Childlike joy for grown-ups and kids as well – board games, playing with children and more
by Patanga Cordeiro
From reading Sri Chinmoy’s writings and from my memories with him, one thing I always saw repeated to his disciples is that having a sweet childlike consciousness (but not childish) is an important, and maybe essential, asset. When I am in a more childlike consciousness, everything seems more spiritual, naturally spiritual or divine. When I am in a serious consciousness, things can easily seem like a problem or I feel like I am having mental fever.
I have found that there are a few ways that help me get into a more childlike consciousness. Meditation, when it really happens, is quite successful. The caveat is that I cannot count that I will have really good meditations anytime I want. I do get them, but it seems that they come as unconditional gifts rather than by my know-how of meditation. Another way is to spend time with children. That really works for me. And a third way is to do activities that children themselves like, making of myself a child, so to speak.
Sri Chinmoy himself would challenge his capacities with various projects (such as his Rainbow-Dreamers series), which included feats such as running, jumping, juggling, painting, etc, but also children’s games such as spinning tops, throwing marbles and so on. I seem to always have liked doing these kind of games (even well past my thirties), but maybe the lack of company or excess of mental rigidity prevented me from seeing the act of playing as a regular beneficial discipline.
Identifying with children
Since a few years, we had some parents with children starting to attend our São Paulo Sri Chinmoy Centre meetings. I naturally took interest in seeing that the children also would feel at home and understood, considering the prospect of the usual longish and solemn silent meditations and serious spiritual talk. But there is only so much that you can chat about with children; children seem to be mostly uninterested in the discussions, conclusions, final reasonings that we so often try to reach while conversing with others about matters spiritual or not. I do like a lot to hear about other people´s experiences on the spiritual path, but found that when I myself or others try to reason or explain or teach someone else about spiritual topics, there usually unnecessary reasoning and sometimes ego-trip. We are all seekers in the making, so it is perfectly alright just to try and fail… but if I simply do something that makes me feel quite fulfilled, childlike and spontaneous, that seems to me much more in line with Sri Chinmoy’s teachings and a better use of time and energy.
So, in order to identify with our newcomer children, we brought up a common interest: playing games! In them and their parents, finally I had someone who would really understand how much important is playing games, and they too found an adult (maybe that would be a qualified statement) in me who really understands how much playing feels more important than other boring, serious things that don´t make people reallyhappy. Byt the way, there is an interesting anecdote told by Sri Chinmoy in his book “Wings of Joy”, where a renowned scientist and polymath by the name of Dr. Satyendranath Bose declines presiding over a scientific board because he had promised to play with children – one of his favourite pastimes, and which gave him more satisfaction than presiding over scientific boards.
As for myself, I feel that I have been learning from the children and their parents lessons which were long overdue in my years as a spiritual seeker and disciple of Sri Chinmoy. So much more spontaneity, joy, good feelings I got simply from being with them. Sometimes, when I think of the children I play with, I use a secret moniker: “professors”. That is, I think I learnt more and much faster from their honest, sincere pursuit of joy and happiness than I do while having (spiritual or moderately spiritual) conversations – even though I find the conversations many times elevating, important and fulfilling; it is just that the experience with children in the last few years has apparently provided me with more (or long overdue) opportunities for progress than the conversations.
Games we play
So far, we revisited a vast number of games, according to age and personal affinities. My absolute favourites are the childlike athletic games I would play on the street when I was a kid: number one is definitely hide-and-seek (at which one of our parents is unbeaten to date); number two maybe football (soccer); we also have a variation of cricket which only children play here (in Brazil); we also do battle using rubber bands as ammunition to be flinged at one another (they don´t hurt at all).
Then come indoor activities, such as playing board games. If you only know Monopoly, Scrabble and Risk, I can assure you are missing something very entertaining and inspiring on the nowadays called “modern” board games. (I could recommend a few basic titles which will blow your mind away when you play: competitive games like Ticket to Ride, One Night Ultimate Werewolf, Treasure Island; cooperative games such as Pandemic, Captain Sonar; dexterity games like Ubongo, Animal Upon Animal (or Rhino Hero Super Battle), guessing games such as Concept, Mysterium (or Dixit or When I Dream instead) and storytelling games like Stuffed Fables (or Mice and Mystics). For the more “grown-up” kids there are serious historic and thematic games such as Freedom: The Underground Railroad (as Lincoln´s contemporaries doing your share to abolish slavery) or Black Orchestra (about German patriots trying to stop Nazi atrocities in World War II) which make you think about the world situation and the Supreme’s care for it by entering in contact with the history and possible mechanics and challenges the historical heroes met.
I love all these games, so I could go on and on explaining each one; but suffice it to say that first of all they are totally fun and engaging, and they make you feel good and construct great memories with your playmates. Secondly, each kind of game will bring children new concepts or sharpen already existing ones (such as cooperating towards an objective, reading skills, dexterity, history of the world, etc). I also like sometimes colouring drawings of animals. I can try my hand at drawing, too, but it doesn´t entice me as much as playing a nice board game or playing hide-and-seek.
Results in daily life of playing games
We also had experiences where the children started having better relationships and improving difficult situations in school simply by taking some of our board games there for use during recreation time. Suddenly everyone becomes friends, and that makes everyone happy! With the board games, you will have a library not of books, but of excuses to have innocent joy with people you like. And, like a book library and different from video games, after forty years, you will still be able pick your games from the shelf and have a perfectly good time out of it! I played so many video games when I was growing up, and I think it did hinder my development as child and later as a spiritual seeker. Plus it feels now as a tremendous waste of time (when I look back, I did not learn any cultural skills growing up – no music, no languages, no sports, no art – just video games). I suppose electronic equipment make the mind so restless and reactive that the heart finds it difficult to come to the fore - quite the diametrical opposite of meditation, it would seem to me. Even nowadays, I find that if I read lots of books I feel quite good in so many aspects; but if I spend a long time on the computer or on the mobile phone I feel quite tired and restless.
Anyway, on a positive note… I would like to invite you to look around and maybe realize that you are surrounded by children right now… they might not look like children but, like me, they might just be one big, grown-up child who forgot who they really are. I don´t think I would ever have this notion if not for Sri Chinmoy’s constant outer example and inner guidance.