It is a happy talent to know how to play. Ralph Waldo Emerson
This is the real secret of Life — to be completely engaged in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play. Alan W. Watts
Fun is fundamental. Doug Hall
In an ancient language, the ten of us chanted the words to a Buddhist mantra. Over and over again, as we sat in a circle lit up by the glow of a beeswax candle, we repeated this powerful chant, an intention to focus and come into alignment with our deepest Selves. And then the hum of our words faded and we settled into an inner space of silence. It felt delicious to me, this gathering on a Wednesday night a week ago, the time we spent chanting together, and the silent afterglow as we brought this mantra into our own bodies and experience. There was a honey-dipped sweetness in the air, a calm smile wafting around the candlelit room as we stretched our toes and our fingers and opened our eyes when the meditation part of the evening came to a close.
And then I’m not sure how it happened. It started out softly enough, people sharing personal anecdotes from this thirty-minute experience, and others nodding in agreement or adding their own snippets or simply enjoying the inner silence. I’m not sure how the energy rose, but it did, into a bonfire flame of passionate stories, veering us off in an entirely different direction. It was the topic of “play” that shot up from the groundwork of this intentional chanting and the moments of silent meditation, not restrained grown-up play, but the raucous play of our youth. And this conversation that brought us back to our childhoods was as delicious and high vibration as the silence had been just minutes before.
For one woman, it was hole-digging that excited her ten-year-old self. “Each day, for about a month, I would race home from school to the hole I was digging in my backyard, and the neighborhood kids would rush over, too, and we’d dig. Just dig. And it was a blast!” Hole-digging! She was lit up as she remembered how fun it had been to simply dig a hole on her childhood lawn. And then I remembered how I too had loved to dig holes when I was a kid, at the beach in the soppy low-tide-perfect-for-sandcastle-sand at the state park beach, and in the gray sticky clay sand of our own beach. And I remembered how I had loved to splash in mud puddles in the fall and the spring, and how it was the best, the very best, when a thin layer of ice would form on one of these puddles and I was the kid who got there first. There was nothing more fun than the crackle, the smash of a layer of fine delicate ice. And during that evening a week ago, there was nothing more fun than the remembering of these fun experiences from our childhoods.
“Kids need to play!” my yoga friend, a retired teacher and media specialist, had said to me earlier that same day. I agree with this statement. Kids need to play. And now I’ll add to it. We adults need to play too. It comes easy for the kids. At least it does for my two-tipping-into-three-year-old grandson Viren. “Grandma, you be Buzz Lightyear! I’ll be Woody!” he hollered to me from the top of his neighborhood slide three weeks ago on my last visit to Idaho. I’ve never seen Toy Story, wasn’t sure who Buzz Lightyear was, but when a grandson is ordering you around, you comply. “Okay, I’m Buzz!” I responded in a deep B. Lightyear voice. “Buzz, come slide down the slide!” Woody commanded from the top in a voice as deep as a guy not quite three can muster. And what’s a grandma to do?!? A grandma who isn’t quite as good at all this play-area play?!? Well, I did it! I climbed up, making sure the contraption was sturdy enough to hold me, and then I took my turn right behind that deep-voiced Woody. Several times we slid down on our butts, Woody and Buzz, Viren and I, and then we ran through the field, our arms flying like planes in the sky. Woody wiped out couple of times and Buzz hobbled a bit, but it was high-flying fun for two Toy Story toys, for a play-loving grandson and his willing-to-learn grandma.
Okay, so it might not appeal to you to put on the persona of a Toy Story Toy and slide down a slide. (Although I can tell you that sliding down a slide is up there on my fun chart with ice-on-puddle-crackle-smashing!) And I confess that I really don’t care what I play when I’m with Viren; it’s the being with him that is the play for me. Our tastes change. What we loved at two or ten might not make our hearts dance in our present moment experience, but we can bring the spirit of that fun into whatever we’re doing now. Chanting with a group is fun for me and going inward and noticing my breath and finding a still place somewhere down there in that body of mine while present with that same group of people also is fun. I love sinking into that stillness. It calms me. I love sharing it with others. And I love being silly. I think my authentic self is silly beyond silly; I think my silliness rises from that place of deep stillness. And that’s what happened at the gathering a week ago Wednesday. The hole-digging woman and I couldn’t contain it, all this silliness. In Joy Center’s foyer, as people pulled on boots and slipped into coats, we were laughing so hard, contorting our bodies, and allowing silliness to reign. It felt sacred. It felt wonderful. It felt like being ten again and wise beyond measure and connected to something free and expansive and available in any moment.