By Christina Schäfers
I’ve always been an ambitious player. When I was a child, my parents did their utmost to prevent me and my sister from watching TV. So we were “forced” to play. And we did: We played in the woods, at home, at friends’ houses, etc. We played with puppets and Playmobil, we played role-plays and quickly developed from simple “mother, father, child” diversions to more complex adventures and detective storytelling. We discovered strategy games, board games, card games, and played wherever we were and with whoever we came across.
Aristotle is known as one of the first philosophers to describe the importance of playing. Several hundred years before the common era, the Greeks labeled what happens in our heads and hearts when we play or watch a play with the gorgeous word “catharsis“. Briefly summarized, that expression means that we “cleanse” our nervous system when we play—or watch a play (Aristotle was a big fan of the theatre). What we experience in the playful setting prepares us for the real world—better than any teaching or preaching.
In Acem Meditation we repeat our meditation sound as effortlessly as possible. Sooner or later, thoughts, emotions, and impulses interfere with our repetition of the sound. In daily and long meditations, we try to go back to the effortless repetition of the sound. Why do we do so, and how is this connected to what we said above? When we play and when we meditate, we practice and apply a certain mindset. Both practices are based on our personality and the potential freedom we can gain within its limits.
When we slip into another role in a role game, we experience new options, ways of acting, and reacting that we are not used to. When we watch a play, we emotionally connect with our heroes and anti-heroes and pass through their challenges, and our souls can grow through their adventures. When we play strategy games, we train our ability to create and recreate within the given circumstances. Do you know those board games where you build up a world, and then an action or event card appears, and suddenly all you‘ve been working on is no longer in the order you planned it to be?
When we meditate, we open up for the unexpected. We connect with the adventures and abilities within us. We train our capacity to act and react with more inner freedom even and especially toward impulses and actions that are different from the ways we‘ve foreseen.
Life itself can be full of action or event cards and unforeseeable impulses. The year 2020 has been the best proof of their power. You had plans to travel? Your business is based on people? You are searching for a partner? You or one of your close ones getting ill was not part of your plan for this year? Our projects and intentions have been thwarted to an unprecedented extent this year—and we might realize, that the security we were building our schedules on is always based on presumptions and not on a guaranteed game rule.
You get the best (and only) preparation for unexpected situations and the emotions that appear in such moments in a playful setting or with a meditative mindset. Both train your ability to adapt to the given circumstances. In meditation and games, we learn to deal with what we’ve got. We increase our ability to free ourselves from limitations. We train to discover new fields, spaces, and room for maneuver. The chosen path is suddenly blocked? Our spontaneous activities are powerful players? Try another trail, ease your mind, and go back to the effortless repetition of the sound. Surely often easier said than done, but life and meditation offer various options—again and again.
If you haven‘t been an ambitious player or regular meditator yet, don’t worry: now is a good moment to start.