(continued from last month – see The Ten Practices of a Happy and Successful Life — Part III)

Practice #7 — “Have Fun Each Day”

If this sounds frivolous or unrealistic, believe me it’s not. Having fun daily is one of the most life-affirming practices we can ever adopt. It takes a real conscious effort to make time for fun in our busy lives, but if you’re looking for a successful AND happy life, you’ll see the wisdom of making the time. Sometimes it means breaking long-entrenched workaholic practices born of the foolish and erroneous belief that “the harder I work the more successful and productive I’ll be.” Perhaps in the short term, but over an extended period of time, all work and no play wear us down spiritually, emotionally and physically. Be diligent in honoring this practice and welcoming it into your life, and not only will you be happier but more effective too.

48853015 - young blonde laughing near the seasideLet me quote from my book, The Practice of Happiness. Not only has this point been made very clearly in the chapter, “Fun, Joy and Nonsense,” but by quoting it here I can also introduce you to a little jewel of a book that is often overlooked by my Mind Power students. Enjoy reading this next segment:

I am facilitating a weekend retreat with thirty-five participants, and while the mood is generally upbeat, sometimes things can get serious and heavy. Like right now.

A woman has just finished sharing a very traumatic experience, and our hearts and minds are all with her. It has been talked out and there is nothing more to say. Everyone is silent and reflective.

I’ve been in this situation often enough to know that right now the very best remedy available is an ample dose of fun and nonsense. I saunter over to a box where various items are kept, pull out a court jester’s hat my wife has made for just such occasions, and put it on. The bells on each tri-corner ring softly as everyone in the group looks on in disbelief. I look ridiculous.

We are at a small resort town in New Zealand which overlooks the ocean. There is a lovely grassy field just outside, and I tell them that they are all now to follow me out to that area.

Once outside, I inform them that I am now the “Master of Nonsense,” and that we are going to play a game. “It begins with one person who is the amoeba. The amoeba then captures another person; they capture a third and then a fourth. Then…” I say in mock horror, eyes wide for emphasis, “once there are four amoebas, they split into two groups each, who each capture two more, and now there’re four groups of amoebas on the loose!” Boundaries are defined, one person is picked as the amoeba, and the game begins. Immediately the rest of the group moves in unison, like a school of fish, avoiding the oncoming amoeba. I’ve played this game countless times, and every time I enjoy it as much as I did the first time. Seeing grown adults squeal with excitement is just too much fun to miss. While it is quite easy to avoid one amoeba, it gets far trickier as they multiply. Some participants who seemed reluctant at first are now scurrying for their lives. One middle-aged woman in blue slacks is laughing hysterically as a group of amoebas gain on her. A man is climbing a tree trying to escape. I step back and take it all in. Thirty-five men and women playing like children. It is a wonderful sight. The game lasts less than ten minutes and at its conclusion everyone is laughing and clapping with appreciation. We return to the conference room with everyone feeling fresh and rejuvenated. I’ve never known fun to fail to work its magic. It seems to be a cure-all for every situation. It is life’s secret elixir.

When things are too serious in our life, we feel stressed or sluggish, we need to call upon our own inner “Master of Nonsense.” Maybe he or she will take us out for a walk, or have us put aside that important project that’s overdue and take in a double feature at the local movie house. There are hundreds of ways to break the tension and take the pressure off. Sometimes we just have to trust the reckless part of ourselves.

We need to renew our spirit regularly. A busy life necessitates it. We’ve become too full of activities. Too serious. Too adult. No wonder kids often think we’re dull and boring. In many ways that’s what we’ve become. We should get back to our roots and instincts. Bring in more balance. We need to have more fun, and to do so we have to be more creative and spontaneous; to seize the opportunities life presents us whenever and wherever we find them.

It was a somber ceremonial affair honoring the year’s Nobel laureates. Many dignitaries were in attendance including Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu (winner of the Nobel Peace Prize), the Dalai Lama and various others. The Dalai Lama was standing directly behind Bishop Tutu, who was sitting in a heavy wooden, straight-backed chair. At a particularly earnest moment of the proceedings, Bishop Tutu’s hat was abruptly pushed down over his eyes. The Bishop was startled, but didn’t have to look back to know who was responsible. The Dalai Lama was laughing. A little practical joke by the Dalai Lama gave a moment of levity to a highly serious affair. The press snapped pictures and the next day, in all the major newspapers, people everywhere saw a picture of Desmond Tutu, his broad smile visible below his crumpled hat, and behind him the Dalai Lama, laughing. The world was able to share in the joke.

That the Dalai Lama did this doesn’t surprise me in the least. My few times in his presence have convinced me he’s a jokester. I was once at a lunch with the business community of Toronto where the Dalai Lama was being honored. Representatives from various religious groups, business movers and shakers, and numerous local celebrities were in attendance.

The Dalai Lama sat at the head table, holding court, and throughout the meal he had everyone around him laughing. When it came time to speak, however, he spoke very eloquently and with emotion about the plight of the Tibetan people under Chinese rule. What impressed me most about the event was that, even with the obvious burden he felt in his heart for his people and homeland, the Dalai Lama could still so easily find time for joy and laughter.

The Dalai Lama has a lot to teach us in this regard. The seriousness of life’s problems does not have to eliminate our fun and joy. In life it’s necessary that we be, at different times, both serious and silly. Typically we’ve mastered the serious side very well. It’s time to explore the wisdom and pleasure of the silly. We often forget that within all spiritual teachings there is a very clear emphasis on the importance of being joyful. Fun, joy and happiness are spiritual principles.

Here children can teach us a lot. In the Bible we read that, “Unless ye become as little children ye cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.” What does this mean? What is it about children that we are to imitate? Their trusting nature? Their innocence? The way they live life moment by moment? Certainly all these things, but what about children’s most natural instinct, that of having fun? Look closely and you will see fun and joy springing eternally from within them. Children point the way.

Spontaneity, creativity and the ability to let go and have fun are all lessons children can teach us. We would be wise to watch closely how well they master and perform these activities, how they can make fun out of almost anything. In these activities they are the teachers and we are the students. Take the lesson of spontaneity, for example. I don’t think that the Dalai Lama premeditated pushing Desmond Tutu’s hat; that he was waiting for just the right moment. It was undoubtedly a spontaneous impulse, mischievous and fun loving. And to his credit he didn’t feel the need to keep it in check; he simply allowed it to happen.

Having fun daily, even if it’s only for a few minutes is a life-affirming practice. It’s also a powerful symbol to our subconscious. It is saying I am worthy. Life is good. Even small amounts of fun every day can have a profound effect. We must be diligent in taking the time to nourish ourselves. If, no matter how busy we are, we still have the wisdom to take time for ourselves, we will be well compensated. Don’t be fooled by pressures and responsibilities; they will wait for you. We set the agenda for our life, and in our agenda there must always be time for fun.

Practice being spontaneous. Surprise yourself by being “childlike” sometimes. Let each day hold a gift or two for you. Practice bringing fun, joy and nonsense into your life each day. When you find yourself wondering should I, shouldn’t I – don’t hesitate–do it!