[My thanks to Dr. Tatiana Agafonova, DC; a Doctor of Chiropractic and specialist in Somatic-Respiratory Integration (SRI), which she uses in her practice and teaches...based upon the research and work of Dr. Donald Epstein, DC. The image of the sandbox came out of a conversation that Tatiana and I had at a workshop she did this past weekend].
Just about everyone had a type of sandbox growing up...or at least access to one. At our childhood home, Dad had a load of yellow sand placed on the north side of our driveway, near the garage and half under a brazilian pepper tree (these trees are no longer "legal" in Florida, and our parents had ours removed during my high school years..another story). We had the ability to dig tunnels for our sand play gear, create castles and cities and play "army" with our plastic figurines and military equipment. Fun days!
When our girls were growing up, we created a more conventional sandbox in our backyards. It was large enough for four our five little people to have a good time and was filled with a load of white sand...heavy enough to be useful when wet for making castles and stuff. Countless times, we were called to the back end of our backyard to view the latest "make" and experience the latest in creative and imaginative productions.
My brother and I grew up, and the sand near the garage was spread through the lawn with only the bare traces of the yellow that signified a once active little series of "kingdoms."
As our girls grew, we sold one of our homes, when I was called to another parish. We left the next home, which was owned by the parish. In each situation, we left the sandbox for what new creative energy would occupy that space. By that time, the girls were away in college and essentially gone. Our last home, alas, had no sandbox...at least not the kind I have described. I missed seeing those play areas and what they meant.
As an adult, one of my "sandbox experiences" was the yard of the home we had at any given time. Creating beds for plants, flowers and vegetables/herbs became an off-work passion. The sculpting of shrubs and the placement of colors and variations of green engaged the creative presentation of "the castle"...our home.
Denise and I built two homes, owned two homes and lived in a home owned by the cathedral in South Bend...over the space of the 30 years leading to this latest move. Each one was unique in scope, shape, and eco-diversity. Each was a fresh challenge -- either to create "ex-nihil" or shift and shape what existed when we moved in.
We now live in a townhome (a two-story condominium with about 2K square feet) in a development of 24 buildings. Each building has eight condos -- with a total of four different floor plans. They are well-built, but every "Ruby" (our particular model) is identical. There are some variations based upon choices of kitchen cabinet styles, floor tile coloring (stone tiles, btw), upstairs carpet colors, etc.
The grounds of our condo development -- called Stonehaven -- are the domain of the HOA and maintained by landscapers and a grounds maintenance company. It's creatively done and contains a lot of bio-diversity. Sarasota is considered "sub-tropical" so our plants and trees are quite different than the midwest or other parts of the country. We have a number of palm species, water oaks, Florida Holly, a southern species of maple, cypress and plants and shrubs too numerous to list.
I have to admit, I miss doing yardwork. Why? It is all about the creative "sandbox" that has been the yards I have maintained over the past four decades. It was hard, sweaty and sometimes downright tiresome work; but the satisfaction of drinking a beer or glass of iced-tea at the end of the day and taking in the vista of my day's labor can't really be described. Now, as I watch the landscapers plant new trees, shrubs and plants around the final four buildings of our development, I find myself saying things like, "Damn, why did they decide to place those palms in that location?" Or, "That's a perfect spot for that young oak." I actually went out and pulled a few weeds last week (after the storm and before the lawn maintenance guys got here). It actually felt good! Call me weird, but it was something of a "sandbox moment." I stood back and admired how that small work had changed the mini-biosphere of that section of shrubbery. [BTW, discarded biomass in this area is composted by Sarasota County...in our case...and used in a variety of creative ways...a corporate sandbox?]
This past Saturday, Dr. Agafonova and I were not talking about biosphere sandboxes. We actually got into a post-workshop conversation about the next phase of the Somatic-Respiratory Integration (SRI) development. It was she who said, "That would be a very good sandbox in which to play and develop a new part of this technology..." Her words grabbed all the memories I have just unpacked above. I am at that phase of my own psycho-spiritual development where key words become icons for a wide play of experiences and new ideas that greet me in the process and project me forward.
It occurred to me, as I came away from our conversation, that there is a "sandbox" in which I have been playing and building for many, many years. I just never saw it that way at all. There is a place deep within each of us. Sadly, it is not visited by many, but it is there nonethless. It is a space described by theologians like John Sanford, Morton Kelsey; mystics like Julian of Norwich, John of the Cross; psychologists like Carl Jung, Abraham Maslow and physiologists like Dr. Memnet Oz, Andrew Weil. These are just a few of the many in each discipline that comprise of the full scope of humanity who talk about this space deep within....where body, mind and spirit come together. It very much fits my description of an "inner sandbox."
From the psycho-physical point, entry comes through the work of our right brain...the area which embraces the intuitive and imaginative neuro-psychological functions. From the psycho-spiritual point, entry also comes through the right brain; but also engages the unconscious level of the psyche. From the point of all three elements of our being, SRI helps gain entry...becoming aware of the rhythms of our physiological and respiratory functions.
This inner sandbox provides lots of opportunities for playful interaction within ourselves, with the Holy and then outwardly with others. I am not sure how we lose that externalization of our childhood imagination, but I know why. We are taught somewhere along the line that it is time to quit being a kid and grow up....get serious about the world and what we do in life. That totally external, ultra-logical and mechanical process (or techological, behavioral...) is the function of the left brain. As I have said, it is important, but it isn't the controlling or primary aspect of being human.
To be human is to be a synthesis of all elements of our createdness. I want to submit that synthesizing our humanness is a process that has the outward and visible sign of the sandbox. It is a modality that is much more playful than it is serious. It is a place of wonder, excitement and energy. Today, we might build the metaphorical castle and be knights, kings, queens and jesters. Tomorrow, we may fashion a city with all kinds of modern elements. The next day could be a battlefield, and yes, play fighting is an appropriate way of learning the limits of the real self and the depths of relationships. Watch young animals engage in scrappy wrestling to build strength and learn relational skills. I am not talking about aggressive dominance here. In the sandbox, everyone is the same and engagement of the parts of self are mutual and respectful in their play. Ego is a left brain function and can be domineering, controlling and destructive at times.
I have to find quiet places to get into my "inner sandbox." I have to drop being "Fr. Fred" or "Honey" (spouse) or "Dad." I don't reject these in the least, but functionally, they are simply identifiers of what needs to be a state of being and not just jobs or roles. I am those things, because I am.......I am.
In my inner sandbox, I learned that "you are, because I AM." The Imago of the Creator has invested in me to make me uniquely who I am. It is my value to life. Oh, and it is also the value of every other human on the planet. Now, it seems, the sandbox theory becomes meddlesome. But, I don't like some folks. They are too....(place it in there: liberal, conservative, rich, poor, educated, uneducated, different skin tone or cultural origin...keep going). But, when we get in the inner sandbox, all that stuff just doesn't matter anymore. It doesn't matter to God...never has...otherwise, we would all be the same. God formed us each the way we are.
Now, granted, the ego has taken control in most situations, and the expression of our perceived reality creates divisive behavior, the destructive kind of fighting, prejudicial judgements and all kinds of things we can call ugly and hurtful. That stuff just isn't in the sandbox...not the inner one. Even in the backyard sandbox, kids playing together in a creative and free-form fashion have remarkable solidarity. It is the true meaning of community.
Time for me to work a bit on my health at the gym, breathe deeply and get centered. More will no doubt come later, after I have played a while in my sandbox.
Much love in He Who Loves Us Always,