"Ask the Guide"
(In Our Practice, Fall 1996)
By Cheri Huber
Question: How can I have more fun in my life?
Answer: Fun is an attitude of mind, not an activity. Play is an orientation to life, not something we do instead of work. I see people dividing these into opposites and then deciding which activities go into each category. In terms of spiritual practice, an old Buddhist saying comes to mind: when the opposites arise, the Buddha Mind is lost. As soon as we divide our lives into work and play, into things that are fun and things that are not fun, we are out of the moment and have lost our opportunity to play and have fun and enjoy ourselves.
Dividing our lives into things-that-are-fun and things-that-are-not-fun is nothing more than a setup to perpetuate suffering. I think back to the woman who wanted her husband to play tennis with her. When the weekend rolled around, that's what she wanted to do because tennis was her idea of fun. He liked to garden. That was his idea of fun. He didn't want to play tennis. But she reeeeally wanted him to play. Well, she and I used to have these conversations and I would say to her if you want to have fun, why don't you practice having fun in the garden? She would say, no, I want to play tennis with him on the weekends! Do you see? We say we want to have fun, but with this kind of attitude, we back ourselves farther and farther into the corner of suffering.
If I need to leave what I'm doing, go somewhere else, and do something else in order to have fun, it's never going to happen. This is because what I'm really focused on is how what I'm doing now doesn't qualify as "fun." Since fun is an attitude of mind, if I were truly present to what I'm doing now, who knows what my experience would be? We often say around the Zen Center that not being present in this moment is not good practice for being present in some future moment. So, not having fun in this moment is not good practice for having fun in some future moment.
Also, many of us hold the notion that the person who goes through life having fun is shallow, not very bright, or not paying attention. If you were paying attention, you would see that life is difficult, there is too much to do, you have to get through your list, etc. The deadly assumption is: I can't be doing the things on my list and have fun. Those things, by their very nature, preclude having fun. I can't both work and play. If I do, it means I'm not being serious and attentive because to work I have to be tense, tight, miserable, and slog through it. Then I'll earn the right to have fun.
If I do something as simple as acknowledge that I am in fact not a victim, that I am in fact living the life of my choosing, I am instantly empowered. If I don't like what I'm doing, I can quit and do something else.
"But I could never get a job that pays as much." Okay, then I am making the choice; this is the job I want because of the pay. I am not a victim. And if I acknowledge that I am doing what I'm doing because I choose it, what is keeping me from enjoying it? Ego wants me to believe that fun is going to happen at another time, in a different place, and under different circumstances. If I do not see that I can choose not to be victimized by egocentric conditioning, the guarantee is I will never have fun.
Fun is being really present and enjoying yourself. I can be working and not particularly love the work I am doing-digging a ditch, say-and that may not be my favorite activity, but what I can do is enjoy myself as I dig. The way to do this is through being present. As I dig I might ask, "What does this feel like? How do my hands feel? my back? my legs? What is my breath doing? What are the sights and sounds of ditch digging? How does the earth smell? What is the most compassionate pace at which to dig this ditch?"
Fun is being in synch with life because life is fun. How does egocentricity stop me from having fun? Well, I look at my version of how life should be, how I want it to be, how it needs to be for me to have fun and enjoy myself. I never examine this information; I just assume it's true.
If I know how to have fun in daily life, and I go somewhere to have fun, boy can I have fun! I know how. I practice it all the time. We all know the experience of planning a vacation, saving for it, making all the arrangements, going, and being disappointed. It's not what we expected. It's not what we wanted. Well, if I spend 95% of my time not enjoying what I'm doing, not being present to my life, that's who I will be on vacation with. But if I practice having fun in my daily life, and if I find out what stops me from doing that, then even if my expectations aren't met, I am accustomed to being present and having fun. If I know how to enjoy myself, I know how to enjoy everything. Think back to a "hard day" you've had recently. Would it have been hard if, for example, you had spent it with someone with whom you had just fallen in love? I doubt it. So what if the phones didn't work? So what if the copier broke again, you were caught in traffic, termites are in the basement? All you want is to be with this person you are in love with, so anything that happens is fun, it's all a good time. When you have that relationship with yourself, there is nothing better than being in love and being alive. That's when we feel most alive, when we most appreciate the things life offers. To have that with someone you are in love with is the ultimate experience. That is available to us all the time.