Is Having Fun a Spiritual Practice?
Many of us are convinced spiritual life is extremely serious.
We push ourselves to work hard on spiritual life and we believe we are doing serious work. Some of us describe what we do with words which sound serious, like theology or hermeneutics.
Our understanding of spiritual life involves challenging thought about complicated ideas and concepts. We give ourselves headaches trying to analyze and understand deep spiritual truths.
Some of us are not as worried about spiritual ideas because we believe spiritual life is more about what we do. We may not be as concerned about what we think as how we apply what we believe.
Whether we focus on understanding ideas or practicing what we preach, we know spiritual life is serious business. We care about spiritual life. It is easy for us to get caught up in our enthusiasm and our focus.
When we try to share or explain our perspective on the seriousness of spiritual life we often feel people losing interest. For some reason, other people do not find spiritual life nearly as absorbing as we do. They might acknowledge it is important, but they have other things to spend time thinking about.
Even when they do not say it directly, people often find our seriousness about spiritual life intimidating. When people who love spiritual life get caught up in it, other people find it at least a little boring.
Their experience of the boringness of spiritual life makes it easier for them not to embrace it. It is easier for them to limit their exposure to spiritual life.
I experience spiritual life differently. Being serious is not the most significant aspect of spiritual life. I believe having fun is a spiritual practice.
What Is Spiritual About Having Fun?
Because we are convinced spiritual life is serious, we see spiritual practices as exercises to accomplish.
We assume we need to develop a regular practice of doing serious things to strengthen spiritual life. It is as if spiritual life were like our physical lives and we needed to build more muscle.
I do not believe spiritual life is particularly serious, at least not all the time. Spiritual life can often feel more like playing than like working.
It is not that spiritual life is frivolous or flippant. I am not encouraging people to play games with their spiritual lives. Spiritual life is, I am convinced, more about having fun than about giving ourselves headaches.
Our spiritual practices help us become more open to spiritual life and spiritual truths. Contemplative practices encourage us to set aside things which obstruct our ability to recognize spiritual life.
In my experience, spiritual life is not primarily conceptual or theoretical. Spiritual life is not something we invent in our minds.
The relationship I have with spiritual life is an ongoing source of fresh questions and insights. Spiritual life shapes me, clearing away distractions and misconceptions to help me see clearly. Some things I see as I read or talk with people or spend time in contemplation.
How do we experience spiritual life? Is it more spiritually enlightening to spend an hour thinking deep thoughts or to spend it having fun?
My experience of having fun helps me get past my own restrictive ideas about how spiritual life works. Having fun takes me out of myself and helps me see things in new ways.
My spiritual practice of having fun helps me take myself less seriously.
Working on Having Fun and Having Fun While Working
I was talking with a friend a few weeks ago about something I would like to do for work. It is a challenging project and I have been successfully procrastinating for some time.
As I asked her questions, she asked me one in response. She asked me why I wanted to do the project. We explored my reasons and motivation. She asked me whether I would be having fun.
She encouraged me to do the project only when I could see it as having fun.
Our conversation sparked my thinking about having fun. I enjoy having fun and try to look for it wherever I can.
Reflecting on our conversation has helped me remember the spiritual significance of having fun.
I am not saying having fun is my highest priority or I value it more than anything else. Having fun does help me experience aspects of spiritual life which often remain hidden to me.
Spiritual life is not about our struggling or striving always to become better people. There is joy and pleasure in spiritual life which can be sparked when we have fun.
Not everything we do is a joy or a pleasure. Looking for ways to make having fun possible is part of my spiritual practice.
A Spiritual Practice of Having Fun
My spiritual practice of having fun has at least two aspects.
Like many spiritual practices, I set aside time to have fun regularly. I do not necessarily mean taking a field trip or having an adventure every day. My practice is about finding ways to experience fun each day, each week, each month, each year. We have fun by remembering what we have done in the past and also by trying new things. Some fun is planned while some is spontaneous.
Part of a spiritual practice of having fun is about recognizing when it has been some time since we had any.
Another aspect of my practice is recognizing the potential for fun which exists in our lives.
Not everything we do is enjoyable. Many of us experience pain and challenges. Part of our spiritual practice is exploring ways to have fun and brighten our lives.
A spiritual practice of having fun is serious business. The fun we experience draws us into the intimacy of spiritual life.
When will we recognize having fun is possible today?
How will a spiritual practice of having fun shape us this week?
[Image by Wootang01]
Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and coach in Southern California. He is a recovering attorney and a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com, and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.