and spirituality are not often associated, yet why not?
Recreation and play invites imaginings of amusing activities.
They speak of laughter, delight and fun. I immediately envision
children being silly, rapt in enjoying the moment. Just
try to coax a child away from their games and play time.
Not a chance!
watching children at play also reveals the essence of spirit.
Their creativity expresses that vital, animating force within
all living beings. It displays an energy and engagement
with the flow of life. And isnt this the definition
of spirit -- the root of spirituality?
at play are natural teachers of spirituality. They are free
of the limits of a thinking mind and open to vast imagination.
As William Blake writes, it is through our imagination that
we experience the divine. Watching my grandnieces play for
hours with a colored ribbon is an awe-inspiring occasion.
Their whole beings are captivated by the unlimited possibilities
of each moment--holistic re-creation at its best.
often have you wished for a return to the carefree, playful
days of childhood? Sometimes a reconnection to that state
can come through a spiritual practice. There are times when
yoga, prayer or meditation loosens self-consciousness, alters
time, and suspends all worries and concerns. In those moments,
the joyfulness of spirit at play reveals its secrets. Yet
this is also possible through work, sports, artistry and
recreation. Full absorption, one pointed concentration,
deep involvement and joy can be experienced when we least
expect it. These ingredients of a spirit filled life are
mixed within each days potential.
ago when studying child development I learned of the "flow"
in a childs play. The research described had similar
elements to my sense of spirituality. Then in 1990, the
psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi compiled his studies
about flow into a popular book, clarifying the connection
between play and spirit. Through observing artists he noted
their almost hypnotic trance state as they tried to bring
their visions into form. They forgot hunger, time and fatigue
for as long as a painting remained incomplete and when it
stopped changing and growing, their attention ceased as
well. These artists were carried by a current, within which
everything moved harmoniously, without effort.
discovery defied traditional psychological theories of motivation.
It proved how time and effort could be committed to an activity
just for the sake of doing it, apart from rewards or results.
Csikszentmihalyi also saw that his scientific findings were
similar to references in spiritual literature, as in the
Hindu Bhagavada Gita, and Taoist writings. In Taoism there
is a term which speaks to how a wise person lives. This
word, yu, translates into "walking without touching
the ground," "flowing" or "floating".
described these elements of a flow experience:
Desire to do ones best in the face of challenge.
Action and awareness merged into one-pointed concentration.
Focus on the present.
Loss of self-consciousness.
Suspension of a sense of time.
Involvement in an activity just for its own sake.
playful, spiritual or work related, being in the flow encourages
continual discovery. The enjoyment built into moments of
discovery stretches one to explore and be challenged. But
its very different from producing or expecting results.
Within the experience of flow is an inner harmony more substantial
and rewarding than accomplishing any specific goal.
this awareness of possibility, re-creation takes on new
meaning. Being in the flow invites curiosity and interest
in everyday life. It helps us relish the creative and spiritual
spark just in driving our cars or listening to a piece of
music. Flow allows the unfolding of your being through a
conversation, meditation, reading, art or the outdoors.
friend recently told me of a school in the Midwest that
has a "Flow Room". It is filled with a variety
of objects to invite the creative impulse to come out to
play. The room is open for children to use at any time and
adults are present to support whatever draws their interest.
Hearing this reminded me of the "recreation room"
in the basement of my childhood home. Though it was always
a glorious mess it was an inviting, joyful haven! Perhaps
we all need to ensure that there is still the dedicated
space, somewhere in our lives, to play and flow.