09.18.2022

Focus and Fun

Sunday, September 18, 2022
Featuring: Rev. Richard Maraj
Final Week of the 4-Week Series, "The Foundation of Fulfillment"

Click HERE to download this transcript.

Click HERE to view Rev. Jimmie Scott's guided meditation during the service.

Good morning and welcome again, everybody! We are in the fourth and final week of our series, "The Foundation of Fulfillment." And the reason I did this is because in our culture we're taught to be happy: pursue happiness; seek happiness. And there's a lot of literature in spirituality and psychology that's saying one of the best ways to pursue happiness is to stop chasing happiness and, instead, to seek fulfillment.

Happiness is fleeting. Happiness is often tied to the result going our way. We're happy when things go our way; we're not happy when they don't go our way. But the thing about fulfillment: it is much enduring, because it's based on meaning. It is about a sense of purpose. It is about achievement. It's about making a difference. It's about being fully who we came here to be. That it is actually healthier, easy and more effective for us to find fulfillment than it is to seek happiness.

Over the last few weeks, we've been looking at the foundations of fulfillment. Week #1 was "Faith and Values." Week #2 was "Freedom and Letting Go." Week #3 was "Friendship and Connection." And today we're going to look at "Focus and Fun."

And so, to me, FOCUS is a powerful prerequisite for achievement, success and living our best life. Focus is the ability to put your attention where you want your intention; what you want to need or what to achieve. Let me give you an example of how powerful focus is.

So let's say I had two cameras. One was a disposable camera: a very cheap, easy camera. And the other one had automatic, wide-angle lens, and all the fabulous features. Which would you say would tke a better picture? You'd probably say the more expensive one. But I would suggest -- even with all those expensive features -- that the smaller one would take a better photo if the bigger one was out of focus.

Focus is a powerful, important thing. And let's expand that a bit. Let's say if there were two people. And one had all the advantages, and the other one had very humble beginnings? Who do you think would be more successful? And I would suggest to you someone with humble beginnings with greater focus will do greater than someone who has many advantages but has no focus.

The examples I like to use to show how powerful focus is are Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi. Neither of them had any power. They weren't elected; they didn't have political power. They didn't have financial power. They didn't have physical power. They didn't have any power, but what they had was a focused idea of what they wanted to do and how they wanted to change the world. And they absolutely did! They changed minds; they changed countries; they changed our world.

So my question for you is: How focused are you in your life? On your goals? On what it is you want to experience? On what it is you put your mind and your attention on?

Being focused on one thing for a certain period of time actually increases the quality of your work. You become more efficient at your work. When we are focused, we are less stressed; we're more alert; more engaged; and more fully present. And when we're more fully present and engaged, we actually can access greater levels of creativity and inspiration and ideas. The more that we are focused, we can actually open ourselves to the flow and access deeper things of all of our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual resources towards the thing that we are trying to create.

Anthony Robbins says, "Your life is controlled by what you focus on." Your life is controlled by what you focus on.

Kind of reminds me of this friend of mine. Her husband was overweight and out of shape. And she was getting concerned about his health. And so she would always try: he wasn't motivated and he certainly wasn't focused on it. And she'd always kind of nag him until he'd go to the gym. But after a while, he'd stop. So she came up with a brilliant plan. And it started by nagging him and saying, "Hey, go jogging every morning at 6 a.m. Just a little bit! Just do that!"

And so he got his jogging clothes on and, at 6 a.m., there's a knock on the door. He goes to the door, and he opens the door, and standing in the doorway was a petite, beautiful, blonde woman in jogging clothes. [Congregation laughs] And she says, "Hi! My name is Bambi! And your wife says if you can catch me, you can have me!" [Congregation laughs]

You talk about a focused individual! He was focused for all of one block, and he ran out of gas. For that first week, he was three blocks behind. After two weeks, he was two blocks behind. He kept getting closer and closer every single week. After six weeks, he was almost within grasp of catching Bambi. And he could tell tomorrow would be the day that he would catch her!

So he went to bed, got up really early, waiting for 6 o'clock. And finally, at 6, there was a knock on the door. And he opens the door, and there standing in the doorway was a six-foot-tall, husky, blonde woman in jogging clothes. And she said, "Hi! My name is Olga! And your wife says if I can catch you, I can have you! Woo!" [Congregation and Rev. Maraj laugh]

Focus! [Congregation laughs]

So what do you focus on the most in your life? Do you focus on what you have or what you lost? Do you focus on what you like or what you don't like? What you can do or what you can't do? What you're good at or what you're not good at?

Focus is important, because what we think about we bring about. And sometimes focusing, for many of us, is a challenging and difficult thing. Challenging for two reasons. One: we have minds that get distracted easily. How many people were ever preoccupied, and you couldn't concentrate and focus your mind? Anybody ever have that experience? How many people ever meditate and your mind wanders, and it's hard to control your mind? It's hard to focus sometimes, because our minds get distracted easily.

And the second thing is: we live in a world of constant distraction. Constant noise; constant things pulling at our attention. Did you know that studies show that interruptions at work range from four to 12 per hour? We waste a lot of time being distracted? And one of our favorites is, "Hey, got a minute?" I mean, there are all kinds of things that keep us away from being as productive. At home, as well! The constant noise; social media; emails; our phones. I mean, checking all these things constantly; we get a little notification and we're like Pavlov's dogs. We're always looking at these things. And what it does: it wastes time; it reduces our efficiency; and it makes it harder and harder to achieve our goals.

Anybody ever been busy all day, but felt like you did nothing? And it's mainly because we're not focused on the important things that we want to do and are meant to do.

So what are you letting distract you from the goals and dreams and the life that you really want to live? What are you allowing to suck up your attention that is really kind of draining your energy and your efforts throughout your day?

The definition of distraction is: giving your attention to something of lesser importance rather than something of greater importance. And focus is giving your attention to something of greater importance rather than lesser importance.

So what we really need to do in our lives is starve our distractions and feed our focus. Here are five things we can do to feed our focus.

Number one is: You've always got to be clear on what you want. Clear on what it is that you're seeking; what it is that you want to have; what it is that you want to create in your life.

And the second one is to prioritize. You can't do everything at once, even when you know what you want. The question is: What is the most important thing for you to do now? What is the first and most important? What's the second thing? And coming up with a priority list.

The third one is to schedule and actually block out time with no phones or appointments or distractions, and give yourself the time you need to do the work that needs to be done.

Number four is: Just do it! Sometimes we can procrastinate. Even though we have the space and time, sometimes we don't put that effort in. And what we need to do is to remind ourselves and have the discipline to remember why it is we're doing it. Because it will make our lives better in some way.

Winston Churchill said, "You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks." [Congregation laughs] And the fact is: we know that there are distractions! We need to just have the discipline and focus to say, "I'm not going to let that distract me, because I'm doing this thing. And there's a reason: because this is going to improve my life and make a greater difference."

And the fifth one is: You've got to practice spiritual focus. When it says, "Be still and know that I am God," it's saying be still and focus your mind on the living activity of God's Spirit. To rest your mind in the Mind of God. To align your mind in the Mind of God. And to unify your mind in the Mind of God. Focusing within and focusing on God's Spirit actually gives us greater focus and the ability to focus on our lives and our problems individually by practicing that inward focus first.

In Isaiah it says, "He will keep you in perfect peace if your mind is stayed upon him." And what that's saying is you'll experience God's peace if you keep focusing on God; if you keep focusing on the good; if you keep focusing on the possibilities, instead of focusing on what isn't working and what's not going well.

It is important to focus our mind. It's one of the greatest gifts God has given us: the power of the mind! The question is: How much are you focusing? Because you could either dissipate your energy or direct your energy. And when you are focused, your energy it directed. And one of the most important ways is to direct it spiritually.  To focus on the very Source out of which all comes, and it will increase our level of focus.

Our minds are going to wander; that's just part of the deal. That's why it says, "Be transformed by the renewing of your mind." You have to keep renewing your mind and refocusing our mind. And when the foundation is spiritual, it gives us an ability to more focused on all the areas of our lives. Because focus truly is a foundation of fulfillment.

The second area is FUN. So on a scale of 1 to 10, how much fun would you say you're having in your life? How much of a priority is having fun for you? And what are the things that you're doing to have fun?

Here's what the Bible says: "A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow the heart, the spirit is crushed." "A joyful heart is good medicine." "He will fill your mouths with laughter and your lips with sounds of joy." And finally, "Rejoice in the Lord! Again, I say 'Rejoice'!” The word rejoice means to express joy.

And one more from Ecclesiastics. It says, "It is fitting to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of life God gives us. This is our lot. Likewise, to all whom God gives wealth and possessions and enables them to enjoy them and accept their lot and find enjoyment in their toil. This is the gift of God, for they will scarcely brood over their days, because God keeps them occupied with joy in their heart." What it is saying is: whatever station in life that you have, enjoy it! Find enjoyment in the life that you have been given. If that is your lot, enjoy it and make the best of it and have fun. Smile! Laugh! Rejoice! Appreciate and celebrate how amazing and wonderful your life is.

Sometimes life doesn't go our way. Sometimes we have losses; we make mistakes. Sometimes it can be painful, and we can get a little bit down and frustrated. And there's a term called "terminal seriousness." That life is so hard we get serious, and we're constantly serious and anxious and nervous. Constantly focused on what isn't working and worst-case scenario. And responding to life with terminal seriousness is like trying to fix a computer with a hammer ... it just doesn't work. And apparently it's not that funny, either. [Congregation laughs] And so um ...

Instead of staying so serious, sometimes we just need to lighten up! Kind of reminds me of this guy. And he and his friend were both accountants in a small accounting firm. And their desks faced each other, and the only other office was the boss. And so the boss comes by and he says, "You know, fellas, I'm going to go for the day. I'll see you tomorrow." And so he goes.

And the one guy says, "Man! It must be so nice being the boss. You know, 'Fellas, I'm going out for the day.' 'Fellas, I'm going to have lunch and I won't be back.' 'Fellas, I'm going to the baseball game.' It must be nice! I wish I could just go home. I wish I could just leave."

And the other guy says, "Why don't you? The boss is gone!"

He said, "What? With my luck? I'd probably get caught."

The other guy said, "You're not going to get caught! The boss says he's gone; he's not coming back."

He said, "Are you sure I won't get caught?"

He answered, "Nah ... you're not gonna get caught."

So the guy goes home, he opens the door, and there embracing his wife is the boss. [Congregation laughs] So he closes the door, runs back to the office, throws his hat on his desk. And he said, "I knew it!"

And the other guy said, "What happened?"

He said, "I almost got caught!" [Congregation and Rev. Maraj laugh]

This elderly woman dies and leaves instructions emphatically that there will be no male pall bearers at her funeral. "No men!" she wrote. "They didn't take me out when I was alive, and they're not going to take me out when I'm gone." [Congregation laughs]

See, these people need to lighten up just a little bit!

So where in your life do you need to lighten up? Where in your life do you need to smile a little more? Where in your life do you need to be a little more playful? A little more silly? A little more joyful? Maybe even a little bit more childlike?

Having fun and laughing and being playful psychologically helps us a lot. It releases good-feeling endorphins in us; it creates more balance and less stress; it prevents diseases; it brings more mental clarity. I mean, there are so many benefits of just feeling good; having laughter; and just being more joyful and playful. It gives us a better perspective and a brighter and a lighter outlook on things. It may not make everything perfect, but I think it makes the ride and the journey a little more enjoyable, and a little less stressful.

So what are some ways you can infuse more fun and enjoyment into your life? And even if it's as simple as going to a movie more frequently! Or having a card game or going to a comedy club. Or going bowling. Or going and renting a boat. Or at least having lunch out by the water. Maybe it's hosting a party, if you haven't done that in a long time. Or taking an archery class. Or playing a chess or fantasy football. Maybe having a date night. Maybe reading a new book.

Somebody gave me a book called Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal. It sounds hilarious. I've started it, and it's really good.

Last week I talked to somebody in the congregation about teaching me to knit. I was knitting years ago, and I forgot, so I'm going to knit. Maybe it's adopting a pet. Maybe it's creating an ugly cake contest. Maybe it's to test-drive your favorite car. Maybe it's to go to an open house of a multi-million-dollar house. Maybe it's to renovate a room in your house or paint a wall a really wild accent color.

Maybe it's to really wear a bright, colorful shirt. Maybe it is to go on a quick trip. I'm going to Austin, Texas -- I've never been; I've heard it's a really cool place -- for two days with a friend of mine just for fun. Maybe it's to learn to laugh at yourself. Maybe it's once a week buying flowers and putting them in your house. Maybe it's to go rock climbing. Take a bubble bath. Read or write poetry.

Join a cigar club. The reason I'm saying that is a friend of mine joined a cigar club, and he's loving the thing. Maybe it's to play volleyball. Maybe it's to have an evening walk as a regular routine as a family. Maybe it's to do a lip-syncing contest.

I could go on and on. The question is: What are ways that you want to infuse more joy and laughter into your life? So how much more fun would you like to have than you're having now? But how much would you like to make your life more fun?

Because the fact is: fun comes from expression of the joy that's already in us. It's in there! The question are: Are you willing to release it and let it out and experience that childlike joy that's within us that we are meant to live and enjoy?

Life is a great gift; it is a smokin', cool gift. It's not easy, but that doesn't mean it can't be meaningful, fun and fulfilling. Because it really can be!

So if you want to make the most out of your life -- if you want to feel more alive, more successful, and including more happy -- don't pursue happiness, but build your life on all the foundations of fulfillment, especially living with focus and fun.

God bless you all!

[Congregation applauds]

Copyright 2022 Unity of Phoenix Spiritual Center/Rev. Richard Maraj

Location and Contact Information

Unity of Phoenix Spiritual Center

1500 E Greenway Pkwy
Phoenix, AZ 85022
Phone: (602) 978-3200

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