Saturday, June 10, 2006

Come and play

The email and phones have been strangely quiet this week. As the weather remains good, we sink into summer, daydreaming about long days of deep relaxation. We will dream about them until August, when we will start to launch back into high-speed with worries about all the things we have not yet done to prepare for fall.

How can we escape this cycle of longing for a break that never materializes in the way we hope? Watch little children. What do they do? Left to their own devices in a stimulating and supportive environment, children play until they are tired. Then they sleep. Then they play.

Maybe its the lack of planning that gives kids so much energy. Kids do not plan: even when it looks like planning, they are merely playing at planning, cococting schemes knowing that the pleasure is not in the product but in the process. Planning means keeping one part of our brain for life now while the rest of it engages with something that might or might not happen. It is useful in lots of ways. And it is tiring. It takes us out of the moment we are living, a moment when we could be fully engaged in what we are doing.

As adults, we cannot give up planning. We can put it in its place. We can think about it later, or we can think about it when it provides relief from activities we do not enjoy. We cannot take a break in order to plan: planning replaces the break. We cannot take a break by "resting": our brains never stop processing information. They need something to process.

We need to play if we want a real break. We need to engage our attention thoroughly in something that promises us physical movement, social interaction, and a happy ending. Isn't that what kids do? They play with companions (real or imagined), with movement (even if it's only lightning-fast fingers on a video-game controller) and with the knowledge that all will end well - if not this time, then next time. Ending well might mean winning a game, or it might mean that the sunflowers will survive the squirrels long enough to turn their faces to the sky. It might mean staying friends forever, or it might mean the bad guys get spectacularly defeated. It's all good.

If you want a break, open your eyes and find something that fits the criteria: something that gets you out of your comfy chair and allows your attention to become thoroughly wrapped up in something that you know ends well. Learn something just because you want to and it feels good. Find people to share your adventures. Play.

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