I had a friend who held up an object and asked me to concentrate on the object and try to move it. I looked at it, furrowed my brows, and took a beep breath focusing all of my energy on it. He asked, "Why do you have to do that to concentrate? Why not just stay relaxed. Everybody seems to think they need to tense up when they concentrate." I don't know why he did that, but the lesson is something that I have held onto for more than 20 years.

Whenever we work at anything that is supposed to be serious we tense up. We think that we cannot do work well, playfully, when most of the greatest inventions and works of art were created with a sense of joy and playfulness. I think that being serious all the time, too much sometimes, is what leads to a grim atmosphere in many of our institutions and lives.

The Lakota used to have a person in their religious rituals who served as a "Sacred Clown." When people got too grim or too pious, taking themselves too seriously, the person would do something that would make everyone laugh and move beyond themselves and their narrow thinking. In Europe the Fool played the same part in royal courts when important, governmental decisions were being made. They, like the Lakota, realized that taking oneself too seriously could be damaging; it could lead one to miss opportunities, or be so narrowly focused on oneself that one would not be at his or her best when it came to seeing things from all angles. When there was not a Fool the leaders became the Fools. Something developed that psychologists call a group-think, where people stopped questioning decisions because of the relationships and admiration they had for the group and the decision makers. They would do something that looked totally stupid to anyone on the outside looking in, while the group wouldn't even notice that it couldn't work. The Fool would have acted out its foolishness so they could all see it.

It is very important to have a Fool to do this now, but sometimes the Fool must exist within each of us. We have to hold onto the childlike part of ourselves that loves to experiment and to play so that we can be at our best. We have to learn to laugh, which releases a great deal of tension, and to be willing to make mistakes sometimes or we will not grow. We will become stagnate and possibly not only injure ourselves and our own lives, but the lives of the community. And as my friend pointed out, we can concentrate just as well and work just as hard without scrunching our foreheads. We can do the work in joy and celebration and get it done just as well because it is our actions that determine the outcome, not whether we scrunch up or foreheads and deaden any capacity that we have for joy. We can be joyful and do the work seriously.

The next time you find yourself working super hard and feeling that you have to beat yourself up to get the job done just consider this: Being joyful or happy does not mean you will slack off and not get anything done; being joyful and happy means that you will get things done while you are joyful and happy and that your task, no matter how hard it may be, will become a joyful part of your life, not something set aside that you have to bear until it is done. Have fun. Celebrate, because that is a major part of life. It is time to stop separating fun from work. Work and fun should be the same.

Author's Bio: 

Om Prakash (John Gilmore) is the founder of John Gilmore's Healing Hands. He is a Massage Therapist, Body-worker and Energy Worker. He has taught Tai-Chi, Qigong, and Jun Bao Kenpo for Health and Longevity, and led Anti-racism, Anti-oppression, and Reclaiming Your Own Identity Workshops for more than 10 years. For more information and a link to our main website visit www.dswellness.com. This will take you to our official website with audio messages, offers for free books, and an offer on courses where you can learn to produce your own e-book and learn the secrets to promoting them on the internet.