At the moment life feels pretty serious, what with all the fears and stresses of the worldwide pandemic, and the way the threat of illness is changing the minutiae of our lives in so many unexpected ways. COVID-19 is forcing us to realise how fragile the systems we base our lives on are, and how easily and quickly everything can come tumbling down.
In times of change, loss and trauma, it’s hard to think about having fun. It’s hard to think about anything but the event that’s happened or is happening. In fact, you might even feel guilty for thinking of other things – let alone finding joy in them. ‘Fun’ suggests a lightness; a youthful, carefree frivolity. How can we have fun or be carefree when we know that nothing will ever be the same again, and everything could fall apart at any second?
Accepting that everything is constantly changing is one of the key principles of yoga. Everything will always change; it’s how you react to that change that colours your experience of life. In yoga we aim to transcend the outside world – not by ignoring or neglecting all the matters of everyday life, but by accepting them as waves on the surface that we can at any time sink beneath through breathing, movement and meditation. We retreat inwards to find calmness, and in calmness we can hopefully find happier, more loving and enlightened ways to live.
Imagine you are caught in a riptide that’s pulling you out to sea. Most people who die in riptides do so because they tried to fight against the current – and in their exhaustion and panic, ended up inhaling too much water and drowning. Understandably, you’re going to feel pretty alarmed if an invisible force starts dragging you out to sea. You’re being taken away from a perceived place of safety (the shore), to the complete unknown and unseen (deep water). You are out of control. But instead of fighting a losing battle, what if you just stopped? What if you simply allowed yourself to float? You would soon realise that the current isn’t dragging you under the water: only away. You would realise that you are still breathing, still alive, and eventually you would notice the current getting weaker, allowing you to swim out of the riptide and back to the beach.
When we are ‘serious’, we are fighting life’s riptides – so caught up with trying not to deviate from our intended paths that we end up exhausting ourselves and missing life’s subtle little windows of opportunity and delight.
‘Fun’ is a kind of looseness and receptiveness. It is a youthful energy – when we’re young we’re not so bogged down by the possessions and roles we cling to in adulthood. Of course you don’t need to be young to have a sense of fun: we can achieve this in adulthood by recognising our attachments and loosening our reliance on them. Fun is the act of letting go and experiencing a moment without attachment, fear, judgement, or what-ifs. Maintaining a sense of fun doesn’t diminish the importance of your experience and place in life, but it’s helpful to recognise when seriousness stems from a fear of what might happen, rather than what is actually happening. Are your preconceptions making a situation more serious than it needs to be? Could a small adjustment in your attitude change things in the outside world for the better?
A sense of fun really can be taken into every area of life, even the tough bits. We all know life is short, so next time you feel yourself getting caught up in an allegorical riptide of anxiety and negativity, take a deep breath and let go of your attachment to the shore (perceived safety) and your fear of the deep ocean (what-ifs). It’s true: one day your luck will run out…but life is here for living. Enjoy every tiny bodily sensation. Trust the gods, trust physics: you are alive in this moment and you can either cower in fear, fight in vain, or you can face the storm with awe and humility, knowing that behind the hair-raising spectacle of thunder, lightening, wind and rain…a fresh, sunny day awaits.
Dramatic monologue over.