Birds are happy, chirping away in the backyard, even in Brooklyn, NYC: "It's springtime. Let's have fun." A friend reminded us about the importance of play in his recent post and a collage of images. Mhm, but why do I feel reluctant to play?
Merriam Webster's definition of the verb to play reads: "To engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation, rather than a serious or practical purpose." I understand play as a carefree mélange of curiosity, laughter, and movement. The key word is "carefree." I prefer to play by myself, when I remember to do it. Why? Because I tend to feel that I'll be judged if entering into play with others. I shy away from group games and sports. Will I be able to be carefree enough in social playfulness, or will I be accused of holding back? Even people, who encourage others to be playful, may later turn around and shake their heads when we actually are jumping with joy.
It doesn't help that games and sports became competitive endeavors: "I'm the best. I win." This attitude is amply supported by media, and widely spread through advertising campaigns. If the sense of being carefree is hampered, fear has more space to thrive. "Am I good enough? Am I loveable?" Worry cuts us off from fun, and lock us into anxious mode of continuous work-for-pay.
At the beginning of the 21st century, we are still operating on the hundreds of years old clock system. The 9-5 workday is considered the right one; the early birds are the only ones praised. What about the night owls? Where do independent people fit in? The prevalent modus operandi squeezes us into tight boxes, demanding that we mindlessly follow mechanistic schedules.
Curiosity is not encouraged, nor is out-of-the-box thinking. It's too dangerous to the predominant status quo. Strictly structured physical exercises with very specific measurable outcomes are the ones encouraged: "I lost so much weight. See the chiseled muscle definition I gained. Wow, look at how many pirouettes she did!? He swam for days on end? Amazing." All of these activities have their place of course. The problem arises when they become the only approved way.
Free movement that allows personal expression is important. Soulful movement that inspires joy is essential for human well-being. Body, our earthly sheath, needs adequate physical action. Soul, our essence, needs light-filled engagement.
When we are bound to matter too much, we have to breathe out. Constriction is released in expanding laughter. After a cry chimes a laugh. Giggles are often followed by tears. We can observe these principles of expansion and contraction in children at play.
Birds know how to play too. I watched a red cardinal sing its song the other day. Perched on a bare branch, it declared its tune, paused to attentively listen to other birds singing, and then responded with confidence.
Trees are playfully expressive as well. The river birch outside my window has been eager to share the fresh green leaves with its peers for the last two weeks already. The three mulberry sisters just responded with their first buds. But the oak tree is a bit slow this spring. Each one of them follows their own rhythm, which varies a little from year to year. No one judges them. We simply observe and marvel at the beauty they reveal.
Like birds and trees, we too, each one of us, sing our own melody and blossom at our own time. Early birds and night owls, we all contribute our uniqueness to the rich tapestry of humanity. Our inner child wants to play, and explore with curiosity, laughter, movement. Can we provide supportive and carefree mood for our individual expression?
Over to you, dear Soulful Reader:
How do you provide supportive and carefree mood for your individual expression?
This article first appeared on the Soulful Sparks of Inspiration website.