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Summer’s Children-Part Two

Through play, we learn about ourselves and others around us—siblings, parents, friends. It all starts with how we play. Do we observe, get stuck in, wait, or blunder in, and see what’s happening as we go? How we play as children, provides indicators of what and how we will do our lives as we grow through the years.

I have been conducting an informal study on play for over fifty years. I started as a teenager looking after neighbour’s children. Three; the middle boy scribbled on walls, jumped on couches, threw pillows and defied everyone as he pushed boundaries. He defied preconceived notions and rules surrounding him. He exasperated his mother and his father dismissed him.

I found his capacity to play extreme as he pushed limits with a mischievous smile. He seemed defiant to see how far he could go. His ingenuity was captivating as he tested, re-tested and continued to test. I discovered his play was integral to what he expressed emotionally and later, how his life unfolded. What he felt came out in his play. As the young teen I was then, I witnessed links between behaviour, play, and attitude.

He became a salesman, and a general all-round dare-devil; motorbikes, jumping out of planes, extreme sports. It was part of his play at four, and it manifested in his play at 14, 24 and 34 each time intensifying play. I’d hazard a guess that at fifty-four and eighty-four he will somehow push boundaries.

Of course, I’ve had my own kids since that time, have grandkids and have worked with hundreds of young people and I have to say, in general, how a child plays as a youngster is frequently a gauge for what they will chose as work and more importantly, what activities really make their heart sing—where time evaporates—sometimes called soul or spirit purpose.

On those occasions, where we cannot imagine doing anything else; that activity that wakes us in the small hours, get us up in the morning early on a weekend, even on holidays. Chances are—our spirit awakens us to this activity because even in its most challenging moments—it feels like play. 

This excitement is what I see in children, still. I see the adult they will turn into and those activities that bring them alive. I think the sadness of it all, is not that it exists in each of us—that is its gift— it is rather that so many of us ignore it, and feel the drive and perhaps obligation to do what makes most money, rather than allow our awareness to grab onto that one thing that makes us come alive. It isn’t easy that much I recognize. We wander around a bit, sometimes an entire lifetime, but when we arrive at that place that ignites us, inflames our heart, that is our happiness, our joy.

Perhaps it is a luxury of opportunity, yet I see it as an inner compulsion that we are unable to let-go of because it feels like play to us. It helps us to connect to ourselves. Our inner selves and if there is a luxury attached to it, it is the luxury of age, and having time to reflect, and give it breath in our lives. That play—perhaps not the actual play of our youth—but our attitude toward play, still exists in our lives as elders. I like to track it backwards now, see if I can guess what they did as a child, and see how it is reflected in their life today. Awesome stuff!   

Writing Practice: Remember a time when you were actively playing as a child where time seemed to disappear. Write from that standpoint; identify your feelings, thoughts, the activities themselves, and how your inner and outer landscapes altered, or didn’t, during the experience. If you can’t remember a specific feeling, or thought, imagine it as you re-tell the story. How does this reflect in your life today? Does it? If not imagine how it may have. Have fun with this; its play!

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Summer’s Children – Part One

Summer's Children-2 copy

Summer is vital (we get to PLAY), energy is vital, combined there is no stopping us—any time of the year.

All we need is a simple unfoldment of time, experience with a dash of hutzpah then combine this with our know-how, open mind and our sense of curiosity—and in the words of my 98 year old former mother-in-law—bingo, bango. Her expression when something is complete or understood—my interpretation—you’ve got it, all is good, let’s do it, there you go… 

These six ingredients: time, experience, hutzpah, know-how, openness and curiosity individually or collectively give us the backbone to embrace our lives, the ups and downs and the ho-hums.

Last week I spent the day with two very wise elders’ also known and dubbed wrinklies by my elderly folks. As a boomer wrinkly myself, I am not insulted by either the name, or the implication. It’s true, wrinkles emerge. Reality is such, we are born, we die and it is what is done in the in-between times that can change the world, for better or worse, and that is a choice we make in each moment of our life, knowingly, or unknowingly slowly, at the same rate as our wrinkles surface. They are the indicators of time and a life lived fully. They are the contours that represent our journey.

One woman, born in Holland was nine-years old during the occupation of WW2, the other was born on the coast of Nova Scotia. One travelled over a mountain pass with a baby in a hand carved papoose on horseback to the back country with her Park Warden husband with four months’ supply of food; the other lived in the States, Mexico, Montreal each time following her husband in his work, learning the language, raising the family and adapting to the cultures. One became a well accomplished wood carver, the other a well-rounded pianist. Both hold the keys of engagement in a life well-lived, well-embraced and well-balanced.

Recipe copy

Writing Practice: What is your recipe for a good life? What are your six main ingredients? Play with it; bring joy into the experience. Create a visual representation of your recipe. Tack it on a fridge, on a mirror. Smile at it, embrace its sentiment. If your recipe alters, change it, write another. The choice is all-ways yours!


Naming the World

It’s an interesting thing; this aging. I am surrounded by elders. I enjoy them, their wisdoms, insights, and the one commonality that distinguishes the ones still active and engaged, are their passions and passion for life.

It may be writing as an example, it may be walking, it may be reading, playing scrabble, canoeing, camping etc. but those that remain engaged in life are the ones that remain active in some way. A great example is my mother-in-law—98. She continues to name the world, practice Sudoku, walk, pick berries in season and enjoy her great, great grandchildren on those many occasions she connects with family.

A further example may be another elder who dragged me lake swimming this afternoon! Of course I joined the ranks of an elder when I turned 65 this year, but this woman far exceeds my enthusiasm for lake swimming and she is twenty years my senior.

I took my camera and ventured that way in support of her engagement. She loves to swim and last year swam daily in the river with a mutual friend my age! This week again I was impressed with another friend—88—her energy and our diverse conversations kept us up late. Last year, her husband died, and she is adjusting to this change.

My own mother is showing distinct signs of dementia and I can’t help link it to her increasing lack of interest and engagement in life over the past ten years. This year she had a stint insertion to stretch her aorta. Now she is getting the necessary oxygen, yet her attitude of engagement still wanes.

Personally, I experienced this with a contemporary a few years back. His physical decline coincided with angina attacks. His brain, as his arteries became more blocked and oxygen reduced, simply wasn’t getting to organs. His behaviour collapsed into this new habit of apathy and it was difficult to get him off the couch. Ultimately I let go because it was his choice.

Simply put, no-one can persuade anyone to do anything they don’t choose to do themselves. All the cajoling in the world won’t make a difference. Lasting motivation ultimately comes from the inside out rather than the outside in. A distinction I see with elders is those that remain involved in their passions, remain engaged in life. Those that lean into apathy tend to fair less well.

My friend—88—still journals, and has done so for over seventy years when she first began her practice in the wilderness backcountry of Canada; in part to track her days activities, observations, inventions and the emotional landscapes of her life, and in part to write extensive letters to friends. She began this practice early on, and keeps it up today. I call it—naming the world—she calls it writing.

Writing Practice: Go outside listen to the sounds of the wind in the trees. If its’s a calm day, listen to the sounds that meet your ears. Smell the air, touch the ground, feel the weather, taste the atmosphere, imagine the story, recall a moment…begin to write. Keep going for 15 more minutes without stopping.


Earth’s Manifesto

Do you wake at night and wonder
at the groan of Gia?
Is she labouring under neglect?
we impose by our disregard?

At first I thought it an excavator
moving the earth, digging
through landscapes of indifference—
then I thought—how unusual to be working
under a night sky—then I wondered
if it were the voice of Gia, I heard
speaking, or the sound of planets
taking communion—only to be heard
during a still night—

Of course I wondered
at my sanity—really tho’ what if

It is the groan of Gia speaking
in sounds we choose not to hear
during the day—are deaf to—
tuned to another frequency?

It is at night, I hear it—the voice
persistent. I hear heaviness;
a call for recognition, for help perhaps,
or—is it a hum for humanity asleep
to wake-up, tune in, listen—or—

just plain happiness—hum,
humming along? I wonder

©April 9, 2018—angela simmons

Poster: Earth’s Ten Commandments: text ©1990 Ernest Callenbach; illust. ©1990 David Lance Goines; Celestial Arts

Writing Exercise: On Earth Day (April 22) find a quiet place-preferably outside, take out your journal, or sketch pad and embrace the five senses, capture them on paper in words or image. Take photographs. I particularly like what I call 360 degree photography. I take a light chair/stool into a natural area, place in a space I can swivel my butt around on in the chair/stool, and contemplate what I witness. I am always delighted at what is revealed to me from just that one spot as I slowly (in a meditative, reflective  space) rotate. Later choose an image-or series of images-and write capturing again your experience. I feel certain that these practises-or one of these practices-will move you to personal and planetary health and wellness.  Here’s another thought-make every day Earth Day. It is in our hands…

 

 


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Will, Wisdom & Words

Writing, in its many forms, is a low-cost mental health tool. Our willingness to jot down ideas, thoughts, and emotions as they arise that are niggling or disturbing us in one way or another is an extreme act of kindness to ourselves. The act of writing is the quickest way to let those niggles and disturbances escape into a safe contained space—our journals or in other forms of writing.

Perhaps an exception to this is when writing is directed in a personal way to an external source, or individual. Our emotions are real and need to be expressed; in a safe place and in a contained way. Those words serve us through release, articulation and identification not by inflicting pain on another.

Any practice that allows pent-up emotions, thoughts, ideas, beliefs or judgments to rest quietly on a page is an improvement to our mental and physical health.

Writing provides a catchall to explore the roots of such personal anguish. Let go of pollution. Find ways to resolution and solution through the movement of a pen.

When we repress emotions, thoughts, ideas, beliefs or judgments and trap them inside our head—that suppression has the capacity to affect both our physical and mental health and wellness.

Writing freely in a safe contained space is one way to unravel our personal anguishes, anxieties, angers and attitudes and reach a place of understanding, collect insights and track patterns of behaviors—those that serve us, and those that no longer serve us. Through expression we can find an inner peace and understanding that works for us.

Words spoken in haste, in the heat of the moment can wound others and your literal and psychological body. Leaking personal hurts and glitches onto another person or group, also impacts our emotional and psychological bodies.  Without release into a safe, contained space they remain trapped inside our head (and body) repeating and making a deeper groove.

Writing is a tool to help us get out of a rut and get on with our life. Plotting and/or mapping our emotional landscapes is a tool to understand and collect glimpses of ourselves from inside out and find our place in the world safely.

  • Writing provides a way to explore what matters to us and express it first to ourselves before we take it out into the world.
  • Writing is a way to express our inner thoughts, emotions etc. and work through trouble spots.
  • Writing is a form of prayer, of meditation and contemplation between you and your god, your conscience, your intuition or your psyche. It is an opportunity to explore emotional landscapes and find solution through the page and practice.


Connect, Reconnect & Interconnect— the choice is ours…

connectIt’s been raining now for five days steady- not continuously, gradually, and in the past night and day perpetually. It is coming up to the anniversary of the big flood of 2013 in Southern Alberta and while last year knocked out bridges, water supplies and people’s houses in a flash flood as mountain snow gushed down mountainsides, this year – after the big re-build and reconstruction— it is quite different.

The steady rain is much what I imagine Noah’s flood to have been. Not biblical in stature, simply on-going. Water barrels are overflowing, and the ground is saturated having soaked up gallons- okay litres of water.
In contemplation of the cycles of life, I am in awe of its complexity, simplicity and its intricate interconnection, and how as humans, we have no control. We “kid” ourselves that we gain it, have it, and know how to handle it-—but guess what—it’s purely illusionary.

I am reminded of a poem written at nine that has this refrain “…and I thought in my mind of the cruelty of man, that one day nature would repay.” And as odd as it may seem, now fifty plus years later, I sense that same sentiment.

In our eagerness to control and exploit our environment to a lesser or greater degree to feed the industrial complex and our consumerism, we have trodden violently on this land. I can’t help myself from seeing that with global warming, ocean toxicity, deforestation, loss of habitat, and agricultural monocultures that we are eating-up Gaia’s abundance and generosity at a ferocious rate; hardly sustainable, untenable at best.

This is not new. Many of us feel it, sense it and wonder how to change it- and many of us do it in baby steps.
Today, I have just celebrated a friend’s birthday with a potluck lunch. As always at these gatherings there is great food, conversation and opportunities to connect and reconnect.

Personally I am delighted to be part of such a rich community and friendship—whether talk is about the town’s decision to allow a chicken pilot project within town limits, local bee hive keepers excitement about bee behaviour and worker bees feeding their queen, gardens growing with the moisture or grass fed animals and happy chickens being raised and farmed locally—conversations centre on connections, reconnections, and the interconnection of all things.
The thing is—it’s about taking baby steps, building community one step at a time without the mindset that more is better. It really isn’t- and most of us know it, and don’t know how to change. There lies the crux and choice. The choices we make today are reflected in our tomorrows. How we make those baby steps is created by the choices we make each and every day, and through an awareness of the interconnectedness of all things.


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Stillness- a way of life…

Stillness blogStillness is one of the twelve Vision Cards- a visual reminder and/or prompt for the Possibility PLAYbook to be published in July. The PLAYbook  is the final piece of the Health and Wellness Package– an outgrowth of the past seven years of recovery from a motor vehicle accident that changed my life on January 12, 2007.

In search of a way to climb into a new life with a TBI (traumatic brain injury) and multiple physical injuries, I sought PLAY (Purpose, Lightness, Action, Yes), once I was able. PLAY became my path. When I faced any challenge, I sought ways to play with it in simplistic ways. This was about eighteen months after the accident. Subsequent years have been about recovery, one step at a time, and exploring the tools of PLAY.

P: Finding purpose is essential to anyone, especially when something interrupts the flow of one’s life- be it an event, dis-ease, a physical and/or metaphoric death- anything that shatters and/or alters our life journey.

L: Lightness is an ability to bring “light” (and laughter) into anything and everything that we face on our life path. It is a capacity to find a gift of any traumatic event and reframe it in a lighthearted way in small and significant ways. It is about shedding “light” into the dark, and darkest places of our lives, and allowing that “light”—those tiny tendrils of grace— to filter down on us that offer choice.

A: Action, is about embracing those tiny tendrils of grace, however they show-up, and taking baby-steps along our life path—especially when everything in us, in saying “no”—taking any action, helps “stuck” energy to move, change and transform.

Y: Yes, is about simply saying “yes” to life.

YES I can…involve trust, seek stillness- two Vision Cards highlighted in this blog so far. There are ten more to go…

Today, I “pulled” the Stillness Card. I’ve just returned from a 1,600 km road trip. The good news is that I was able to do it, although it took two days going up and back- a total of four days- which is the good thing. Seven years ago, I could have driven one-way in a day- and three years ago I could not have driven half-way. I call that progress- slow and steady, just like the tortoise!  That is what health and wellness is all about- never say never, and, one step at a time.

For the next two weeks, I want to contemplate stillness in my life. While the image itself is static, it indicates constant movement- the sky, the sandpiper, the waves, the sand crawling with life. It is like much of our life—constant movement— and in many cases that unbroken demand is a mere perception. Taking time-out and finding stillness within in our daily activities comes from the inside out, and becomes an opportunity to ground ourselves, and move forward in equilibrium.  Join me…