The Trail of Lights Tragedy & What Comes Before Joy
For years, my family wanted to go to the Trail of Lights. For some reason, we just never got around to it, but finally during the pandemic, I got us tickets to go see it!
Weeks before it was time, we walked around random neighborhoods, enjoying the lights all around us, taking it all in, getting excited for what the Trail of Lights may surprise us with!
When the day arrived…we ended up getting lost on the way there…and like the movie Christmas Vacation, tensions mounted.
When we finally got there, hair tangled from hair-pulling and eyes tight with the strain of looking for signs for a trail of lights that just so happened to be in a neighborhood that was the darkest neighborhood in the state of Texas…we finally got there.
Once there, we sat in a line of cars, music playing, anticipation of adventures to come!
Because this was the pandemic (or at least I think that was the reason) we weren't allowed to leave our cars. We also were hurredly rushed along a series of displays that we barely saw before having to move on to the next display…like smelling too many candles in the candle store and now you can’t smell anything anymore and the aromas are all a blur. We saw a handful of pretty displays in passing and just like that, it was all over.
As a kid, I remember loving the Trail of Lights, and part of it, perhaps, was that there was a petting zoo (random I know) and you got to get out of your car.
When I looked back at that time, I realized we all had a lot more fun just walking through neighborhoods and looking at lights.
Why is that?
One of those reasons was that we weren’t rushed along. We could actually slow down enough to enjoy each house and all its myriad of lights.
Many times we hear the saying “do what you love” or “do what brings you joy”.
On the one hand, I agree with that, yet on the other hand, no activity will bring you joy.
Nothing you do can guarantee a feeling. Just ask a couple on the verge of divorce at a romantic restaurant. The event, the doing, doesn’t replace how you show up, or how you’ve been showing up.
So instead of looking at an activity as the source of joy, notice how you show up to that activity. (But how?! Keep reading)
What comes before joy? What does it require of you?
Grant it, there are some activities that I can feel peace and acceptance with, but not joy. I have almost never experienced joy while doing the dishes. I would have to get quite creative to find a way to show up to dish-washing in a way that I could experience joy. When I mow the lawn though? It’s much easier for me to get to a joyful place. It's easy to bring my attention to it in a way that “sparks joy”. I get completely absorbed in the process…which brings us to an essential component of what is required for deep enjoyment: full attention.
The more of your attention you can bring to what you’re doing, the more likely you’ll experience joy in the activities that tend to be enjoyable.
You may love ice cream…however, if 1% of your attention is on the ice cream, scarfed down between meetings, music blasting while texting and driving…did you experience the ice cream?
Did the ice cream even have a chance to “bring you” joy? Were you even there? The calories went in, but you may still be hungry, because you didn’t get to experience the joy of those calories.
Now what happens if you slow down…and take 45min to eat the ice cream, with your full attention? Breathing between bites, smelling the ice cream, noticing the chunks of strawberries…
That’s a totally different experience.
This the Trail of Lights Tragedy…it's when you do something that by all intensive purposes should be fun and enjoyable, but because of rushing through, because of being half-there, half-somewhere-else, it didn’t actually bring joy.
When I look to an activity to “bring me” joy, I look for what I need to do or prepare, so I can really be there, fully with that activity.
This all great and fine…but the question is…how do you actually bring more of your attention to what you’re doing?
There are many ways…which you’ll discover in classes and lessons… but one way is to notice how you move.
When you play piano, when you sing, when you watch someone play or sing…what are your eyebrows up to? Are they furrowed and serious, looking for mistakes? Are they soft and curious, wondering what musical treasures lie ahead?
So in the Adult Beginner Piano Class, we take time to notice how we move. Of course, this is useful for getting better at piano, by moving your hands and fingers with more awareness of what you’re doing…
But another, deeper reason, is to practice the art of enjoyment. When you notice how you move, you’ll be letting go of your obligations that day, judgements around your “progress” and “practice” and take a moment to really feel the music…through your hands, your ears and maybe…your heart.
And isn’t that the point of music anyway? Not to “be good at it” but to feel alive?
This is the have-your-ice-cream-and-enjoy-it-too magic.
Yes, you’ll get the ice cream, but you’ll also have help putting down your phone, turning down the music, getting out of the car, breathing, and totally enjoying that yummy-licious bite of ice cream.
And surprisingly, when I slow down and enjoy something, I find myself refreshed in a way that makes easier for me to be generous and patient with others…which, *ahem*, suuuurrreee comes in handy during the holidays.
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