Sunday, February 8, 2015

Laughing - Play - Happiness (Please forgive text font mess.)

Pharrel Williams “Happy”

‘Think of what makes you smile, makes you happy – and do more of that stuff.” Steve Maraboli

“Joy doesn’t simply happen. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.” Henri Nuowen “Today I choose joy!” Joy in the journey – because that’s what life is, a style of travel, not only a destination.

Most of our “ways” are shaped during our growing up years. In fact, by the time we’re 8 years old, we have learned about religion, values, beliefs, traditions, what’s acceptable and what’s unacceptable. We know when to play, when to work. Who we can play with, and whom we can’t, what we can play, what we can’t. Same with beliefs – whom/what we can believe in, whom/what we can’t. We learn what beliefs are acceptable, what aren’t. And we follow – parents, teachers, siblings, older friends.

Play is how children learn, grow, and even how they pray.  Play incorporates body, mind, emotions, and spirit. By honoring and valuing children and play – including play in worship – we encourage their wholeness while reclaiming a holistic way of being for ourselves.

When we are children we tend to engage in sports for the play, for the fun. Then as adults we begin to organize our play and things become more serious. Now there are fixed and competing teams, teams we are supposed to defeat, teams we may even come to hate. Even the language of play changes from cheers to taunts – kill ‘em, break ‘em, go get ‘em, eat ‘em up. As we get older only the better players get to play, and the word “play” loses all sense of playfulness. And by the time we get to college and professional sports play is dead serious, so not play at all. The same thing can happen with religion. As a child, awe and wonder come naturally to us, but as these are institutionalized they become work rather than play, and hence often harder to achieve.

One day – we begin to question – play, work, community, beliefs, values, traditions, what’s acceptable and not. We ask a few big questions: Why? What does this mean? How do you know? And – So What? We ask these questions to parents, teachers, siblings, friends. And we begin to parse out truth from untruth – as we decide to see it. Sadly, we also put an end to play, delight, awe, wonder, and even joy. 

Quite often we see spirituality and religion as synonymous, and we dump one because we want to dump the other. We do the same with play – dump it over a strong work ethic – seeing religion, spirituality, work, play, as all or nothing elements in our lives.

I argue that there is room for both. We need to bring back the sparkle of laughter, play, child-like games into our lives – so we can become healthy, become whole. We need to laugh –at   ourselves, to ourselves, and with others. We need to play for the same reasons. Not competition, but play for the sake of playing – for the sake of releasing ourselves and fully living in the moment.

Spiritual people know how to laugh and most often at themselves. Do laughter and play go together? Yes I think so. The more spiritual one becomes the more joy one finds in the sheer wildness of being alive. There is something intrinsically funny about life; and the way we go about living can be downright absurd. Laughter is a natural response to seeing the irony of life and absurdity of our lives.

Mary Poppins, “I Love to Laugh” 

Play, and playful thought then, can hold a very powerful way to connect to what our Spirit needs to thrive. Through play, children remind us what wholeness looks like. Proverbs 17:22 “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.”  
Laughter, Joy, Play – can help us heal.

1. Play is expansive. It gives us the energetic space we need to feel alive and imagine the possibilities that are available to further inspire us. In fact, one might see play as a spiritual practice in its own right.

2. Play is a profound act. Play becomes the way to connect to, and fill, the often magical space from which we create. And recognizing the deep meaning and healing that can be found as we connect to our playful, creative and inspirational selves can be a truly spiritual process.

3. Play becomes a spiritual practice when we begin to recognize those moments where we need to connect to our expansive selves. It becomes a practice when we must consciously shift our awareness from what may be self-limiting to self-fulfilling. Knowing our relationship to play (this lighter side of life) and what helps us to connect to this transformational place is a key element in our spiritual practice.

4. Play can enhance spirituality. Play is the imaginative construction of one segment of reality. Play is much more than diversion or exercise. It is creativity in preliminary form, the fore-runner of authentic change.

Unfortunately, all too often we think of spirituality as “serious business.” We think there is no room in adulthood, sobriety, and spirituality for play. We give far too much credence to scriptures such as 1 Corinthians 13:11 that says, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.” 

Perhaps we need to spend more time with scripture such as Proverbs 8 where the essence of Holy Wisdom is ever at play in the world.  Perhaps we need to reclaim the God of Joy, who in Isaiah 65 says: “I shall be joyful… I shall rejoice in my people.” Perhaps, as in the Bible in Zephaniah 3, we are to embrace an image of the Divine rejoicing over us with happy song, dancing with shouts of joy for us.

Do the images of a laughing Jesus, a laughing Buddha, or a singing, dancing God shift your perception of the Divine or shift your perception of what abundant life might look like? I believe these images encourage us to embrace our inner child; to dance, sing, and play; to immerse ourselves in the wonder of creation and give ourselves permission to enjoy the playground of God; and to let God dance in us and take delight in us.
Man suffers only because he takes seriously what the gods made for fun.—Alan Watts

 I wonder, what brings you joy?  In what do you delight?  What is your experience of God, of the Sacred, in those moments of joy and delight?

This coming week I invite you to explore the spirituality of play. I invite you to dare to let your inner child loose. Maybe you’ll stand outside with your face turned up and let the rain plant little God-kisses all over your face.  Maybe you’ll jump in the biggest puddle you can find, splashing cold water up to your knees. Or pull the brightest, wildest pieces of clothing from your closet and wear them – without concern for what people think. If you want to wear a purple shirt, with red pants, and a yellow scarf – wear them!

Dig out your yo-yo or hula-hoop or jump-rope and let your body remember what play feels like. Read a children’s book. Put on your favorite music and dance. Sing at the top of your lungs – and not only while you’re in the shower. Experience the world with each of your senses and immerse yourself in the wonder and awe of a tree, a squirrel, a child.

Imagine the divine building, creating, sculpting, dancing, singing, and painting your life with the energy of playfulness. Imagine your Higher Power at play within you, inviting you into a life of joy and happiness.  Give yourself permission this coming week to enjoy the playground of God and let the Divine dance and take delight in you.

“Joy doesn’t simply happen. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.” Henri Nouwen “Today I choose joy!” Joy in the journey – because that’s what life is, a style of travel, not only a destination.

I like the lyrics from Lee Ann Womack’s song, "I Hope You Dance":
I hope you never lose your sense of wonder,
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger,
May you never take one single breath for granted,
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed,
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean,
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens,
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.
I hope you dance….I hope you dance. 

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