“Make every day a day of joy.
Dance, play, day and night…
Cherish the child who grasps your hand.
Let your wife rejoice in your bosom
For this is the fate of man.”
-The Epic Gilgamesh
I’m sitting at my desk and drinking coffee. Its bitter, but I sip it with intention to enjoy the taste, notice the flavor, and make act special. And the ability to just feel joy is an active choice. To taste my morning coffee, enjoy opening a new book, greeting my wife in the morning with a kiss, having dinner with my sons, all these acts I try to come to with excitement and enthusiasm. Some days it is easier than others but the sheer act of intention works to make an action important. Intent with enthusiasm opens joy for our lives. The word “enthusiasm” comes from the Greek, enthous, which means “possessed by a god, inspired.” To come to an activity, inspired, makes the world a wonderful place.
The American philosopher, John Dewey, wrote a book on aesthetics called Art As Experience that easily explains how we come to the work of art and experience it: the art has potential poured into it from the artist; we have our life experience poured into us. Combining the art and our viewing, the viewer, creates an experience that is more than the two things separate. To me, this is also how we can lead our lives. If we come to an activity, intent to have inspiration and enthusiasm, we are living the moment that is pregnant with joy. Literally we can breath life into an activity.
Naturally, we breath life into all our activities. Often, though, it is without consciousness. Still the energy we bring does create that “experience.” For example, if you walk into a room, where people quietly sit, the energy of the room shits. If you then begin to speak in a loud voice, people will look. If you laugh, perhaps people will smile. If you yell, people may fear. And life, though much more cluttered that an empty room, still has this flow of energy.
Each moment, like each person, is present with potential. You can select the potential you bring to the moment: will you be active or passive? All of life is choice. In fact, I’ve been told that life is a result of the choices we have made; even not making a choice is making a choice.
One of the oldest books in the world, the I Ching (or The Book of Changes), originally written around the time Homor was writing, presents the idea of working with the powers of yin and yang. Yin, the feminine and receptive; yang, the masculine and active. Of course, this is a gross simplification. But it helps us to understand that sometimes we move with life and are receptive and sometimes we are active. When I’m looking at a sunset, I am yin, receptive, absorbing all that I can of that moment and letting it act upon me, move me, create joy within me. When I’m running a marathon, in contrast, I’m active and literally trying to change the environment around me. Holding a child, I may be very yin in feeling the soft skin; teaching a child, I will be yang and explain, quiz, and check for understanding. Sometimes, listening to a good piece of music, I may let it wash over me, being totally receptive, and others, I will actively listen to the chords, repetitions, modulations, and interpretation in an active manner.
Rather than a noun, I like to use yin and yang as verbs: sometimes you yin, sometimes you yang. When you yang, your the active agent who creates the moment, who can really pour into the moment all the emotions of the universe. When I walk into a classroom, the energy from the universe pours through me and I say what is needed and try to expand a learner’s mind.
The other side is to yin. When I watch the sunset, I wait, I watch, absorb all the beauty that nature pours into that moment.
And that’s your choice: yang or yin? Which do you do? It need not be an ancient Chinese mystery, and there is no right answer. You can use such an idea in a much more practical, easy manner. You are an active agent or a passive agent. Within the pregnant moment, you chose to act or receive. Again there is no correct answer, just the choice of how you live your life. Many of our entertainments, such as watching sports, surfing the internet, television binging, killing time on social media are all passive activities. In themselves, for a short relaxation, they are welcome distraction from a hectic life, but over indulging throws our yang and yin balance out of order. In contrast, over working, multi-tasking, excessive driven behaviors, are over activity and just as destructive to a balanced life.
I’d be hypocritical if I said that we are looking for balance. As an entrepreneur and self-proclaimed runaholic, my life is anything but the Buddhist Middle-Way. What I wish to give to you is the idea that there is a choice. Within the present, generate enthusiasm for the activity and decide to shape the moment or receive how the moment is presented, or even both if applicable. The choice is yours. Having the intention and living in the moment to create it or receive the creation opens a great variety of experience for you, building a life filled full of joy and rich experience.