done.
Yup: grown up life, grown up joy.
You have lived a full life in ways that only you know. You alone are aware of the personal mountains you climb every day. Becoming an adult means having more life experience behind you and more tools in your kit to help survive the tricky parts. Cheers to that!
The point of this section is to highlight the importance of lifting your own spirits in to rekindle your will to survive and keep going. Of all the motivators we can choose in life, why not choose what get's us excited about what's next? Yes, sometimes we have to do what feels like a silly dance to achieve what's meaningful to us. And we need not go into the deep ocean of meaningfulness just yet. Part of playing the game of the world is accepting that we're ALL working on coming to terms with procedural paper trails attached to the some of the mind-boggling actions that go with the seemingly nonsensical workings of the system, you know, adulting. Again, it's all about perspective. The flip side of the tedious part of adulting is the reward of fulfilling experiences, one small realization at a time.
For the most part, you are doing it! YAY!
You kept the lights on! You sent that email!
You showed up to that place and talked with those people about things, and hopefully the exchange was valuable to you! Whahooo! And that was just the mundane stuff. It's highly likely you have a fascinating story from just being alive and have touched the lives of other people. Maybe you held a door and someone say "thank you." Maybe on a bad day it took all of your power not to be a jerk out in the world.
Standing ovation for you!
Celebrating the little things ( at the very least ) is KEY. The little things add up to the gigantic things and help you maintain momentum. Just showing up and doing your best is a great feat in itself. Of course, please have bigger celebrations for when you find yourself at your greatest creative peaks and genius levels.
The process is the point, and we need to celebrate ourselves and the things we've done during the process of learning, our individual and unique journey of learning. And yes, this also means participating in the other parts we didn't see as kids when we had pretend tea parties, played teacher, or race car driver, chemist, jungle explorer or archaeologist. By the way, if you were a kid that played "pretend fill out the forms", please write me. I want to know who you are now and see if you're interested in helping me out with some adulting :)
2. Knowing the difference between joy and relief
Speaking of the process, knowing the difference between joy and relief is an important one.
Honing this skill is close to my heart.
Creating moments of delight is more than just taking in a change of conditions; it takes proactive measures. Through many conversations it seems too common of a thing thing to spend more time looking forward to the relief of leaving a sucky situation for a less sucky situation. It sure is a step in the right direction, and could well be the beginning of something cool, but I don't know if I'd necessary call that delight, glee, or bliss.
Drop everything and find your gleeful point of reference. The sensation of joy is full body. Imagine the pure energy a toddler; it might help to take a page from their book. Children use their entire bodies and all of their senses to learn about the world. Along the way we've managed to veer away from actions that keep the old skin 'n' bones in enjoyment from full body experience. Thinking new thoughts and doing new things keeps the mind fresh and the body moving. The sparkly result of this is joy. Perhaps the fountain of youth is learning something new at the same rate that children do.
I know. It's almost too simple. It takes acceptance of the fact that you must go and get it. By "it" I mean new knowledge and information that you find invigorating, which is plentiful. Learn something new with your whole body. Read about it, then DO something pleasurable, playful, and perhaps irrelevant to your daily grind so your body can feel a new range of motion in mind, body, and spirit. Even the little things count: tie your shoes in a new way, cook a new meal or taste something you've never tasted before. Sleep in a new direction and see what happens. Get serious about being silly, for crying out loud.
3. Make the time to find out what it is for you.
This is the section about following through. NO ONE ELSE can do what gives you joy except you.
Remember, it's an individual thing; your idea of joy might be a nightmare for another person, and vice versa.
If you've lost sight of what gives you that full body feeling of yes, then that is Part One of the investigation. Take time to find that out, ASAP.
And for all of the "ugh, I just don't have the TIME to do what I want to do" responses out there, I know, you little flower of light. Me too. That's why you have to MAKE time to do what's important to you.
Whatever it is that keeps you feeling alive and fulfilled, pencil it in to your own calendar.
Mark it as high priority. Even if just for an hour (or five, ten, thirty minutes) a day, regard the time as your prime investment, the most fortified vitamin, the most valuable gem, powerful medicine, etc.
I'm of the wholehearted belief that when we as human beings really truly want something, we go out and get it. If we are not making time for the people, places and things that we actually truly want in our heart, then what are we doing here? For the all of the hard day in, day out work you do to create it, doesn't it just make sense to play in the kingdom that you've built?
The answer is yes.
Now go. Play.
Nothing is promised. Anything can happen.
Let's have the time of our lives, everyone.