“Come, rest awhile, listen to my song. Summer is here the days are long and bright. Why waste the sunshine in labor and toil?”– the Grasshopper, from the Aesop’s Fable, The Grasshopper and the Ant
“Youth is fleeting, but immaturity can last a lifetime” was the verse inside a greeting card I sent my “baby” brother on his 60th birthday. It has become my mantra. As it turns out, there is a name for this. It’s called NEOTENY – the retention of immature qualities into adulthood. It seems that this capacity has survival value and play is an important aspect of it.
Scientists have discovered that play has a biological place just like sleeping and dreaming. It is not just something you should only do in your spare time. We are designed to play over our lifetime.
This summer I spent three months playing with a gifted photographer, Shekenia Mann. Her vision is to create images that depict the beauty of Detroit, the city she loves, and to capture the beauty of the human spirit in the individuals she photographs. She invited me to be one of her models and asked me if I would be willing to be photographed doing what I love the most. It was an invitation I could not refuse.
As seriously as I take it, yoga for me is also play, something I do for the sheer pleasure of it with no particular goal in mind. I have practiced yoga all my adult life. When I first started practicing, there were no yoga studio classes available and very few people teaching it. I had to learn the practices from reading books on the subject or, when I was lucky enough to take a class from someone, by remembering the postures I had learned in class and then practicing them on my own.
In my 50th year yoga went mainstream. There were a plethora of studios offering classes and teacher trainings. I fell head over heels in love with the practice all over again. I was all in.
As I entered what I call the third chapter of my life, the 25 years or so after you turn 50, a decision “snuck up’ on me. I decided to re-dedicate myself to the practice of yoga – to integrate it into every aspect of my life. That meant I had to eliminate certain activities. At first I felt guilty. My activities outside of work, which included sitting on boards, chairing various committees, participating in professional and social organizations, which I bent over backwards to do, had always come first. It’s just that I no longer loved them as much as I loved yoga.
Choosing yoga was a radical departure from my duty- and obligation- driven life. The decision to make it a priority was born of an irresistable urge to go in search of a more meaningful life. I was tired of being involved in activities that were important, but that were no longer relevant to me. I wanted a life that gave me permission to pursue pleasurable avocations, and time to play. Yoga became the big adventure of my life’s third chapter and has turned out to be one of the most meaningful aspects of my life to date.
When I’m on my yoga mat I am transported to a place of pure creativity, fantasy, play, childhood revisited. It is my own place – a place where no one can claim me – a place of imagination, freedom, adventure, and outrageousness with no other purpose than the love and enjoyment of the experience. It is my place, my space – no one else’s and a place where I can shine, where I can soar, where I can fly, and touch the sky. It is for me one of the most important places in the world.
Love your life. Enjoy your life. Go back to your most playful childhood memory. Connect with that, see what possibilities it opens for you, where it takes you, and how it enriches you. And most of all, have fun.