The first year I ran the meditation retreat in the Sahara I watched with wonder at the change that came upon everyone as they entered the dunes; we had been walking for about 45 minutes since we left the village and as we climbed the first sandy crest it was as though the years faded away and everyone became like children again. People rolled down the dunes, jumped and played, and kept picking up handfuls of sand to let it fall again between their fingers.
‘I feel like I’m 5 years old again!’ one woman cried.
Can you remember the moment when you stopped playing? Maybe you consider yourself to be a pretty playful person but when was the last time that you let your fingers trail along the wall as you walked along? Or spent 5 minutes seeing what faces you can make in the mirror? Or pretended to be a cat or a dog crawling around on the floor? We probably all long to play more but are afraid to be look foolish in the eyes of others. Is that why we love to be around children and animals who seem to be free of those fears?
On the retreat it seems to happen naturally. Whether we’re running down a dune or fooling around at the dinner table, much of the childhood spirit of play and wonder returns and the world becomes that much lighter. There are none of the usual things to take care of – no phone calls, no internet, no shopping – and your biggest responsibility is remembering to brush your teeth at night.
Even those who take more time to open up eventually lighten up over the week and as the days pass I can see the habitual expression fall away from the mask of the face and a new, softer expression take its place.
It’s so beautiful to see.