Playfulness in Children
Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami , 2002-03-15
Two boys were on a task force program at Kauai Aadheenam many years ago. I found them one day playing hide and seek in his office and couldn't help laughing. We don't want to ignore playfulness. It should be a regular part of our Church members' lives. In fact, it's number three on the list of suggested Church mission activities in Saiva Dharma Sastras. "Playful Self-Contentment" is now on my list of 9 qualities that parents (as their children's first guru) should cultivate in their children. Happiness is a consciousness that can be claimed no matter what the circumstances.
I will share a story to open up the next subject. Many, many years ago we had some young men on task force, very young boys. Not men, boys who were probably twelve years old or so, maybe a little bit younger. One day while they were here, I went into the office and one of them was hiding under the desk from another one. It made me laugh so much because here to me, this is a very serious object. This is a desk, you know, where someone sits down and works very efficiently. There are very important papers on it. But to this child, it was something to hide under, play hide-and-seek!
It reminded me of the playfulness of being young. Even if we are not young, the element of playfulness and fun is part of human nature. A part of human nature we don't want to ignore particularly as we get older. We don't want to forget about it, take things too seriously.
It also needs to be a part of the nature of our activities, members' activities. I was looking up in 'Saiva Dharma Shastras' to see what it said and found a list. Gurudeva loves to make lists. Here is a list of suggested activities for Missions.
First activity of course you would imagine, is the weekly Satsang in a mission house or at a monastery.
Second activity, doing karma yoga to help maintain monasteries or temples. So everyone does those pretty well. Those are under control.
But the third activity, providing for social events and activities such as picnics, field trips, youth retreats, group outings, sewing circles, hiking, skating, family nights, breakfast gatherings and noncompetitive sports and games for youth and adult members.
It is number three. Right after the two that we do very well, there is number three. How many picnics have we all had last year? How many hikes? Probably not enough.
I was reminded of this by the success of the activity in Malaysia, you all read it on Satellite News. They had a family gathering for a few days in Port Dixon in Malaysia and everyone really enjoyed it. Particularly the youth found it very inspiring to have fun with one another and see their parents have fun together. A nice big social gathering, very relaxing. It definitely released tension and created a spirit of greater inspiration, particularly in the younger members and children. So it is a good example of the need for fun and the need for social activities of that kind.
Having that in mind, we put it in the 'Parenting Guidelines' we are developing. We have nine guidelines for the first gurus on qualities they want to cultivate in their children.
One of them is 'Playful self contentment'. "Playful self contentment is when a child's usual mood is fun-loving, happy and satisfied. How is this developed? It is through the parents living and verbalizing the philosophy that life is meant to be lived joyously."
So, that would certainly be one of Gurudeva's messages, both verbal and just through his demeanor, just the way he looked. You saw him and you saw him smiling! You felt that he was joyous and you felt a little more joyous. That was, "Life was meant to be lived joyously." He really reflected that quality beautifully.
"It is by holding the perspective that happiness does not depend on external circumstances but is a consciousness we can claim, whether life is free of or filled with challenges." That, of course, is our Shum perspective. Happiness is always there, right? It doesn't go away. We just have to move awareness into that state of mind. We just have to have the discipline, the self control to not look outside, get upset about something and feel unhappy. To look outside, see something and remain happy. Why should life control our happiness? Why shouldn't we control our happiness? It is just a state of mind, state of consciousness that we can claim. Passing that philosophy on to the children is the idea.
"It is by teaching the children to be satisfied with what they have in the present rather than what they desire to have in the future." Planning for the future, acquiring things in the future, thinking about the future is good. But we don't want to get in the state of mind that until we have this, this and this, we are not content. Until we have a bigger home, until we are retired, that we have a new job, until we have more money, we are not really content. We can be content right now with what we have.
"It is nurtured by the family spending times together filled with play, fun and laughter." That is important.
"The ability to remain fun-loving, joyful and content enables one to face with far greater equanimity, the ups and downs of life." So that is the benefit of the quality, that we can hold this state of mind as different experiences come to us in life, some of which are always difficult. We are not as disturbed by them. We can hold on to this fun-loving, playful, joyful, satisfied perspective. That is the goal of 'Playful Self Contentment'.