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How To Achieve Enduring Health and Vitality
John W. Travis, M.D. & Regina Sara Ryan
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Learning by Playing

The way to reconnect with our purpose is to do things that seem, at first appearance, to lack purpose . . . —Kenneth Maue

One of the most important reasons for being alive is to experience life, for without the sense of wonder, the excitement, the emotions - joy, sadness, anger, fear - life is hardly worth living. And children teach us about the full-throttle experiencing of life. If we are willing to watch children play in their natural interactions with the world around them, we can learn a great deal about what has been temporarily obscured by our adult seriousness. We will see what it means to be in touch with our essential goodness, our innate sense of wonder, our free range of emotions. For the more serious head cases" amongst us (John counts himself as one of these), learning to play again can be a means of getting in touch with yourself.

When a child plays, or works (since many children love to imitate and create what they call "work"), she does so spontaneously, she puts her whole self into the task at hand. When they feel safe, children, especially younger children, embrace all these behaviors:

  • Joyful experimentation with life
  • Fascination with anything in their environment - a bumblebee, a ray of sunlight
  • Unlimited reign of the imagination
  • Trying out various behaviors; imitating others
  • "Being" everything - an airplane, a famous ballerina
  • Learning consequences naturally
  • Freedom to be silly, fantastic, wrong,

Playing (or working) in this way nurtures children immensely. Through play, they learn about the world, and along with the growth of their confidence, self-esteem, strength, and experience, they experience the mastery that is both impetus and foundation for further learning. Children learn consequences naturally. Depending on the feedback they receive from people or things in their environment, they sometimes adapt, sometimes seek help or nurturance, sometimes cry - expressing their needs, their displeasure, or their frustrations. Generally, within a short time, however, they are ready to start something new, or tackle the old problem again as if for the first time. Either way, what we often see is a "no problem" attitude, even with the most challenging tasks. Isn't that what we all want?

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