Is it always life or death for you? Have you made every little thing so important that youve squeezed the joy out of life? Are you hard on yourself when you fail? Do your friends and family tell you that you need to lighten up? Or do you feel isolated because people are uncomfortable around you?

En lighten ment

If you have ever seen the Dalai Lama, or even read one of his lectures, you know he has a great sense of humor. He has experienced incredible sadness and is the most important spiritual leader of his people. And yet he understands the importance of laughter.

I would imagine that he meditates every day and is deeply immersed in spiritual practices. He also communes with world leaders and travels frequently to spread the Buddhist teachings and talk about peace. But he has more smile lines than frown lines, and seems to appreciate a good belly laugh like no one else.

True Connection

Plato said that you learn more about a person in an hour of play than a year of conversation. He also said that the best way to train children was to let them play, and thereby discover what is truly joyful for them and where their genius lies.

One of the great thinkers of Western civilization understood that humanitys truth is in what we choose to do, that our brilliance is in what awakens our passion and our joy.

Learning to Listen

So now that we know why lightness is important, how do we do it? I think the first step is to engage in deep personal inquiry. Listen to how you feel when you are working, how you feel when you are eating, and how you feel when you are interacting with people. Notice what activities bring you joy.

Imagine what you would do if you had all the money and time in the world.

Then start playing. Whatever it is that you do enjoy, make the most of it. I love to cook, so I will make pretty and silly garnishes for the plates I serve my family, because that is what makes us laugh. Some people put gnomes in their gardens or flowers in their hair. Find what you enjoy, and turn it into an act of fun.

Structured Free Time

One of the many ironies of our modern life is that we need to schedule free time. Guard your unstructured time. Carve out at least an hour a day, and preferably one whole day a week, where you have no obligations. And do the most fun thing you can that day. Not what you think you should do for cultural enrichment, but something you truly enjoy.

While it might seem irresponsible, making time for play is one of the healthiest things we can do for ourselves, and our families. Studies show that we actually become smarter and less prone to debilitating stress-related diseases when we engage in enjoyable recreational activities on a regular basis.

Go Easy On Yourself

One of the most accessible ways to lighten up is to just do it, on a regular basis. Let it be okay if you miss a deadline or forget to wash a dish. Sleep an extra hour on your day off. Enjoy an occasional sweet treat. Admit your human frailties, and let them be okay.

As you are easier on yourself, you will naturally start to be easier on other people. Then they will feel safer with you, more likely to let you in and trust you with their vulnerability and their love.

Taking everything seriously is the easy way out. When I learned to let go, to maintain my integrity but release rigidity, I started enjoying life a lot more. And so did my family.

And isnt that what this whole game is about, enjoying the ride?