Can everyday life be joyful?

I was taught as a child that I could only relax when all my work was done for the day.

I was taught by example that everyday life is full of unwanted chores that you put off as long as possible until you can no longer ignore them.

I learned that it was impossible to feel good so long as these chores awaited you; and yet they were endless.

On my own I concluded that there was no joy in this kind of life. But at the same time I accepted this “daily grind” as reality, something that had to be escaped or overcome.

This is my resistance to everyday joy

In order to find joy in everyday life I must let go of these beliefs. Yet when I do, I face the underlying thought that these chores must get done, and by refusing to shoulder the burden I am being lazy, selfish, and inflicting harm on others.

If joy comes, I can’t accept it unless all my “work” is done. And my work will never be done – it restarts each day and some of it carries over.

So joy is simply not compatible with everyday life, unless my circumstances change somehow.

First change your thoughts

I’ve been working for two years at learning to feel better, so I know already that changing my thoughts is more powerful than trying to change my circumstances.

So what thoughts can I change to feel better and let go of my resistance?

I’ve already shown myself twice before that supposed burdens can be transformed if I look instead for what I want, what I appreciate.

For example, instead of thinking that the dishes have to get done and no one else is going to do them, I started to think about how much I love a clean and tidy kitchen. If I then choose to clean, it’s for the sake of something I love and appreciate, rather than a burden I must bear or else be labelled lazy, selfish and somehow morally deficient.

Another recent example was getting my 1yo daughter to sleep. For a year I could only think of it as something necessary, regardless of how difficult or burdensome it might be. I was the only one who could rock her to sleep, so it was up to me to shoulder that burden or else be totally irresponsible, selfish, and a bad parent.

What changed was that I found a thought that felt good: I’d love for her to learn to soothe herself to sleep. I was able to set aside my resistance for the sake of this positive goal, and help her learn to soothe herself.

Extrapolating to everyday life

The stuff of everyday life can be transformed if I allow myself to find positive thoughts instead of old patterns that feel burdensome and self-accusatory.

Starting at the beginning of the day, my morning routine can be because I love getting up early, feeling clean and refreshed, and enjoying my coffee, rather than the burden of being up early enough to get everything done.

I can enjoy my kids’ company early in the morning, and get my son ready for school because I want him to feel secure and safe and cared for, and to learn by example how to care for himself.

I can enjoy the walk to school because it’s lovely to be outside for some exercise with my kids, stretch our legs and get some fresh morning air.

I can enjoy taking my son to school because I want him to enjoy learning and interacting with others and working out his own preferences in life.

I can come home and enjoy relaxing in my home with my wife and daughter. I can write blog posts that inspire me and work on articles that feel good. I can do research into things that interest me and work out my own preferences and where I’d like to go next.

I can tidy the house – if I want to – because I love having a clean and tidy home. It’s not a burden that must be shouldered, it’s not something for which I am judged and criticised. I love the feeling of a clean and tidy home, but it’s okay for it to not be clean and tidy. And it’s okay to let my wife tidy if she wants to.

I can plan dinner because I love our evening meal together. I love cooking for my wife and kids. I love their enjoyment of my food. But it’s also okay to let my wife cook if she feels like it. And its okay to get take-out occasionally too.

I can pick up my son after school because I love being there for him, to hear about his day and how he feels, to say hello to some friends and bring him back home. But I can also let my wife do it sometimes if she wants to.

And the evening together can be a time when we enjoy watching things together, playing games together, reading stories together. It can be a time for fun and enjoyment rather than the last hours of burden and work.

Finally, we can put the kids to bed and get some sleep ourselves, not because we are worried about tomorrow’s burdens, but because sleep is so good for body, mind, and spirit. Sleep is true rest and it’s something we can love and enjoy for itself.

Letting go of old resistance

I can retell the story of my day and like a miracle transform endless burdens into continual joy.

I can gently remind myself as often as necessary that these daily activities are only as burdensome or routine as I make them out to be in my thoughts.

I live and work and think and play and sleep at home. I’m home so much, it’s time to let home be the place of joy and love and happiness I’ve always wanted it to be.

I want my everyday life to be joyful, and I think I know now how it can be.

Feel good all day 7

A Japanese stone guardian lion.

Last night I went to see Avengers: Endgame. I went by myself because one of us needs to look after the baby.

Usually it’s me, because I don’t go out much.

In fact last night was the first time I’ve seen a movie by myself, and the first time I’ve instigated going somewhere for pure enjoyment.

It was wonderful! We have an old Art Deco cinema run by volunteers, and it’s incredibly comfortable and inviting.

It might sound like a small thing but that’s exactly why I’ve never done it. A simple pleasure of going to the movies was easy to deprecate and deny myself in the name of some mistaken seriousness or austerity.

I thought self-denial was virtuous and I cut out all kinds of things. I quashed my own desire to experience life and explore it.

So the real satisfaction and delight last night was not the movie itself but acting on this deeper desire to go out and do something, even inconvenience others, for the sake of my own enjoyment.

Another small milestone to celebrate on the path of feeling good all day!

Happiness Day 17

When s*** hits the fan.

I focus on feeling good. I make headway, my mood rises, I appreciate subtle and obvious changes around me.

And then something unwanted shows up. A bad mood hits me from “out of nowhere”, or an issue arises that sparks bad feelings and inner turmoil.

But over time I adapt and adjust and the conflict is resolved and…looking back, I’m changed by it.

I’m growing by facing these unwanted things and allowing the wanted instead.

And though at first it was dire and stomach-churning and dramatic and full of fear, over time and with practice the process has gotten easier.

Abraham describes it as “learning to handle contrast better”.

Not only can we learn to allow better-feeling thoughts on contrast-rich subjects, but we can also allow greater ease and comfort in the process.

We can even get to the point of appreciating contrast because it inspires the expansion and growth that is the whole point of our life here.

Let it be easy!

At first I wanted to make rapid, powerful changes to my mood and my life.

But people who have done this advise against it. Don’t be in a hurry, take it easy.

The whole point of life is to enjoy the journey. And while we might tell ourselves we are ready to go straight from utterly depressed to profoundly joyful in an instant, there’s actually a desperation and a denial of enjoyment in that pledge.

The harder you push, the more it hurts, not least because you’re used to feeling bad and so your efforts to “try harder” tend to be instinctively geared to more pain and struggle.

“Feel good” really is too easy an answer for most of us. It takes time to accept that there’s no benefit to pushing and no merit to hurting along the way.

So let it be easy! Don’t worry! The path of greatest ease is the path of least resistance and of most allowing.

There’s no rush. Don’t make it an uphill climb; the point after all is to learn how to feel better, and you can’t struggle to make that happen, earn it through suffering, or make it come faster by gritting your teeth in bitterness.

Is happiness challenging?

Today is day 12 of my Happiness Challenge and I’m pleased to say that happiness is not feeling like a challenge anymore.

I’ve been training myself to feel better regardless of the circumstances, and I’m really glad to report that my focused effort is paying off.

I’m pleased to give credit to Esther Hicks and the Abraham teachings. I found them at the right time, letting go of my resistance and accepting that feeling good really is my goal in life.

Other teachings inspired me and gave me hope, but none of them were exactly right.

Of course it wasn’t about the teachings per se, but my own reluctance to accept the simple answer of feeling good.

In hindsight I was seeking Truth and insight and understanding because I thought these would help me feel good.

But I was so caught up in my intellectual seriousness and wanting to justify and explain myself that I couldn’t just feel good directly.

Now I look at all those teachings as…surplus. I don’t need them in order to feel good.

Maybe other people do need them, and I don’t mean that in a disparaging way but in the sense that we all have different questions and hence desire different answers.

People could just as easily look at me and wonder why I’m making such a big deal about relaxing and feeling better.

Ultimately we can only live our own lives and no one else’s. I take pleasure in letting go of my efforts to explain myself and make my thoughts comprehensible to others.

I take pleasure in allowing my authentic feelings to develop and change without looking for consistency with others’ words and actions.

In the end other people can’t validate my own thoughts, feelings and desires, because they are mine. Validity was never truly the question.

That’s why my interests and passions have so frequently turned out to be marginal and obscure by others’ estimation.

I studied philosophy but I’m not really a philosopher. I learn a martial art but it’s rare and unusual. I love coffee but roast and brew my own.

Everything I do, I tend to take in a direction of my own utmost individual experience.

Because in the end it’s all about individual experience. That’s the vantage point life affords us.

We haven’t come into being only to quickly die and be reabsorbed back into some cosmic whole. God didn’t create us as individual points of consciousness only to have us immediately blend into one.

The point is simply to feel good, and enjoy the unfolding of this experience; and if you’re not enjoying it, the tools are available to help you remember how.

Writing from my couch

This past week I finally downloaded the WordPress app to my phone and I’ve been writing my posts while lying on my couch.

I should have done this ages ago! Forget stand up desks, yoga balls and ergonomic keyboards; this is true creativity untethered!

Lying on a couch is the best way to write. Honestly it feels so good I’m jealous of myself.

There’s something simultaneously rebellious and luxurious about it, playful and deeply satisfying like a childhood dream where bed becomes a boat and we float on the ocean waves in the miraculous comfort of dry linen, pillows and blankets.

I can hear the cars go by on the busy road outside my door. A clean breeze is blowing through the room. My head is supported by the arm of this 100 year old sofa, as I share my thoughts with you through the glowing screen.

And who needs ten fingers to type, anyway? What can be said in two minutes that can’t be better said in ten? I’m all thumbs right now but that’s more my speed.

Whatever makes me feel better, what makes writing more satisfying and more fun, what turns work into relaxation…

I don’t think I could have done this before. I’d have thought writing should be more serious, more intentional, more focused.

But more relaxed? More happy? More easy?

This tiny miracle of technology and receptivity is just one of many I attribute to my work of learning to feel better.

The smartphone, wifi, and apps are one miracle, but more significant is even allowing myself to consider it, to think that enjoyment is worthwhile, and care enough about how I feel to reach for it.