Maybe it’s because I turned seventy-five a few weeks ago. Maybe it’s because Don retired a few days ago. Whatever the reason, I am on the hunt for more fun.
Do adults even have permission to be playful?
Angeles Arrien, eminent cultural anthropologist, clarified what it takes to live a spirited life. She said cross-culturally and throughout time, there are four activities that connect us to our souls. Dancing, singing, storytelling and silence. She said, dancing connects us to our body, singing to our voice, storytelling to our heart, and silence to the Great Mystery. These four activities ignite soulful living.
I am certain she was right. I am also certain there is another element that connects us to our souls. Play. I define it as any activity that is done for the pleasure of doing it. Look at the faces of the children painting in the above photo. They are deeply absored in the process.
Play like this feeds our soul.
How we bring ourselves to the activity determines if it is play. For example, gardening for one might be work. Yet for another it is fun. In either case the outcome might be a spectacular garden. But it is deep engagement with the activity that keeps a playful person going. They spend less time focusing on the outcome and take pleadure in the moment to moment process.
When we become adults we often abandon childish things. We risk losing childlike enthusiasm when we do. Some women start coloring or cutting out paper dolls with their children and become engaged. When they pause, they realize their child have moved on. The mother just needed an invitation to begin.
Adult coloring books sold about twelve million copies in 2015. Being called adult coloring books likely made them acceptable to use. What was the result of all that coloring? A global colored-pencil shortage? Yes. Were there any therapeutic benefits? Yes. Studies show that coloring reduces negative feelings, symptoms of depression and anxiety. Pleasurable activities remove the film stress deposits on our aliveness.
Here is more good news; if you have forgotten how to play, you can relearn as an adult. It might take a little searching and a few false starts. It is possible. Look for those things that spark your interest. Keep your eye off the outcome. Enjoy the activity. This may seem foolish or even scary at first. The benefits often outweight our reluctance to try something new.
Sometimes we need to become an elder to rediscover childhood curiosity. I am not sure what things I might try. Aging has helped me release some of my fears of looking foolish. That helps. Don and I also have more time to explore enjoyable activities. That also helps. We will share some pursuits. Others we may pursue on our own. Keeping fun as a focus in a problem-ridden world seems, both frivolous and necessary. Zorba the Greek’s story is worth noting. Dance is what we need during difficult times. No matter how we come to dance, or any of these soul nurturing activities, they return us to our souls.
What things have you left behind or never started?
For me — I am looking for places to dance.
For you — don’t to wait until you are seventy-five to start.