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Diving Deeper into the Concept of Play

September 7, 2022

What Does Play Mean to You?

“Work honestly. Meditate every day. Meet people without fear. And play.”

– Baba Hari Dass

What does it mean to live a playful life? Is play an action, an attitude, an interaction, or something else? As human beings, we know play when we feel it, see it, and engage in it with others. In the history of Mount Madonna, play has been an integral part of community life as demonstrated by volleyball, medicine ball, softball, Hanuman Olympics, Halloween houses, arm wrestling, feasts, marathon theater productions, games, teasing, jokes, pranks, and perhaps more importantly, the playful attitude that accompanied these and innumerable other activities. Play elicits our child-like nature, desire for connection, and our most human and humble selves. In the words of Babaji, maintaining a time for work and a time for play reminds us to not think that we are carrying the whole world: to “make it easy, make it play, make it a prayer.” Babaji was a living example of what it looks like to include play as part of a spiritual path.

For this year’s fourth annual Re-Union Retreat (Oct 6-9), we will dive deeper into the concept of play in ourselves and our community with the theme Exploring Play: Release, Relax, Renew. The retreat planning team landed on this theme through gathering our hopes and dreams for this year’s retreat, which included games, art, writing group, silent auction, dance party, including Mount Madonna School in the festivities, and a commitment to fun. It became clear that this year we needed to celebrate the joy of community. And what better way to do so than through play!?

Because play means something different to each person, the retreat was designed with accessibility in mind. A variety of options will allow everyone to feel comfortable leaning into play, with the understanding that sometimes play means dancing outside of our comfort zone. Throughout the retreat and specifically in our Community Circles, we will reflect on: What does play mean to you? Who is one of your greatest teachers of play, and what have you learned? What is something that usually ignites play within you? Why is play a core value in our community, and how have you experienced it here? What’s one of your favorite games to play, and what do you enjoy about it?

Retreat participants will also be encouraged to share stories of their experiences of play in the history and current happenings of Mount Madonna to help populate our Timeline of Play, which will be incorporated into the Mount Madonna Wisdom Library and the organization’s Strategic Planning Process. With such a rich history, how might we find new ways to embody this core value and carry the legacy of play into the future?

Hanuman Fellowship Core Values

Adopted September 2020

The members of the Hanuman Fellowship*, inspired by the teachings and example of Baba Hari Dass, aspire to live the following Core Values:

Work honestly — To approach all work (physical, intellectual, and emotional; individual and collaborative; personal and interpersonal) with courage and integrity. To recognize our own self-interest and do our best to move beyond it in the spirit of selfless service. To see all work as an opportunity for spiritual practice and self-discovery when approached with the aim of peace. To honor the gifts of nature, and our place within it, ensuring that our work sustains the health and well-being of the natural world for future generations.

Meditate everyday — To cultivate peace through regular sadhana. To recognize and value the many and varied forms of practice that promote self-reflection and self-development with the aim of peace. To do regular daily practice and create conditions that support this practice for all members of the community — resident and non-resident, program guests, students, and visitors.

Meet people without fear — To communicate with openness and compassion, inviting all voices to foster a multi-generational community that is caring, diverse, and equitable. To include and accept one another in the loving spirit of family. To engage with courage and vulnerability, learning from and supporting one another in our shared aim of self-transformation and peace, even when conflicts arise. To nurture each new generation and invite them to define their own path, wherever it leads, with the support, skills, and mentoring of previous generations. To care for elders and honor their contributions to the community, past and present.

Play — To make space and time for play in all its forms, including art, music, dance, theater, athletics, and other shared activities. To uncover hidden talents through practices that reduce fear, promote self-knowledge, and spark creative self-expression. To welcome children and all youth as embodiments of play, to celebrate them for the joy they bring, and encourage them to participate in community life. To recognize play as essential for inspiring hope and sustaining disciplined lives in the context of community.

*The Hanuman Fellowship is a non-profit organization founded by the students of Baba Hari Dass in 1971 as a vehicle for the teachings of Yoga and for oversight of the variety of projects that have been developed by the fellowship members. Among those projects directly under the governance of the Fellowship Board are Mount Madonna Center and Mount Madonna Institute.


The Authors

  • Avi Kruley

    Director of Community Well-Being, MBA/MPA

  • Haley Tompsett

    Associate Director of Community Well-Being, MPH, C-AHC

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