So often, we do things for the promise of a future result. This is the treadmill of the modern era. We don’t even notice it’s happening since everyone is doing it, and it seems to be the way of things these days. But when we do this, the present moment is lost. It becomes a means to an idea of the future. We never truly enjoy what we are doing for it’s own sake.
Can you think of some things you do, simply to enjoy doing them? Surely we can come up with examples of pleasant little things… but where life really starts to take off for us, is when we endeavour to transform our experience of even mundane or downright unappealing tasks, simply by noticing this unconscious “means to an end” mechanism at play.
I remember reading Peace is Every Step, by Thich Nhat Hanh and how he exclaimed, “How could anyone not like doing dishes? The warm water, the soft dish…” And right then and there, I realized my disdain for dishes was purely mental. It was actually not such a terrible activity after all. Most things are like that if you really look at them.
A really fun thing to try to transform is exercise. There is a joy of movement. Physical activity can be very enjoyable. Unfortunately many of us motivate ourselves to “exercise” because of a profound dislike of our bodies and ourselves in the moment. This really starts us off on the wrong foot. Already we begin the activity from misery. There can be no joy to suffuse this behaviour if this is our starting point. We also tend to add “exercise” to our to-do list as one more thing we have to do. This makes it a double downer. No wonder it is hard to pick up and go to the gym, or for a walk, or anything.
When we do things, not because we have to, but because we want to, and simply for it’s own sake, we are naturally filled with energy and joy. This is a valuable skill to develop, if your ultimate goal is a happy life. I spend some time every day working with the body, whether it be walking, jogging, or stretching, but not because I should. Yuck! Instead, I spend time in physical activity it’s a nice thing to do, a nice way to take care of my home. Surely there are times when I don’t want to if I am feeling overworked or uninspired. So during those times, I don’t force myself. I just take steps to learn from the situation and I try to arrange my life to address the things that seem to take away my energy and inspiration.
When we allow ourselves to drop the things that no longer serve us, when we start to prioritize ourselves and our enthusiasm… wherever we find ourselves starts becoming a little more enjoyable. We naturally make better choices without too much overthinking. Good food starts tasting better. We start going to bed earlier so that we have fresh energy for the next day. We recalibrate some of the basic elements of our lives, and then a natural vitality animates the body.