When people told me that the purpose of life was enjoyment I used to feel let down.
I felt there had to be more to life than just enjoying it.
But I never found the “more” I was searching for. And I could never shake the suspicion that this mysterious “more” was just a different form of enjoyment.
Why did I react so badly to the idea of enjoying life? Isn’t enjoyment prima facie a wonderfully desirable thing?
In hindsight i can see two, interrelated, reasons.
The first is that I was very unhappy from early childhood onward. While there were lots of things I enjoyed, the struggles and conflicts of home life were firmly in the foreground of my experience.
So by the time I started wondering about the meaning of life I already had a very negative outlook and had trained myself out of enjoyment.
The second reason I didn’t like being told that the meaning of life was enjoyment was that I didn’t see much to enjoy in the lives of the people who were telling me this!
To my mind they were satisfied with very little…much too little to convince me that their “enjoyment” would give me the meaning I sought.
But that was simply an error in my understanding: they weren’t telling me to enjoy their lives, but to enjoy my life.
The power of big contrast
Having spent twenty years searching for that elusive “more” to life, I can see that I was in fact digging myself deeper by constantly reiterating and reinforcing my negative thoughts and feelings.
In the Abraham Hicks system negativity is presented under a positive aspect as “contrast”.
Contrast refers to anything unwanted that sparks within us a desire for more. Big contrast or persistent focus on unwanted experience gives us a proportionately strong desire for something better.
So even if we have suffered, the good news is that the suffering translates into “treasure in heaven”, drawing us to an even greater happiness.
Hence my “mistake” of prolonged and obsessive focus on my own misery, anxiety and depression sparked within me an extremely powerful desire for real enjoyment.
With this is mind we can let go of regrets or dismay about the past. While I could have turned to happiness much earlier in life, it would not have been such an epic contrast to the unhappiness that I’ve endured and self-inflicted.
What do you enjoy?
It turns out the “more” I was looking for was really just more enjoyment of life.
It’s up to us as individuals to find out what form that takes. In fact for myself I would say I have a very strong, yet-unfulfilled desire to find out what my enjoyment looks like.
Though life rolled on for those twenty years, I felt as though I had deferred the question of enjoyment until after I had found the answers to my questions.
I wanted to know the meaning of life before I committed myself to really living it.
And now it turns out that the answer is just to enjoy it, and the way to enjoy it is by feeling better about life as it is right now.
I used to have a strong repugnance toward anything that felt mundane or ‘ordinary’.
But lately I’ve come to recognise that this is really about my own unhappy formative years, and the fear of reliving that experience for the rest of my life.
It’s the sense of having grown up in an ordinary middle-class home that was actually dysfunctional, and equating dysfunction with everything mainstream and ordinary.
But it’s also about the yearning for “more” and quickly rejecting anything that felt like “same old”.
Yet if we bear in mind the Abraham teaching that we get more of what we are focused on, then my insistence on avoiding my past experience only guarantees I will find more of it.
We can’t remove things from our experience by pushing against them, only by choosing something else to focus on.
Finding a new normal
It doesn’t really matter if my life is ordinary or not, because the only reason I feared the ordinary was that I equated it with feeling bad.
But everything in my life can be viewed in either a wanted or an unwanted aspect. There is always a path to appreciation and immediate relief no matter where I am.
Who cares if your life looks ordinary to you or others? All that matters is you enjoy it. And who decides what is ordinary? What is your comparison point and scope? A middle-class Australian gen-Y perspective of ordinary is actually incredibly narrow and specific!
Rather than being hampered by a need to overcome the ordinary, I can come at all of life with the aim of enjoying it as it is, and as it will be, confident that my focus on enjoyment will lead me further down that happy path.
And freed from an obsession with the ordinary, who knows where the path of enjoying life will take me?