What?? What does you playing have to do with our colonial history?

Ok. Let’s start from the more gruesome, yuck side of this, the bit of the discussion that engages us critically (where we may feel defensiveness) and that highlights habits that most of us are likely yearning to evolve/change. So let’s just jump right in: We’ve embodied the values of colonialism. From what I’ve gathered empires built on colonial pursuits wove certain values into the cultures they were establishing. Inherent in colonial pursuits and therefore buttressing the subsequent cultures are the following qualities and values (TAKE A DEEP BREATH, and don’t worry about digesting this bit right away):

·      heightened desire for control

·      perfectionism (desire to dominate by projecting excellence/mastery)

·      future-oriented goals

·      individualistic mentality

·      competition-dominated thinking

·      wariness of joy through simplicity

·      intellectual intelligence valued over physical intelligence (physical intuition, read physical               literacies other than practices for physical domination)

·      desire for immediate gratification/short-sightedness over long-term benefits/holistic                       sustainability

·      reductionism favoured over systems thinking

·      dissemination of occularcentricism (culture focused on strict physical aesthetic codes)

·      feeling shame about the body, internalizing hyper-control of movement and the body; shame around bodily happenings such as menstruation, flatulence, burping, bowel movements, etc., strictly overseeing body hair, altering skin colour, ascribing to body image ideals of big/enlarged erogenous zones and flat tummies.

Woooooo! That was packed!

We have implicitly learned how to relate to ourselves and one another emotionally and physically through this lens. Our historically informed values shape the way we inhabit and use our bodies… they shape our bodies and our interactions.

So, ok, we can see how colonialism infuses our way of being, and that charges our will to mindfully change directions. Before this point we may have mistaken these tendencies as ‘natural’ or unchangeable. Noticing it means we can see that actually we have choice- Wohooo!

We’ve now opened the door to possibility for true movement as emancipation – Very literally movement for freedom. Our bodies reflect our minds and the state of spirit. If we know how to be free in our minds and be in our bodies in a way that connects us to our innate capacities for play and joy, then we step out of the ‘happiness is outside of thyself’ paradigm. We can see how our movement and physical habits have a bidirectional relationship with our emotional and relational well-being. We can see that we have the wonderful gift of being our own fulfilment alchemists. We can decide how to move and therefore which biochemical environment we are creating for our bodies. This is exciting.  

I actually very literally connect self-empowerment through physical literacy of freedom to the emancipation of populations. When we use movement for fun and for connection then we know the simplicity of joy, the intrinsically sweet quality of life. Joyful people, truly empowered people have no need to oppress or dominate. This may seem like a strange approach at first. But a rigid body embrittles all of it’s own tissues through to the heart, engendering actions that reflect the same sense of desertified lack felt through the tissues, while a supple mind and body, pumped with the sensation of abundance through generous movements eases the way for laughter, opening and lubricating the heart and inspiring hope out in all directions. Practices that are about resensitising our mind’s focus to the intelligence of the body, awaken us to the intuitive body where we are able to feel with and for one another. This sensation, the juicy, joyful body of play is one that lends itself to feelings of mudita – Joy in seeing others succeed. Play welcomes us back into physically feeling our emotional body (important for cultivating peace) by melting the pain blocks with feel good hormones and enables us to empathise by triggering our mirror neurons through engaged interaction with those around us. Play connects us with our physical intelligence- it sensitises us to our own ability to feel and to the feelings of others. Play is therefore a practice of trust, support and kinship. Play is a practice of community building. Play is a practice of freedom.

In a culture that has a hyper focus on being in control – “What’s next? What’s after this?” -  We want to know we are on the ‘right’ track’, we cut ourselves short by always wanting to know we are going to get the mark of approval. We are so accustomed to:

  • there being a RIGHT way
  • being focused on what we think will please someone else
  • being desensitized to our own feelings by seeking validation from those above ourselves in our social hierarchies

 These chronic insecurities render the experience of play, a task without every micro movement explained and planned-out rather terrifying. We default to: “but what if I do it WRONG? When will I know how to _________?! I want to know now!” And so the space of play, of improvisation, the art of enjoyment in unknowing can be anxiety inducing.

Here’s the thing though. The fun lies not only in the moments where we feel we have done it ‘right’. Actually a great deal of the fun is precisely in the moments we dread… when we do it ‘wrong’. That is to say when we do it the way our body wants to interpret the movement, or when we do something so entirely different than it was intended to be that we come up with something ‘new’. Really, rather than dreading that our insufficiencies and muck ups might be the source for other peoples laughter, we can look forward to it being the cause of our own deep yearned for laughing fits. Feeling a bit silly for doing something as well as you can and still falling short is actually exhilarating. The risk taking, silly vibes that bring forth the laughter and enjoyment are much cause for a resulting sense of ease and pleasure with our wholeness – knowing we have a deep source of perfection even when we are imperfect.

This sense of wholeness is twofold when we value playfulness. I feel that one of the most invigorating experiences is moving in unison as in forms of play such as dance, bowspring, acro yoga, thai massage or in chanting/singing/praying together. These playful forms of togetherness are when we feel in-touch, plugged in, alive. These adult forms of non-sexualized play are often missing from our healthy endorphin-stimulating menu. When we bring them back into our lives they remind us that joy exists in connection, that life without joy is chaos. Play reminds me that we need care for one another, because life is made fun when we play together. So for me, play is a practice of joy, peace and freedom. 


Lots of love to you all!


Learn more about ways to keep playing at every age check out my  VIS ISLAND, PLAY RETREAT with Dana Skoglund  HERE