Return To The Playground

December 6, 2019 / Katerina Mangini

Play. Don’t you miss those sweet childhood days when you’d spend all afternoon on the swings at your neighborhood park? The days when the only thing you had to worry about was kicking your legs high enough to get further and further up in the air. The days when your brain wasn’t comprised of a jumble of stress, anxiety and, often, unbearable awareness of the world. The days when your life was a playground.

Breathe. A word that is commonly used at the wrong time and said by the wrong person as an attempt to make someone feel better. “Just breathe! It’ll be fine!” This phrase is something that can many times irritate us more once we are in a state of panic or meltdown. But what can this word do when it isn’t forced onto us? Taking time out of your day to breathe can actually be beneficial. So beneficial that you won’t get to the point of needing that random person to awkwardly tell you “just breathe! It’ll be fine!” Have you ever actually taken a few deep breaths when you’ve been told to? Have you ever processed that tension in a way that allows your mind to return to your playground state?

Meditate. The practice of mindfulness, training your attention and awareness in order to achieve a clear mental state. When I first began learning about meditation, my first thought was that only people that considered themselves “hippies” could practice it – boy was I wrong. Meditation is not just those stereotypical first thoughts of sitting cross-legged and closing your eyes in front of a candle. Meditation is the practice of being mindful. Of being aware. A practice that most people don’t learn for years, or for many, maybe not ever. Simply thinking about how your food tastes while you eat instead of shoveling it down is an example of meditating. Another would be realizing the way you hold yourself as you walk or talk or even act with others rather than going about your day thinking of only yourself. Meditation is about using your mind as a playground in a way that heals. While being aware of the reality of the world and of other people can be hard, using that mindfulness to your benefit can make you indestructible.

Practice. One of my favorite yoga teachers at Black Swan Yoga here in Austin always ends his class by thanking everyone for being mindful enough to come to class, regardless of how well they think they did. He repeats to us “your energy was palpable, thank you for showing up on your mats tonight” whether that means you did every pose he instructed, or assumed child’s pose for the entire class. “I don’t care how you act when the sun is shining and you’re having a great day, I want to know who you are when you’re uncomfortable. That’s who you really are.” That same yoga instructor recites this to us towards the middle of every class, once we have warmed up and are getting to a point of discomfort and frustration. Most people can hide their anger or their sadness or their depression during everyday circumstances, but what happens at the points when we can’t contain ourselves? Who are we?

Accept. We all have our good and bad days, many times we may even have good or bad weeks. This is human nature. Where we may go wrong during the bad times is how we might choose to react. People don’t understand that while it feels great to reminisce on those good ole’ days on the playground, we are ultimately in control of how we think, and those days don’t have to be as far as they seem from reality. We are capable of returning to that playground. How, you ask? Using the mind as playground for meditation. Instead of lashing out at your loved ones, or maybe even honking at that lady that cut you off while driving earlier, channel that tension. Use it to your advantage. Create a new playground for yourself – where the swings are adventures that prove to have both high and low points. Where the slide acts as a time of bliss, but like everything, is only temporary until you find the top again. Where the merry-go-round is a comfortable cycle, that we must accept as forever or eventually break out of. Or even where the sandbox is a relaxing place to stay and simply observe. What is your pick?

Play. Bring your innocent child-like ways of thinking to your everyday mindset to cope with the ups and downs of life.

Breathe. Take an inhale and realize, like many hard situations, eventually you must release it.

Meditate. Whether you’d like to take time out of your day to sit cross-legged or not, be mindful. It will ultimately clear your own mindset as well as your tensions.

Practice. Find your favorite form of happiness, whether that is exercise, cooking or arts, and understand that even the things that bring you happiness require effort.

Accept. The good days and the bad days are inevitable. Your mind is your playground, what will you use it for? •

By: Katerina Mangini
Graphics: Jasmy Liu

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