Lately I have been baking bread. I became intrigued about the process, watched all the videos, read the books, followed the blogs, studied the websites. Finally I bought some flour and some yeast, got out my bowls and turned on the oven. I learnt to mix with my fingers, knead, prove and shape a loaf. Bake it to crusty magnificence and serve it up. There has been a bit of trial and error (sorry about the rock salt) but now I love the process.
Because I have the privilege to work from home, I can usually factor some bread making into the middle of the week or a working-day. I put on some music, roll up my sleeves, talk to the dog and bang dough on to the bench. I love the feel of it coming together in my hands, the magic when you see it rising, and the smell of it baking. I feel great pride and satisfaction from a well baked loaf and love sharing it with my husband and friends.
Now I have no need to bake my own bread, ever. I live near at least six different sources of artisan bread, including four specialist bakeries. I can walk in pretty much any direction, and within five minutes have baguettes, flat breads, gluten free (!) and enriched loaves at my fingertips. Yet I love to bake my own.
Why – because it’s fun! It intrigues me, stimulates me, satisfies something nameless in me. It makes me happy.
When was the last time you did something just for yourself? Not for your friends, family or pets. Not for your professional development or career. Not for your home, bank account or basic personal needs.
When was the last time you did something which was entirely for you – because it gave you pleasure, satisfied your curiosity, inspired you or just felt good.
For some people this is easy question. They may exercise regularly (not because they should but because they enjoy the movement, challenge, team work, environment). They may have read something for interest or curiosity. They may have watched a film for fun or football game for the excitement. They may have tried and learnt something new.
For others it’s a struggle. They see friends out of obligation, spend time with family out of guilt. They exercise because of fear diseases and read, watch and participate in what is meant to do them good. They work hard because they want recognition or fear getting sacked. They study and research subjects that will help them get ahead.
If you are living your life in this way you may experience it as relentless, joyless, overwhelming, full of anxiety and irritation. You may feel worn down or exhausted or wound up and defensive. It will be nearly impossible to be creative or innovative. Overall you will be finding life hard.
Our brains and bodies need periods of rest and relaxation. We need time for “re-creation”, to revitalise the mind and renew the spirit. Playing is a form of self-nourishment, which strengthens and renews.
If you find it difficult to remember the last time you did something just for yourself, take some time right now to plan something, for no later than tomorrow.
If that is too difficult then consider the attitude with which you do one of your existing daily tasks.
Recreation and play is not just something you do. It is an attitude you create at any time, in any place to transform your situation. Reading to your children can be fun or frustrating. So can making dinner, folding clothes, doing your accounts, writing a weekly blog!
Grocery shopping can be a chore, but pretending you are in a foreign country invokes the fun of travel. Cleaning your car might be a pain, but playing with soap bubbles can bring you back to childhood. Meeting with your colleagues is part of working life. Showing respect and actively listening can be a spiritual practice.
Play is more than fun and frivolity. It is also absorbing, peaceful, flowing and restful.
However you spend your waking life, do it with consciousness and intention, openness and a sense of adventure. Remember to take the time to play whenever and wherever you can. In each moment you have the choice. Choose well.
“Life’s door, love’s door, God’s door – they all open when you are playful. They all become closed when you become serious.” Osho.