The problem with the word ‘enjoy’ is that we are accustomed to use it in a sense of a very active expression: we enjoy a movie, we enjoy a party, we enjoy a lovely conversation with friends, we enjoy drinking at a bar etc. All these ‘enjoyments’ are very overtaking, require all our energy and, especially, they are completely dependent on the object of our enjoyment: the movie, the party, the friends, the bar. If any of these things for any reason is no more, they enjoyment disappears. And, what is worse, it often transforms into its opposite. But when I talk about enjoying presence, enjoying being alive, I talk about something much more quiet, much more invisible, not so obvious and, especially, not depending on anything but itself. The ‘enjoyment’ of presence is very subtle, but when it happens, it is more than enough.
We live in a society that is so much bombarded by ‘things’ that our minds are very accustomed to being busy; most people feel empty when they are not busy, they suffer, they look for more and more ways to keep themselves occupied. We really fear not being busy, and we actually feel very proud of ourselves when we are able to do many tasks in a short time. We believe that the more we can do in a certain amount of time, the most we are using our life. I remember reading an article about a famous singer that was very proud of herself because she could do so many things, all at once, before 8 AM. Of course there is something very interesting about being able to do many things, it is not bad per se, but as one can develop the ability to do many things, one should also have the capacity to enjoy the simple act of being alive, the simple act of experiencing: seeing, feeling, hearing, perceiving our own aliveness. One should realize that this by itself is a very sacred doing.
It is sacred, but we are asleep, veiled to the miracle of our own existence. Just to be able to experience should be – is! – something sacred, but we are so spoiled, so unaware, that we take it for granted. And because of it we suffer. We suffer because that disconnection creates a sense of unsatisfaction, of always needing more and more and more.
I am not at all against the possibility to enjoy what the world can offer. If one has the means or the opportunity presents itself, go for it completely. If it is in one’s karma to be given the possibility to enjoy certain things, for sure go for it! But, at the same time, we should not forget that it is important not to depend on that, not to became addicted to ‘things’ to entertain us, to give us enjoyment. And we should not become addicted to it for many reasons, but the most obvious one is simply because those ‘things’ do not depend on us. Sometimes they are there, but often they are not.1 We need to re-learn (because it is something we knew when we were very young) to come back to the enjoyment of simply being.
And if we can do this, then whatever comes becomes something to be grateful for.
Gratefulness is the essence of a happy mind. And again, the way I use the word happy is not in the sense of ‘I am so happy at this party!’, but in the sense of being content, satisfied, fulfilled with what is. It is a sense of completeness and well-being, of being grateful for what comes.
Gratefulness in the western societies – and more and more in the eastern ones also – is a forgotten tale, is something that happens only in fairy tales. No wonder we are, as a society, very unhappy people… even if we have so much. We simply forgot, do not know, how to be grateful.
In a way, we could say that gratefulness has two parts. In one, I try to be grateful, I intentionally give thanks for what comes even if I don’t feel like it. This is a very good and useful exercise.2
But, on the other hand, gratefulness is a natural consequence of presence, of the simple experience of being alive.
Gratefulness is like a development, a maturity. Being a mature human being is not what happens by itself when one reaches a certain age, but it is the ability to be grateful for what one has, for what it is.
Maturity is the ability to be grateful because one is.
1 Please see the note called: About Dharma
2 Please see this article as an example of a ways to be more grateful.