Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Play: Zen and Zest

First snow of the season and I was snuggled up warm and tight inside. With a busy week looming, I was grateful for the break and took the day off with my girls. I greeted their late-morning risings with hot cocoa topped with whipped cream. As high schoolers, I understand these moments with them will vanish all too quickly.

I even skipped my visit to the gym. So, Lily's invitation to play in the snow would get me out and moving. When they were young, I'd bundle us all up and venture out with them, sleds in tow. As they could go on their own, I opted for comfort and grown-up things. Lily has always been the one to journey into the great white and play for hours. It's good for her soul. She'd lose track of time and the cold and I'd have to remind her to come in and relinquish the chill. Her cheeks were rosy, her eyes and heart clear. The purity of concentrated play gave her new life.

In preparing to join her, this time, I broke out my oldest jeans, snow boots, thick socks, warmest jacket, fleece cap and scarf and mis-matched gloves. "We're not going for fashion." she announced. She'd found the snowball mold and we each scooped up the fuzziness, forming perfect balls and began lopping them at each other. Neither of us was a great shot, but it was still good fun. In mixing it up, we exchanged tosses. We ran around the paths we'd created and then I decided to stockpile all the temporary weapons I could carry, sauntered across the street and secretly launched them at the boys, my neighbors, playing inside the fence. My throws were thwarted by the trees and my ability, but the message got across. Out of ammo, I scurried back across the street when  a voice boomed "I know where you live." I giggled and responded, "So do I." When was the last time I'd done something like this ... silly and spontaneous, something that made me giddy? Lily hid herself in the pines. Clearly, I was embarrassing.

Sizing up that we'd made a monstrous mess of the perfect blanket in our yard, we agreed on a little hike (normally it would be a walk, but the snow changes everything) around the neighborhood on this beautiful, crisp, clear, cold and sunny day. The contrast was blinding. Gratefully so. As we sauntered past Phoebe's house, she's a twenty-something, I was inclined to ask her out to play. I knew she'd welcome the invitation, but we had plans for an outing, a more sophisticated one (i.e. shopping therapy), with my oldest.

After we'd returned to the warmth and undressed our layers, I checked the time on my phone. Pheobe had posted on Facebook that she'd noticed us walking by and almost ran out, except that she had no shoes on. I knew she'd be up for a snowy adventure!

What is it about play that, as an adult, is so exhilarating? Probably that it is so rare in our lives. The greatest piece of parenting that no one ever mentioned to me is that it gives you an awfully good excuse to play. Before my children, I had long forgotten the fascination of rocks, mud between the toes and exploring things closer to the ground.

In the work I have been doing the past few years, particularly the spiritual aspects, play has surfaced as a major vehicle. It seems a good medium for exploring the deep stuff. I was thinking about this again, yesterday, after my play in the snow and as I plan the next "Pain as Spiritual Teacher" mini workshop for Saturday during the Victory of Light Psychic Festival. I googled research on play and, especially, play and chronic pain, the focus of this particular workshop series. Only more recently have researchers begun paying attention to adult play and even then, have had trouble recording differences between positive play and addictions or negative play.

There are adult playgrounds in major cities. Can you imagine? Hubs strewn with adult-sized toys and hammocks for napping. Sounds wondrous.

We're so slammed in this culture and divided by technology: got a minute, better check e-mail, voice mail, send a text or see what's happening on Facebook. Some of these are not necessarily work, but they aren't really play either. We're still "on." True play allows us to switch off the busyness.

I find that play and creativity are so tied together. Each takes you beyond your mind and into new and interesting, often restful, but sometimes zestful territory. Like my nieces' daughters. One infant is so laid back that she allows us to position her in yoga poses; we call her Zen. The other, a toddler full of life and not wanting to miss any minute of it, we call Zest.

Play grounds us out of the vortex of work that makes us believe the entire Universe rests upon what we do for a living. Play reminds us that we are not God, but human and in need of balance and a break from ego. Play stokes our inner creative fires, loosening inspiration, revelation, wisdom and joy.

Next time you have the urge or opportunity to play: do it!

• When was the last time I was tempted to play?
• Did I sieze the opportunity?
• If not, why?
• How can play help me balance my life?
• Where do I find Spirit in play?

aaahhh, a snow day
permission to take
time off

and just
be with my girls

who really are
well on their
way to becoming
young women

much too quickly

so this moment
is relished and
I am present

when my 14-year
old asks if I'll
come play with
her in the snow

I accept

and it is a gift
for both
of us

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