I flunked kindergarten. Well, of course, I was passed on to first grade and beyond, and so it didn’t seem that I flunked kindergarten, but in truth I had not lived into my kindergarten experience. I was the shy, serious, obedient child, but not one who would abandon himself to silly games, arts, crafts, singing, or, heaven forbid, play. I would go through the motions, but not really lose control over myself in this world of early learning. Staying in control was my strategy for staying safe in this young world of mine.
Life in kindergarten and those early grades was pretty uncomfortable, I guess, or at least not pleasurable for me. But I patiently waited until high school came along where I could better fit into the academic nature of school as I came to love it.
While life went well for me as a serious adult, there was always something missing it seemed. Seemingly unlike others around me, as an adult I was not able to throw myself into play, sports, games, dancing, and other forms of socialization. This developmental stage was fixated or frozen before ever getting to kindergarten. No, in my young adult and beyond years I’d rather be working on homework, or a business or organizational presentation or plan. The church picnic? Very much out of my element, unless I could corner someone to explore something deep or serious.
Awareness of this missing kindergarten experience came to me last night at, of all things, a chanting group led skillfully by its leader, and dear friend of Pat’s and mine, Theresa. “This will not be serious singing, folks, let your brains rest and let the simple words penetrate your heart and cells,” Theresa announced. And so we did.
Theresa also added simple circle dances, Sufi style, dances that instantly took me back to grade school. While in grade school I would not have joined in freely, now, after sixty years have passed since kindergarten, I found that I could let go and join in with a bit of ease. I was aware of how this experience of joining in was, in a way, so new to me. Not all hung up on skill level, social interaction with partners, and the like, I could give myself over to these experiences in a free and new way.
On one of the circle dances where two groups were alternating standing and stooping to the words of the song, I instantly got it. So this was PLAY. Wow! Sure, not yet entirely comfortable for me, but I really was getting what I seemed to have missed in kindergarten. So this is what play with other kids was supposed to be like! No pressure for “getting it right,” no shy holding back, just throwing myself into the experience. So delightful. Now to carry this body and felt sense experience into my life. Another color on my palette of feelings pops in. Yea. So let me slow down and take this in, integrating it into my being.