Sunday, April 17, 2016

Playfulness on a Spiritual Path

"Dew on the Tip of a Leaf"
- At the Desert Retreat House - 

About five miles away from our “Desert Retreat House” the largest music festival in the country is now taking place: the annual Coachella Music and Arts Festival.

 Every year almost 100,000 people assemble in a vast open field for three days of camping out and listening and dancing to rock, indie and electronic music while they enjoy the work of various sculptors and artists.  Some families along with their kids attend the festival and there is a smattering of older and retired people in the crowd, but the vast majority of people who attend “Coachella” are younger folks in their 20’s and 30’s, all sporting the look of “Coachella fashion,” a “new-age hippie” look with lots of feathers and flowers worn by the women,  the often-shirtless men with turned around baseball caps and plenty of tattoos.

The Coachella Festival is quite a “happening” for this little desert community where we live and everyone in the area becomes part of the festival whether you attend it or not. Apart from most of us in the surrounding neighborhoods being able to hear at least a trace of the loud music and cheering crowds, all the local hotels, restaurants, and supermarkets are brimming with the presence of all those young and vibrant “Coachellers” who have “taken over” this community.

Yesterday my wife and I were at a local “Target” store when two young guys from the festival crowd came sailing by on their modified skateboards that they were negotiating through the aisles of the store.  As they flew by I half expected one of the managers who noticed them to chastise them and make them stop what they were doing but all he did was shrug his shoulders and smile. After all this is “Coachella weekend,” a carefree time when everyone seems to be a bit more playful and when it’s ok to suspend the rules a bit.

Last night as I lay in bed listening to the distant sound of the cheering crowd as they danced to the pulsating sounds of “Guns N’ Roses,” it occurred to me that living so near to this festival may indeed be teaching me an important lesson about walking along my spiritual path.

When it comes to “religion” and “spirituality,” people tend to get pretty serious - eyes closed, intense, sometimes glum expressions when they pray, often overly concerned about doing it the right way when they meditate, counting breaths, proper posture.  But it seems to me that one of the primary benefits of walking a spiritual path is learning how to “let go.” On the path we learn to cling less tightly to our lives.

Instead of teaching us how to be more serious and to work real hard at spiritual disciplines, I wonder if a “spiritual journey might, more importantly teach us to “lighten up” and be  more playful on the path toward greater wisdom and deeper truth?

I recently read something Zen philosopher and author, Alan Watts, once wrote about “Hindu”
wisdom when it comes to “playfulness:”

It is interesting that Hindus, when they speak of the creation of the universe
do not call it the ‘work of God,’ they call it
‘the play of God’
They look at the whole manifestation of all the universes
as a kind of cosmic dance.

I really like this concept of creation. Instead of thinking of God’s hard work in creation, and the hard work we are all called to do to continue “God’ work, Hindus imagine a playful God and a dancing universe with everything and everyone in the creation playfully dancing along together with everything and everyone else.

I just came across this Hindu wisdom saying:

Let your life dance on the edges of time
like dew on the tip of a leaf.

If I listen carefully I think I can hear the distant sound of the “Coachella Music Festival” waking up to this beautiful day in springtime as everyone puts the flowers and feathers in their hair and prepares for this final day in the desert – a wonderful invitation to me and to us all to “let go” and to let our lives dance like the dew on the tip of a leaf.

1 comment:

  1. Love that idea of playfulness...because yes it can sometimes (nay often) get a bit serious in my mind as I try to figure things out. I also like to embrace a sense of wonder, of seeing everything as interesting regardless of how I judge it, and being curious. If we follow our curiosity with this sense of play what a journey we are on! Thanks Paul xx