Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Courage to Recreate

Full Courting Moon

Full Courting Moon 2009: Courting Moon - I took a break!

This post also talks about Easter, which I discussed in last year's post Easter.

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Sorry this post is late in getting out to you, I've just been too busy playing to write :) Two weekends ago was the West Hills Friend's annual retreat at the Oregon Coast and then this weekend was full of Easter festivities. I have been to a pancake breakfast, an Easter pageant, a no talent show, a one woman play, an Easter egg hunt, craft nights, a mimosa brunch, two bbqs and at least half a dozen hikes in the woods (including one where I found a pile of stones and spent some time balancing them, one of my favorite kinds of play) in the last two weeks. Oh, and there have been plenty of naps, too.

Courting Moon asks questions about how we re-create our life through the magical third way between work and rest, play. Johan Huizinga, a 20th century Dutch historian who wrote an early text on play in humans, defines play as "a free activity standing quite consciously outside 'ordinary' life as being 'not serious' but at the same time absorbing the player intensely and utterly." Play is does good things for our brains, our spirit, our morale and even our problem solving abilities. Play often includes the opportunities for happy accidents, things that don't go as planned and make us stretch to worth with, around or through them. Like when the frisbee gets stuck in the tree and we have to problem solve a way to get it out. It also allows us time to free associate and make connections that we may not have made during the course or ordinary time. My sister has introduced me to an amazing mind-body yoga/dance/meditation/flailing practice called Shiva Nata that seems to revv up the connection making process through movement. It is fun and hard and hilarious - the hallmarks of great play.

As the moon swelled towards full this month I realized that the big question for me was not one of how to incorporate play into my life - the above list of activities shows that I am pretty good at that already - but how to channel that play into transformation. Play gives us the raw materials for transformation in the form of experiences and connections, but true life changing re-creation requires additional conscious effort.

Taking those conscious steps to change your life, even when the need for change or the path forward is evidently clear, can be very difficult. What's the old saying? Only a wet baby likes change? A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush? A known evil is better than an unknown evil? We don't start down the path of re-creation until that risk seems worth more than the stifling or constricting place we currently are. Transformation takes courage.

At worship sharing during retreat I was moved to speak about my feelings shyness and nervousness at the beginning of the weekend. These feelings take me by surprise because I live with them so rarely in my daily life. I happily chat up strangers at the grocery store, meet new students and teachers with confidence and generally show my sassy, irreverent, thoughtful self to most people I meet. Sometimes, though, feelings of fear and nervousness blindsided me in situations I didn't expect them in. I'm coming to realize that this happens when the people involved mean something more to me, when I am risking letting them into my fenced off inner garden. I really am the confident girl I project myself to be to stranger, but I have no fear that they are going to judge or wound me so I have no fear of letting them see that. The people I really care about though - my new church friends, third dates with cute boys, admissions counselors for grad school - these people can wound me, and I protect myself through shyness and nervousness. Luckily, as another Friends said during the same worship sharing, we can move into that fear, remind it that it is not doing what it so desperately thinks it needs to do, and come out the other side into a clearer, sweeter place. At retreat the Courting Moon's energies were at full power and it was evident that play and recreation are fantastic paths through that fear to a deeper connection.

All kinds of transformations take courage to begin. John Woolman, a well loved early American Quaker, worked his entire life against the enslavement of African American people on this continent. Reading his journals, I get the feeling that he would have just as soon stayed at his farm in New Jersey and tended his garden and orchards but he spent many years traveling through the colonies. He was racked with doubt as to whether he would say the right thing, or that his message would be heard, but his faith in his calling gave him the courage to take the steps he knew he needed to. He struggled his whole life to, in his words, make love the first motion. Rather than berating slave owners, or lecturing from a pulpit, he cultivated relationships and spoke from his heart, lovingly and tenderly. His desire to see slavery abolished did not happen for almost one hundred years after his death, but he transformed his life, and the lives of many people he spoke with in his travels. I'm not sure if John Woolman would have called what he did play, but many people see traveling as great paths to both recreation and re-creation.

Like last year, Easter Sunday at West Hills Friends included an original production of an Easter Pageant. This year Jesus rises from the tomb to remind people who have realized they are not who they thought they were that there is still a way forward. Jesus' rebirth, like all rebirths, allow us to move through what seemed like a dead end. In the play, Simon Peter says "I thought I was a rock, but I am broken and crumbling." Jesus reminds Simon Peter that big rocks get in the way, but crumbled rocks can pave the way forward. Our Jesus wore a sparkly purple dress coat and gave out goodies while we danced in the aisles. Re-creation, recreation and transformation with an amazing soundtrack.

What is your favorite kind of play? What connections, lessons, transformations have you made through creative, free form, time-out-time play? What kinds of transformations take the most courage for you? What did you do for Easter? How is spring shaping up where you come from? I hope the weather is nice enough for you to get outside... and play!

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