Why Has it Become so Hard to Enjoy the World and Our Lives

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E.B. White famously said, “I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve (or save) the world and a desire to enjoy (or savor) the world. This makes it hard to plan the day”

On many a day, this is exactly how I feel. However, do we have to choose between saving and savoring the world?

They are both equally important and needed in our lives. We, however, probably give too much importance to improving ourselves and the world around us while diminishing the effect of simply enjoying and experiencing this world.

The truth is that we exist on earth for only a short while. So why can’t we occasionally treat life as an exciting adventure trying to make the best out of it while allowing it to unravel its many mysteries onto us?

Dolce Far Niente

This is an Italian concept brought to the world by Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love. It translates to “the sweetness of doing nothing.” It is similar to Buddhist teachings that preach being present, not trying to strive for anything, so as to get lost in the spontaneity of the moment.

In our modern technology age, we are always looking for ways to engage the mind. We think that we can actually save the world. It’s like we’re under the impression that we’ve been given a mandate by God to save our Universe. (The stark truth is that we are destroying it.)

We’ve busied ourselves into believing that life is too severe for us to relax naturally into sheer pleasure.

Why can’t we instead have a life free of anxiety, overwhelm and the unbelievable amount of expectations we have imposed on ourselves? That means not being rushed but having the time to smell the roses, coffee or whatever you’d like to smell today.

A life lived without the intensity of feelings is one without meaning. Likewise, a life impersonating a headless chicken running around every day to get things done will leave no imprint on our dying selves or those that we leave behind.

I struggle with doing nothing. It’s like I feel I’m nothing when I’m not doing anything. But, and therein lies the problem, I haven’t permitted myself to do nothing. It’s like I always feel guilty when I miss a task, no matter how futile it is.

The reality is, and it’s slowly dawning on me, that we should be okay with doing nothing. Not every activity must be a means to an end. Sitting on the sofa does not mean I have to watch TV. Taking a walk need not be measured for distance and speed. Watching the birds in nature doesn’t have to be labelled as a mindful exercise to be done on Wednesdays at 5 pm.

Slowing Down

The COVID-19 pandemic was an absolute disaster; from losing lives to financial suffering, both still happening today. However, we did get to taste how life feels when it’s slowed down. When all the doing, striving and achieving didn’t matter, and our only goal was survival.

During the height of the pandemic, without knowing, I’d slowed down and had withdrawn myself from the noise of my own life — troubles at work, societal pressures and meetings and deadlines. I became calmer and more content without any expectations or responsibilities. It’s like I pressed pause, but there were fewer consequences for doing so this time around.

Throughout those months, my phone hardly rang. There were few urgent emails to respond to and even fewer people to deal with. Instead, everyone was busy with their own lives. At work, there were no requests from suppliers for payments. There were no extra charges by banks to contest. No issues to solve with customers. No tasks to chalk off. No goals to achieve.

Fewer responsibilities were bearing on my shoulders.

There were fewer expectations.

There were no distractions.

Instead, there was rather a sense of freedom that I had lacked for many years. I felt light, more mindful of the world and me in the world. I was reminded that I’m nothing but a speck of cosmic dust. And that many of the shadows we chase weren’t that important.

Suddenly what seemed urgent became less so. Instead, what became important was family, friendships, health, joy, helping others, the Universe’s health. These values have shone through to remind me of my core priorities.

Acceptance

Acceptance is not an easy concept to understand. It is also one that is saddled with many negative undertones. As Carl Jung said, “the most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely.”

However, the wiser I’ve become, the more I recognize that our only true goal in life is to accept ourselves fully.

Nothing else matters.

Not making money. Not becoming famous. Not reading every book in the world.

It is not even saving the world.

Only when we reach the point of completely accepting ourselves, warts and all, do we become fulfilled in our lives.

True Acceptance starts with self-acceptance. Only when we accept ourselves can we be ready to accept others. The opposite of acceptance is judgment. When we stop judging ourselves and start accepting who we are, we can then rid ourselves of the worst aspects of human suffering — judging, comparing, resisting, grasping and striving.

Acceptance is loving ourselves unconditionally and resisting the perils of striving for perfection. In accepting and loving our humanness, we start to do likewise with the whole of humanity.

Whether it’s Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela, Buddha, Jesus Christ or Prophet Mohammed, they all struggled and endured pain to arrive at the self-awareness to accept themselves fully. Only after that could they then have enough self-compassion to offer love and compassion to the rest of humanity and alleviate much suffering and seal their destiny.

What Acceptance is not.

Acceptance is not resignation. It’s not about being passive and allowing life to happen to us. It is rather an active process, a preamble to change and becoming our best versions.

Acceptance does not mean limiting our possibilities. It rather provides room for growth as we focus on our inner music and ignore all the noise that hovers in the background.

I think when we appreciate what the joy of doing nothing can bring, combined with slowing down our lives so as not to chase every shiny object that we come across and find peace in accepting ourselves, we start to savor our lives and the world.

Perhaps, when we reduce the noise within our lives, we can come out to play more. Just like how the animals did during the pandemic pause of 2020 — Coyotes spotted on the Golden Gate Bridge, birds chirping in the middle of Times Square and Dolphins swimming further up the Bosphorous in Istanbul.

What plans will you put in place to start enjoying your life?

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I rise daily at 5 am, meditate, read and journal on my Self-awareness journey. Some of my reflections make it to my blog; others don’t. (http://mo-issa.com)

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Mo Issa

Mo Issa

I rise daily at 5 am, meditate, read and journal on my Self-awareness journey. Some of my reflections make it to my blog; others don’t. (http://mo-issa.com)

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