“In both the Old and New Testaments it is written: ‘Love thy neighbor as thy self.’ The Buddha says there is no ‘self’ … so maybe you are off the hook!” I found this morsel of humor in a tiny book called, “Zen Judaism”. And while it is true that Jews are recognized as some of our greatest humorists, they are by no means the only humans on the planet to bring laughter and lightness into our lives. Even animals do funny things – just watch any You Tube video on the subject.
My point is that humans have a deep and enduring need to break up the dire seriousness that life so often places before us; humor brings the balance necessary for Light to enter into our individual and collective darkness, to lift us from heavy thoughts into the realm of greater and better possibilities.
Divine Play lifts us even further beyond that balance to bring us closer to a state of “Lightness of Being”, where we can experience being more of Spirit than of our mortal selves. There is an annual holiday celebrated around the world by Indians, called “Holi”, and many years ago when I was following my Guru, I participated annually in this celebration with hundreds of others in a large field wherever we happened to be. This is where we all got to play with him. He would shoot through small cannons a light powder colored with all the hues of the rainbow, where it would land on white cotton pants and shirts, forming wonderful colored patterns. I experienced being lifted out of my human heaviness until I felt as light as air, much like in the scene from the film, “Witches of Eastwick”, in which the devil, played by Jack Nicholson, was playing tennis with his three female acolytes until time and gravity seemed to fall away, and they were lifted into what I like to call a “state of grace”: no time, no linear boundaries, no weight – only the endless stretch of the present moment.
Heidi Kaduson wrote, “When you are free, you can play, and when you are playing, you become free.” Play is a true expression of God’s Presence in the world; it unsticks the wheels of your mind and leads you into a level of relaxation that induces healing. Indeed, in today’s frantic world, the relaxation that is derived from unadulterated play paves a more positive neural pathway and makes it easier for us to have the same response the next time we engage in play.
One of our other SBCSL Practitioners, Annemarie Lovedahl, once presented a compelling workshop on the brain’s neural pathways that bears repeating. She described a practice that I’d like to modify for this topic: After experiencing the good feeling from engaging in some form of play, expand upon that feeling in your imagination, feeling it in every way possible (physically, mentally, emotionally). For example, where in your body do you feel lighter and freer; what is your new level of relaxation; are you now flooded with thoughts of your Good, Happiness and sense of Freedom; are you feeling more charitable and forgiving of others? When you complete this checklist, then flood your awareness with every positive outcome you’ve become aware of, allowing it to increase in intensity, and allow yourself to fully enjoy it and embrace it. According to Annemarie’s research presentation, it takes at least 12 seconds of this flooding/awareness to help transfer it from short-term to long-term memory, increasing the possibility that all those warm, fuzzy feelings of Good, Joy and Freedom will infuse all future thoughts and responses. You may follow up this practice by repeating it at key recurring times throughout your day (mealtime, before bedtime, after meditation, prayer or a workout). Gradually this practice can serve to alter your brain’s structure and replace negative thinking.
Play can definitely lead us from our heavy human selves, out of our usual cares and worries and anxieties, and remind us that we are more than this: we are created out of the Divine; we are of the Divine and we remain so, throughout eternity. All else gets added on to our being as we go through our lives, but what is true is that we are Light, we are Love, we are of Spirit, Grace, and Good. We are beyond personality, or even character, we are more than our talents or our mistakes – we are the children of a creative Energy that has birthed us from Eternity, from Itself, and we remain so forever more!