Sitting in Central Park this morning in my usual place, which is quite close to where dogs play together during the off-leash time, I’ve enjoyed seeing the enthusiasm they bring to chasing balls or just running around together. One small poodle came by and was so excited to be able to run that he squeaked as he went in ever widening circles around his human companions as they walked down a hill.
Something in the way this little dog gave his whole self to the activity touched something in me, bringing me a little more alive this morning. It got me to thinking about how we engage opportunities to express ourselves enthusiastically, celebrating life energy. There are times when the felines who share my home with me get into this same kind of abundant enthusiasm and one particular feline friend has a way of squeaking as she purrs when I rub her head in a certain way.
For this week’s practice in conscious living, I invite you to do two things. First, notice what you experience when you take time to watch people or other earth-kin engaging in play or some other activity with unbridled enthusiasm. Pay attention to what happens in your body, the quality of your emotions, the tone of your thoughts when you do this. Then, notice how you engage pleasurable activities, things you really enjoy doing. They don’t have to be dramatic, just sources of pleasure or engagement. If you’re in a situation where you can’t actually physically engage in an activity, take some time to imagine that you are doing so. Allow yourself to experience the sensations and state of being that arise as you imagine whatever activity gives you real pleasure. Remember, the brain responds to imagined experience in just about the same way it does actual lived experience.
A key for this practice is to elicit and cultivate a sense of enthusiasm, pleasure, and/or enjoyment—whatever quality you would like to stimulate in your experience. For so many of us, the past year plus may have brought a limited exposure to pleasurable activities, so this kind of practice is a way to nourish this aspect of yourself.
Remember to bring along curiosity as your constant companion and to pat gently on the head any judgments that may arise, allowing them to move on through without your having to do anything about them. The key is to track the quality of internal experience in your body and psyche, and to explore ways you can generate positive states of body-mind being.