Learn how to live more peacefully



I recently gave a presentation on the community choir which I conduct, and as part of this talk, I was able to show a slide show of photos of our performances which one of the choir musicians had kindly put together. What struck me when seeing these images, apart from the wide range of performances (nearly forty in just over two years!) were the many photos where people are smiling. We’re clearly having a good time, and when choir members talk about the choir, they often say things like, ‘it lifts me up, I always walk out with a big smile on my face.’

One of the pleasures of spending time with young children is their seemingly boundless ability to revel in enjoyment. Similarly, a dog chasing a ball, or a cat stretching out in the sun, is happy to be having a good time. There are no guilt feelings attached, no sense of ‘perhaps I should be more serious’. Some people go to the extreme of a hedonistic lifestyle, where the only thing which matters is how much fun they’re having. This is self-centered and immature, and often the hallmark of narcissistic personalities. Others go through life with a permanent frown, constantly anxious about not taking life seriously enough. This can be the glass half-empty phenomenon, where all we ever see is problems and things to worry about, rather than appreciating the gifts we have been offered.

Somewhere in the middle there is probably a happy medium, where we are not just chasing from pleasure to pleasure, but we’re still able to enjoy the blessings which life is offering us. Much of the time, these can be the simple pleasures – a cat purring on our lap, watching children play, hearing a favourite song, going for a swim in the ocean or a walk in the park.

Different cultures have very differing attitudes when it comes to the amount of enjoyment we’re ‘allowed’ to have. Sometimes, these can unconsciously make us feel guilty for enjoying life – perhaps it feels frivolous, or selfish, to be taking pleasure in something. We all have to find the point on the continuum between narcissism and excessive guilt which feels comfortable for us. Yet enjoying life is good for our bodies and our minds, it has a positive flow-on effect on those around us, it’s a way of appreciating our blessings – perhaps we could benefit from allowing ourselves to have more enjoyment in life?

Weekly practice idea:

Take the opportunity to watch a child or a pet at play. How does it feel for you, when you see their simple enjoyment?

Anja Tanhane