At the Playground, where I work play, there is a very small treasure box.

Whenever you remember something that hurts, you drop a tiny stone from the bowl of tiny stones into the treasure box.

If it hurts a lot, you can drop more stones. All the stones! It’s okay.

Each stone makes a sound halfway between a tiny plop and a tiny thunk. A tiny plop-thunk. It is the best.

When the treasure box is full of stones, you empty the stones back into their bowl, and you begin again.

Here is what the box is good for.

Recognition.

Guess what? Things from then can still be painful, even if they are over.

They can still get to be painful.

Plop-thunk.

Legitimacy.

It is okay that this thing still hurts.

Or that I have uncovered a new hurt.

It’s okay that I am feeling whatever it is that I’m feeling, even if I’m not sure why this is coming up right now.

Actually, sometimes why isn’t even the right question.

This is what I’m feeling. Plop-thunk.

This is what is true for me in this moment. Legitimate.Plop-thunk.

There is nothing wrong with me for feeling this. Plop-thunk.

Comfort.

There is the having-something-to-do part, which is comforting. Plop-thunk.

The ritualized aspect, which is (for me) also comforting.

There is a symbolic but very physical repository for pain, which is comforting.

The stones are there for you whenever you need them, which is comforting.

And you are also comforting yourself through giving legitimacy to the feelings and marking the moment of being in them.

Interruptions.

Plop-thunk is the sound of patterns being interrupted.

Telling the story of a break-up, for example, is very different when you do it while sitting by the treasure box of stones.

You tell the story differently.

It’s almost like you get to tell the story without going into the story.

You have to be paying attention because you’re dropping stones as you talk. So it’s not the same old story. It’s a new one.

This version of the story comes with awareness and is accompanied by acknowledgment. Rewritten through the addition of sweet pauses. All the old patterns getting interrupted with love.

Because tiny stones are the most compassionate interruption there is. Plop-thunk-plop-thunk-plop-thunk..

Flow.

Sometimes this thing happens where we tell stories about old pain, and then the telling just serves to reinforce something. We go into wheel-grinding. Each retelling makes the narrative that much more rigid, deepening the pain-grooves and the perception of being wronged.

But! When you tell your story while dropping stones into a treasure box (plop-thunk!), everything begins to move again.

New insights reveal themselves. Something that used to be about disillusion can suddenly turn out to be about discovery. Or freedom.

Stories (like anything else) are made new when you get to interact with them in a new way. Yay, unexpected opportunities for movement. Plop-thunk.

Presence.

Oh. Hello, pain. This is me and this is my pain and this is my stuff and this is me reminding myself that I am noticing all of this.

And every time I notice, I’m stepping out of the pain-experience and into a new state: the loving-observer-of-me-going-through-the-pain-experience.

I am being with the pain and with the me-who-is-in-pain. But I am not the pain itself. This leads to the (advanced practice! super hard! but really great!) superpower of compassionate detachment. And to love and permission. To all the good things, really.

And I can do this even while I’m in the hard. Even when I’m not liking being in the hard. Just by dropping a stone into a box.

Each plop-thunk of stone-into-box is helping me be the tiniest bit more conscious. Plop-thunk. Plop-thunk..

Reminders.

I am here, now.

Now is not then.

I have different tools and different skills that weren’t available to me the last time I felt this way.

There are always more stones.

Commenting blanket fort. Come play, if you like.

Seriously. There are always more stones.

If you would like (plop-thunk!) to drop a stone or several stones or ALL THE STONES here, you are welcome to.

In a way, it’s a bit like bringing things to the fountain. Or throwing things into the pot. And it also works really well as a subset of silent retreat.

So if you would like to play, I would love to have company. Drop in stones with me. Or say plop-thunk with me. Or leave something that got sparked for you.

The usual reminders: We all have our stuff. We’re all working on our stuff. It’s a process. We make this a safe and welcoming space by not putting our stuff onto other people. We take care of ourselves while not trying to take care of anyone else.