OK – this might be a difficult topic to put into words but I’m going to give it a try. Over the last 2-3 years I’ve been diligently working on cultivating seeds of joy and strengthening it in my daily life. In doing so I’ve had the opportunity to look deeply into many habit energies that were keeping me from developing a positive attitude and experiencing joy. One of these habit energies that I delved into was how I responded to things like praise or appreciation. I realized I had a tendency of doing things in order to be seen, recognized, and validated (something that wasn’t pleasant to find out about myself). Self-consciousness and low self-esteem often manifests itself in the need for perpetual outside validation. It can also manifest in the need to continue to tell people of the burden or trials and tribulations that went into a certain action or experience, which is usually done in a passive, indirect way.
For example, let’s say someone puts together a great party. They invite all their friends and everyone has a great time. Afterwards one of the host’s friends comments on what a great party it was and thanks them for the invite. The host then says something like: Well, I’m glad you had a good time, it was fun, but man, it sure was a lot of work. The host then continues on to tell the friend about how the oven quit working right before the party and the dog threw up on the carpet before everyone arrived and a bunch of glasses got broken in the dish washer which caused them to run to the store for plastic cups so that there would be enough containers for everyone to drink out of. On a very subconscious level the host wants that friend to know how much they went through to pull off the party, they want sympathy, and acknowledgment for how much work they did. An alternate response to that friend’s simple, “Thanks for the great party,” would be to say, “My pleasure!”
This alternate response, however, entails thinking more deeply about the message we’re really trying to convey and how our words might affect the other person we’re talking with. It also entails a willingness and/or ability to give the party without any strings attached – without needing to be validated or even appreciated. We can practice to give the party because we want to give the party! We practice to transform our attitude and approach and cultivate joy in every aspect of party planning and preparations. We need not put an undo burden on our friends by telling them all of the small difficulties that arose before they got there. In a way, it’s a rehearsal for our sour attitude when we keep complaining to others.
Attitude is everything. An event is not successful based on whether the dog throws up or not, it’s based on our ability to go with the flow of what’s happening in the present moment and adjusting as necessary. It’s how we respond to the dog throwing up that matters. Life happens as it will – dogs throw up, it’s part of life! Sometimes dishes break and the oven quits working and the dog throws up. Everything that has ever and will ever happen is part of life, not separate. In this example, if we’re the host, it’s up to us as to whether our party is a burden to us or is our pleasure to give.
Of course this isn’t to say we can never tell our good friends about the challenges and mundane details of our lives but that we should be careful as to the frequency of such things and look deeply into what our intention and purpose is in doing so. Are we trying to make ourselves look more important or more busy than we are? Are we trying to get confirmation that we’re working hard and being productive? Are we fueling our own tendency of complaining?
There are many ways this sort of behavior can manifest itself. The example above is simply one way. My own habit energies were exhibited in slightly different ways. The bottom line is that my own experience has shown me that what we put into something is what we get out of it. If I do something for the joy of doing it I experience joy and if I do something with expectations attached I experience disappointment and resentment. When I practice to enjoy what I’m doing and have it genuinely be my pleasure to do it the opportunities for living in freedom and ease are endless.
So I practice and I keep practicing in order to strengthen my abilities for living more joyfully with a brighter attitude. It’s not something that will happen on its own accord without our influence. It doesn’t matter what sort of difficulties we find ourselves surrounded by. No one is unique in this regard. We all have challenges. The good news is that our attitude is up to us, we’re the only ones who can captain our direction – and it is possible to have everything we offer, whether it be time, energy, material resources, or a great party, to be our pleasure.