Finding JOY is a spiritual practice
Over and over in my spiritual direction sessions I encounter people who are somehow distant from joy. They are not at all distant from hard work, achievement, towing the line, working for justice or disciplining themselves. But, when it comes to searching for joy, there is a 5-headed monster of GUILT that rises up. Each of these people know there is no reason for them to feel guilty about having fun. In fact, they can also become quite judgmental about their lack of fun. They know they should have it. They know they have a right to have fun. They only wish they could have fun without feeling like they are somehow shirking their commitment to life.
I think all of us have a much harder time letting ourselves play than letting ourselves work hard. We’ve all been given a lot of strokes for achievement, hard work, determination, saving the world. Hardly anyone received approval as a kid for being silly, crazy, wild, exuberant. We all received three instructions quite clearly;
SIT DOWN. BE QUIET. WORK HARD.
Oh, we learned. We learned. It seems almost as if we learned that if we were to allow ourselves the slightest bit of “goofing off”, we might enjoy it so much that we would never work again. It’s almost as if FUN is a dirty word, a slippery slope. Aimlessness is not something we are allowed to aspire to! But I strongly feel that our innermost being desires play as much as it desires accomplishment.
I challenge you to look at your quota of fun. Here is an exercise; for 1 minute (time yourself) make a list of all the crazy things you might do if you let yourself play. “If I let myself play, I might; color with fat crayons, blow bubbles, skip rope, write a poem, play the piano, read a trashy novel, eat a hot fudge sundae, go to the zoo, bake some cookies, paint something, shoot a bow and arrow, go dancing, go to an art gallery or an art supply store, watch some mindless TV, buy new underwear, smoke a cigar, ….. Who knows what might bubble up inside you. You don’t have to do all these things, but you can just smile and see what your inner child might want to do with you.
If you resist this idea, I challenge you to take your little self by the hand. Reassure that one in you who resists even thinking about zany craziness. Tell her that this is your new spiritual practice! You are going to practice having fun – just for a short time each day, or week. You are hereby granted permission to have fun. In fact, I charge you to take seriously your unmet need to find joy. Your innermost self craves it.
Advice to Myself
Leave the dishes. Let the celery rot in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator and an earthen scum harden on the kitchen floor. Leave the black crumbs in the bottom of the toaster. Throw the cracked bowl out and don't patch the cup. Don't patch anything. Don't mend. Buy safety pins. Don't even sew on a button. Let the wind have its way, then the earth that invades as dust and then the dead foaming up in gray rolls underneath the couch. Talk to them. Tell them they are welcome. Don't keep all the pieces of the puzzles or the doll's tiny shoes in pairs, don't worry who uses whose toothbrush or if anything matches, at all. Except one word to another. Or a thought. Pursue the authentic—decide first what is authentic, then go after it with all your heart. Your heart, that place you don't even think of cleaning out. That closet stuffed with savage mementos. Don't sort the paper clips from screws from saved baby teeth or worry if we're all eating cereal for dinner again. Don't answer the telephone, ever, or weep over anything at all that breaks. Pink molds will grow within those sealed cartons in the refrigerator. Accept new forms of life and talk to the dead who drift in through the screened windows, who collect patiently on the tops of food jars and books. Recycle the mail, don't read it, don't read anything except what destroys the insulation between yourself and your experience or what pulls down or what strikes at or what shatters this ruse you call necessity.