The “year of mindfulness” has so far brought all of the following mindfulness activities: the continuing development of a community of practice on campus, a growing school-based research project, a few presentations, and a student wellness grant about to be submitted. There is really something to be said for this notion of choosing a focus for the year.

2015 is also showing itself to be a year of playfulness, highlighted by teaching a wonderful undergraduate class about play. It has been a delight to be back in the classroom (and doing things like walking into the river valley to explore what nature has to teach us about play) with some great students who are willing to play.

The relationship between mindfulness and playfulness may not be obvious. Perhaps because of these two worlds I’m dancing between, I’m seeing lots of connections. Candace Pert, the brilliant neuroscientist (who discovered the opiate receptor) suggested that three great ways to relieve stress are meditation, honesty, and play. Meditation (mindfulness) “calms the entire organism by slowing the obsessive thinking to which most of us are addicted. Honesty brings us back to center – the ground of personal integrity that, when violated, leaves us anxious and filled with self-doubt. And play is nature’s own stress reducer. It is virtually impossible to hold stress and playfulness in the same bodymind at the same moment.”

There are times when mindfulness and yoga can get serious and sanctimonious, so bringing play and a spirit of enjoyment can enliven your mindfulness practices and probably motivate and help sustain them as well. I’ve been playing with a variety of meditation and mindfulness practices since 1986 (often feeling more like wrestling than playing) and have appreciated the lightness brought to practices by some of the teachers I’ve been following recently. Many methods use the idea of focusing on the breath and dealing with distractions by returning to the breath. It is easy for the inner critic to judge the drift to thinking. We can inadvertently practice harshness. It is refreshing to think about peacefully returning to enjoying the breath. I invite you to play with finding more fun and play in your mindfulness practices.

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