"Trust of play is a natural wisdom." -Fred O. Donaldson

Watching a child intently engaged in play can be a very enlightening and moving experience for any adult who has ever been separated from his or her own such unsullied ability. Kids who still remember natural play, are the masters. Having experienced myself being inhibited, self-critical or self-conscious at play, a continuing part of my own ongoing recovery process (and that I love to offer to friends and clients as well) is constructing "playshops" for our remembering.

International play specialist Fred Donaldson in his book, Playing By Heart, laments how few adults reach their grown mark with their sense of natural play intact. Even more disparaging is his finding that many children themselves after age seven or so forget this natural instinct for expressing "belonging." What toll does this loss take on our lives?

There are other "natural wisdoms" lost to a majority of us grownups, awaiting our rediscovery through our recovery process. One is the instinctive knowledge of how to love and care for our bodies, those glorious instruments of self expression we emerge from the womb with and then systematically stop listening to. -Why? Because of deeply encultured norms that interfere with our natural knowing and trust, beliefs that our bodies are separate from our minds, and are objects that must be manipulated and controlled. Physical bodies, emotions and feelings, sexual and sensual experienced become confused with shame and distrust. With our natural expression lost in the shadows, we are left with anxiety, despair, anger. The natural wisdoms of joy and play are unavailable. No wonder we seek a "fix.

As an educator and hypnotherapist who has spent thousands of hours with the "inner children" of lots of us grown-ups, I've come to realize how devastating a blow it is to grow up believing there is something shameful, dangerous, or otherwise suspicious about our natural selves. I don't believe, as Sigmund Freud apparently did, that deep down inside a human being lurks an unruly beast waiting to escape. I do believe, however, that if we repress our spontaneity long enough and hard enough, a beastly side of us may appear. It takes the form of destructiveness to ourselves and/or others, from very covert and invisible forms, to very visible signs of inhospitability to life.

A joyful child, or a joyful adult is one who trusts herself, himself innately: one who can express thoughts and feelings accurately and as they form, express love and affection with abandon, and criticism or hurt without offense. A joyous child's body in motion is a miracle to behold, a whirl of unabashed experimentation, uninhibited creativity and vital spirit in motion, -a dance of uniqueness. And while every child needs direction as well to shape that expression for success in life, guidance given out of a sense of inherent trust for what we are is easier, both to give and to receive.

I firmly believe that at heart each of us begins "good," and that it's never too late to reclaim that goodness, and begin again to nurture it. Direction that esteems and honors Nature's Child may produce longer term fulfillment. Positive regard helps us offer our special gifts, and be open to receiving the gifts of others throughout life. We can learn to look for the direction and guidance that flows naturally as we listen to the Voices of our still places inside; then, we can point out to our youth that each has such a wise one inside of them worth listening to. Recovering our natural wisdom, our Deeper Knowing or Higher Power, addictions and compulsions lose their ground.

We gift one another by committing to recover the richness of our own true natures, and learning how to pass it on to the children in our lives. We each are joyfully, playfully divine at heart. As we practice, we become more 'naturally aware.' It takes less effort to be honest, spontaneous, trusting: to enjoy the "Nature Child" within. There is a "wild heart" to be embraced and radically trusted: it is the pulse of Love in us all.

Marcia Singer, MSW, CHt directs The Foundation for Intimacy in Southern California. Nationally recognized for her work in sexual healing, touch awareness and forging intimate connections. "Tao of Play" trainings top her current list.