This past weekend, I had fun. I was hoping to have fun, and as I realized my hopes, I wondered: What determines whether an experience is enjoyable and fun? How can we foster more playfulness and fun? What is it that creates enjoyment, pleasure, and excitement? When we are having fun, how much is driven by external circumstances verses an ongoing internal evaluation of an experience? If we’re happy does that automatically translate into having more fun?
In her book Start Where You Are, Pema Chödrön writes: Searching for happiness prevents us from ever finding it. I think the same applies to fun. If we are searching, there is an essence of grasping and attempting to force something into manifesting. We push ourselves away from being present by limiting what we are experiencing. Instead of allowing a moment to unfold and welcoming whatever shape and form it takes, our internal dialogue guides us towards a constant evaluation of what is happening. Instead of centering in peace and joy, we attach our mood and state of being to a process of judging what we are experiencing. As with happiness, it is our response that determines whether we react with enjoyment or displeasure and experience fun.
Fun is an interesting concept to me. I know that I can have fun just by anticipating an experience. For example, I can get very excited to go to a new restaurant. Everything supports that the experience will be something that I will thoroughly enjoy. As I observe my anticipation, I ask myself: Will I still have fun even if the food is disappointing? When I answer “yes”, I realize that it is opening to an opportunity not the outcome that can be pleasurable. In other words, if I am in the moment with what is happening now instead of projecting into the future, I can have fun regardless of the outcome. I can lighten up and relax because I an aware of my ability to not exaggerate the significance of an event. I can create a context for fun by taking ownership of my state of being. Instead of attributing my enjoyment to whether the stars align perfectly to create a magical moment, I can surprise myself with wonder.
As I loosen the noose of self criticism and avoidance of discomfort, I create space for happiness and fun. I can create amusement by lightening up and not taking myself or life so seriously. Playfulness can bounce to the surface. Preconceived ideals give way to honesty and clarity. Acceptance fosters fun, happiness, and loving kindness because we aren’t trying to do chin ups to some bar of expectations and in turn applying that to what goes on around us. We switch from focusing on how things should go to enjoying the process. The process of who we are, how we live, and of waking up.
Happiness can expand our opportunities for fun. Fun can be deeply healing. There may be times of pain that wash away any hope for fun. Certainly, it can be challenging to have fun during difficult and stressful times, but what is the alternative? Discounting life experience and in turn one another? When we lose the structure of expectations, we open to playfulness, compassion, and joy. We can substitute tunnel vision with a broader picture. We can soften and relax into ourselves and our lives more easily. Comfort can be found in discomfort. Fun and awkwardness can exist simultaneously. Life can be an endless dance in spite of tripping and falling.