Thursday, March 20, 2014

Play and The Beginner's Mind

I have a wonderful memory. I am on the Serengeti Plain, watching a pride of lions. They are mostly belly up, sleeping and yawning after a big feed. Suddenly, two adolescent lionesses who have been wrestling and rolling around with each other begin a wild ballet. At first, it looks like a fight, but then I see that it is a full-blown, rough-and-tumble dance, choreographed intrinsically by play. It is rhythmic, gorgeous, dominated by curvilinear movements and rat-a-tat slaps. There are no signs of aggression. The cats make "soft" eye contact, their hair is smooth instead of bristling, their claws are retracted and their fangs covered. They make sounds - low shrieks of joy - that are particular to this, and only this, behavior. I almost need a slow-mo camera to catch the intricacy of the movement. And I feel something deep inside me. A visceral thrill, something pure and primal. My linear thoughts get overridden by the epiphany of this moment. It seems as if a spirit of divinity has infused these magnificent cats. A spirit of joyousness in physical form. Something more than reflex, something intrinsically creative. I am reminded of Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea, when the title character is at the limits of his endurance in his struggle with a giant marlin. All of Santiago's dreams of storms, fish, women, and fights fall away, leaving only a dream of lions playing on the beach, like cats in the dusk. That is the essential nature of play. It remains when the importance of so much else has fallen away. 
Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul by Stuart Brown M.D., pp. 195-196
As I've said on the blog before, your training should be playful as often as possible. I hate to bring up that topic again (and who isn't sick of hearing about it?), but one of the reasons for CF's success is the re-introduction of elements of play into what had become an atmosphere of sweat, discomfort, and (largely male) aggression.

Related Squat Rx Posts:
The Opposite of Play is Not Work, It's Depression

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