My dog Tucker loves to play catch with a tennis ball. Love is an understatement. He lives and breathes for it.
When we are outside, I can throw the ball for hours and he never gets tired, but I do! Sometimes, I have to take a break, and when I do, Tucker will just sit there and stare at the ball. He doesn’t whine, or move, he just sits there and looks at the ball until I throw it again.
I was watching him do this the other day and it hit me that he has no concept of right or wrong, or good or bad, to deal with. He just focuses on the thing he loves, and regardless of what’s happening, he just stays focused on what’s going on in the moment (aka, the ball).
I envy my dogs’ ability to be one with the moment. Their nature (and lack of ego) allows them to stay connected to the present. They are authentic one-hundred percent of the time.
If Tucker had an inner dialogue, I imagine it would be something like this…
“Ball….Run….Catch….FUN!!...Ball…Run...Catch…FUN!!...Ball...Run…Catch…FUN!” (Over and over again, times infinity.)
Now, if Tucker were human, had an ego, and judged himself, I imagine it might be a little more like this:
“Ball... Run…Catch…oh, missed it, shoot. That wasn’t a very good catch. I didn’t do it right. Oh, maybe I’m not cut out for this. Ball…Is this the same ball as every other dog is catching…is this a good ball? Run…. Catch…. okay, I caught it. Does this mean I’m getting better? Am I as good as the other dogs? Do they think I’m good at this? Maybe I should practice more…. Ball…. Run…. Oh, I’m not running fast enough…. Catch…. Oh, that was a sloppy catch…did anyone see that...I better not do that again…”
Like animals, little children have not yet developed their ego. They are able to be one in the moment and have the ability to demonstrate pure, unadulterated joy in doing something as simple as running around in a circle or playing peek-a-boo.
When adults watch children or animals do their thing, they often light up with happiness themselves. I know I do.
It’s as though I am vicariously watching a miracle that I lost somewhere along the way. As though a part of me is connecting to something that was once mine.
Our ego is the inner critic that judges everything we do against some standard outside of ourselves. The constant chatter that wants to place some value on our actions, thoughts and beliefs. It is also the part of us that robs us of our ability to be in the moment and act purely from a place of bliss, freedom and FUN!
This ability to act for the sake of acting, with no judgment or commentary on the act itself is something I believe many of us are missing. Do you remember what it feels like to dance just because it feels good; to run just to feel the wind on your skin; to play, to laugh, to sing, to feel? Do you remember what it felt like to just be in the moment without wondering how long it would be before you would be done so you could cross that certain activity off your “to-do” list and move on to the next task?
Fun for the sake of fun, and feeling for the sake of feeling, is a fundamental need for all humans. When we lose this, we try to compensate for it and the sadness we feel in the face of our loss. For many of us, we compensate by eating. We try and soothe our yearning with sweet food, instead of allowing ourselves the sweet freedom of “just being.”
Try remembering what you loved doing as a child. How you spent your time, what made you happy and what you did when you allowed the creativity of your amazing imagination to run wild. Spend some time trying out new things, with no goal, or benchmark for success, but rather just to see how you feel.
When I lose myself in this linear, goal oriented, ego-based world we live in and find myself stressed and overwhelmed, sometimes all I have to do is to remember to have a little fun. It’s so obvious when I watch my dogs play, that it is just in their nature to live in the moment. I have to remind myself that it’s in my nature too.
I sing out loud when I’m alone. I’ve also been known to break out into dance if I need a shift in my mood. (Okay, so I’m not known for it…actually, I’ve never admitted that out loud – but the cat’s out of the bag now!) Let me tell you, it works every time! Try it and tell me you aren’t laughing, even if you are just laughing at yourself and your wicked dance moves! Either way, you’re laughing.
I also spend time lounging with and laughing at my dogs. I lose myself watching them be goofballs and love playing with them just to see them wag their tails in the way that makes them shake from head to toe.
It’s not on my agenda. No one is going to pay me, or award me for it. But it gives me peace. It makes me laugh. And it teaches me daily that, in my life, there are things that are more important than check marks and checklists.