A dear friend recently turned me on to the book A Complaint Free World, by Will Bowen. As she described the book, an idea was born.
Every fall and spring at my studio, Karmany Yoga in Fort Worth, Tex., we do a challenge. One time, the challenge was centered around the chakras; one of the main seven chakras was explored each week. Another time, the challenge was focused on having breakthroughs in your life and in your practice, even if those breakthroughs come from softening into the moment rather than strong-arming it.
Based on this recent inspiration, I've decided to dedicate this fall’s challenge to living a complaint-free life. Since Bowen warns that you might encounter extreme happiness as a result of going complaint free, I’m calling the challenge #projectoutrageousjoy.
If you're unfamiliar with the complaint-free process, it goes like this: You get a bracelet and put it on one wrist. Every time you catch yourself complaining, you switch the bracelet to the other wrist. The objective is to go for 21 days without complaining, thereby never having to switch the bracelet. Every time you switch the bracelet, you start the journey over again at day one.
Of course, I understand that it's doubtful that anyone will complete all 21 days of the challenge in the one month we are allotting to the effort. Most of the folks Bowen writes about in his book who complete the 21-day period successfully took, on average, ten months. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t give it a try and that we won’t learn something in the effort, perhaps (and hopefully) forging bonds to complete the challenge however long it may take.
Obviously, to effectively lead this challenge, I needed to read the book. And so I did. I will say, there was a point while reading the text that I encountered a damn-near deal breaker. It was at page 115, Chapter 7, which is titled Criticism and Sarcasm.
The criticism piece was a no-brainer. Caroline Myss says when we criticize, we are chipping away at someone’s soul, and that it takes a toll on our own soul as well. Abraham-Hicks advises that criticism actually attracts more of the attributes which we are criticizing into our sphere. I’m clear on criticism. I’ve been working to weed it out of my consciousness for a while, but sarcasm?! You mean, I can’t be sarcastic?!
“Sarcasm is passive-aggressive complaining,” the book professed.
I gasped aloud. Many times in my life, and I mean more times that I can count, I have said, “I love sarcasm. My favorite teachers are always sarcastic.” Usually, I am smiling a cocky grin when I utter these words.
Having encountered similar reactions before, Bowen goes on to share the Merriam Webster definition of sarcasm...
“The meaning of sarcasm is: a sharp and often satirical or ironic utterance designed to cut or give pain; a cutting often ironic remark intended to wound. The etymology of sarcasm is even more alarming. The Latin root of sarcasm is sarco, which means ‘tearing of the flesh.’ Looking further into this, sarcasm stemmed from sarcasmos or sarkazein, which again means ripping or tearing away of the flesh. Both sarcasmos and sarkazein were forms of torture used in ancient medieval times.”
Unsatisfied with this explanation, I looked up the definition myself online: “Sarcasm — the use of irony to mock or convey contempt.”
Here I was thinking this was going to be so easy. I consider myself a positive person. I rarely complain — at least, that’s what I thought. But I can be sarcastic.
How have I gone this long not knowing the danger of this? I have truly been believing that sarcasm was witty, even appreciated. I had no idea that it was basically bullying. When I read these definitions, though, something within me agreed. Some tiny voice deep inside said, “Yessssss.” And so I know, this is an unchartered frontier that I need to explore. What will life be like without sarcasm? One of my friends blanched and said, “How can I be funny without sarcasm?!”
Choose Joy, the main teaching I share in my classes, writing and workshops, means Joy — not popularity because you're benefitting at the expense of another, not cheeriness built on someone else’s persecution, joy from being kind — joy from the radiating vibe you get from inner kindness and compassion and peace, towards yourself and others.
This is a way of being that I strive to embody.
I'm looking forward to this challenge. I know there will be much learned, starting with weeding out some of the sarcasm of my life. I encourage you to give it a go too. Choose joy. Outrageous joy. (Not sarcasm.)