‘Joy and woe are woven fine; a clothing for the soul divine’ says poet William Blake. Practically all spiritual masters from all religions say the same thing time and again. Joy and pain are always said to be like two sides of the same coin.
It is true that fate plays some extra-dirty games in some people’s life and however much they strive, their share of pain seems to be more than the pleasure they get out of life. Hinduism says it is all due to* prarabhdha* (effects of past bad *karma*s done in previous lives). There are also a lucky few people who seem to enjoy pleasure far in excess of pain in their lives and again, Hinduism attributes it to good karmas done in previous lives. As for the majority, it looks joys and woes in life tend to even out.
But man always wants to maximize his joy and minimize his pain in life. Is it then really possible? For many people, particularly in young age, there seems to be a mental resistance to accept any religious or spiritual advice/ explanation/ guidance on this subject. So, outside religion, are there any good tips available for them to enjoy more pleasure in life without proportionate pain?
Yes there are indeed some practical tips available. Let us see some of them.
Have your own standards of desirable joy and bearable pain
Everyone has different capacities and tastes for enjoyment. Everyone has different levels of tolerance and acceptance of pain for the sake of enjoying pleasure. Be clear about your standards. Your close friends’ standards need not be yours. What everyone seems to be enjoying NEED NOT be really joyful to you. The pains to which others seem to be impervious may be too unpleasant to you!
Have you ever thought in such an angle in life? The fact is – most people do not evoke enough self-awareness on these things. To be blunt, herd mentality is quite strong in most of us. Because of this mentality, many people bear with pain without being aware of it for the sake of enjoying some paltry pleasures that othersseem to enjoy!
An youngster, whom I know as one with a calm demeanor, once told me that he went with his friends to see a 20-20 cricket match live at a stadium.
“Ah! Must be quite an experience! Did you enjoy it?” I asked.
“Sort of; yeah, it was fun, okay, but…”
As I probed deeper, he said: “We had to wait in very long queue for hours to book our tickets first. In the stadium, they did not permit us to carry our own food or water—everything we had to buy at very hefty prices there! Oh! The amount of noise people made there with their shouts, whistles, drums, pipes and what not! At some critical action times in the game, someone will invariably jump up in front of me and block the view. The pitch was so far away that I could not even make out which players are playing. Whether a ball was really caught or dropped, I won’t know from such a distance! The side where we were sitting, for the ticket amount we paid, was constantly exposed to sun and I felt I was getting roasted! I had to spend through my nose to keep buying water and drinking it to quench my thirst. By the time the game was over, I got thoroughly tired – both physically and mentally. As I returned home, I was suffering from a splitting head-ache!”
“ Then you mean to say, it would have been heaven if you had watched the game in TV relaxing at the couch in your home?” I asked.
“Absolutely! I would have seen all the actions, all the replays, heard all the expert comments!”
“…and you would have saved quite some bucks, escaped from the burning sun, from the unwanted headache…” I completed the sentence and he nodded.
“How about your friends?”
“Ah! They all seemed to have a freaking time at the stadium! They enjoyed every moment – shouting, dancing, laughing, munching and drinking…”
Now you get some idea?
Be aware to weigh pain and pleasure in advance wherever possible and then decide which one is more for you
We continued with our conversation.
“Did all in your group of friends come to the stadium?” I probed further.
“No! You know Prakash? He is an ardent cricket fan, but flatly refused to join us right at the time we planned the program”
“Did you know why?”
“To be frank, he warned me in advance about all these!”
Now you know the difference? Prakash was not fitting into herd mentality. Perhaps he too had gone through this experience earlier and learnt a valuable lesson! Despite being an ardent cricket fan, Prakash could weigh the pleasure and pain behind witnessing the game live at stadium. Having learnt that the pain, according to his demeanor, is more than the pleasure, he judiciously opted out of it.
Learning from past experience and using it in future is the key.
Be moderate in your enjoyment – any consequent pain will be far less
During my childhood, chance to eat good feasts were rare. I had a sweet tooth and also loved oily savories too. Death day remembrance ceremonies conducted at home for ancestors were occasions when we get sumptuous feast to eat. And I mostly over ate on such occasions and suffered the consequences – a sense of dislike of the feast itself at the end of eating on account of over-stuffing of the stomach, indigestion and a possible loose motion the next day!
Since fortunately I had had the tendency to analyze myself and evoke self-awareness, I became gradually more conscious as I grew up. While I still enjoyed sweets and savories offered generously at feasts, I started reducing their quantities considerably but made sure to taste a little of everything. I made it a practice that I would never eat to my full stomach in any feast. Thus I could really enjoy every variety served in the feast and never suffered out of indigestion subsequently.
This concept of moderation can be extended to all our activities whereby we seek enjoyment – foods, drinks, movies, music, going out with friends, sex, socializing, keeping awake, sleeping, working in office, study, earning money, spending money, idling, philanthropy, playing games, doing exercise, watching internet, talking in cell phone, taking medicines and so on.
When you develop moderation on things you love to enjoy, you will surprisingly find that the keenness or taste of enjoyment also grows sharper. Your focus and awareness of enjoyment will grow and you will find it deeply satisfying. For example, if you cut down your coffee intake from say 4 cups a day to two cups a day and that too with a reduced volume per intake, you can observe that the coffee tastes so extra blissful, unlike what you used to feel with higher intake!
Keep strictly away from enjoyments that society abhors
I m not saying what Bible abhors or other religious scriptures condemn. There are several things that the society you live in does not generally appreciate or accept easily as right or normal. The society may be quite pluralistic in religious faiths and hence irrespective of whether they are religion-based or not, there are things that public does not approve of.
Example: Same sex relationships, prostitution, polygamy, polyandry, stealing, illegal trading of arms, drug trafficking, terrorist activity, love jihad, bullying, black-marketing, drug addiction etc
Unfortunately, there seems to exist an extra doze of thrill in enjoying what society forbids. There is a saying in Tamil that stolen mango has an extra tinge of taste! Perhaps that “extra tinge of taste” is so alluring that people get entrapped into pleasure-seeking on things that the society forbids. May be the consequent pain does not come imminently; but it comes for sure and it will land so severely that it can cause the greatest damage.
Keeping away from things that society forbids will bring you mental peace; that peace is more worthy than the joy of indulgence.
Enjoy in tune with your age
There is an age up to which even ‘stones can be digested’; there is an age up to which the body can take lots of abuse without showing much of reaction; there is an age up to which youthful zeal can be maintained in intimate relationships; there is an age up to which mental resilience can be quite strong.
Time and age gradually wears away many things. Indulgence in excess chocolates may not lead excess fat up to certain age, but beyond that age if you continue that indulgence, you end up suffering in obesity and cholesterol related problems. Jogging brings you good health up to certain age and then joint pains beyond that! Post thirty five, excess make up brings in a false sense of youthful look up to certain age, and then suddenly everyone seems to laugh at your wrinkles despite your best efforts to hide them!
Whether eating, drinking, sex, dress, mingling, singing, dancing or any such thing, do what is right in tune with your age. If not, you will end up with more pain than pleasure.
Accept some pain for the sake of worthy pleasure or for avoiding a bigger pain
If waking up early is a pain for you, then that pain is worth accepting if you can avoid the pain of peak-hour traffic woes, by starting early to office. If the pain of compulsorily saving some money instead of spending it carefree is undergone, then you will enjoy a debt-free life at later stages of life. If doing regular physical exercises is found boring and painful to you, then by forcefully engaging yourself in it, you will be able to enjoy a good physical health in the long run.
Desire to maximize joy is the innate nature of every living being. The above 6 guidelines can help you to a fair extent in this effort. But always remember: Between enjoyment and peace, there is a huge difference. Matured is the one who looks for achieving peace in life rather than enjoyment out of life.