The Tao of Ecstasy

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The Tao of Ecstasy



One of my favorite things to watch is my puppy running through fields. Her floppy ears and wide grin as she sprints through the grass like a bouncy bullet train is an image of pure ecstasy. The world is perfect at that moment. How many of us remember that feeling? Maybe it was when we were kids at a time before Kumon, summer academic camps, or multiple sports team to get ahead of the school year. When we spent long summer days searching for ants and riding bikes through the neighborhood with no particular aim. Although it is summer for many of us in the Northern Hemisphere, even if we might be on the beach, we are likely still checking email. Society has somehow deemed it acceptable, even desirable, heck – even necessary – to still be “on” when we’re supposed to be off. It has become almost a badge of honor to demonstrate that you check and respond to emails even when you’re on vacation. We’re annoyed, but also a bit proud of being able to “juggle.” Yet what it really means is that we are never truly engaged at work or at home. The sense of pure joy and bliss that we may have felt as kids during summer vacation seems now weighed by half joy at being out of the office and half stress at not being there. We need to rediscover that joy, that feeling of bouncing through a field of grass.

The Sabbatical

We give so many excuses for why we can’t take a break. Designer Stefan Sagmeister challenges the notion of taking time off. He convincingly talks about the power of sabbaticals in rejuvenating not only the self, but also allowing for brilliant new innovations and ideas to be far more productive during the working times. True time off also allows to rediscover the joy and passion in work – and outside.

“That’s the difference between me and the rest of the world! Happiness isn’t good enough for me! I demand euphoria!”

~ Bill Watterson

  1. Unplug

It’s tough. But do it. When you’re on break, turn off your work email and do not respond to calls. There is no emergency that is such an emergency (unless you are an emergency room doctor and you’re on call, or a fireman on call, or a….) which requires you to respond when your kids are wondering why you’re not focusing on the Monopoly game. Give yourself true time – even if it is a mini sabbatical – and tell your colleagues you are not available.

  1. Don’t overestimate yourself

Yes, you’re a special snowflake. However, the world will still have snowmen without you. Just as Don Draper (if you watch Mad Men) realized that the advertising world continued without his presence, your office will not fall apart when you’re not there. Giving yourself a true break also enables you to be that much more of an important contributor when you return, demonstrating why you are a special snowflake.

3. Get your body moving

According to NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) and many other mindfulness-based practices, the body is an important conduit to our feelings. Try standing up on your toes, stretching your arms up overhead, and squeezing everything together. As you’re doing that, try feeling down and depressed. It’s tough. When your body is engaged and up, it’s quite challenging to feel sluggish and sad. Even if it’s only 1 minute, go for a peppy walk or do ten jumping jacks. Not only will that get your heart pumping, but your endorphins as well.

  1. Stop positive thinking

Most of pop psychology says, think positive! Stop feeling sad and just be happy! Easier said than done, though. For many of us, it’s not so easy to just turn “off” the stress and feel joy. Rather, be purposeful in making small adjustments to how you respond in certain situations or to certain triggers. That colleague who keeps emailing you for last-minute requests? Rather than your typical response of wanting to throw your computer out the window, be prepared in shifting your response. Perhaps it’s looking at a picture of a kitten (known to decrease stress levels) and waiting 24 hours before responding. Whatever it is, small tweaks can have far greater impact in not only your stress levels, but also improve relationships

  1. Run through fields

Take an afternoon off and be a kid again. Ride your bike through mud, run through the sprinklers, roll down a hill. Immerse yourself in that feeling of bliss, even if it’s momentary. It is these little gems of joy that can carry us through the less joyful times in life. Don’t overlook little bits of happiness.