What makes something a celebration? Why do you so enjoy a party, playing sports, making love, eating your favorite food, or listing to your favorite band? Doesn’t a lot of it have to do with your state of mind in that moment? What if you could have that state of mind every day, or even every moment? Learning this skill is the Art of Living.
So Here Are My Top 10 Ways to Make Life a Celebration
Tim Ferris, best-selling author and “lifestyle designer”, said one of his favorite ingredients in his recipe for happiness was having a group of friends over for dinner each week. I have to agree with him. Life is meant to be shared and there’s something very festive about a packed dinner table. (I was happy to see that Ferris included Art of Living Courses in the recommended services section of his hit book The 4-Hour Workweek.)
If you’re in the middle of your favorite activity but your mind can’t stop thinking about work, you’re not really celebrating. Celebration requires being fully present to the experience. Learning to let go of our fear, anxiety, guilt, and regret increases our ability to enjoy.
The breathing techniques in the Art of Living Course are great at reducing stress and negative emotions (Click here to read a summary of research done on the Art of Living’s breathing techniques). After I teach the Sudarshan Kriya technique on the course, participants often say things like, “The colors in the room look brighter,” or “It’s like I cleared the cobwebs out of my mind”.
In the same way food enthusiasts clear their palate to experience tastes more clearly, I’ve come to think of breathing and meditation as clearing your mental palate to experience life more fully.
The opposite of a wandering, obsessed mind is one in the present moment, which is where the joy of life is to be found.
Do you notice that the amount of joy you can feel in any experience is dependent upon how present your mind is in that moment? For example, haven’t you ever been eating some delicious food, but thinking so hard or talking so fast you forgot to taste it? Then you look down and realize it’s all gone!
Personally, I find the last bite of any meal is usually the best. Why? Because it’s the last one, so I make an effort to slow down and enjoy it fully.
Tip: Becoming aware of your breath brings your mind to the present moment, because your breath is one of those few things in life that is always in the present moment. Also, breathing techniques increase our focus and mental clarity.
Do you ever find yourself thinking and planning so long that you don’t leave yourself any time or energy to actually do the thing you had in mind? Acting spontaneously may be the fast track to making our lives a celebration. It encourages creativity and improvisation. While over-planning can be very draining, spontaneity is energizing and just plain fun.
Letting go of hesitation also means we take more risks. This can of course be scary, but it’s also a sign that we’re living freely and not letting ourselves get too locked into our routines or beliefs about what we can or can’t do.
When you let go your fear of looking or sounding stupid, singing and dancing are great fun. They bring us together, increase our energy and help us let go of the seriousness of life. Singing and dancing help us learn to be one hundred percent, fully engaged in what we’re doing, and that is central to making life a celebration.
Like most people, I used to confine my singing to the shower or the car. On my first Art of Silence Course, there were about two or three thousand people meditating together, and every night we would get together and sing. I think it was the first time I ever let myself sing in public. There was so much energy and joy in the room, I had to sing. And it turns out I really liked it. Since then, I’ve sung in a gospel choir, an African choir and a reggae/kirtan band. I love them all, but the joy of a big Art of Living group sing is still unmatched for me.
Another important way to make life a celebration is to let yourself be playful, even silly, and do things that have no purpose. Look at a child and they’ll show you how to laugh and play fully. Play like a kid and you’ll remember how to celebrate!
If we get too attached to only doing what is important, life loses its spark. Then, even singing and dancing can be dulled into a form of skill development, and a party or potluck can be reduced to a networking opportunity. Do things just for the sake of doing them and make it a point to try new activities that don’t benefit your career.
There’s a quote by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar that I’ve kept on my desk for years. It says, “The only thing you must remember is how fortunate you are. When you forget this you become sad.” Feeling abundant and grateful, we can let go of lack consciousness, appreciate what we have and share with generosity. Joy grows with sharing.
The mind has a tendency to cling to the negative. We usually take little problems or discomforts and blow them out of proportion. To counteract this, we can put more attention on appreciating the positive things in life.
Start with “gratitude lite” says Robert A. Emmons, of the University of California, Davis, whose pioneering research shows that even just writing down five things you’re grateful for, in one sentence each, once a week has significant health benefits. “If you want to sleep more soundly, count blessings, not sheep” says Emmons, in his book on gratitude research.
Personally, I find that selfless service is often the “missing link” to making my life like a celebration. A life lived just for me and my family gets boring fast, and I don’t feel right being too focused on my own needs and pleasures when I’m already so well off. Yet every time I reach out and serve someone, I get a boost of energy, a feeling of joy and purpose.
Whether big or small, giving to others gives back to us in abundance.
I challenge you to do a random act of kindness for someone and not smile during or afterwards.
I’m not just being lazy. I don’t believe I have all the answers here, or that everything that works for me will work for you. If you feel dissatisfied without number 10, then make it “curiosity”.
Feeling very inspired? Write your own Top 10 List! And if you’ve done the Art of Living Course, has it helped you do this? If so, how?