Last weekend, we took our kids to the park, and I took pictures of them playing.
And as I edited the pictures later, I just loved seeing the looks of wonder, happiness, pure joy on their faces. I wondered what they were thinking as they played. I wondered if they were pretending, imagining the swing was a rocket ship taking Joey to space, or that Anneliese was digging a foundation for a new store, or making a tunnel to visit a friend in another country.
I was pretty sure that Henry was just enjoying the breeze on his face and the feeling of flying as he swung, though.
So, I asked them. I asked my big kids what they were thinking about as they played.
Joey wasn’t imagining zooming around in space, or flying in an airplane. He was just… swinging.
Enjoying the feeling of flying through the air. Feeling the breeze on his face. Soaking up the sunshine through his skin, just a little closer to the sun than he usually is.
He wasn’t thinking. At all. He was fully in the moment. Zen.
I asked Anneliese about her digging. What was she pretending, I asked.
“Nothing, Mom! I was just digging!”
Since she’s a little bit more precise with her language and able to express thoughts a little more clearly, I pried a little more. “Well what’s so fun about digging?”
“I don’t know. Just… digging! To dig. It’s just fun to do something. Like when you dig.”
I was clearly getting nowhere. Because it was the same situation for Anneliese as Joey and Henry – no overthinking. Just doing. Living, and loving it. Doing whatever activity or work came naturally in the situation, putting her whole self into it, and enjoying it.
Is this how they feel every moment of every day?
I’m sure it’s not. They do plenty of imagining, scheming, wishing, problem solving, and active learning.
But the playground offers them something else. It gives them a chance to involve their entire bodies in something so completely that there’s nothing left to think about. There are no distractions from the moment.
There is only the now.
Maybe that’s something I need to practice, myself. Embracing the now without overthinking it.
Whether it’s watching a movie without also texting a friend or scrolling through facebook, playing with my kids with Legos without also making a mental to-do list of dinner preparation steps, cleaning the bathroom without listening to an audio book, or just enjoying the sunshine as I sit in the backyard…
It’s a kind of meditation. A practice of presence.
It’s something I’m always striving to be more mindful of.
And the children have it nailed. Theirs is the Zen of Play.