Enjoy the Art of Being In Touch With the World

mystical forest

Human organisms are motivated by psychological drives. A psychological drive is “an innate, biologically determined urge to attain a goal or satisfy a need” (Oxford). If you are hungry, for example, wanting to eliminate or reduce the unpleasant state of hunger is what drives you.

The psychiatrist Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) theorized that we have two drives: a drive toward life—includes instinctual impulses to have sex, eat, drink and need for fun (see: Pleasure Principle)—and a drive toward death—includes anti-social behaviour, anger, aggression, hate and violence (good times).

I hate everyone

From these drives Freud theorized that personality is a system of three interconnected parts: Id (instinctual part: “Give me now”), Ego (realistic part: “No, I don’t think so”) and Superego (moral conscience part: “You should be ashamed!”).

Id, Ego and Superego are a translation of Es (it), Ich (I) and Ueber-Ich (Over-I). Id is like a horse. Ego is the rider and Superego lambastes Ego for trespassing. As your “ideal” self, Superego conforms to society and prohibits unethical behaviour (Simply Psychology).

id ego super ego

Freud saw ego as a good thing. Ego negotiates between human impulses and social standards. There are, however, other ways to look at it.

Cue music: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, “Man On Fire”.

As a ‘me’ ‘mine’ and ‘for myself,’ we consider ourselves distinct from the world, but if you look closely, you realize: it isn’t true.

If you want inner peace, break free of what Freud says.

Garry Shandling
Garry in high school. “It’s not the hair on your head that matters. It’s the kind of hair you have inside.”

Garry Shandling (1949-2016)—a comedian who made loneliness and self-hate funny before turning it into love for the world—said before he died (obviously):

All my journey is to be authentically who I am. Not trying to be somebody else under all circumstances. The whole world is confused because they’re trying to be somebody else. To be your true self it takes enormous work…. Ego drives the world. Ego drives the problems. So you have to work in an ego-less way. Egolessness, which, is the key to being authentic, is a battle” (The Green Room).

In spiritual circles ego is seen as an enemy and a synonym for “selfishness.”

Psychological drives operate on a feedback control system similar to a thermostat. When a need is satisfied, the drive is reduced. We relax. Eliminate a drive completely and a state of mental balance or psychological equilibrium is obtained

tragic humouros 2

When we’re calm and comfortable, that’s room temperature. When our emotional temperature changes, we feel tension and an instinctive response to potential conflict.

Some people perpetuate unpleasant states for purposes of enjoyment. They eat when not hungry, drink when not thirsty and enjoy death defying activities like skydiving and the thrill of almost dying (source).

Some people have a drive for lots of money, power, fame or whatever. Such people will experience an unpleasant state of dissatisfaction when they realize that externals don’t matter.

hungry-ghost-gaki-zoshi-arthistory

This is hungry ghost territory. This is, as Gabor Maté, M.D., said, “where we seek something outside ourselves to curb an insatiable yearning for relief or fulfillment. The aching emptiness is perpetual because the substances, objects or pursuits we hope will soothe it are not what we really need. We don’t know what we need, and so long as we stay in the hungry ghost mode, we’ll never know. We haunt our lives without being fully present” (Hungry Ghosts).

But, don’t worry. It’s normal.

As one seeks to survive in a culture of consumption and comparison in the midst of mass advertising, it’s only natural to want more than is possible. If you get hungry ghost-liketake a deep breath and ask yourself: “Do I have what I need?”

The psychiatrist Shoma Morita (1874-1938) proposed two other drives: a drive to live fully and a drive for comfort and security. Sometimes these drives are at odds.

drive

With eyes on a need yet achieved, there is anxiety and self-doubt. Such feelings cannot be avoided.  Emotions are messages.

Avoid or suppress feelings and you disrupt your ability to function. For example, if you are anxious in social situations, the inclination is to avoid them, but avoidance perpetuates a lack of confidence and the very anxiety one is trying to escape. Self-confidence comes with experience. Understand a feeling and take action if need be (source).

Some of us have drives that are difficult to satisfy. Sometimes a drive takes over and we are driven.

The question is: Where are we going?

charlie brown where are we going

Many humans—many, many humans probably (in fact)—experience a constant dissatisfaction with life. Their minds have made a judgment: Life is not the way it should be.

But why?

It could be that we experience dissatisfaction with life “as it is” because in comparison to life imagined, the life we live falls short of expectations. We try to make life match our ideal by noticing what’s wrong and making changes, but when we achieve what we want, we imagine how life could be even better. We think that once we fix what’s wrong, we’ll be satisfied, but when the “future” arrives, it’s just another dissatisfying moment.

al franken just remember you are good enough

It’s rare for people to feel a deep satisfaction with the way things are. We live as if the present moment is a barrier to the life we’d rather be living. The future we dream of never arrives and herein is the human conundrum.

Most of us live in a world of make-believe—even though we know life isn’t a fairy story. Most of us live a mundane existence in stark contrast to our make-believe world, but take heed: Reality does exist and it’s better than make-believe.

Reality is a world of opportunity, happiness and peace of mind. You might be content within a comfort zone of normal life—happy to take out the garbage, do laundry or whatever (all good stuff)—but there are degrees of happiness.

You could be only scratching the surface. Pay attention to what it feels like or sounds like to be here and now. Do this and you are taken from make-believe to a direct experience of reality. You start seeing, feeling, hearing, smelling and tasting the present in a way that you haven’t done since you were a kid.

Like Boston (the band, not the city) said, “People livin’ in competition. All I want is to have my peace of mind, yeah, whoa” (“Peace of Mind“).

Yeah. Whoa. That’s it precisely.

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A Way of Seeing To Enjoy (Part 1)

Knowing is equated with seeing. If you see the light, it could mean that you see a light blinking on a radio tower or it could mean that you know something that makes you see everything different. It could mean both.

Philosophy is equated with thinking. Religion is equated with feeling. Today, like the physicist David Bohm, “we hold several points of view, in a sort of active suspension” (Dialogue). Like poet William Blake, (“To see a World in a Grain of Sand, And a Heaven in a Wild Flower“) and philosophers Søren Kierkegaard—we see the ‘eternal in the temporal’—and Ludwig Wittgenstein we say, “how extraordinary that anything should exist” (Lecture on Ethics).

wittgenstein and russell
Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein; from Logicomix (2008) by Apostolos Doxiadis, illustrated by Alecos Papadatos

Today we feel stoic acceptance of what the world throws at us. We say like Wittgenstein, “I am safe, nothing can injure me whatever happens” (Lecture on Ethics). With a “Click!” we connect to an awareness that leaves us feeling strangely lighthearted—for no apparent reason.

This feeling could best be described as “Self Actualization” (à la psychologist Abraham Maslow) or as an “oceanic feeling” of limitlessness and oneness with the entire human race and universe (à la mystic Romain Rolland) or it could be just one of those things. “What’s for supper?”

Today we go from a narrow self-centred perspective to a wider view of the world in its totality. We are ‘disturbed by joy’ like William Wordsworth a few miles above Tintern Abbey:

“…I have felt a presence that disturbs me with joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of suns,
and the round ocean and the living air,
and the blue sky, and in the mind of man:…” (source)

TinternAbbey
1804. Tintern Abbey by William Havell (source).

Religious belief and the lack thereof could be understood not as rival theories but as different ways of seeing. If a believer and an atheist look at a picture and one says it’s hideous and the other says it’s lovely, who’s right? who’s wrong?

wittgenstein
Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951)

Wittgenstein saw religion not as theoretical but as a ‘collection of pictures’ reinforcing rules of life in the form of morality and a way of living that is itself what is eternal (Culture and Value, 1980). If someone taps into that eternal by living it’s ideal, one is living and being the eternal for a time like a leaf on a tree that is seasonal.

The world is factual. Facts are identifiable by science but facts can’t answer why you are here.

Like Wittgenstein said, “We feel that even if all possible scientific questions be answered, the problems of life have still not been touched” (Lecture on Ethics).

The philosopher Jean-Paul Sarte concluded in The Transcendence of the Ego that, “The World has not created the me: the me has not created the World” (p.105) but these two things are connected in a consciousness that is spontaneous. Sarte wrote, “Consciousness is always ‘of something‘, and therefore defined in relation to something else. It has no nature beyond this and is thus completely translucent” (source).

eggman2

Some people picture a soul as translucent—as a kind of a ‘thing’—but not Wittgenstein. He said that if you look at soul language in religion, soul is not pictured as a thing but as integrity (which is equally invisible). So if someone says, “He sold his soul for money” or “He sold his soul to the devil” it really means that he’s become materialistic. He has no deep moral sense and moral sense, as we know, is not visible and immaterial.

A man may have everything but feel horribly afraid of what’s coming. A good man, however, enjoying a good way—tried, true and eternal through himself and those who live after—why, he has nothing to fear. Ever.

No matter what.

He can be light as a feather. He is not chained by anything material. He can never be judged as having lived a futile life even if he dies poor and unknown and didn’t do very much. After all, what does a sparrow do? What are flamingos for?

flamingo

According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a person can’t get to the highest level of “self-actualization” without making it by lower level needs such as food, sex and security.

Please note: some people can blast up to their highest potential without need of basics, but they are rare like hen’s teeth.  

To be self-actualized is to be unafraid of the unknown, untroubled by ambiguity and triviality, Self-aware, Accepting weaknesses while developing strengths, living a “meaningful life” by having a purpose that goes above and beyond one’s self to a greater good (see: Self Actual).

maslow-pyramid

If you were asked, “Do you understand the difference between thinking and being?” what would you say?

Understanding the difference between thinking and being is like when police catch someone in the act of a crime and say, “What do you think you’re doing!” which is another way of saying, “How stupid are you?

This is the exact moment when the cop and the criminal give their collective heads a shake. Most people (most of the time) see the world from inside a self-enclosed bubble of preoccupied thoughts that shape how the world is perceived. But this way of seeing is limiting because it sees a world perceived through language and opinion.

When a person with soul (and a clear conscience, if possible) wakes up, looks around and says full of happiness, “This is a miracle!” he isn’t just describing an event. It’s really his reaction to something significant that he is being, enjoying and becoming.

Enjoy An Insight


Ever have one of those days? Everybody does. It’s a real bummer of a day (bummer is hippie speak for misfortune). It’s one of those days when you say to yourself, “Why me?” or “Why now?”

that's a bummerYou’re up before the sun “working in a coal mine, going down down,” and someone says, “Lord! I am soooo tired. How long can this go on?” Not that you actually work in a coal mine (unless you do). We’re talking metaphor. We all work in a coal mine of one kind or another. Even those who don’t work, work in a coal mine of a kind.

It’s on a “one of those days” day that you look for a sign that there’s more to life. Not that you’re superstitious. It’s just that when life is boring, pointless and terrible, most of us look for a sign that there’s more to it. Even those who don’t believe in miracles look for them.

coal miner's helmet2But few people see signs these days and those who do are maligned. We might crave a vision but all we have is TV. It’s not because the signs aren’t there that we don’t see them.

We don’t see them because we’re either not paying attention or we lack imagination. It takes a special kind of sensitivity to subtlety for a person to see signs and put it together.

In 1989 two math professors wrote “Methods for Studying Coincidences” in which they outlined four sources for most coincidences: 1) a hidden cause, 2) the psychology of a person, including memory and perception, 3) multiplicity of endpoints, including the counting of “close” or nearly alike events as if they were identical, and 4) the law of truly large numbers – given enough events, almost any coincidence is bound to occur.

They found that most puzzling coincidences arise in the mind of the observer. Therein is the magic! That’s the answer! You alone see the sign! You create magic by tuning into it!

coincidence
Coincidence?

If you pay attention and if you lighten up and if you go for silly walks now and then you will become familiar with wonderful oddities (for complete instructions see: Ministry of Silly Walks) .

Call it coincidence. Call it ironic, moronic or divine. Call it just one of those things. Beyond rationalization, confabulation and logical explanation, there are times when weird things happen and you are in a perfect position to see them (see earlier post: “Enjoy What Is And Take What Comes“).

strange
The Slant.

Let’s say you’re on your way to get your blood tested. As you peddle past a pretty storybook house with a fountain, you’re reminded of fairy-land pictures you’ve seen. The thought occurs to you that you and everyone you know will soon be dead.

It sounds gloomy, but at this moment it isn’t. Knowing that everything you know and have ever known will soon be gone has a way of putting things in perspective (see earlier post “Enjoy A Bad Day“).

chickendeathhome

What’s the worse case scenario in any situation? You could die. But you know that’s going to happen anyway so, as Dire Straits put it, “Why worry?

street-sign-spinnerNo sooner do you have this realization when you see a sign. But it isn’t the sign that catches your attention. It’s the sign spinner. Stopped at a streetlight, you watch the sign spinner. Suddenly life doesn’t seem so bad.

And you hear music coming from somewhere. It’s Tommy James and the Shondells singing Draggin’ the Line which goes, “Makin’ a livin’ the old, hard way.

art_purpleflowers_2Takin’ and givin’ my day by day.
I dig snow and rain and the bright sunshine…
My dog Sam eats purple flowers.
Ain’t got much, but what we got’s ours…
I feel fine!
I’m talkin’ ’bout peace of mind.
I’m gonna take my time.
I’m gettin’ the good sign…”

fountain-05What you thought was going to be “one of those days” changes into something beautiful when you open yourself to connection and possibility.

Jump forward: now you’re in a lab cubicle waiting for a nurse to take your blood. You’re listening to the Moody Blues sing “Tuesday Afternoon” and you think, “That’s funny. It is a Tuesday afternoon!”

The nurse comes in and prepares the syringe. You avert your eyes and on the wall you see a picture of a fountain. It looks like the fountain you saw earlier by the storybook house that reminded you of pictures that you once saw of a fairyland of love. They say that fountains symbolize joy and peace and water is the sign of calmness. All you know is that you like water fountains.

You may look back on your life like a Dickens’ novel. Life seems planned but little accidental meetings and experiences turn out to be main features of the plot. At this minute, looking around at the world as you do, you suddenly have an insight.

You marvel at the wonder of life and in so doing, enjoy it.

 

Enjoy What Is And Take What Comes

sparrow

What does a sparrow see? Science can explain how a sparrow sees colour, movement and so on, but she can’t relay the actual experience of seeing. You’d need a sparrow gifted with the ability to describe what she sees in a language better than, “Chirp, chirp,” for a human to understand.

We can imagine and simulate birdlike seeing with drones, skydiving and literature, but the experience itself: of bird seeing, as bird in bird form within bird reality, is unavailable to us. The same holds true for other animals and people too.

It’s like the chorus to Nik Kershaw’s song that goes, “Wouldn’t it be good to be in your shoes, even if it was for just one day. And wouldn’t it be good, if we could wish ourselves away. Wouldn’t it be good to be on your side, the grass is always greener over there. And wouldn’t it be good, if we could live without a care” (Wouldn’t It Be Good). Of course Nik is singing about wanting to be in the shoes of a lover and sparrows don’t normally wear shoes; nevertheless, a feeling of dissatisfaction with one’s life is common.

Wanting to be as free as a sparrow is pretty universal. They look so happy. “What is that?” asks an old man. “A sparrow,” says his son lacking patience. Some might think, “Wouldn’t it be good to be a sparrow? Zipping from tree to tree! Eat a seed and you’re good for the day.” That may be so. To be free is beautiful, but then again, it’s all fun and games until you fly into a picture window.

eye diagramScientists can explain the mechanics of eyeballs: how they function and how to fix them, but in terms of perception – the link between world “out there” as taken in by eyeballs, and the mind’s interpretation of that world – science can’t say.

It’s a bit like the sparrow scenario. Nobody but you can see what you see. You are a kind of sparrow, but one without wings, without a beak, without feathers or bird feet.

Science can identify your species and proclivities but not your mystery. Nobody but you knows what it’s like to be you and even then, you hardly notice.

look downThink about what you see. As you walk, arms not swinging, looking at your feet, eyes glazed like donuts, imagine that you’re in a silent helicopter or a balloon looking down at landscapes far away and small.

It feels like there are third person things down there and all around and digging deeper into the experience of being, you observe a strange first person phenomena where you are the one looking.

balloonWe each think of ourselves as a subject in a world of objects. We think we have an inner stream of consciousness that babbles, sometimes turbulent, sometimes calm, but are you in the stream, the stream itself or the one looking at the stream?

Are you the inner story you tell yourself?

The trick to enjoyment isn’t in self-absorption. It’s the opposite. It’s in going outward. Don’t ask yourself how you should move. Step forward and let the world move through you. Don’t second guess what you say, speak from your heart.

Mick Jagger said a mouthful at the buffet when he said, “You can’t always get what you want”, but if you try sometime, you just might find, you get what you need.

When you’re in the world without thought for gain or advantage, with humility and humour, you don’t feel self-conscious. When you’re in the moment, your inner story drops away and your consciousness and self-consciousness is gone (Hubert Dreyfus, 2013).

apple and eyeScience tells us we perceive only reflected colours. Red is not “in” an apple. An apple reflects wavelengths that we see as red with our light receptors. Our eyes and brain together “translate light into colour” (How Do We See Color). Reality is a merging of world and interpretation.

In the immortal words of Arsenio Hall who while driving in his car one day pondered certain thoughts and referred to them as “things that make you go hmm…” inspiring the C + C Music Factory to sing the same, so too we explore things that make us go hmm, except instead of singing about infidelity, we sing of coincidence and connection, of links in chains between what we see and do and what is seen and done. We enjoy.

No special powers are required to experience beauty. Enjoy peace and looking without knowing. Forget who you think you are. Answers to the deepest questions like, “What’s it all for?” are in the lives we lead. Observe your unfolding.

what is thisThere is a double vision between self and situation. Inside and outside are two sides of one coin. You see through a massive window, not as a thing inside. The world out there comes inside with each step you take forward.

Ideas in this unhurried mental receptacle are fuzzy; fuzzy like a pussy willow is fuzzy; fuzzy like a little yellow duckling that goes, “Peep. Peep. Peep.”

ducklingAnd, like a peeping fuzzy duckling, your life is nature’s music without notation.

The trick to enjoying the life you’re in is to sing with humble tickled amusement a melodious duck song.

 

“It’s not me. It’s my brain.” Self-Help, Brain Training and the Art of Enjoyment

foggy forestSince Sammy Smiles (yes, his real name!) wrote the bestseller Self-Help in 1859, millions of books have been sold as self-help. In 2008 self-help brought in 12 billion dollars (The New Atlantis) and a recent search of “self-help” in Amazon revealed 436,600 titles.

It just goes to show: people want help.

selfhelpcartoon3In The Pros and Cons of Self-Help Ben Martin wrote, “Self-help books may in fact be helpful, but don’t expect them to work magic” and in The Science of Self-Help Algis Valiunus wrote, “The recidivism rate for self-help users is high.”

Apparently not all selves in the self-help game are helping. (Big surprise.) Maybe it’s a, “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” kind of thing.

chickeneasySelf-help is defined as, “the use of one’s own efforts and resources to achieve things without relying on others” (Google).

Is a Philosophy of Enjoyment any different from other self-help stuff out there? No. Not really.

But it’s a bit like asking, “What’s the difference between you and Jimmy over there?” or “What’s the difference between Bieber and Beethoven?” 

bethoven and bieberIt’s obvious: Each is unique. You are you. Bieber is the Biebs and Beethoven only looks constipated.

frankensteins-monsterPeople have a mania for comparing and under or over rating each other. We’re opinion machines.

If the intent of self-help is to teach readers how to solve personal problems and achieve success, then a philosophy of enjoyment will do the trick.

Everyone has problems. That’s life, but you deal with them and success, what is that? How is it measured? If you enjoy life, isn’t that success? In a Philosophy of Enjoyment, external problems are secondary and outward appearances of success is meaningless. What is foremost is sensory awareness.

cartoon3This has nothing to do with your self. It’s not about you. That is, the thing to do is to forget yourself. Enjoy all you see, hear and feel. No ego. No win. No lose. No success. Be as 24 hour radio: All humility! All the time!

Stop what you’re thinking. Take a break. Look at something small (a leaf, a stone, a fairy) and calmly abide. If you get distracted by negativity, return to abiding (like the Dude). With awareness of yourself in this world you can experience ecstasy as you are right now.

bird on postYou, in the form of criticism, regret, worry and fear, are a distraction. Only when you are gone do you know. You don’t need drugs to remove the gauze of yourself. Use your senses. You are an observation post for the earth. Like a bird. Like a frog.

Be free.

The greatest thing is to forget yourself completely and to live in the sensations of hearing, feeling, seeing, and tasting. Attend to experience in a particular way: on purpose. When you work, work. When you look around, enjoy paying attention non-judgementally.

It’s a zen thing.

moon reflectionA zen story tells of a woman carrying water in a bucket. She glances across the surface of the water and sees the reflection of the moon in the bucket. As she looks, the bucket breaks and the water runs into the soil and the moon’s reflection goes with it.

The woman realizes that the moon she’d been looking at was just a reflection of the real thing like her whole life had been (No Moon, No Water). In other words, thought colours what you see.

Jump thousands of years and science discovers what is there.

SchwartzResearch psychiatrist and neuroplasticity – conscious use of directed thoughts – expert, Jeffrey Schwartz says, “You Are Not Your Brain.” He explains that the mind or, “directed attention,” changes how the brain sends messages.

Schwartz says, “The brain puts things into our consciousness, but it is the active mind that makes choices about whether to listen and how to listen… the reward centre sits right embedded in the habit centre. Both are run by dopamine…Dopamine gives you pleasure, but in the process of doing that it gives you embedded habits… anything that gets that reward pleasure centre activated rapidly becomes a habit…balance the relationship between pleasure, reward and habit…Your brain becomes what you focus on ” (You Are Not Your Brain).

Moreover – and, in addition to – science says that our brains have a negativity bias (Our Brain’s Negativity Bias). Don’t you hate that?

water on leafNicole Force (yes, her real name) writes, “Although some people are naturally more negative, negative events still have a greater impact on everyone’s brains…” (Humor, Neuroplasticity and the Power to Change Your Mind).

Neurobiologist Carla Shatz calls Hebb’s Rule, “Cells that fire together, wire together” (The Organization of Behavior).

endymionIt’s not that we want to stop firing, it’s that we want things firing to help us enjoy. The trick to beautiful enjoyments is to realize that what your brain is doing isn’t you, as in: “Excuse me. That wasn’t me. It was my brain.” Schwartz calls this your “true self” or “wise advocate. You can change your brain effectively through “wise focus of attention.”

Shift attention to the beauty of the world like poets of long ago.  

In 1818 doomed poet John Keats wrote:
“A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing” (from Endymion).

alley catA poet of enjoyment lives in song. Try: Run Runaway, Alley CatMoulin Rouge, Walk A Thin Line, My Best Friend’s Girl, Ballroom BlitzPart of the UnionChirpy Chirpy Cheep CheepLily The Pink! or enjoy silence and stillness. Whatever! Life is your song.

Reader, breathe deeply! Let go of what you think about money, ego drives and and materialistic success. Focus on your true goals. Live good and wholesome in a goodly way with tear-stained eyes and flushed cheeks until the day you die!

Only you can see and feel what you feel. You are the window. It’s true! Lighten-up to humour, love and sadness. In kindness go. Enjoy this sometimes beautiful world. What have you got to lose?

It’s all good even when it isn’t. Enjoy it all in spite of everything. 

Let success be measured in moments of attention and awareness.

Wales-Great-Britain

Everyday Ecstasy (Without MDMA)


It is written: “Don’t bring me down. Grroosss. Don’t bring me down. Grroosss.” So says the the Electric Light Orchestra and a philosopher of enjoyment in difficult times.

keep calmA rousing song can provoke a fighting spirit to not give up – to get up like Buster Keaton after a tumble and see humour in a fall. Slogans like Keep Calm and Carry On, songs like Trio’s Da Da Da and the glad game (from Eleanor Porter’s novel Pollyanna) can turn a frown around.

She’s a Rainbow

But even though the glad game (which is about finding something to be glad about no matter what happens) is nice, saying “It’s going to be all right, you’ll be fine,” can be irritating to someone who’s in a jam. Conceptually, inspirations like this might help a person feel OK (satisfactory, not exceptional) but to feel better than OK, takes more than platitudes. Feeling OK is only half the battle.

Half the battleTo feel better than OK is to enter a state of grace and ecstasy. That’s what we want. To feel burdens lifted and a passage made enjoyable. Ecstasy: to feel overwhelmed by great happiness (Oxford Dictionary); “a state of exalted delight, joy and rapture” (The Free Dictionary).

But today ecstasy is “associated with orgasm, religious mysticism, and the use of certain drugs” (The Free Dictionary). It wasn’t always that way. There was a time before methylenedioxy-ethamphetamine (aka MDMA).

It comes from the Greek ekstasis meaning “‘standing outside oneself'” (Oxford Dictionary). It is to step out of yourself into a reality that you’re not used to. It is to feel like you no longer exist. It’s a trance-like state where you immerse yourself in what you’re doing.

blue_skyExample: If you look at the sky and consciously experience the blueness of it, you stop attending to your self. When you stop attending to yourself, you are not self-consciously gazing at blueness.

You’re conscious but not self-conscious.

bhagavan_sri_ramana_maharshi_4It’s like what the Indian sage Venkataraman Iyer (aka Ramana Maharshi) said, “Who is the seer? I saw the seer disappear leaving That alone… No thought arose to say I saw.

The challenge isn’t to climb Everest, it’s to lose yourself in doing. Laugh at Seinfeld bloopers, drive very slowly, bike ride, write, draw, construct, play, work, walk, talk, sipDo what you do without thought of reward.

Lose yourself in doing no harm and shift mentalities outward.

Psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist replaces the popular notion of the brain hemispheres being left-is-logical and right-is-creative with the idea that they pay attention in different ways. The left is detail-oriented and the right is whole-oriented.

The right hemisphere has “a more immediate relationship with external reality as represented by the senses” (Master and His Emissary).

sweet peeBefore depression and shock treatment, poet Sylvia Plath wrote, “I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, “This is what it is to be happy” (The Bell Jar).

Researchers now find that, “People who are exposed to natural scenes aren’t just happier or more comfortable; the very building blocks of their physiological well-being also respond positively” (How Nature Resets Our Minds and Bodies).

landscape3Jack London wrote, “There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot rise. And such is the paradox of living, this ecstasy comes when one is most alive, and it comes as a complete forgetfulness that one is alive…” (The Call of the Wild).

In a letter to his son Einstein wrote, “I am very pleased that you find joy with the piano…That is the way to learn the most…. when you are doing something with such enjoyment that you don’t notice that the time passes… Also play ringtoss with Tete…”  (Einstein on Learning).

flowPsychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, examined the roots of happiness to discover that ecstasy is “a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity… characterized by complete absorption in what one does… a feeling of spontaneous joy, even rapture, while performing a task… (flow) has existed for thousands of years under other guises, notably in some Eastern religions” (Flow).

zhangzhiAround the fourth century BC, Zhuangzi (Chuang-Tzu,庄子) supposedly said, “Flow with whatever is happening and let your mind be free: stay centred by accepting whatever you are doing. This is the ultimate.”

He also said, “The sound of water says what I think,” which could mean he was  in flow at the time that he spoke.

It’s like how the Dude in the movie The Big Lebowski is comfortable with what he’s got. Like a tumble-weed the Dude takes the path of least resistance. He is authentically content and complacent without doing harm. He lets life carry him along.

He’s learned how to enjoy every moment without apathy. He knows that it’s all strikes and gutters. Sometime you win. Sometimes you lose.

We can’t all be as lazy as the Dude but we can go forth and abide. We can expose ourselves to natural scenes without being obscene and put the Credence on.

Enjoyment, Cookies and Purposeful Purposlessness

Imagine you’re in a conference room. It’s late afternoon. You are an unemployed interloper attending a conference session. You came in from the cold when you spied cookies and an empty chair.

goldilocks zoneYou have food, warmth and health and the people seem nice. You enjoy the idea of people but not their irritating glances as if chewing a cookie were a crime. The conference room you’re in is well lit and warm (but not too warm) and the cookie you eat is sweet (but not too sweet). As Goldilocks would say, “It’s just right.”

Such is simple enjoyment so stumbled upon.

boring meeting 2Everyone in the room is well fed and has their own chair. Your chair is fantastic. There’s nothing quite like a good sit, when you’re in the mood for sitting. Above your head like a halo is a speaker. You hear a barely audible Al Martino sing Somewhere My Love and imagine Russian sleigh-rides.

It’s a beautiful day for you to enjoy (until security arrives).

american_robinYou watch a man sleep as a woman fiddles on her mobile device. You wonder if you end with your skin (are you a letter therein?) or are you like a leaf on a tree or a cell in a body? Is a bird no more separate from you than your fingernail is?

And you wonder if your presence here could have been predicted based on the temperature outside, your genes, propensities, location, desperation and desire for free cookies? How free are you?

conference presentation 2Does the moon remain where it is when you look away?

Such are your thoughts as you eat your cookie and ignore the keynote speaker with all the answers.

looking out windowYou study each person and wonder: What’s it like to be another? Is another person’s feeling of awareness the same as your own? You think, “Yes,” but how do you know? Couldn’t you just as easily be someone else as you are yourself? If you were looking out of someone else’s eyes right now, how would you know? You can only see outward. You are always you to yourself.

When did you know you were you? Are you not in a different form from when you were born? Every year you change like a snake sheds its skin, could this be your own form of reincarnation?

The presenter up front is talking about competition, globalization and robotics as you float on the music of Love is Blue and ponder poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s words, “I am signalling you through the flames. The North Pole is not where it used to be. Manifest Destiny is no longer manifest. Civilization self-destructs… What are poets for, in such an age?” (Poetry As Insurgent Art, 1975).

helloAt the back of the room is a coffee urn and cups. You get up, fix yourself a cup and return to your chair. No one seems to care. No one knows who you are. Such is anonymity in the city. Everyone here is a name tag to each other.

love is blueL’amour est bleu… When we met how the bright sun shone. Then love died, now the rainbow is gone” (Pierre Cour, 1967) – gone like all these people will be in fifty years.

Busy talk and mental chatter about globalization, competition and robots keep realizations away, but of course, on this cold day in October, realizations don’t matter.
Bette+MidlerIt’s a nice room with non-threatening people who keep themselves busy not killing each other. You feel peacefully purposeless. There is nothing to be or do. You are content. Could this be the essence of enjoyment?

Looking down you see a stain in the rose patterned carpet that looks like Bette Midler and hear “The rose” quietly playing on the speaker above your head.

It’s a miracle to you (and only you)!  (For more on this phenomenon of significance in coincidence see the free book “And Then“).

Aristotle said, “Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence,” but then again, he said women are monstrous, slavery is natural and the brain is of minor importance.

marigoldIn the Secret of the Golden Flower a mythical Master said, “That which exists through itself is called meaningIt is contained in the two eyes… If one can attain purposelessness through purpose, then the thing has been grasped.”

balloonCould purposeless purpose be enjoyment itself? Is this a spiritual paradox grasped? You look around with your two eyes – aware of yourself as you are where you are – and see just as two eyes saw thousands of years ago and will see thousands of years from now.

Only the name tags change.

With sudden gradual recognition of yourself as you are, you enjoy. You feel light sitting heavy. Sometimes all it takes is the taste of a cookie and a passing fancy.

sunset3With an appreciation of yourself – of your own particular idiosyncratic ridiculousness as you are, in the crazyness of where you are – you can lighten up and feel 65% oxygen (which you are). You can enjoy being a balloon in time.

Let go and fly by the seat of your pants on the waves of this little big planet of ours.

Smile with purposeless purpose and enjoy whatever comes.

Humour, Enjoyment and Low Hanging Fruit

low-hanging fruit

People are consistent when it comes to humour. You meet someone and know pretty quickly where on the humour continuum they stand.

Not that you need a sense of humour. A University of Karachi study found that, “there is no relationship between a sense of humor and mental health” (Tariq & Khan, 2013, p 338).

richIn today’s world, where banks create money out of nothing and charge interest for it, where a few people are hilariously rich and politicians are in their pockets, where a GDP is more important than our biosphere and spandex is suitable for any body type – if you didn’t laugh, you’d probably cry.

Tears of laughter and sadness look alike, but sad tears make you feel sorry for yourself and happy tears take you out of yourself. Humour can re-frame the world in a light that’s enjoyable (instead of deplorable).

In psychology “framing” refers to how we “react to a particular choice in different ways depending on how it is presented; e.g. as a loss or as a gain” (Wikipedia). How we frame predicts enjoyment potential.

confuciusConfucius gave two answers to the same question to two students. Zilu asked, “May one immediately put into practice what one has learned?” The Master said something about one’s father and brothers. When Ran Yǒu asked the same question, the Master said, “Yes, one may” (11.22, Book XI, Analects). Teachings are correct in relation to the student. So is humour.

death is badConfucius said, “Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” The same goes for humour.

Each of us is born into a situation. We inherit a genetic blueprint not of our choosing. If you have mild brain damage and grow up in a bad home, that’s the hand you’re dealt.

bad handPeople come to the table with different ways of seeing the world and different personalities and capacities to make decisions. You could be rich and miserable, poor and miserable or in a miserable middle. Misery is not totally monetarily related.

Books like A Fine Balance (2001) and Tortilla Flat (1935) show how people prevail under any circumstance. Despite incredible hardships characters are amused by things that are easy to get and all around (like low hanging fruit).

bear2Wit can be barbed and satire harsh, but humour expresses comfortable feelings without unpleasant effects on others. Humour can help you bear “what is too terrible to be borne” (Tariq & Khan, p. 333).

steve martin
A wild and crazy guy.

Mel Brooks (a comedian) said, “Life literally abounds in comedy if you just look around” and Steve Martin (a sort of comedian) said, “Comedy is the art of making people laugh without making them puke,” meaning: the degree to which something is funny suggests that almost anything could be funny, it’s just a matter of sensing it (without vomit).

To be funny (and not scary) humour has to be benign. It can be dark but not too dark. It can be offensive but not too offensive.

minorities-in-heaven-science-projectA teeny weeny minority (in number, not stature) don’t find anything funny. An even teenier (and weenier) minority find everything funny, but the vast majority find at least some things funny.

granny
Video of Granny.

So, what’s funny? Is an old woman wielding a shotgun funny? It depends who she aims at. It’s like musical appreciation. Some people actually enjoy Huey Lewis and the News.

It’s all relative.

When a person says to you, “I’m trying to find myself,” it’s not funny to say, “Where’d you go?”

who am iWhen someone says, “Who am I?” and you say, “A big goof-ball.” That’s not helping. As Mother used to say, “Another person’s angst is not cause for merriment.”

When someone complains of a lack of meaning in their life, you know that person has indoor plumbing.

When someone asks, “What’s my purpose?” and you say, “To massage my feet. Here, I’ll take off my socks.” That just isn’t funny.

MyLifeHasNoPurpose (1)Snoopy (aka Charles Schultz) thinks his life has no meaning, but he is happy. It’s funny because it goes against a preconception. Slavoj Žižek (a philosopher) tells a story of a worker suspected of stealing:

wheelbarrow“Every evening, as he leaves the factory, the wheelbarrow he rolls in front of him is carefully inspected. The guards can find nothing. It is always empty. Finally, the penny drops: what the worker is stealing are the wheelbarrows themselves…” (Violence).

Humour is like that – so is amusement and enjoyment. It’s under your nose. Lighten your wheelbarrow.

albert-einstein-fuzzy-slippersWhy is purpose and meaning associated with happiness? The Dalai Lama (aka Lhamo Dondrub) said between giggles, “men should have a purpose.” He also said, “The purpose of our lives is to be happy” (29 Dalai Lama quotes).

Perhaps purpose and result are the same thing.

Meaning is in the thing itself. Just as a flower flowers to flower, you are you to be you. Enjoy to enjoy to enjoy. It’s nuclear and self-fulfilling.

Comical Animals and Imaginative Exercise #1

MonsterEach of us is a comical animal. We’re funny creatures. All of us. Life is a struggle for most people. As a philosopher of enjoyment, you should praise each person for their life struggle. Each person is a hero. Flatter them for what they have to endure. It isn’t easy being human.

You know the struggles people go through because you go through them too. Each of us wrestles with this thing called life. It is as the song says, “Life is a funny proposition after all.”

If you cultivate awareness of the tragic absurdity of us all and of the special silliness of people (including yourself!), you recognize the pathetic heroism presented by each person in their struggle with this monstrous thing we call life.

wrestlingIf you recognize the tragic absurdity of people, you will have a silent respect for every single wrestler. Recognize the struggles of others and praise them for their heroism.

The struggles of people is monumental. People do the best they can. Failure is understandable. Success is a surprise.

Happy moments of contentment occur when a struggle isn’t a struggling but an enjoying. Resist not the struggle. To struggle is to live.

21 mpx uncroppedHow do you deal with struggle? Do you get worked up by troubles or do they roll off your back like water off a duck?

One way to deal with the struggle of trouble is to use your imagination.

devil's bundleThere’s a trick you can use to deal with any difficulty. It’s called the trouble-bag. Imagine taking all your fears, worries, horrors and terrors and stuffing them in an invisible burlap bag.

Take that invisible burlap bag stuffed with troubles and tie an invisible cord around it. The cord cannot be broken. Once in the invisible trouble-bag, all your fears, worries, horrors and terrors can’t get out.

Should you feel a fear or a worry, merely picture the invisible bundle of trouble and shake it against your side. Rattle it. Laugh at it. It’s in the bag! Shaking your imaginary bag of trouble is enough to free you from your worst mental obsessions.

No one needs to know, but even if someone notices you shaking your invisible trouble bag: Who cares? Tell them how you’ve taken all your fears, worries, terrors and horrors and stuffed them in an invisible bag and how you’ve tied that bag of troubles, fears and worries with a magical invisible cord that can’t be broken.

So what if they think it isn’t normal? You can laugh at them for laughing at you. It’s fun to use your imagination. Wishful thinking can be enjoyable. Imagine feeling free of worry and fear. Can you imagine it? If you can imagine it, you can make it happen.

If you tell people about your invisible trouble-bag and they laugh at you and think you’re crazy, in the end, if it works and you’re trouble free, who has the last laugh? You do! This is a funny thing to do. It’s an enjoyable thing to imagine. Be as a kid and practice the power of wishful thinking.

You can have the last laugh because you’ve got your imaginary bag of troubles all tied up. Those who think it’s a crazy and pointless to stuff troubles in an imaginary bag tied by a magical unbreakable cord can continue to suffer from the fever of their fretting. You’re done.

Imagine yourself worry free and become one of your imaginings.

Snakes and Ladders and Butterfly Kisses

butterflyWhat sets the philosophy of enjoyment apart is the will to enjoy. It’s an application of willpower to enjoyment. Willpower is normally used to deny immediate gratification for a long-term goal. We force ourselves to do things that we don’t want to do – not enjoy desert, not enjoy a drink, not spend money – or we make ourselves do things we’d rather not – run on a treadmill, work late, eat bran flakes. This will to enjoy is the opposite of that.

People think that with enough willpower they can improve their lives, but results from the American Psychological Association’s 2011 Stress in America Survey shows that a lack of willpower is the No. 1 reason for people not making healthy lifestyle changes (see: What You Need to Know About Willpower: The Psychological Science of Self-Control). People blame faulty willpower for their imperfect choices, but is willpower to blame?

What if you turned willpower on its head? Instead of willing yourself to not do things that you want to do or to do things you don’t want to do, step out of self-conflicts and will yourself to do what you want. Force yourself to enjoy! Does it take an effort to do what you want?

Enjoyment is subtle. It’s so simple people miss it. We focus on big stuff, long term goals and on more of everything when it’s actually less that we need. It’s the butterfly kiss of happiness that we miss. Less is more (more or less).

ice creamIf you enjoy ice cream, does it take willpower to make yourself have some? No. It’s what you want! Be reasonable and force yourself to enjoy ice cream! Use willpower to do what you want and it doesn’t take an effort.

Optimize every scrap of enjoyment. Be enjoyment strategic. Too much ice cream isn’t enjoyable. It’ll make you sick. If you understand the fragile nature of enjoyment, you’ll know how to play it. Enjoyment is a game of strategy.

According to John P. Carse in the book Finite and Infinite Games there are two kinds of games. There are finite games where the object is to win and there are infinite games where the object is to continue playing. Make enjoyment your infinite game.

The world isn’t a friendly place. It doesn’t owe you happiness. What does it mean to force yourself to enjoy? It means to make a choice to enjoy and to use willpower to generate a fighting spirit. With a fighting spirit, take every annoyance, every pain, every discomfort, every sickness, every humiliation, every horror, every fear as all in a day’s work in the infinite game of living. Play to continue playing. Enjoy to continue enjoying.

HITACHI HDC-1061EPicture unhappiness as a woman determined to be unhappy. She’s your personal antagonist and her breath is not good. Now, imagine playing a game of Snakes and Ladders (aka Chutes and Ladders) with her. Will it be enjoyable? Most people would think not, but for a philosopher of enjoyment, it’s a challenge.

The game is considered by some as a metaphor for life. On the board of Snakes and Ladders there’s a grid of numbered squares with pictures of snakes and ladders each connecting two board squares. The object of the game is to navigate your piece according to die rolls from the bottom to the top helped by ladders and hindered by snakes.

Historically, the ladders represented virtues (positive emotions) – they take you up – and the snakes represented vices (negative emotions) – they take you down. The trick to winning is to get lucky and have more virtues than vices.

If you are going to enjoy the game with a sad halitosis friend, you have to roll with what happens. It’s beyond your control anyway. Accept what you get. Look for ladders and avoid snakes. Enjoy both the ups and downs. Have a conversation with yourself. Encourage yourself to enjoy. Be a good companion to yourself and kind to your unhappy friend. Offer her a mint and your own enjoyment. Enjoyment is like laughter, it’s contagious.

dieThe only thing you control is the way you think. Win or lose, it doesn’t matter. Enjoy Snakes and Ladders like you’re ten years old and it’s 1927. Imagine the enjoyment and you have it! Play the music and fly baby fly! Help others by helping yourself. When you defy depression and enjoy yourself, you win even when you lose.

Roll the die before it’s you.