In the first “episode” of Living with Intention, one of his recent courses, my meditation teacher Bodhipaksa has suggested that we approach our “sitting” practice with the intention of finding enjoyment.
What a novel idea, truly to enjoy something that I am “meant to be doing”! To approach my “time on the cushion” (which isn’t always – isn’t often – actually on a cushion) in the spirit of playfulness. To watch my mind, my body, my emotions, and the games that they play, with the intention of gentle kindness, amusement, curiosity, as if I was watching a small child, a young kitten, a fox-cub, learning by experiment what it is to be human, or feline, or vulpine. Or ladybird.
So today I invite us to approach our writing practice with something of this lightness, exploration, openness as to outcome. And that might be an aspiration for every practice in which we are involved today, tomorrow…
That includes this checking in exercise, which starts with a leisurely, playful visiting of your main body-parts, as if from within them:
Visualising right foot, right leg, right knee, right shoulder, right arm, right elbow, right hand, wiggley fingers of the right.
Same for left side, paying about as much attention to each part. And please remember to wiggle the fingers of the left…
Trunk, belly, chest, neck, head, jaw, face… Wiggle your ears if you can.
Eyes soft… forehead relaxing…
Whole body relaxing, as we sit with the kindful breathing.
Aaaaah! That’s better.
Now pick up a pencil to fill in …
Today my …. feels playful
Insert name of body-part, even if it’s only your left eyelid.
Repeat ad lib.
How playful are you today?
If you aren’t yet familiar with BrainDumping, see here and here for earlier examples.
And then, led by each of the following prompts, keep your pencil free-flowing in your ThoughtBook, into sentences as fantastical, mundane or downright weird as you choose…
For as many times as you like, and no longer.
Today I am glad I don’t have to work at …
Today I wish I had the chance to play …
Today I would like to play truant from …
Today I’m letting my mind play over …
Tomorrow … might ask me to play …
Tomorrow, I could suggest a game of …
To explore the origin and invitation of the Golden Thread, see above, and accept William Blake’s gift “I give you the end of a golden string/ Only wind it into a ball/ It will lead you in at Heaven’s Gate/ Built in Jerusalem’s wall”, by extending your writing into a journey from one (or more) of these starting points:
"Don't you play those games with me, my girl!" ...
The kids on the French exchange pronounced "ace" in a way that ...
Halma, Go, Mah Jong and Draughts; Solitaire and Snakes & Ladders; Dominoes and Battleships ... Watching where the light played on the water ... ... auditioning for the college play ...
Once the snow got really thick, out came the Jigsaws ...
Theories about the value of play ...
They often met in the playing-field during last break ..
At wet playtimes he allowed us each to select an old comic from ...
Which colour counter in Ludo? My dad chose green because ... When I dreaded the playground most ...
Game over, and ...
The workshop was 'Messy play for grown-ups' and ...
Playing with other children
We can return to these exercises in odd moments, to revisit:
- the earnestness – indeed the seriousness , importance – of play, of daring, of experiment;
- the mixed memories of childhood experiences in the playground (and let’s go gently on ourselves here, as some recollections might feel painful );
- the humour that might bubble up in our writing, lifting our mood.
I hope you’ll enjoy re-reading what you’ve written … today, tomorrow, next year…
In the Further resources section at the end, there’s aspilling of tear-jerking Victorian sentiment (literally) in Coventry Patmore’s The Toys, and I’ve now added a link here to a sympathetic review (2010) by Michael Kneeland of its lasting importance, as he believes “the pathos is sharp enough and universal enough that the poem transcends being a mere period piece and edges towards the realm of eternally relevant humanistic literature.”
Would you agree?
If you’d like to share a playful or sentimental piece of prose about toys or games from childhood , or a poem, or some humorous doggerel – or a list of what games that you’ve played in childhood or more recently – then feel free to paste them into the Comments box, so that we can play along.
Please add the word ‘Copyright’, with your name (or pen name), and the date, so you can retain your authority. Thanks for sharing playtime.
Glad of a chance to play
Let’s finish off this playtime with our customary appreciation practice, as playful as we choose to be (or as gamey, as in pungent venison…):
Today I am grateful for:
Here is the poem The Toys by the Victorian poet Coventry Patmore, written
My little Son, who look’d from thoughtful eyesCoventry Kersey Dighton Patmore (1823-1896)
And moved and spoke in quiet grown-up wise,
Having my law the seventh time disobey’d,
I struck him, and dismiss’d
With hard words and unkiss’d,
—His Mother, who was patient, being dead.
Then, fearing lest his grief should hinder sleep,
I visited his bed,
But found him slumbering deep,
With darken’d eyelids, and their lashes yet
From his late sobbing wet.
And I, with moan,
Kissing away his tears, left others of my own;
For, on a table drawn beside his head,
He had put, within his reach,
A box of counters and a red-vein’d stone,
A piece of glass abraded by the beach,
And six or seven shells,
A bottle with bluebells,
And two French copper coins, ranged there with careful art,
To comfort his sad heart.
So when that night I pray’d
To God, I wept, and said:
Ah, when at last we lie with trancèd breath,
Not vexing Thee in death,
And Thou rememberest of what toys
We made our joys,
How weakly understood
Thy great commanded good,
Then, fatherly not less
Than I whom Thou hast moulded from the clay,
Thou’lt leave Thy wrath, and say,
‘I will be sorry for their childishness.’
For some meandering wordery you might like to look up
(online or in yourown pet Real Dictionary, which can transport you out of a wet afternoon on its magic carpet – what’s yours called?)
alternative definitions of:
gamey, gamy, and even gammy
which may have a similar etymology.
Have we forgotten how to play?
For myself, I don’t have the energy to play physical games. I was keen on volleyball, basketball, golf and my beloved snooker. Football and rugby not so much, though I like watching internationals.
For me now, it’s back to mind and strategy games. Chess, draughts, othello, and backgammon. I also enjoy crosswords and other word games.
And of course, I like the written word and entertain myself by writing novels, and that is the key to enjoy a good story, you make up the story and characters.
What about others though? How often do we as adults forget the basics of being alive and enjoying that simple act of make-believe? We may see our children playing, see them being that superhero or heroine and we think, “how cute”.
However, as adults we need space to indulge and unwind. For me one escape is writing, another is reading. If I want a challenge then I turn to chess. Others may turn to more physical games.
As a person with a chronic illness which includes chronic pain and fatigue, I have to manage my time and energy. Even reading a book can dwindle my energy levels. I envy those with energy, I had it once, lost it and will not gain it back.
I’m not a “gamer” either. I do not have the multitasking ability as many. I find the monotony of the action and soundtrack to draining on my emotions. Give me a three-hour video of goldfish any day of the week, even paint drying is more to my liking than “gaming”.
One aspect of life I have regained is my mental health. For years, decades I’ve suffered without knowing it. Then when it all came crashing down I was given a life-changing drug. It’s not for everyone, and mine is called Citalopram. There are many variants and you suffer from mental health conditions, you’re not alone.
Don’t shy away from them. It may take several different medications, for me it was at least seven before I got one that worked. So for those of you that suffer, please note there is medication to help, many that suffer with you, and above all many that care.
Try to get into a daily routine of letting go. Sit back, switch your favourite music on, close your eyes and drift. Let the body heal, let the mind rest and for a few minutes, open your mind to nothing.
Promote Happiness – Be Humble
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