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Say “YES” When You’re Invited to Play

“All work and no play” is not how dogs roll

It was a beautiful, blue-sky Sunday. The sun was bright and, though it was a little chilly, the only place I really wanted to be was outside. So out we went – my dogs and I. “We” did a little weeding. “We” refilled the bird feeders. “We” scooped the poop. “We” fixed a little mesh fencing – actually I did that on my own. They were miffed because it keeps them out of their favorite corner of the yard while also protecting my hostas and ferns that are just tender pips and fiddleheads right now.

When our chores were done, none of us were ready to go back inside. I was thinking about grabbing a book when Bodhi had a better idea and dropped his beloved tennis ball at my feet. Over and over again I threw the ball and he dashed and leapt across the yard. He practiced sliding to a stop, catching it in midair, and tossing it up just so he could catch it again.

He teased his brother with the ball until Pax agreed to join in the fun. This resulted in racing and wrestling before Bodhi would bring the ball back to be thrown again. As Bodhi tired, the rules of the game changed. Instead of dropping the ball, he would lay down with it and look at me with a grin. “Rub me,” he seemed to be saying, “and I’ll give you the ball so we can play again.” So I did and he did and we did.

Ordinary, everyday happiness

Why am I telling you this little story? Because moments of true happiness don’t have to be planned or require reservations. They don’t have to be anything fancy. They don’t need to be part of an adventure or vacation. They can happen quite literally in your own backyard.

The only choice I made in this everyday moment of happiness was to say yes – and I actually did this twice. Once when Bodhi first brought me his ball. And again when I had the thought, “OK. I should probably get on with my day.” I paused and thought, with a laugh, “Why? This is so much fun!”

What is so appealing about the To Do List that I would try to tempt myself away from being happy? I think I do this to myself an awful lot. When I’m curled up in my favorite chair reading a book, when I’m sitting down to watch an episode of my latest show, when my daughter has asked me to play Scrabble. ”Just a minute.” “Let me do this first.” “Ugh. I forgot to do that.” Do you do this to yourself, too?

We don’t practice meditation to get better at meditating. We practice meditation to get better at living!

I love the fact that, on that blue-sky Sunday, I resisted my habit of “doing” and chose instead to keep playing. Most obviously, I love this because play refills and restores me. More subtly, the ease with which I made this choice indicates (I hope!) that my mindfulness practices are changing me. After all, I am not sitting silently, returning to the present moment again and again and again every day, to get better at meditating. I am practicing to get better at savoring my life.

At dinner that Sunday night, my daughter said, “I saw you playing with the dogs earlier. You had such a huge smile on your face.” And, remembering that simple, happy game that I could so easily have lured myself away from, I smiled all over again.

Why are you practicing? How is it touching your life? I’d love to hear from you.