A short paragraph from my upcoming book “The State of Flow”.
Liking to do things for their own sake, benefits presence, focus and calm. Examples:
I am not hosting a dinner party to win friends, to show off my cooking skills or to secure a business contract, but because I like dinner parties.
I am not meditating to become enlightened, I am meditating because I treasure meditative silence.
I am not going to the Gym to lose weight, I am going for the joy of physical movement itself.
I am not writing this book to impress people, I am writing because I like writing and researching.
I am not learning to play the piano so that I become famous, I am learning because I like the sound of a piano.
The activity is seen not seen as a means to an end, but as the means and the end. Ideally. But there are exceptions: When I mow my lawn, am I doing that because I enjoy the sound of the lawnmower and the smell of fresh cut grass? To be honest, I am mowing so that the place looks tidy – as a means to an end.
But if I only do it as a means to something better, I won’t enjoy it and I’ll miss the beauty of the present. What’s the point of wasting my whole lawn-mowing-time wishing I were somewhere else? There is no point to it. It only separates me from myself.
Believe it or not, much of society is built up as a means to something else. “Working jobs you don’t want, to buy stuff you don’t need, to impress people you don’t like”.
To liberate yourself, cut down activities that are a mere means. Or delegate them. Or at least find something about them you can enjoy. During lawnmowing, I can enjoy the sunshine, the birds, the breeze, the neighbors, the cats and dogs. It’s a welcome time of rest, especially from writing on computer screens.
The accumulation of activities that are a mere means to something else, is what makes people so unhappy. They make you forever chase something else, but all your life, love and power are in the here and now.
Relaxing into the now means heightened interest, heightened determination and lower ego. Conscientious people are more likely to experience relaxed focus on their work, having less self-criticism and anxiety.
How do you feel, when your child is only talking to you because they want something from you? They are using you as a means to an end, there is no real interest in you. I guess it’s normal for children to do that, but as an adult, wouldn’t it be more pleasant to have an actual interest in the person you are talking to? If you are impatiently waiting to get something from them, the interaction can become awkward. Good salespeople show genuine interest. Bad sales people don’t give a damn.
If you have trouble focusing on something, it’s because you are not really interested in the thing you are “supposed to” be focusing on. As a consequence, you harden your focus. Sadly, mass schooling is run on this kind of forced fake-interest. Mass schooling is actually a mass dumbing-down, because you could achieve much more with interest-oriented learning. In this case, you either choose something more interesting to focus on, or you calm down to a point, where you can stop treating the thing as a means to something else, but as something interesting, worthwhile, beautiful in and of itself. A little secret: In a higher state of consciousness, anything looks interesting…yes, even tax forms.
Other excerpts from the upcoming book can be found here: