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MY STORY OF ORIGINAL PLAY
I had watched and participated with Fred playing with the children in Poland but I had never taken two full days of how do you play with children. I had also spent 8 hours on a bus ride to camp, and spent every meal with him over a two and half week spread, listening to his adventures, asking questions and sharing experiences. But mostly listened, because so many of the stories were hard to imagine. They definitely took me out of the box I was so comfortable in. I just couldn’t wrap my brain around what I would look like with my head in a lions mouth and to know she was playing and would not hurt me. It just wasn’t possible in my understanding, both in my head and in my body. I could feel my whole body react to the situation. I could feel the fear. Then I would switch to the wonder of the possibility of this being a whole new reality. WOW! Could it really be true? Could people really get to the point of trusting the pure joy of play within each creature on this planet? But more to the point. Could I experience that? I honestly do not know but just to feel it for a monent would be amazing. I thought I better start with the basics. What am I really doing now when I play?
When I play, it is to have fun with another person, to laugh, to have a good time, to relax, and just to enjoy myself. It can be in different forms, we could be playing a game, dancing, singing, even teaching. But it usually involves doing something particular, spontaneous or planned. Because it is fun and I enjoy it so much, I feel connected to the other person or people and I feel like I played. I feel enriched by the process. And it is play. But to my wonder and surprise I found out that it is not what Fred is talking about at all.
Fred is talking about, (now I am doing my best to explain what is very difficult to articulate) does have to do with the connectedness we feel but not by doing something together but by being together. By being so present with someone that you can touch each others heart and soul and give to that person exactly what they are needing in that moment in time. It is amazing to experience this within yourself and inspiring to watch him share this gift as he moves from one person to the next. You don’t even know what you are watching. But you definitely know it is happening and it is very real.
I can remember the first time I had heard of Fred. It was from Pamela Curlee, a faculty member from Educational Kinesiology, one of my mentors and a very dear friend. She had the insight how important Fred’s message was that she brought him to the Educational Kinesiology Foundation and he is now one of our Professional Advisors.
It was the summer we had the Educational Kinesiology International Gathering in Victoria, BC. I was apart of advertising and selling tickets to two other important people that were presenting that year so I knew of Fred Donaldson coming and was really looking forward to hearing what he had to say. He presented the last morning of the conference and I missed it. I was up early that morning feeling very sick. Every time I headed for the door to go so I could catch some of his presentation I ended up in the bathroom throwing up. I was so upset with myself that I felt bad about that for a long time. I knew how important this man’s message was and I just couldn’t get there.
The next time I had the opportunity to meet and Play with Fred was in Poland at Dr. Svetlana Masgutova’s camp for children with challenges. I was very excited and was looking forward in this opportunity to spend two weeks learning about what he does. I also had my son with me and I knew it would be important for him as well.
The first night of camp for the children we all gathered in the largest room to play with Fred. It was amazing to see the kids and Fred together. I thought I should get out there and do this too. So off I went, crawling out into the middle of the floor mats with the others. Well, this strange feeling started creeping up on me and the slower I crawled until I just stopped. I started to feel feelings I was not used to and I wasn’t sure what was happening. I backed up slowing hoping no one was watching and tried to get a grip wondering what was wrong with me. It is totally safe out there, why can’t I go out there. So I watched and I began to see and understand. Some of the people on the mats I have known for awhile and others I have only known for a week, others I just met that day. But what was amazing is that I saw apart of them while they played that I have never seen before. It was like I was witnessing a whole other side of them. That is when I realized that I wasn’t sure if there was a side of me that I did not know and what if it came out and I didn’t like it. Or someone would judge me for it. That did not feel safe. I would wait till I was ready but I remember feeling disappointed. In myself.
I decided to return to camp in Poland and this time I had the opportunity to travel on a 8 hour bus ride sitting next to Fred. We had the video camera with us so Amanda and I asked questions and recorded many of Fred’s stories. We had a great time getting to know each other and starting our next couple of weeks working and playing at camp. We shared stories and experiences daily as we ate our meals together. This time when I went to play on the mats, it was totally different. I felt like everything was okay and at one point I looked up and saw one of the Polish therapist on the other side of the mat. We both knew instantly and naturally how to be there for each other. We crawled straight towards each other, hugged and rolled and rolled laughing. It was amazing. We connected. No words, just play. From that moment on I knew what play was but after camp I wasn’t sure how or what to do to repeat it. It had just happened. I remember it like it was yesterday. I will always feel a special bond with this person.
The next time I went to camp, I spent more time on the mats with Fred and the kids. There was one little boy that captured everyone’s heart but when you played with him on the mats, he was pure joy. We would all smile when someone said ‘I got to play with Thomas today”. It just made our day. I loved to watch Fred play with the children. I still wasn’t sure what he was doing but those children just loved him. He was so aware of each child and each child would go away feeling like they were acknowledged. Some did not want to leave but we would assure them they could come back again. Fred played with children who could barely move by craddling them in his arms and gently touching their hands and feet. They would light up, beaming from head to toe. Some felt so safe that they fell asleep. He would play with the children who just wanted to wrestle as fast and hard as they could. Fred had no rules and no limits for these children. He naturally adapted to each and everyone of them. The only thing he did so they all had a turn was to clap his hands to say your time is done and it is someone else’s turn.
During our two day workshop here in Kelowna I got to watch and learn with new eyes and new ears. I was seeing things that I’ve never even noticed at camp. Probably because I was still learning about the childhood developmental reflexes and did not recognize them as well as I do now but watching him play with the children I could see why Dr. Svetlana Masgutova wants Fred there for every camp. As he bonds and heals their hearts, he also anitiates and gives them the practice of developing those childhood movements that they missed. During play the children used reflex after reflex to keep their bodies moving through space. The proprioceptive awareness and the integration of these movements are crucial in those early childhood years and all of these children with challenges missed some of those reflex patterns. Not to mention the lack of bonding because of illnesses, birthing traumas, etc. Being able to use these movements in such a safe way while you are connected heart to heart is just what the Dr. ordered. It is an amazing healing opportunity for these children. And as you read, from my own journey, it is an amazing healing opportunity for adults as well.
And for this I am forever grateful.
Learning techniques to keep yourself and the children you play with safe while you stay present, where there is no fear, only love, is what Fred’s message is all about. His Mastery is Original Play. God’s gift to us.
If you want to experience the mastery of his learning, don’t miss the workshops coming up at the end of this month. For more info, vist the Workshops section of this site.