“Play is training for the unexpected.” ~ Marc Bekoff
Jacob is five years old. Seated at the kitchen table, he cradles his favourite box of crayons and felts to dive into yet another creative exploration. This is no project. Just discovery. What will arise from one moment to the next as is curious, heart-felt instincts direct his hand? He’ll find out!
Same with Samantha, she too is engrossed in play. Four years old, buckets and shovel in hand, she communes with sunshine, fresh air, water and sand at the beach, scooping, piling, patting, allowing her moment-to-moment imaginative impulses to guide her in building her sand sculptures. Like Jacob, she immerses herself in the element of surprise!
Both Jacob and Samantha learn to adapt when needed. When Jacob’s younger brother joins in the fun, Jacob eventually realizes he has to give some of the drawing utensils away. He can’t hoard them all, though he’d like to! And when the tide suddenly comes in strongly, knocking over Samantha’s prized castle, she too learns that everything eventually has its ending, and so she must be flexible with that, re-creating anew.
From one lens, children are just drawing, building castles, playing hopscotch, or climbing a tree. But upon further intuitive inspection and introspection, there is a whole world of skills being developed that play teaches, and that are easily overlooked and even undervalued by adults.
Amongst many things too long to list, play teaches adaptability, flexibility, creativity, imagination, risk-taking, balance, cause and affect, trust, cooperation, resiliency and attunement. Yet one thing that isn’t recognized as much is how play is the fertile field of uncertainty; how it offers endless experiences where children can explore and embrace the unknown, and thrive in it.
Children, as I’m sure you are aware, do not plan like adults do. They sit down with a piece of paper and spend much more time simply following their instincts than predeterminedly mapping things out, let alone judging their process. How much does Samantha plan her sandcastle before diving in? How much does a boy plan how he’s going to play with his cars before grasping his firetruck and Ferrari? To what extent does a child calculate the route up the tree before grabbing the first branch? This doesn’t mean children don’t make any plans, that they don’t think in advance what they want to draw. But they are far more spontaneous, far more willing to go with the flow and enjoy the element of surprise than adults are.
Have you ever witnessed a child sing while walking down the street? It just comes out with such ease, without any inhibition. This single act of play is one that particularly lights my heart. Writing about it now, I feel emotion at the thought of this beauty — a beauty that eventually fades into the sunset of fear as the mapping, future-oriented mind strengthens its hold on her.
The Need for Certainty
Responding present time to our creative impulses means we must learn to embrace a level of uncertainty. Because it’s in the open-minded state of “I don’t know” that instinct can assert itself, giving fresh, innovative and exciting ideas on how to express ourselves. From not knowing a different quality of cellular knowing can come alive in the body that isn’t found in the busy calculating mind — a mind that sacrifices the aliveness of originality and authenticity for the perceived security and predictabilities of a “certain way”. It’s why people often say that some of their best ideas come when they are in the shower. The warm water relaxes the discursive mind that leans towards the familiar and away from the uniqueness and ingenuity that asserts through the brilliance of the heart.
Adults struggle to avail themselves to the possibilities of here and now uncertainty because they fear releasing the controlling mind and being spontaneous. I know this first hand from having led 15 years of Remembering to Play playshops to thousands of people across the country. I watched how hard it was for them to play the most simple games that children easily thrive in. I witnessed how complicated they made being spontaneous, silly and imaginative. They were afraid, if not terrified, of surrendering control and to the moment, and allowing now to show them what to say and do.
Planning, I eventually realized, is where adults go to hide. If they can plan ahead of time how to be and do, they are less likely to make a mistake and look foolish (when making “mistakes” and being foolish is the point of play!). Leaning on left-brain logic to plan protects them from doing it “wrong”, and possibility being judged — mostly by themselves — and feeling hurt. Planning is thus, for many, a safe, warm security blanket in which to hide one’s authenticity and protect oneself from uncertainty.
If we are honest with ourselves, haven’t we been trained and even conditioned to be certain and nudged away from the messiness of uncertainty? We train children for “success”, yet do we teach them the wisdom of failure? We emphasize convergence intelligence’s means of summoning the single, right answer, like London being the capital of England; yet do we encourage divergent intelligence — exploring multiple possibilities, like how many things we can do with a stick? We teach children to be just so with their cookie-cutter crafts, straight lines and perfectly round circles, yet do we value the power of process held in unstructured play?
We want their hands washed clean, again and again, yet do we recognize the therapy held in the mess of dirt and mud, the microbes which do all sorts of wonderful things to boost immunity and heal? We want children to have a sanitized, domesticated existence, surrounded by perfectly trimmed hedges and yards, yet how often do they travel beyond into the wild outdoors where their wild, chaotic nature is fully embraced by Mother Nature?
Strictly on the home front, there are many ways we’ve trained and conditioned children, in ways unsupportive to their wild hearts, to know what’s right and avoid mistakes. Yes, it’s wise to teach a child to look both ways when crossing the street, and, of course, it makes sense to teach them the right amount of flour to use when baking cookies. These healthy forms of certainty are not what I’m pointing to in our domestic environments. Rather, I’m pointing to ways children have had to be certain in order to survive and at the cost of their authenticity.
Let’s begin with surviving adverse childhood experiences. To cope with not feeling safe, loved, approved of, generations upon generations of children have had to be certain of their behaviours so as to mitigate or avoid further suffering. If I’m certain on how to behave around my emotionally absent father, such as by being pleasing, then I’m more likely to get attention. If I’m certain on how to be good around my emotionally volatile mother, then I’m less likely to get reprimanded, or worse. If I’m certain on how to be around my abusive sibling, such as by being quiet and withdrawn, then I’m less likely to get another toy car thrown at my face.
Certainty, indeed, is the intelligent survival adaptation system doing what it is designed to do to navigate us through fear and powerlessness — through the unpredictabilities of scary uncertainty where harm could arise at any moment. With certainty’s aid, we depart from wild, spontaneous authenticity in order to get any semblance of safety and attachment possible.
“People have two needs: Attachment and authenticity. When authenticity threatens attachment, attachment trumps authenticity.” ~ Dr. Gabor Mate
You now have a clearer picture of why adults are often terrified of being spontaneous. This is not an exaggeration. For more adults than you can possibly imagine, spontaneity, acting upon wild instincts, and possibly making “mistakes”, which are really learning opportunities, would have meant pain and suffering in their early years, at home, school and elsewhere. Planning how to be and what to do, making sure they are being, saying, doing right, has thus been the required security blanket.
Expressed outward, that need for certainty adults have influences even their well-intended means of child interaction and rearing. For example, “certain minds” (minds that orient strongly to certainty) love to predict, plan, or at least speculate a child’s future — what college their son will go to, what job is in their daughter’s destiny; this, versus simply trusting they’ll know when time. Certain minds fear their children are “falling behind”, such as when they are not learning to read at the same pace as their peers. God forbid a child learn to read at ten instead of five!
Certain minds don’t like it if their grown child throws caution to the wind to travel the world, or wants to pursue being an actor, singer, or painter. Why don’t you just get a (real) job at ABC Company your grandfather and I worked at? And practically-minded adults, projecting their fears onto children, struggle to play along with a child’s dream to be a faery — because it’s not realistic! Yet, what if being a faery is more real than any temporal identity? Maybe children in their wild fantasies are helping us remember our forgotten mythical nature!
In some cultures, certain minds expect wedlock and pregnancy by the time their children are twenty years of age, or less, and with a particular family-chosen partner, even if there is sincere concern and resistance, and the (usually) male is toxic and abusive. You might think, Well Vince, this is about respecting longstanding cultural traditions. To which I reply, How much of “culture”, much of which is based on a set of arbitrarily agreed upon belief systems, is formed from unresolved trauma? How much of “culture” dishonours free will and sovereignty and perpetuates abusive patterns simply because it’s “what’s always been done”?
“Heal. So we don’t have another generation of trauma passing itself off as culture.” ~ Unknown
In the school system, as alluded to earlier, we can also see how certainty expresses itself through adults. Again, well-intended much of the time, the child is valued by how well he achieves certainty in subject matter, to the point of being graded, ranked and compared on his quality of certainty. Coming home, his report card indicates his level of certainty, and he may receive praise if it meets a certain standard or punished if below that standard.
Children are raised to be little adults because the certain, planning mind orients to the future and basic survival. It’s more interested in who the child will be and what she’ll have years from now than how the child feels today. It’s more interested in survival needs of money, jobs and a home than the emotional needs of joy, wonder and attachment.
What’s not understood is that a child’s left — certain, planning — brain doesn’t fully develop by six or seven years of age; while the right brain, happy to dwell in the mysteries of here and now, develops by age three to four. So, a five year-old being made to draw perfectly round circles on his worksheets or being pressured to read when he doesn’t want to is being (coercively) fed developmentally inappropriate curriculum / agendas that not only erode learner confidence, but self-worth. Only a society dominated by the left brain and its proclivity for survival needs would do this, while seeing nothing wrong with it.
I wrote an article on this called The Right Brain Develops First. It’s been shared from my website over 400K times. I invite you to read it!
Indeed children, in variegated ways, learn from a young age that their worth and survival depends on being certain about who they are not, such as domesticated into “seen but not heard”, or “smart” when they are not ready to be “smart”. They learn to be certain about what they rightfully care little about, like algebra in grade three. They learn that it’s much better to be right than happy and true to their natural instincts because attachment depends on being right.
When you add the fact that play is gradually taken away from them through limited recess, over-supervision, excessive homework, etc, and structured (certain) activities, including video games, are favoured over unstructured, outdoor (uncertain) play, then we have what we have now, at alarming levels — a clear movement away from their heart and soul, and towards the linear, dogmatic mind; a clear path towards disembodiment.
The forgotten body
Play liberates our soul, grounds us into our body, and frees our creativity. Play gifts our spirit to the world!
With certain minds increasingly ruling growing children, their body’s primal instincts once playing through them — inspiring a sudden cartwheel, the desire to say hello to a stranger, to dream of angels, improvise a song and emote the deepest cry — are being progressively usurped by ideas of right and wrong, good and bad, by moralistic ideologies that override the wild heart. It becomes harder to trust what feels right, let alone act spontaneously on that feeling, because the dominant thinking mind is calculating the most appropriate course of action that will either mitigate suffering or garner the most praise. Inhibition, wildness, being care-free are going, gone. Motivation is no longer about what brings the most joy and honours wild impulses, but what supports self-preservation or perceived advancement. Bred to be fantastic thinkers, fit for the world ahead of them, to fit nice and neat into those square buildings, the body and soul that long for something quite different are left behind.
It’s in the body that we feel our mysterious heart and unfathomable soul. It’s in the body, that always lives present time, that we befriend not knowing, which opens the portal to a somatic awareness our heart and soul speak through. Any artist will tell you that a quiet mind, felt-sense and spontaneity are key pallet colours of creativity. The whispers of the soul, arising out of nowhere — now here — inspire the hand to draw, the legs to dance. The soul, speaking through the heart, urges a sudden magical spiral on the grass, a spiral deeply connected to the whirling galaxies across our great Universe. The soul, expressing through the throat chakra, or energy centre, compels the voice to share the most beautiful melody with passers by, birds and trees, to sing a song through the child as a blessing, a healing, a reminder of what life is about.
Indeed, the body is the vehicle for the soul. The linear, rational mind is the tool. The tool has been valued much more in our Western world. It’s what Einstein meant when he wrote, “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” The rational tool is not, by any means, designed to operate within the bounds of uncertainty. That’s not its comfort zone. Its job (amongst other things) is to be certain; hence its orientation to plan, calculate, organize, categorize, analyze. What wonderful gifts this linear mind offers us! I couldn’t write these words without this reasoning, rational, logical tool. The issue isn’t the tool, but our proclivity to use it so much that we soon become that tool at the cost of the feeling body, and the soul we are. This is our loss of innocence — in-essence — and why so many lose their way.
Identified with the tool more than the soul, we settle for illusions of security, such as jobs we don’t like, marriages we don’t like, piles of money that still leave us unfulfilled, and believing what we’re told in the media. We become enslaved to cultural systems that demand, sell and popularize certainty and that eschew the adventures of the unknown. And then we train children to give up their souls for this callous world, where mental illness and psychopharmaceutical dependency are rapidly on the rise.
These are indeed illusions of security because they are rooted in much insecurity. They are rooted in unprocessed trauma and viral programming disguising itself as “normal” and “culture”.
Now, tell me: Given where we are headed in this progressively uncertain, chaotic world, where what was is no longer, and the blank slates expand, how well will certain minds cope?
Uncertain times ahead
“What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.” ~ Richard Bach, Illusion
So, what are the consequences of all this, aside from the obvious issues of poor self-worth, distrust in our inner compass, not believing in our creative capacity, and chronic health issues? Well, given where the world is going, a key consequence is that our children are being inadequately resourced to navigate what will be increasingly uncertain times — years ahead filled with chaos and confusion that we are getting wider glimpses of.
The majority long for a return to “normal”. I hate to break it to you — we’re not going back to dysfunctional “normal”. The empire is cracking, crumbling and collapsing. We don’t want to admit this because it frightens us; it scares the tool-mind most identify with that depends on, and defines self and life through, certainty.
It’s interesting how so many pine for “normal”. Why would we want that given how many children, youth and adults struggle with anxiety and depression; given the rampant amount of domestic violence and despair plaguing our communities in the form of neglect, physical abuse and sexual abuse; given the amount of addiction, from drugs to gambling, sex to technology; given how little time children spend unplugged from their violent video games, and in the wild outdoors; given how many people dislike their jobs, are disconnected from their partners, are glued to mind-numbing screens, and struggle to meet their financial obligations and children’s attachment needs; given how much Mother Earth’s soil, air, water etc, are being poisoned?
You want to return to that “normal”? Do you not think we need a clear rebirth, even a dramatic one? Please, people, we need far more than a reset!
As stated, fear craves certainty. That’s the underlying emotion when as children we feel unsafe and unloved; when we feel pressured to be a certain way or do a certain thing to experience approval and at the cost of our deepest nature. That same unprocessed fear is also what says, “I want to return to normal”. It sees things for how it wants them to be, needs them to be, not as they actually are, rejecting the messy truth of what is in order to survive, just as was done during toxic, unsafe childhood. Indeed, that same unhealed fear announces itself loud when familiar, comfortable certainty is threatened, crying out for a return to familiar, comfortable insanity — insecure, secure “normal”.
To be clear, I’m not totally against normal. If normal means time with loved ones and in nature, then that’s a normal I’m happy to keep. I’m also not against certainty. I need to be certain about some things, like when my appointments are and how to fix or build something. The issue isn’t “normal” or certainty, but our fierce and fear-based attachment to it that creates addictions to an unhealthy and oppressive status quo and little room for the wisdom and possibilities held in uncertainty.
Though you may disagree, it’s from uncertainty that the new world will be born. Not from “but this is the way we’ve always done it”, which I’ve heard many organizations cry out. As Margaret Drabble succinctly states, “When nothing is sure, everything is possible.”
We forget the cycles of life that are ancient and wise. They are here for a reason. Those cycles boil down to birth, growth, destruction, death. Or, as author Richard Rohr states, order, disorder, reorder. A tree models this throughout the year. So does your body, like how its cells die and are replaced multiple times throughout the average lifespan. Forest wildfires, too, teach us of the need for destruction and death; for they serve to replenish the soil so life can be born anew. And, of course, we just have to see how death feeds life in all levels of the food chain.
Chaos, destruction, death are part of Mother Nature’s intelligent design, whether we like it or not. It’s part of everyone’s life path, and we cannot avoid it. Though certain minds would prefer to avoid it, I don’t know anyone who has grown and matured more when things were going as planned than when the shit hit the fan. Uncertainty, loss, pain and struggle are the fertile fields of personal growth and spiritual maturation. I, for one, can say that it’s through my immense suffering, which included a great deal of undiagnosable pain, that I learned compassion and humility — two virtues I really needed to embody given my history and the work I was destined to do as a healer.
Why would we want to remove uncertainty or chaos? Only a mind afraid of uncertainty, and thus death, would.
The entire body of humanity is being initiated into a stage of immense endings. There is great death on all fronts — of people, infrastructure, systems, hobbies, roles, dreams. Though very difficult, challenging some to great degrees whom I have compassion for, this time of rising uncertainty and chaos serves a purpose. Like the caterpillar’s dramatic transformation in the crystals into a butterfly, these times call for a metamorphosis of consciousness from the “old ways” into the dark soup of possibilities only found in uncertainty, where the heart and soul can announce themselves creatively and the next evolutionary stage — the new butterfly world — we and our descendants, and all sentient beings, desperately deserve, can be born.
We want life to be pretty with a bow on top. We want things to go a certain way; you know, like only “good” things happening to “good” people. Yet we fail to accept that life is messy, unpredictable, full of ups and downs; and it’s designed that way for good reason — so we can advance spiritually, which is why we are here. Life’s not designed to be easy, predictably lived according to our tightly woven plans, at least not at this stage in our evolution. In spite of our “bucket lists”, our longings for ease and joy, we are here to learn through and experience grief, loss, anger, frustration, loneliness, and even betrayal, helplessness, hopelessness — all of it!
Welcome to what you signed up for when you chose to come to Gaia! The full gamut of living, the adventure of being alive!
Do you want to watch a movie in which only “good” things happen to people? Where the plot is so utterly predictable and everyone is in a constant state of bliss? How boring would that be! You’d walk out of the theatre in the first half hour. It goes without saying that you prefer movies where the characters travel through dark nights of the soul, into valleys of loss, sorrow, confusion, anxiety — uncertainty; yet rise again, like a phoenix from the ashes, with an elixir of qualities not found otherwise. (Like Dorothy, who went back to Kansas a stronger, wiser woman for her adversity along the Yellow Brick Road!)
We are the movie characters in this great unfolding called the human story. And now we are collectively heading into a more intense storyline, though the cast doesn’t want to give up its existing roles and stories. It doesn’t want the plot to evolve to where it needs to go, because the members are so attached to who they think they are. Life, infinitely compassionate, and like a fickle movie director, does not allow its children to settle for an insecure “normal” existence of hanging on. Capricious, wild, it’s quite happy for a redirection, even if it means deep into the valleys of uncertainty, where certainty can finally release itself as the theatrical mask of persona. (Even if it means allowing the dark forces to initiate and direct this collective fate, which is a whole different topic!)
“Love sometimes wants to do us a great favor: hold us upside down and shake all the nonsense out.” ~ Hafiz
Indeed, the empire is collapsing and there is no turning back. Be prepared, it will get messy, much messier than most realize. Settled for the status quo and unaware that we’re here to evolve through uncertainty, insecure egoic tool minds strongly identified with fear will struggle to hear the wisdom and opportunities calling from these end times. They’ll perceive danger, not possibility. They’ll perceive loss, not alchemy — carbon into crystal, base metal into gold — the dawn of the Golden Era we are destined for in this Age of Aquarius!
Play prepares children for uncertainty through uncertainty
If you trust play, you will not have to control your child’s development as much. Play will raise the child in ways you can never imagine.
The end times are much bigger than people realize, and for this reason, so too is the importance of play. Play, as you now know, is the training ground for living in uncertain times. What are the qualities needed when things are uncertain? The qualities I listed earlier (and more) that play teaches, like adaptability, flexibility, imagination, risk-taking, creativity, presence, wonder, exploration, resiliency, etc.
A child who learns to adapt to the uncertainty before her when her sandcastle is suddenly washed away is a child who learns to adapt to uncertainty more easily later in life. A child who spontaneously sings, spirals or climbs from present-moment instincts is one learns to bravely create from uncertainty now, and in future times of flux. A child who dreams and imagines from the depth of her soul is one not bound by certainty and reason, but by pure awareness embodied as cellular intelligence. She’ll be more prepared to dream new beginnings from the spaciousness of the unknown.
A child well versed in the wilds of play and in touch with the wilds of the soul will, later in life, more easily intuit how uncertain times initiate human evolution. The wisdom of the heart, opened and nurtured through instinct, will tell him. Yet a child bereft of play and sequestered to the fearful, linear and dualistic mind will more likely, when older, default to old coping mechanisms of analyzing, calculating, planning — certainty seeking — when confronted with uncertainty. He’ll regress to what he did to survive as a child — hang on tight and strategize the right way, while bypassing the heart and soul, the only navigation guides that shine light through darkness.
Many think they are doing children a service by protecting them from messiness, from chaos, from bumps and bruises and scraped knees. Though some measures of protection are obviously warranted, much of the way children are protected bubble wraps them from building resiliency and from living life to their fullest. Protect children from life in unnecessary ways, such as by halting their roughhousing, and you deprive children of life. Keep them seated for hours at sanitized stern desks, looking at a stern chalkboard, staring into the stern eyes of a teacher teaching stern, orderly material, and you “prepare” them for a world and for jobs that have made countless miserable and will soon be obsolete. You mislead them away from what’s before us, unfolding like a tsunami at ever-increasing speed — our messy, dissolving world; the dark soup of the chrysalis. And you deprive them of the nature of life — the cracks and crumbles, the dying and death, the widening fissures through which we can finally hear the forlorn song of our hearts, the truths long hidden, possibilities that only emerge via a crumbling world, where the spaciousness of uncertainty and soul replaces the tried and tiring bulwarks of certainty and mentation.
Children deserve so much more, my friends — an honest appraisal of things, and an honest chance to meet wild uncertainty with wild uncertainty. Children are naturally wild creatures. Do they not spiral for a living, like a wild tornado that destroys? Do they not cartwheel like flipping leaves in wild winds? Do they not allow emotion to blast out in full force, shaking the sturdy, pristine nature of the home, like a raging thunderstorm? Do they not say the most crazy things, in the most crazy ways, that make no sense to certain minds used to the logical sequence of words — and worlds?
Children, by their very nature, are wild, hot messes. They eat while creating a mess of art on their clothes and the kitchen floor. They happily leave clothing and toys scattered all over the place. And, quite blithely, they draw on the walls and floor, versus on paper while seated neatly at a table. They teach us what messiness is, how to live with messiness, how to make messiness quite acceptable. They teach us by their very being how to be wild, like Raven and Water, Rain and Thunder, because their embodied immeasurable spirit is not as invested in things being measured as just so adults.
And they are far more resilient than we realize. Sprite, energetic, children know how to fall down and bounce back up quickly. It’s we adults who fall down and creek up to our knees, slowly, barely, hand on our thigh or aching back — if we come up at all! Emotionally speaking, children know how to go into the depths of despair and within 10 seconds rise into joy. They can ride a wide range of up and down emotions with fluid mastery, a somatic intelligence that will serve them well if they are to fluidly ride the inevitable ups and downs to come. Adults, on the other hand, are generally terrified of feeling. Fearful of anger, sadness, and other feelings, they believe they’ll drown in a vortex of emotion, lost forever, if they entertain these somatic affairs. Hence their need to cling to the insecure rigid raft of certainty, verses bravely entering the wild and uncertain em-ocean of their fluid body. This fear and resistance leaves them inadequately prepared to ride the inexorable big waves heading our way, to have the emotional intelligence to feel through them.
Adults are afraid of messiness because they are afraid of the messiness of their emotional body. They are afraid of the messiness of tear-soaked, red hot primal feelings. They are afraid of spontaneity and thus of chaos because they are so bound by self-control due to having to maintain a level of self-control in order to survive the adversity of their childhood. Most adults don’t realize this, and continue to control children to extreme levels while prioritizing knowledge over feeling, because they have yet to heal from their adverse, yet perfectly “normal”, childhoods.
In our attempts to protect, guide and prepare children, we think our well-intended directives are for them; in truth, however, much of the time they are for us. They protect us from what we can’t be with within that we denied many moons ago. We tame the wildness, boldness and messiness of children believing it’s what’s best for them while unaware of how much these exuberant qualities threaten our survival adaptations of being just so — like how a dreaming child threatens the adult who had to be realistic and responsible to survive his early years; like how a roughhousing child threatens the adult who as a child had to be “proper” and risk-averse; like how an emotional child threatens the adult’s self-control that suppresses the unprocessed anger and sadness that decades ago had to keep at bay. Anger is inappropriate, my child. Sadness is for weaklings, my boy.
Ask yourself, again and again: “My choice of words, my opinions, my rules, my actions towards (my) children — who are they for?” Without keen self-awareness and committed trauma healing, adults are likely to make correct and direct far more important than connect. They are likely to project their unprocessed business onto the child in the name of parenting and educating.
Understand this, alone, and you’ll see why we struggle with uncertainty, push certainty onto children, and pine for “normal”. And you’ll realize why so many people of all ages struggle with anxiety and depression.
We don’t trust and encourage the wild, mysterious and meandrous ways of a child’s soul to guide their growing bodies and brains because our own primary attachment figures / caregivers didn’t trust us when we were young. They didn’t trust us to trust ourselves, our hearts, our emotions, our unique way and timing. They likely didn’t even acknowledge we have a wise heart, a unique purpose for being here, a powerful soul holding the metaview map of our lives. With an education system designed to suppress creativity and domesticate through conformity and obedience, and a Western world seriously bereft of healthy spiritually, it’s no wonder children have relied on the dogmas of cerebral certainty versus the wisdom of the unknown; it’s no wonder people have such a hard time trusting, let acknowledging, their intuition; it’s no wonder play is on the endangered activity list!
To be clear, I’m not denying that children get scared at the unexpected; nor do I discount the need for routine and structure. To be safely enjoyed, fires need fire pits. The wildness of the child’s heart needs a steady and safe container to support its full expression. It’s just that, in many ways, we’ve made the fire pit far more important than the fire itself because we, as adults, have long identified more with the logical, controlling mind than the wild heart. We’ve done so to the point of killing the Spirit of the fire, the light of the fire, the power of the fire, the purpose of the fire. Healthy structure has lost way to suffocation of soul.
Let’s stop stifling their wild spirits and inoculating them from the harsh realities to come. Children, in their sinuous, unpredictable ways, are made for the wild rollercoaster ahead; not the linear mind that tows the straight light and wants so badly to straighten the world out from its necessary messiness. The crumbling world will be the testing ground for how well children have been encouraged to be their wild selves, immersed in play, rather than in their highly outdated, irrelevant, linear schoolwork. It will be the testing ground for how well they have been supported to strengthen the gifts of play as expressed through the heart. It will be the testing ground for how well children have learned from the powerful, ever-present and endlessly creative teacher of uncertainty.
I’ll end with this: It is in the heart that our roots must run deepest if we are to survive the storms to come. That is where children root their sense of self when playing, deeper and deeper with each exploration. They root self-esteem, they root courage, they root imagination, they root curiosity, they root wonder, they root presence. They root “I am okay and I’ve got this!” deep in the heart and deep in the soul — soil. The stronger those roots are, the more resilient those children, then youth, then adults, will be when winds of change blow strong. They’ll be more resourced to stand firm, grounded in the heart, versus being tossed and turned, swept away, by the powerful gales of fear to come.
This is not a doomsday prediction. I’m not here to sour you. I’m here to invite you to stretch your threshold for uncomfortable and inconvenient truths that, as stated, serve not simply to take down, but to catalyze a rebirth.
Children are those powerful catalysts if they can boldly meet uncertainty with uncertainty, instead of cowering away from it. They are here to birth the new world if they aren’t afraid of destruction and death, just like how they aren’t afraid to destroy tall block towers. They quite like knocking them down, playing the role of life-cycle Destroyer! Children hold the keys to the new emerging world in their playful hearts, in the depths of their wise souls. In other words, childhood play is a key gestation period for the new world to be born from. Children are its powerful and wise harbingers, with the messiness, uncertainty, and wildness of play being an initiatory and sacred rite of passage into the inevitable dark storms and light of the coming dawn.
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Check out Vince’s book: Let the Fire Burn ~ Nurturing the Creative Spirit of Children, A Children’s Book for Adults