When we’re young, our lives brim with latitude and opportunity, and we fill our time with whatever piques our interests. We build our lives in our image.
As the years pass, our interests accumulate into ever larger quantities, carving out permanent space within the finite capacity of our existence. Obligations and responsibilities progressively compound, and our time is less and less ours to spend freely. We come to serve the things we possess, and protect what we’ve gathered.
Entrenched in the reality of our choices, we hunt for temporary relief so that we may, if only briefly, reclaim what’s ours. Though this can be challenging due to the staggering complexity of our lives, the best counter to more is always less, and when simplicity is the target, there’s nothing quite like tossing around a ball.
Footballs, basketballs, soccer balls, volleyballs, tennis balls, softballs, golf balls, bowling balls, pickleballs, bocce balls, squash balls, lacrosse balls; hell, throw in hockey pucks, shuttlecocks and frisbees too. While this list is far from comprehensive, the spotlight isn’t meant to be on the which but rather the when, because the chosen game merely facilitates the actual goal: allowing the body to break free from the brain’s interference and take charge of itself for a while.
Fear not, there’s no right or wrong way to chase after a ball, to spend time playing – it can involve others or not, have a score or not, contain lasting meaning or not – all that matters is that it happens. A breeze blows across the face, hands defy gravity, feet bounce in place, touch intensifies, focus locks on the present moment, movement transforms into life.
There are a dozen or more reasons why tossing around a ball becomes vitality in the veins, but five of the best are:
- Being a kid is rejuvenating.
- Slip into the body, and out of the mind.
- A good sweat relies on physicality.
- Introducing new inputs sharpens the senses.
- Play is pleasurable.
1) Being a kid is rejuvenating.
The world is full of obligations & regulations, mistakes & corrections, hassles & woes. Electing to get away by focusing on an ordinary ball unlocks a doorway into a less complicated past life, and experiencing the long lost sensations that come with it is consistently pleasurable.
Though this door can only remain open for short stints, the feelings that come from recreational play swell the soul with a sense of untethered gratification for life.
The world has never felt lighter than it does after sinking a few 3-pointers in a row, and when that happens there’s no place anyone would rather be.
2) Slip into the body, and out of the mind.
Left unchecked, our mind tends to run rampant with its dominating control over our body. Unfortunately, mere recognition of this fact is only half the battle, because in the long run too much self-awareness can be as lousy as not enough.
Remember: “The mind is a wonderful servant but a terrible master.” It’s healthy to occasionally force our brain to take a break from itself, and this can be carried out by fully inhabiting our body while toying with a ball. Additionally, without the heaviness of thought weighing down our body’s natural movement, we’re also able to function more fluidly, closer to the way we’ve been evolutionarily designed to operate.
There’s no sweeter feeling than when the hips, shoulders and hands move in nimble coordination to create a high-quality golf swing.
3) A healthy sweat relies on physicality.
Finding methods to keep our heart and body physically fit is essential for lively longevity, and there’s no replacement for exercise. While lifting weights or running laps accomplishes the goal, those activities can become repetitive and boring; on the other hand, chasing after a ball can make for a thorough workout that can’t be replicated in any other way.
The body responds well to occasional bouts of physical stress, and pushing past our comfort zone only widens the scope of what we’re capable of in the future.
A single game of pick-up basketball after some time away can be enough to make the lungs pump, the quads howl, and enhance the hunger for more.
4) Introducing new inputs sharpens the senses.
It’s beneficial to process the world through a variety of prisms, such as a Sunday crossword or a 2000-piece puzzle. The physical version of these is the development of muscle memory, wherein the body internalizes how to anticipate bounces and adjust for angles. Essentially, it’s cultivating athleticism.
Coaxing consciousness out of its normal routine also improves reflexive decision-making, which comes in handy when operating on the fly, as much of life tends to necessitate.
When the opponent plays a drop shot, deep thought won’t recognize the spin and charge the net in time to save the point.
5) Play is pleasurable.
There are limitless ways to spend time, but none are more enjoyable than playing for the sake of amusement. To entertain oneself through carefree movement is just plain fun.
Compete hard, but let the results fade; treat the game like it means everything, but recognize it as an irreverent diversion; give everything to the experience, but ask for nothing in return.
Go deep, because the quarterback is aiming for the endzone.
Of course, don’t take my word for it! Prioritize action and go engage first-hand in the joy of running after a ball.