Playing to win at game of life Stress: Especially at the holidays, says self-help author Drew Leder, the soul needs new toys.

November 30, 1998|By Ernest F. Imhoff | Ernest F. Imhoff,SUN STAFF

As a boy in New York City, Dr. Drew Leder made up games -- tossing his pillow around his room as a Yankees pitcher or throwing clothes into waste baskets as a Knick.

At 43, he's still playing games, despite his status as husband and father, philosophy professor at Loyola College, holder of medical and Ph.D. degrees and author of self-help books.

And with the high-stress holiday season under way, Leder suggests that frustrated shoppers, arguing family members and frenetic partygoers might endure the pressures better by taking healthy timeouts in games.

He offers 40 ways to lighten up in a new 235-page paperback, "Games for the Soul," subtitled "40 Playful Ways to Find Fun and Fulfillment in a Stressful World" (Hyperion, New York). It's the latest entry in publishing's list-book fad.

Leder's games lean to the positive. Rather than whining about what went wrong today, have a little Academy Awards ceremony with your children, he suggests. Urge everyone to suggest "something good I did," "something good someone else did" and "blessings from the universe," then give a grand prize for the best deed.

Or, instead of doing several things at once, do the "take-your-time tango." Think of the slow and stately dance and do only one thing: For example, no cooking dinner and talking on the phone, wiping the counter and emptying the dishwasher. Just cut those broccoli spears and enjoy your little trees.

While struggling with the annoyances of life, think to thank. For each cubbyhole of your life -- work, family, nature, health, special pleasures -- think of things to be thankful for. Forget the phone. Write a few thank-you cards.

Rather than ignoring the outdoors in your walled-in office, let the outside in for a few moments: "Notice the texture of the air, the shifting patterns of sun and cloud, of wind and stillness."

Leder says the holidays are when people should reconnect in the deepest sense with their sources of strength and happiness -- their God, family and friends.

"It's a time when days are getting shorter, darker and colder and the season brings a resurgence of light," he says. "That's the idea. The reality is quite different. You have to buy gifts. You have social obligations. You become stressed. This time can be more about losing, not reconnecting, your center of loving relationships."

Hence, try some games.

Each of his 40 games contains the thread of a spiritual principle, such as forgiveness, gratitude, generosity and compassion. The book's sources are religions and cultures such as Christianity, Judaism, Zen Buddhism, Hinduism and Native American philosophy.

Written at his Roland Park home in the summer of 1997, "Games" follows Leder's 1997 book about the second half of one's life, "Spiritual Passages: Embracing Life's Sacred Journey." With a family history including cancer and suicide, Leder says a personal background of compulsive problems has led him to a 12-step program and other therapy and spiritual tools. He has been on a serious path attempting discipline and sacrifice, though "secretly I longed to have fun," he says. He helped find ways to "lighten up" through his and his wife Janice McLane's 2-year-old daughter, Sarah Chang-Ye Leder.

"She can light up a room at a hundred paces with megawatts of play-energy," he says. "Play is how she relates to the world. It is her tool of concentration, learning and growth, her instrument of delight. Hey, if it's good enough for a 2-year-old, why not her 43-year-old dad?"

Leder finds appropriate the words of Matthew 18: 3 in the New Testament: "Be like a little child or you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven."

Pub Date: 11/30/98

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