When you awaken and see that most of the rest of the world isn't living a life of integrity, love, or truth, you also don't want to play their games anymore. It changes your perspective on everything. If shopping had once been a part of your identity, suddenly, you have no interest in going into malls and department stores. The old ego and old friends may ask, "What's wrong with you?" But there is nothing wrong with you. You are seeing correctly that you do not need things and clothing to define you. In truth, you were lost, and now you are found. But because so much of the world is lost and confused, it is easy to fall back into old ego doubts until we've re-conditioned and re-programmed the ego and mind to come into better alignment with the truth. As we do that, more and more interests drop away. We see where we were using experiences, relationships, and things to define ourselves or to distract ourselves. But what happens when your inner realm begins to blossom? What can the external world possibly offer then that could compare? Certainly there are fun things to do from time to time. I, for one, am having fun with trivia nights at a local pizza parlor. But it doesn't matter if I'm on a winning team. It doesn't matter if I don't know the answer. This is simply something that amuses me right now.
More and more, you will only be attracted to things that bring you joy, both in work and in your free time. More and more, you will see that everything is temporary, so why hold onto anything that is painful? There is no need to suffer any more; it is time to play.
The Adult Returns to PlayOne of the fun things in the area in which I live is that there are still plenty of ways to play and have fun beyond drinking at a bar, which dominates much of this culture. But as an adult, we don't come back to playing with naivete or foolishness. We bring the wisdom of the awakened self, so we understand our actions far better than when we were children. Addditionally, our play infuses our whole life. This isn't known in the juvenile form of attention-getting or thrill-seeking that children and teens understand. Rather, we simply practice giving and receiving love.
As many of you know, I love doing this work as a spiritual teacher. This is a form of play. But as my students know, some of our sessions together are very deep, emotional, profound, and intense. So this level of play is dramatically different than the idea of a big party with tons of booze and drugs (which ultimately isn't play, but a form of self-numbing and self-hatred). There is focused work in play, and there are moments of the more pleasurable types of fun that we normally associate with play. All-in-all, it's a beautiful and free space where we are living the lives we want to live.
The Purity of RumiOne of everyone's favorite lines from Rumi goes something like, "Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there." This is the field of love. I prefer to call it a playground. This is the space where we live in the joy of life. The pains of the world are no longer carried within us, but we are not naive to the pain and the suffering of the world. Usually, this space of love makes us only more aware of just how much suffering is going on all the time. I'm extremely aware of how people feel about themselves. As I've learned to better understand my energetic space, I can much more easily understand where a lot of discomfort is coming from that I can sense. Sometimes I even feel it in my own energy, but I don't identify with it as I once might have. This, of course, is a really important aspect of doing your self-work for those of you who are really sensitive to energy. So, let me reassure you that the more you get to know your energy space, the more you will understand when you are feeling someone else's emotions and energy. Consequently, it's a lot easier to not identify with it and let it go.
But back to Rumi, he understood that love is the only place to truly live and to thrive. In my life, I really want nothing more than to hang out on the playground, play on the monkey bars, and slide on the slides with all of you. It's another reason that I do the work that I do. I want as much company as possible. Certainly, I respect all those people who have no interest in the playground. We all have our choices to make about the lives we want to live, but for those of you who have awakened, just know that this space is already here and waiting for you.
The Joy of Play & the Quality of WorkPlay and work really do blend together. It doesn't mean that you will enjoy everything that you do in life. Rather, it means that you let joy be your state of being as you do work--both difficult and pleasurable things. Before I'd had my awakening, I was already intuitively starting to practice this. So let me assure you, it doesn't matter if you've awakened or not, now is the time to find more joy. You can start by bringing more joy to washing the dishes or folding laundry, as I did. These tasks aren't going away any time soon, so by practicing finding joy here, you will have a regular practice in joy for the rest of your life.
It's very simple to begin. Start washing your dishes. Focus on what you are doing. Let your mind soften and forget about the next thing you have to do. Turn off external media--TV, radios, etc. Maybe even turn off the phone. Bring your whole attention to what you are doing right now. See how it feels. Notice how you are breathing. If you are still breathing fast and high in your chest, pause from what you are doing. Take a few deeper breaths. See how it feels to come back to the dishes with this soft, gentle focus.
The Falling Away of External InterestsIt's a funny thing that the world around us feels like it has to define itself by external interests. But as you drop more deeply into your awakened self, you will find less and less interest in external activities. Certainly, some will still have be interesting to you, but many will not. If you were a competitive athlete, you may be surprised at awakening and now having no interest in winning. Because what difference does it make if you kick a ball into a net or not? None. The ego-self will still have plenty of reasons why this is important, but as you peel away the layers of social-approval and self-approval, you will find less and less reason to care. Maybe you still play a sport for fun, but it really is now just for fun.
There are just so many levels of this falling away of interests. For many people, it can cause a great deal of fear, but have heart. You are being found; you are not getting lost. You were lost. You were lost in the illusions of all these things. You thought you needed to act a certain way, to win certain awards, and have certain types of relationships. Now you are realizing that you don't. So the ego runs in to ask, "Who am I?" This is a powerful question. In the beginning, it is one of the most important questions I ask people because it forces them to turn inwards. For those in awakening, it loses its importance because the individual has already turned inwards. Then you start to realize that no definition could ever possibly sum up who you are, and you keep melting more deeply into yourself.
Melting and trusting, melting and trusting. (These are not my words, btw. They come from a student in a conversation on Facebook).
The Joy of Play Even in Dark SpacesThis joy we feel is not limited to the light easy parts of life. It also carries itself into dark spaces. The joy can easily be laughing or being deeply, focused in love for difficult situations. It can have many manifestations, but bringing it into places of ignorance or pain can be a way to ignite inspiration and awareness where all seemed drab and dank. Consider the spiritually awakened people who are working in crime-ridden inner-cities or prisons. In those areas, people have almost no spiritual tools or coping mechanisms. To be a being awakened in your love and joy who goes there is to bring water to those dying of thirst in the desert.
And yet, most of the world is parched for love. So you will be hard-pressed to find a place over-flowing with it just yet and which could not benefit from you simply being you. Except for maybe the playground, but I think we need to fill up this playground of love and joy too. I think we need to fill the swings and the jungle gym with all of you bright souls so that we become a collective shining beacon to others that there is a better and more pure way to live this life in this world other than through pain, suffering, and atrocity. People need to see dramatic examples of love to snap them out of their cynical minds, which presume that suffering is an impossible constant that can never be overcome.
Which is why your self-work is critical. Keep clearing away the blocks and walls to your playground. Keep removing pain and fear and doubt because as you do, you show others the way out. As we all leave this suffering behind in our dust, we can all meet on the playground and enjoy the joyful unfolding of this beautiful, unique life.