Play-infused Mindfulness

The sun is out. The flowers are blooming. It’s spring! And golly am I delighted by this simple proclamation! As spring arrives this year, I’m reminded of last spring (ugh. 2020.) and ways that I was trying to find grounding, joy, and serenity in the chaotic and tumultuous swirl of it all. 

During the spring of 2020, anytime I did an existential survey of our collective situation, I was overwhelmed. I found myself needing to oscillate between larger scale awareness and just-in-my-immediate-circle awareness to maintain some semblance of peace. 

Enter stage left: A daily mindfulness practice.

Mindfulness is helpful, because it encourages our brains to return to THIS present moment happening right around us and inside us – rather than focusing externally on some distant space or worrying about the future.

Perhaps somewhat ironically, “mindfulness” can create a bit of a fear response when it first enters the discussion. I notice this with clients sometimes, and I think the fear largely occurs because, when those of us with anxious minds (self included!) envision sitting still, trying to clear our mind, and just breathing, it can invoke terror – or feelings of failure from past attempts – or uncertainty about whether something like that can actually help someone like you/me/us!

But, what I strive to remind clients of is that mindfulness can take different forms. It can be meditative, but it can also be playful and fun. And your mindfulness needs may flex from day to day or in different seasons of your life. 

If sitting in one spot and focusing on your breathing isn’t the right fit for where you are in your journey, then you don’t need to start there! Try some other ways to be present and in-the-moment!

Let me tell you a little more about what I mean through one of my favorite mindfulness moments from the past year…

On one of our outdoor adventures, my wife and I found this secluded spot tucked in next to a lake and it was PACKED with tiny frogs. Were they adorable?! They were SO adorable. Honestly, I probably spent 30 minutes just trying to find as many as I could and looking at their precious (and hysterical) little poses. And then 30 more minutes just sitting there listening to them croak. I don’t have a video of that whole time span (because I was being mindfully present lol) But I do have this minute long clip, and I’m going to invite you into my playful mindfulness moment:

Settle into a comfortable position, turn up your media volume a bit, and pick a question to focus on while you watch this video. Some focus examples might be:

How many frogs can I find in this video? 

How many different shades of green do I notice in this video?

What sounds do I hear throughout the video?

How does my body feel as I watch this?

What stands out to me most?

And after watching this video, you may choose to ask yourself: Where could I go in my own life to find a moment of mindfulness in nature? How can I invite playfulness into my mindfulness this week?

Maybe you’ll try counting birdhouses on your walk through the neighborhood. Maybe you’ll see how many colors of spring blooms you can find. Maybe you’ll try to match your breathing up with the breathing of your cat/dog/gerbil/whatever-other-delightful-pet-you’re-near.

Let’s find some mindful presence this week, and let’s also find some playful joy – because our hearts, souls, and minds need both 🙂

Also, as a note to acknowledge my whiteness and the traditional origins of mindfulness: There is a complex discussion around ways that meditation, a traditionally sacred practice, has been co-opted, capitalized, and secularized by white culture. White culture has a long history of cultural appropriation from marginalized cultures and people groups; this is an ongoing manifestation of white colonization and supremacy. It is important to be thoughtful about where our practices originate and their historical contexts, as well as how we are accessing them ourselves. You can find more information about this in articles like these or through related internet searches for this subject matter:

https://www.dailyuw.com/wellness/article_e31c519e-43ef-11ea-a3f9-43606792f880.html

https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2019/3/29/18264703/mindfulness-meditation-buddhism-david-forbes

At C.H.E.R.I.I.S.H., we are constantly seeking to become more culturally responsive and humble in our practice; if you have resources or feedback for us in this area, we welcome your insight!

Featured Images from: Canva