Updated: Dec 5, 2022
GAMES BEYOND ESCAPISM…
TOOLS: field notebook and good pen, a timer, other humans, and a supple imagination
TIME: ten minutes
DIFFICULTY: [It’s going to be just fine.]
RISK: low, but you will come back changed.
ORIENTATION: Compassion is often perceived as an experience, something that we feel or that can come upon us. By the strategically resilient, it is to be treated more as a skill, a commitment, a practice, and a source of usable life energy. This short adventure places it squarely in this second zone.
Neurologically speaking, there are few practices we can engage in that so clearly demonstrate positive and practical growth in the brain as that of loving kindness, or metta. In as few as two weeks, subjects showed measurable growth in specific parts of the brain related to happiness and awareness. For those who have experienced meditation as difficult to do, this short adventure will give you a solid practical taste of the effects through another method than sitting on a cushion.
Our assumptions about the people around us shape our world and our days, draining or feeding us. Do not underestimate the effect this has on your usable energy.
TO PLAY: Place yourself in the company of local humans — a bench, a cafe, a stroll down the street. Set your timer for ten minutes. For each person of any age that you see, invent both a suffering and a creative genius:
this one is fighting addiction and creates exquisite Irish cabled sweaters.
that one has a severely injured child and plays irresistible Cajun fiddle.
this one just lost his adoring dog and flies an acrobatic biplane.
that one has postpartum depression and can carve massive and graceful benches for experiencing landscapes.
Maybe…is being sued, was diagnosed with lymphoma, just had a terrible fight, has chronic pain, is worried about a sister, lost savings, hit another car…
Maybe…bakes glorious cakes with lifelike sugar flowers, trains wild mustangs on weekends, sews brilliant quilts for random foster children, makes a French horn soar, trains service dogs, was a circus acrobat for 20 years, can tap-dance down a flight of stairs and dazzle…
Invent with speed and richness and specificity. Do this even with people whom you recognize or know. Because really, you don’t.
Then as each moves in and out of your life and awareness, hold them for a moment as if you held each heart cupped in your hands, recognizing pain and sorrow, struggle and worry, recognizing skill and joy and genius. And still holding each, as they pass beyond you, imagine as a momentary superpower tossing them a small exploding flashbomb of goodwill, one that lands at their wheels or feet and glows upward:
“May you be well and happy.”
Watch them go.
When the timer rings, make your field notes. Note whom you made judgments about, where you jumped to conclusions, where your created stories replaced equally fabricated invisible assumptions. You were wrong. And you were right. Recognize where you are creating stories about others all the time, well outside this ten-minute experiment. Which kind of invention was more challenging for you? Where does this habit feed your life energy? Drain it? How can you guide it?
What does this have to do with your stores of usable resilience?
BONUS POINTS: Repeat daily for a week. Or weekly for a lifetime.
OUTCOMES: softening, perspective, awe, kindness, generosity, happiness
Play. Share. Come back and tell me what happened to you.
So, You, “Why not me?” Seriously. You and wisdom and joy.
It’s a good combination in the world.