I have lost count of the number of times that my eyes have been drawn outside, to the sight of a squirrel scurrying across our back fence or doing gravity-defying acrobatics to reach the last shriveled up crab apple. Just the sight will stop me in my tracks, as I watch these little whirlwinds of energy leap from branch to branch, chasing each other up, down and around our trees.
So what does my reminiscing about squirrels have to do with this blog? If you read Pets and the Present Moment, you know how our furry friends have a way of pulling us into the present moment. Yes, I know: squirrels are not pets. Stay with me (even if you don’t like squirrels – smile). What pulls me in, is the incredible sense of play that I associate with the antics of a squirrel.
Yes, I realize the up-and-down spiraling pattern around a tree is a territorial dispute and that other chasing behavior is about dominance, aggression and mating () – but my eyes only see playfulness. I see fun, freedom, and play: all the things I enjoy in my own life…but are the first to go when I get caught up in daily stresses, distractions, expectations, past thoughts, and future worries. Seeing Mr. Squirrel reminds me of that part of myself that needs to let go and play.
“Play energizes us and enlivens us. It eases our burdens. It renews our natural sense of optimism and opens us up to new possibilities.” – Stuart Brown, MD
In the adult-world, it is easy to forget this side of ourselves. We self-edit, concern ourselves with what others think, are too busy, too serious, too focused. The busyness of life can easily get in the way.
Even the practice of mindfulness can even take on a “serious” edge to it (if we let it). Doesn’t this well-known definition of feel a tad bit serious (almost like work): “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgementally.” But what about when we add in that element of playfulness? When being mindful of what is in this present moment is also about seeing the laughter, the lightness, the play all around us.
I am a deep thinker: a serious, introspective person who wants to know myself at a deeper level, wants to experience life on a deeper, more passionate level…but when I’m in that mindset, I sometimes forget an essential ingredient: light-hearted playfulness with a good dose of child-free abandon.
“We are never more fully alive, more completely ourselves, or more deeply engrossed in anything, than when we are at play.” – Charles Schaefer
Play connects us to ourselves and to others. It allows us to engage with the world with all of our senses, and grounds us so solidly in the present moment that we experience ourselves and others through the unclouded lens of a child. Think about it for a moment. Recall a memory of a child (yourself or a child you know): see how totally engaged they are in what they are doing, the sparkle in their eyes, the pure bliss they are experiencing as they fully interact in the world of play. Through play, they are connected to the present moment.
Now ask yourself: are you connecting to this sense of play within yourself? We all know the benefits of laughter and play, but do we open ourselves up to this gift enough each day? Can we do more of it?
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.” – George Bernard Shaw
If you want a refresher on all the benefits of play and laughter or want to find ways to bring more of into your life, here are some interesting links:
- The website sums it up perfectly in their opening line: play is a simple and natural pathway to our authentic Self. It returns us to joy, freedom, creativity and self-care. Their are definitely worth reading.
- There is a TEDTalk by , that looks at how, as we get older, we tend to forget how to fully let go and play — and why it is so important that we remember again.
- World of Psychology has a great article called .
- The book was reviewed as: A fascinating blend of cutting-edge neuroscience, biology, psychology, social science, and inspiring human stories of the transformative power of play, this book proves why play just might be the most important work we can ever do.
- The article covers not only the benefits of play but also talks about learning how to play again. It also has links to other related articles.
- Adding childlike playfulness to yoga (in order to add in the physiological and psychological benefits of laughter) has made a world wide phenomenon. There are now more than 6,000 Social Laughter Clubs in about 60 countries.
Okay…enough editing. Any grammatical errors in this post will have to stay: I am off to play.