Now that we’re past the darkest day of the year, the light returns. But the days are still short and it’s dark outside. Many people get depressed during this time of year, which is understandable. Even today as I sit here writing, it’s dark and rainy outside. I could be getting depressed, but I have so many aspirations I want to bring forth in the world. I am overwhelmed with joy and things I want to do. I am excited to be alive. With the new year, it’s a great time to get excited. During the dark season, it’s not easy. Especially with all of the suffering and negative news in the world today, we rarely take time to play.

In Tantra, the purpose of the entire universe is for the play of it. Lila is a Sanskrit word for divine play, game, or sport. We are here to have an experience, to savor life. Play is entering a state of mind without worry or anxiety. It’s a state of joy and creativity. It’s the pure state of being that happens for no reason at all. Work, on the other hand, is for a reason. We work to accomplish something, to get something in return for our efforts. It’s external by nature. But play is for its own sake. It’s self-fulfilling.

It’s fun to play. It’s creative and rejuvenating and it’s good for your soul. As kids, we used to play all of the time. In fact, playing is what research psychologists say helps develop the brain. We need to play for optimal development as human beings. From an article by Dr. Ginsburg and the American Academy of Pediatrics, Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. Play is important to healthy brain development. It is through play that children at a very early age engage and interact in the world around them.”

As adults, we’ve lost the value of play in our lives. We haven’t lost the ability, since I believe that play is a permanent instinct we all have. Maybe you haven’t exercised your “play” capacity in a long time. But everyone knows how to play, or they can remember if the environment is right. During my New Year Yoga Retreat at Kripalu, I often dedicate one session to the topic of play. To set the scene, I ask everyone to pretend that they are children having a “snow day” from school. They team up in small groups and spontaneously begin playing together making up games, building imaginary snow forts, sleighing down hills (on their yoga mats!), building snow people with yoga bolsters, and having snow ball fights with pillows. Of course, it wouldn’t be play without music, so I put on Ella Fitzgerald’s Holiday Jazz music. The room erupts into total chaos and the students break free of inhibitions. They look like they’re having some serious fun!

This year, I highly recommend you add more play into your daily routines. It’s easy. For me, I like to ski, swim, or hike. Just getting outside, feeding the birds, or shoveling snow is so enjoyable for me. Play doesn’t mean that you can’t also get some work done, i.e. exercising is good for your heart. Another way to break up your work routine is to blast some really good music while doing menial tasks. I recently found this version of White Christmas on the radio, by Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, and it instantly lifted my mood. So now I use it to accompany any kind of housework, cleaning, or cooking to add the element of play. I hope you enjoy it throughout the rest of this season and save the link for winters to come.

Here’s to a year of play, for no reason at all. May this bring a sense of spaciousness and ease into your life, if only for a moment. Consider “playing” with me by attending one of my workshops or retreats.

May You Have a Happy and Playful New Year!

Todd