If you like something, enjoy it Print E-mail
News - Final Word
Monday, 24 January 2011 06:57
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Let’s say the score is even. Let’s say that when the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve, a magical thing happened. From that second onwards, everyone could live each day for her or himself. Let’s say that nobody owes anyone anything, no matter what happened in the past; no obligations, no emotional baggage.

So, whatever you do for the rest of this year, you can do purely for the joy it would bring you. Right? And that means that we’d be filled with joy, wouldn’t we? Nope. Not even in an imaginary obligation-free new year.

Why is it that we so seldom succeed in enjoying something that we like doing? Whatever happened to happiness?

According to the American monk, Burt Goldman, there are five very simple rules of happiness. If you like something, enjoy it. If you don’t like something, avoid it. If you don’t like something and can’t avoid it, change it. If you can’t change it, accept it. If you can’t accept it, then change your attitude towards it.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it. Pity then that we get stuck at the very first rule – to enjoy the things we like doing. Surely you can rationalise why this is so and say it’s because you might feel guilty about enjoying what you like. You know, as in eating something hugely fattening. Or you can say that you don’t have time to sit and enjoy looking at a magnificent sunset.

I just get the feeling that it’s more complicated than a lack of time and feelings of guilt. That, even when we do stop to look at the sunset, we’re somehow not there for it.

That our thoughts are already running ahead to what we must do next. That we’re never where we’re at; that we cannot escape the persecution of a constantly chattering mind.

“Don’t ask your mind for permission to enjoy what you do,” writes Eckhart Tolle. “All you will get is plenty of reasons why you can’t enjoy it. ‘not now,’ the mind will say. ‘Can’t you see I’m busy? There’s no time.”

So, let’s turn the whole If-you-like-something-enjoy-it rule upside down. According to Eckhart, it is a misperception to say, I enjoy doing this or that. “It makes it appear that the joy comes from what you do, but that is not the case. Joy does not come from what you do; it flows into what you do . . . from deep within you.”

If you believe that joy is something you get from some external object or activity, it means that you’d look to the world to bring you joy. And the world cannot do that.

It isn’t what you do, but the sense of aliveness that flows into the action - that is what you really enjoy. This, of course, means that you will enjoy any activity in which you allow yourself to be fully present; every time you don’t reduce an activity as a means to an end.

Well, if you have trouble believing that your inner joy can leak into an activity such as washing the dishes, you’re not alone. Then aren’t we back at Burt’s fifth rule? If you can’t change the fact that you have to do the dishes, accept it and if you can’t accept it, then change your attitude towards it.

Not quite. The focus is different. Trying to change your attitude is a mind activity. It carries a whole bunch of judgements and excels in labelling situations. It takes you out of the present moment.

As a matter of fact, I think that trying to change one’s attitude via mental force is impossible. Don’t even try it. Your attitude will change by itself if you can get it right to stay in the moment without judging or labelling it.

But if you insist on labelling and comparing, let’s put it this way: Sure, there are things that will give you much more pleasure than washing the dishes. Activities, circumstances and objects can give you temporary pleasure, but they cannot give you joy. They cannot even help you to enjoy the things you like doing.

Nothing can give you joy; it comes from within and seeps into whatever it is you’re doing when you allow the moment to be whatever it is. It wouldn’t be washing the dishes that you enjoy, but being present in your own life.

Try it. Don’t just read about it. Joy must be felt. It cannot be thought.


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