“She was so beautiful and talented, it seems such a waste!” Megan cried. And of course it was. I reminded Megan of what her friend had said, just days before she passed away: “Never make it a labour, only make it a joy”. She was referring to the tasks involved in looking after her while she was coming to the end of her life, and referring to her husband, who had been so loving, kind, supportive and nurturing when she was in pain.
When I heard this sentence, I was very moved. ‘Never make it a labour, only make it a joy’. And we do indeed have that ability as human beings. We, alone, of all the animal species, can choose how we experience anything we have to do. It seems like we can’t, but it’s not true. We can.
Even though this story is in the context of death and dying, actually it has a far wider application. Megan’s friend gave me a great gift that day because I began to use that sentence in my own life and work. In any working day, there will always be tasks that you prefer over others; it’s the nature of the beast. You’ll definitely have tasks that you are more talented at doing than others. For instance, I love writing – it’s a joy to me to write these articles and any of the other writing I do. I can’t honestly say that I find dealing with technology a joy, though! In fact, I’m tempted even to say I hate it, can’t understand it and wish it could all just be done by someone else.
But in order to do what I love at a bigger level (bringing RichThinkers into the world more and more), I need to be able to use technology at a certain level at the very least. And given that I want joy in my working days much more than I want frustration, depression or bewilderment (all things I’ve experienced with technology!) it becomes something I have to choose. And this is what Megan’s friend meant by making it a joy, not a labour – choosing to do so.
How do you do actually choose to make something a joy? Being as conscious as possible about what you are doing at any one time is the first step. Then you at least have the opportunity to change how you are experiencing the task you are doing. When the focus is less on the task itself, ie the ‘what’, and more on the ‘how’ you are doing the task, then it is entirely possible to bring joy in – or if not joy, then maybe optimism, positive expectations, or enthusiasm.
But how to be conscious? How to do you get off the automatic track your mind takes you on, and be aware of ‘how’ you are doing a task? Almost sacrilegiously in our fast, busy Western world, it means stopping. Yes, stopping. Interrupting yourself. Keep stopping to check in – is it a labour, or are you enjoying what you’re doing? This is not a new idea; in Plum Village, Thich Nhat Hanh’s community in France, a bell rings every 15 minutes to remind people of what is truly important (coming back to who they really are); in the Course in Miracles, it suggests reminding yourself of the lesson every hour of the day; in the Brahma Kumaris Global Retreat Centre in Oxfordshire, two minutes of Indian music is played every hour, again with the intention of having people stop what they’re doing, and focus on how they are being – and all of this is to do with simply being more conscious and choosing to live a peaceful life.
In your working day, if you regularly see clients, use the time in between clients to stop. Consciously stop. Take 2 or 5 of the minutes available to you and check in with yourself, how you are feeling, what you are thinking, what kind of energy you are bringing to your actions. If you get stuck on your computer, set your alarm to help you remember to stop. If you work from home alone, divide your working hours up into blocks and include some ‘stopping inside’ time alone. When I first tried this, I came up against a great big wall of resistance. Everything in me screamed ‘Get on with it!’ ‘You must get it finished!’ ‘You can’t afford to take time off, not even
2 minutes!’ It was so obviously silly I had to laugh at myself. I persevered though, and found a calmness and sweetness in the tasks that I then did which was enough to make me want to do it more.
Could you ‘stop’ a bit more in your working day? What happens when you even think about it? If you try it, post here and let me and others know what happens!