No one in the world is less in control than a baby. They can’t talk, walk, or feed themselves. And yet babies are the happiest people on the planet. They laugh more than 300 times a day. Compare that to the average adult, trying to keep it all together, to stay in control, who laughs less than 20 times a day.
So why do we adults enjoy life so much less than babies? Because we spend so much of our energy trying to control life, to make it conform to our expectations. And whenever we feel that things are spinning out of control, we think the answer is to clamp down tighter, to work harder, to try to keep it together. It’s hard to laugh and be happy when you’re hanging on for dear life.
Research from Johns Hopkins found similar brain-wave patterns in infants, jazz musicians while improvising, and meditators. This way of using the brain allows us to cultivate a state that is all about being open and available to the flow of ideas and creativity, to be present and enjoy all the richness of life that is to be found there.
This is the gift of a daily meditation practice. Of having a technique that gives us permission to let go. To let go of our idea about what any given meditation session might be like. Will we go deep? Will we release some stress and have a bunch of thoughts? It’s not our job to worry about it. Our job is to sit, close our eyes, and trust in the process that’s unfolding. We think our mantra effortlessly and take it as it comes.
And when we begin to heed this lesson in our practice, it becomes a little easier to apply outside of meditation. Which is good because the best life has to offer does not come as a result of our attempts to control it. The best relationships, whether they are with a lover, a child, or a friend, are not those in which we are controlling what that person does or thinks. The best travel experiences come from those happy accidents—the missed train, the closed hotel—that we allow ourselves to embrace and flow with. The best music and art come from being open and available to allow creativity to move through us. The best athletic performances come when we’re “in the zone,” not when we’re holding on too tightly, not when we’re overthinking things.
So, in closing, I offer this simple addendum to Bobby McFerrin’s advice: 1) Meditate. 2) Don’t worry. 3) Be happy.