There is …only one language, the language of the heart. It’s silent, and yet it is a song of love. It’s full of tears, and it’s full of laughter. It’s full of wisdom; it’s full of playfulness. (1) – Swami Chidvilasananda.
Sean purposefully moves on after tiring with the building blocks.
‘Sean, could you please help put the blocks away?’ He is resolutely indifferent to my injunction. I then squat to initiate and model my intention for an orderly floor, and also restate my request. Sean however, remains indifferent, unwilling to conform to the imposed paradigm for order. Inwardly my ego is ignited by its sense of righteousness, at being the unacknowledged ‘teacher’ in the situation. Emotionally however I feel remote and powerless.
Let go, let go my attachment to control and thwarted desire. With openness I walk with a few blocks in hand to Sean, now engaged in his new activity.
‘Sean, please show me where these blocks live.’
Sean leads the way to the container. Once at his former work site, together we briskly, effortlessly place the remaining blocks away. As a new father and teacher for nine years, I’m now realising the liberation in consciously engaging with children in a reciprocal relationship of play.
To free myself of my own ‘adult’ agenda I find it useful to return to first principles. Principles underlying the Play of Nature and encompassing all its myriad relationships. So as a father within a new family, the ancient Vedic sutra Mother on one side, Father on the other, child in-between, procreation joining them offers me a barometer towards balance when I’m blinded by my complicated, often individualistic approach to family living. However, can the daily rites and roles of today’s families be as practically expressed and balanced as an ancient sutra? Moreover, how may balanced play exist as a living dynamic between our children and ourselves?
To observe ourselves and our universe is to witness the perfect balance of nature’s function; from life’s ecology, the physiology of the human body, to the evolution of the foetus into a baby. The challenge for parents is to draw upon nature’s inherent, lawful ‘play’ to inspire the emotional, physical and spiritual requirements of being a family. Particularly as nature’s unified intelligence continues to perfectly meet and sustain our essential needs, especially when we allow it to.
Intrinsic to play is the observation that I am not the role being played. Let go of my identification with the role (i.e. a father, teacher, and husband) and the expectations implicit with the fixity of that claim; thereby the inherent division of those expectations evaporates too. For example, if in my role as father I play my part without a claim of being in ‘authority’, then a conscious, living dimension may enter my engagement with my son.
A balanced relationship rests on our connection with awareness, so as to not compromise an inherently playful dynamic through identification. As we grow as parents in awareness and presence so too may our mirror, the child. When differences arise, even to a state of conflict, realise that the conflict can’t be resolved at the level of the conflict. However, by simply observing and disidentifying with the energy of the conflict, we are opening the way to its resolution. ‘Play’ in this context is returning to our inner observer, for seeing the conflict and allowing space for resolution. Our self-awareness allows children to experience an integrated, cohesive yet playful and evolving model of relationship. This is crucial as the child becomes a reflection of who we are, more so than anyway we may expect them to be. As we practise awareness in relationship, our receptivity is refined, so too is our sensitivity to the limitations of habitual parenting.
But again, how practical is parenting from a presence of play? Particularly, when as parents the daily balance we’re generally trying to strike is how to differentiate focused parenting time from time-out for us. An answer can be found in the state of our culture. The Yequana of Venezuela are a people evolved in the play of self and ‘other’ and balanced in living. Children are permitted to ‘find their own interests and pace without pressure, always providing there is enough variety of materials and scope in the area for exercising and discovering their potential’(2). Their parents afford children the same respect as an adult and support their child’s own finely attuned ‘inclinations as how to play, how much to eat, when to sleep, and so on’(3). The focus rests with ‘the tendencies of children to imitate and practice skills on their own initiative rather than have them taught'(4).
Although the parenting styles of our respective cultures are influenced by their different environments, more significantly they are distinguished and governed by their own distinct cultural unconscious memories. Our collective memory is based largely on control and a belligerent quest for outward progress, from an educational approach inspired by the Prussian army. Before the industrial revolution we applied the military methods used to train soldiers to our classrooms(5). Whereas Yequana culture is still informed by presence and integrity in each relationship. The Yequana parent from an ongoing functional continuum, where ‘playful relationship establishes the context for all learning and development’(6). Through their example, parents model playfulness throughout the child’s development, freeing children to be themselves and to discover for themselves life’s balance.
1 Swami Muktananda and Swami Chidvilasananda ‘Resonate with Stillness: Daily Contemplations’, SYDA Foundation, 1995, USA, p 46.
2 Jean Liedloff, ‘The Continuum Concept: In Search of Happiness Lost’, Da Capo Press, 1985, USA p 90.
3 Ibid page 140.
4 Ibid page 140.
5 Michael Mendizza with Joseph Chilton Pearce, ‘Magical Parent Magical Child – The Art of Joyful Parenting’. North Atlantic Books, 2004, USA p 168.
6 Joseph Chilton Pearce, ‘The Death of Religion and the Rebirth of Spirit: A Return to the Intelligence of the Heart’. Park Street Press, 2007, USA p 162.