Covid-19 continues to plague the world, not just with illness but with more rules, more pressures, more doubts and fears. It’s all serious stuff. My own lonely lock-down into prolonged self-study has brought me face to face with the unavoidable subjects of career planning, relationships, parenting and personal dramas. Like you, I’ve been practicing gratitude, taking care as best as I can, and leaning on others to help me through the tough spots.
Recently, a dear friend, let’s call her J, invited me to a workshop on dream analysis. Fortunately, my fresh-from-the-subconscious dream gave me much to enact and decode, and J brilliantly facilitated the small, socially-distanced, masked participants digging in their dream dirt. My private assignment was to ask the 10-year-old me (who was reflected in my dream) what she wanted me to know. Here is how my young self responded:
Write for the joy of it, for the self-expression, the pouring out, for the play with words and the love of language! Detach from the result, believe in your own story as much as other people’s. Capitalize on the feeling of creating and stop worrying about “the book.” You know enough. Enjoy your inner colour spilling out on the page, resplendent and uncensored and unbridled… I know you care about what other people think, I know your strong inner critic… It’s OK. I understand. You didn’t notice when you were growing up that you were groomed to care… You’ve come so far now: play! Surrender. Don’t fight so hard to be you or not to be you. Just be. Wheeeeeeee……!”
Those are the wise words from the long-lost child who filled paper with poems and haikus and stories, and danced and wrote with so pure abandon before she became preoccupied with approval and pleasing and the stolid work of writing for a living. So, I am trying been more playful – doing more handstands (which I love but limited in lockdown), stream of consciousness writing and wacky dancing, remembering the unguarded spirit of my youth. In my practice and teaching, I’ve been encouraging lila (lee-lah), the Sanskrit word for sport, play and drama.
Lila is not the hide-and-seek that once sent us sneaking across neighbourhood lawns and squishing behind bushes. At its deepest root, it connotes the effortless and creative way that the boundless energy of the universe interacts with the material world. Lila means cosmological play – the dance of the gods, where divine beauty infuses our world and inspiration comes through us in expressions of words, relationships, innovation and art.
When we play, we honour the divine in us. We break through the contractive energy that becomes manifest reality, and helps us reconnect to greatness and expansiveness. What better time is there to remember, in these times of dis-ease and separation and hardening, that playfulness heals, unites and softens us into great and hopeful beings. I know that seems like a lot to ask from some simple, goofy playfulness. But surrendering to Lila may be seen not only as a joy and privilege, but as responsibility to recognize that as human beings we are, after all, vast and wild energy that is grounded in unique creative capabilities.
Can you dare to be more playful? How are you going to up your game?