The Sacred Art Of Living A Life Of Play by Chris Zydel

The following is reposted with permission from Chris Zydel's August 2013 newsletter. 

I've been having some problems with my back and went to see a new bodyworker the other day.

During the session, she was very committed to having me understand what was going on in my body as well as performing all kinds of magic with her hands to promote the healing process.

But she explained what she was seeing by personifying the different parts of my body and giving them a voice and a personality as well as acting them out in a visual way. Which had me totally mesmerized and also had the effect of connecting me to my body on a much more emotional and visceral level.

Because of her skillful pantomime, I found myself sympathizing in a new way with my poor, sad folded over 5th lumbar vertebrate and feeling slightly alarmed by her personification of my stuck-in-a-leaning-back position sacral joint, as if it were an ice skater wide eyed and surprised, about to fall over backwards onto the ice and unable to go with the flow of my natural movement.

I was fascinated. And laughing the whole time. Seeing my inner workings through her eyes totally shifted my perspective. In her version of my bodies story, my physical form was no longer the enemy and a problem child, it's only purpose to be causing me pain and worry and keeping me from doing the things I wanted to do. It was alive and cranky and responding in the only way it knew how to all kinds of slings and arrows of embodied existence.

And I came away from the session with a renewed compassion and respect for my body's woes and native intelligence.

At one point I said to her " You should be on stage, you know. You're a hilarious body comedienne." And then she told me that her mother was a clown and that she was raised in an atmosphere of free and playful self expression.

Which meant that she was totally comfortable PLAYING as she worked. And I was struck by the power of play to heal and to wiggle and giggle it's way through barriers and defenses like nothing else can.

Being playful and childlike is another one of those taboos that many of us struggle with once we gain adult status.

Play is suspect. Frivolous. Shallow. And something that is reserved for the narrow corners of our lives. It's doled out in bits. A two week vacation here. A night on the town with your pals there. A day when you ditch your to-do list because you just can't take it anymore and head to the beach.

But it's not supposed to be a regular part of our daily diet. We are expected to be all grown up and serious most of the time with play something that we get as a reward for good behavior.

Sometimes we DO get the admonition to take play more seriously, often on the heels of a health crises. We are told we need to relax. Get our blood pressure down. Include it as part of a self care practice. And so we try and find ways to bring play into our lives through various activities. Which is great on one level. And better than nothing.

But the danger in that approach is that play becomes one more thing you HAVE to do. It becomes a duty and a responsibility and something "good" for you. And at that point it is no longer play.

We also tend to forget one very basic truth. Which is that play is not something that you do. It's who you ARE.

We were built to play. Constantly. Children discover their world through play. But that process doesn't need to stop once we get a drivers license and a mortgage. Studies have shown that no matter what your age, it's how we learn the best.

And play keeps us young because play is synonymous with creativity. When we are playing we are present and in the moment. We're not attached to a future outcome. We're open and curious. And excited by what we don't yet know and thrilled by the process of exploration and discovery.

Play is also incredibly healing.

When we encounter disappointments or loss or trauma we tend to freeze up. Toughen ourselves in an attempt to protect our bodies and souls from future harm. Pain and sorrow and difficulty can tend to shut us down and make us crusty and contracted, brittle and hard.

According to author Angeles Arrien in her book The Four Fold Way, when a person is suffering from illness or depression and they visit a tribal shaman or healer, the first question they are often asked is "When did you stop dancing? When did you stop singing ? When did you stop being being enchanted by stories? When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence?"

In other words, when did you stop allowing yourself to simply be without thinking you always had to be productive? When did you stop finding reasons to laugh for no good reason? When did you stop interacting with the world of people, animals, trees and stones as if they were all your brothers and sisters? When did you stop playing?

Play is always associated with pleasure. And fun. And both of those things are balms for the soul.

Play keeps us fluid and flexible. It softens us and renews us. It reconnects us to our true nature as children of the earth and the sky. It keeps us open and saying yes to life. And it is a direct conduit to joy.

It reminds us that we are all dreamers. All stargazers. All a work in progress.

Play tells us again and again that we don't have to have it all figured out. That we are never done growing and changing. And that the best way to live on this earth is with a bounce in our step, a mischievous gleam in our eye and laughing every chance we get.

Chris Zydel
Creative Juices Arts
Creativity As A Path to Spirit, Joy, Healing And Transformation!