Welcome to the second installment of our 8-week summer series, The Womanly Arts Unplugged! This week, Maurya, a Mastery and Virtual Pleasure Boot Camp Grad from Boston, MA, joins us to teach about the Womanly Art of Having Fun No Matter What…
Maurya, Age 51 – Lawyer, Coach, Wife and Mama
The Art of Having Fun No Matter What is really my favorite art, because it’s about claiming my power and agency, and making the choice in any experience to find my pleasure and joy.
When I’m practicing this Art, I look at my life through the lens of a researcher, exploring ways to inject fun . . . even if, especially if, I’m dreading a particular obligation.
When I first learned about the Art of Having Fun No Matter What, I was like, “Yeah right. Are you kidding me?!” I didn’t think it was possible. Have fun no matter what? Come on. It seemed so frivolous, and unattainable.
Then, I moved into “research mode” — I still didn’t think it would bring enough change to be worth the effort, but I decided to experiment.
It was all about the baby steps. Flirt with a toddler, or a puppy. Go to Starbucks, get your favorite drink and compliment the barista on how they made it. It’s about treating yourself to that connection, and pleasure, in all the little moments that could otherwise just pass by.
That’s the way that I was willing to try this — choosing little risk-free opportunities to inject fun, and practice pleasure. And then notice, okay how do I feel? Lighter. Okay, interesting. And that’s what propelled me to take bigger risks, with bigger change potential.
What was your relationship with Fun like, before and after learning the Womanly Arts?
Before I learned the tools and arts, I did all the things I thought I was supposed to do. I was a good lawyer. I made good money. I was a good wife. I was a good mom. I volunteered. A lot.
I went to parties. They’d be . . . kinda fun. But because I didn’t feel fully confident about who I was and what I wanted, I was still concerned with what people thought of me, there was a certain level of self-consciousness. I would make nice conversation, it was lovely, blah blah blah, but it wouldn’t really feel juicy and connected.
See, I’m not the loudest crayon in the box. Before the SWA, I thought that having fun meant trying to be someone I’m not. I learned how to look like I was having fun — big smiles! But those experiences didn’t really light me up. I wondered, “Is that all there is?”
On a spectrum from A to Z, where A is bottom of the depths heartbreak and Z is total ecstasy, I was living in the middle of the alphabet. It was a pretty narrow bandwidth.
And I think that’s the societal thing that’s expected! If you’re too happy, people are taken aback — it’s too much. I think my standard answer to “How are you?” was “Ok, hangin’ in there,” and depending on how close we were, maybe “Ugh, it totally sucks.”
My life was pretty bland. And when I think back, it just didn’t occur to me that there was an option to have better.
Now, if something good happens, I jump up and down (yeah, kind of like a 5-year-old!) — it’s so much more fun! And if something shitty happens, I’ll have a tantrum. And that’s fun, too. What’s fun is being fully expressed. Expanding my bandwidth to span the full alphabet.
Through practicing the Art of Having Fun No Matter What, I’ve learned that there are different flavors of fun. Each woman has her own unique flavor. And each flavor has its own color, texture and taste.
For a long time, fun was just not one of the things on the menu. I did a lot of things that I thought I was supposed to do. And I did them really well. So I got a whole lot of rewards for doing them.
Fun was certainly not part of the job description for being a lawyer, and not really being a mother either.
The kinds of things that passed for fun during that time (like a girls’ weekend away, or a trip to the amusement park) took a lot of planning.
Fun really had to be engineered. Paid for. Planned. Childcare arranged. Fun was effort. And so alongside fun came pressure.
For instance, if my husband and I did all the work, spent all the time and money to plan a romantic getaway — damn, we better have an amazing time.
It is really hard to have fun under pressure.
Now that I practice this Art, fun is just injected in so many things. In everything. Things aren’t so serious. I can have fun for free, spontaneously, wherever, whenever.
How did you get started in the Womanly Arts in the first place?
I signed up for Mama Gena’s emails, and deleted most of them for a year or so. I thought, “That’s not for me.” I didn’t unsubscribe, though — almost like it was somehow just nice to know that this school was out there. Even if it “wasn’t for me,” I liked knowing there were these women out there having these fabulous lives. “Good for them!” I thought.
At the time, my life had become very small. Although I had once lived in NYC, spent a year in Paris, traveled Europe, I was living a pretty static life. My focus was on my kids and husband, work, civic and community volunteering. I had great female friends but we were all in a similar spot. Our lives were okay — good even — but not great. My relationship with my husband lacked spark. I didn’t feel sexy or confident. I was flat.
When I saw the opportunity to go to an intro event with SWA, I jumped at it. Even though I was terrified to go to New York alone. Even though I couldn’t imagine paying the tuition for the course. Even though I really had no idea what I was getting myself into!
All the women were SO warm and welcoming. And Mama Gena — she wanted more for me than I even wanted for myself. It makes me cry to remember that feeling, standing there and realizing this woman saw more for me, wanted more from me — and that I had lost touch with that for myself.
I knew I wanted Mastery. I went home, talked to my husband. We agreed, for lots of great reasons, to plan, save and for me do it the following year. But as the start of Mastery approached, I knew I had to do it that year — I knew nothing would change in a year, and I just couldn’t let myself delay any longer. I signed up on the last day of enrollment, trusting things would figure themselves out. And they did.
Then, I signed up for Boot Camp at my graduation from Mastery — I was clear that I was so not done, and wanted to jump right into the next thing. Boot Camp really helped me take the work to the next level. What I liked about it is that there was so much space for digestion and integration. Boot Camp really anchored the work for me. Also, it helped me bridge the gap between going to NYC to have these amazing live experiences in community, feeling fabulous there and then also in daily life. Boot Camp showed me how to practice in my real life even more.
Also, the community is AMAZING. My study buddy from Boot Camp and I are still practice partners 3 years later, practicing the tools together and holding each other accountable. I LOVED meeting her for the first time in Miami after we connected in Boot Camp. We knew each other so intimately — yet we had never met in person.
How do you justify practicing the Art of Having Fun No Matter What, amidst all the competing priorities of life?
At first, the Art of Having Fun No Matter What sounds VERY frivolous.
For example, one way I might practice this Art is, if I have a presentation, I wear really sassy underwear and great accessories. Fun! Saying that sounds so frivolous. But the thing is, it’s not — because what it’s actually about being in relationship with myself. Knowing that me, myself and I are creating our experience, and we can choose fun.
There is something about putting the attention on myself, and specifically making that connection so fun and pleasurable, that lets me continue that connection wherever else I go in my day. That helps me stay in the position of being a researcher. I’m dressed for fun. How can I have more?
So when I’m doing my presentation, it’s much more fun because I’ve spent that time with myself, and instead of worrying about how I’m being perceived, I’m anchored (connected) to my ability to choose fun through my accessories and my sassy underwear! It’s contagious. Even though they don’t know why, if I’m lit with fun, everyone else has much more fun too.
How do you use this Art in different areas of your life?
First, it’s a practice. Sometimes I forget or get lazy and things get bland again. But not for long! This community reminds me, opportunities for fun are everywhere. Here are a few examples . . .
I recently went for a mammogram (not on my top 10 fun ways to spend an afternoon). I injected fun by flirting with the staff and technicians. I took a selfie of me with a tortured face and a squished breast, shared it with my sisters and we all had a good laugh.
Recently, I took my Aunt to her radiation treatment. That’s a sad and scary thing. But I took a stand that we can still have fun while we’re doing it. I was determined to make it fun. We went out to lunch, I brought feathers. I brought joy into a tough situation and we made it fun.
Making meals for my family. It’s one of the things I hate the most some days — it can get so freaking monotonous! So now, I’ll do things like breakfast for dinner, or ice cream first. Just for fun.
When it comes to mothering two adolescents, the Art of Having Fun No Matter What is game-changing. Where I would normally react with anger and discipline, I can now respond with humor. WAY more effective. If something gets canceled, and one of my kids is disappointed, as opposed to being focused on the thing that we missed, I’ll make it fun, framing it as, “Wow, let’s see what adventure is going to unfold now!”
I spend a lot of time in my car ferrying my kids to their various activities. For fun, I keep a tiara and a disco ball on my rear view mirror. I have music ready to crank up. We’ve had some rockin’ dance breaks on the highway. They allow me to express the pent up frustration by dancing rather than pounding the steering wheel or dying inside as the time slowly ticks away in traffic.
In my marriage, my husband and I have integrated the Art of Having Fun No Matter What in many different ways. When we get into an argument, we can just get silly about it, and that will lighten the mood. I step outside of the old patterns of, “Ugh he’s being such a jerk, why can’t he see things the way I do and be done with it??” Instead, it’s knowing there’s a different way and enjoying each other and our differences. Also, I’ll plan things that are fun that we wouldn’t normally do. Like a romantic dinner in the middle of the week after work. One time when we really needed an injection of fun, I got champagne and we had a date in the back of my car!
At work, if I have stuff I’m dreading doing, I know it’s time to amp up my fun practice. I get my atmosphere together. I make sure I have flowers. I’ll bring rose water. I’ll set a very pleasing stage for myself to do stuff that I don’t like.
Also, I say “no” a lot more. One way to practice the Art of Having Fun No Matter What is declining invitations that I know won’t be fun from the get-go! I give myself permission to say “no” to things that are not in my pleasure.
How can you practice the Art of Having Fun No Matter What, when you’re in a really bad mood, or in the middle of rupture, or having a terrible day?
This is so important. It’s when I least feel like doing it that I need to. In addition to the challenges of everyday life, I suffer from clinical depression. This can really knock a woman down! Reaching for the fun when it’s the opposite of what I feel like doing makes a huge difference and shifts my energy.
When I’m in the middle of a stressful time or have been kicked in the ass by something happening in my life, the very last thing I want to do is have fun. Hiding from the world under the covers with Ben & Jerry was my go-to move before the SWA.
Now, if that’s where I’m at, I handle it differently. I don’t try to take myself out of the mood, or out of the misery. Instead, I play with it. I throw myself a party. Fine wine, tasty treats, sad music, smeared mascara — the works. Giving full expression to whatever I’m feeling is what turns it into fun.
And it’s about community too — doing this in community makes it much more powerful, and helps you give yourself permission. Since studying at the SWA, I feel like it’s my responsibility to take charge of my life and insert fun whenever I desire.
What’s your secret weapon in the Art of Having Fun No Matter What?
Remembering that it is always a choice. Many things in life are outside of my immediate control — mean people, traffic, the list is endless. But I have the power and agency to control my experience and make it fun anywhere and any time.
Also, headphones. I can instantly create my desired atmosphere with sound. When I’m stuck in traffic, cleaning the house, grocery shopping, making dinner, waiting for an appointment, whatever, I can just pop in my headphones and turn it into a dance party.
It seems so simple, and I don’t know why I didn’t think of doing it before — it changes everything.
Ok, your turn. Join me in the comments! I’d love to know — how are you doing in the Art of Having Fun No Matter What? How do you flex your fun muscle in your daily life? I’d love to hear your tips, tricks and stories in the comments section. And better yet, come join me in Boot Camp in September — I’d love to play with you there!
— Sister Goddess Maurya
In case you missed it, check out Part 1 of The Womanly Arts Unplugged: The Art of Whetting Your Own Appetite. And stay tuned for Part 3 next week. (Make sure to subscribe to our newsletter for updates!)
This summer series is our way of pre-partying for Virtual Pleasure Boot Camp, which is currently open for enrollment! Boot Camp is a distance-learning program that takes a woman deep inside each of the Womanly Arts. It includes live teleclasses with Mama Gena, carefully crafted weekly exercises, and a thriving online community. Click here for all the details, plus a special discount offer for the first 75 registrants!