We absolutely insist on enjoying life. We try not to indulge in cynicism over the state of the nations, nor do we carry the world’s troubles on our shoulders… [W]e think cheerfulness and laughter make for usefulness…
We are sure God wants us to be happy, joyous, and free. We cannot subscribe to the belief that this life is a vale of tears, though it once was just that for many of us. But it is clear that we made our own misery. God didn’t do it. Avoid then the deliberate manufacture of misery, but if trouble comes, cheerfully capitalize it as an opportunity to demonstrate His omnipotence.
ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS, The Family Afterward
We are meant to enjoy life. Somewhere along the way, for many of us, this concept has been lost. Our parents didn’t know it, didn’t know how to pass it on, weren’t able to find it for themselves. Schools and churches certainly don’t know how to teach it, nor do most of them even try. The books we find mostly are concerned with fixing what’s wrong with us, with the idea that if we fix enough of these “wrong” things, some form of happiness may arise.
So one of the biggest tasks at hand for those of us interested in “self-improvement” is for us to find the way to insist on enjoying life, and to avoid the pitfalls that surround even the idea of enjoyment. For example, I know that the generation of my father had the idea that:
a) seeking enjoyment was somehow unmanly. To be a man was to suffer, at least to some degree (This is easy to understand when you throw in a World War during which so many lost so much.);
b) enjoyment is what you get to have after all the work is done – not during work, not in between tasks. Work should hurt. If it doesn’t, you’re not working hard enough; and
c) this enjoyment that occurs after work (which could mean a weekend for some, but for a farmer, as my father was, meant winter, i.e. after harvest) this enjoyment takes the form of getting out of pain. Getting away from one’s life. Going away from responsibility and finding some measure of unconsciousness. Drinking, gambling, etc.
There are those of us who were raised with this as our model for appropriate behavior. And then with the opposite side of it also as a model for appropriate behavior, i.e. the long-suffering of my mother at the effect of her man’s behavior. Taken all together, this makes for a mash-up that guarantees even more suffering in my generation.
Fortunately for those of us who meditate, these teachings of our parents and their world view that went into us so deeply, at such an early age, begin to roll out of us immediately that we begin our practice. These are the stresses that keep us from knowing we are meant to enjoy life, and nature wants us to be free of them. Nature wants us to grow, to evolve, to expand, and it will pull these stresses from us, simply by the fact of our sitting to meditate for 20 minutes, twice each day.
And then it is up to us, on a daily basis, to retrain ourselves out of these strange ideas of life that have been passed on to us, and retrain ourselves toward joy. We insist on enjoyment. We learn happiness and freedom and insist upon nothing less. During work, during the week, in the midst of our most trying times. We become present and at least find the way to suggest to ourselves that enjoyment is possible.
Today I will insist on enjoying life, at least for one moment.
On a Boat, Triveni Sangham, Kumbh Mela, Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, India
All original material copyright © 2018 Jeff Kober