There's so much here to react to, Ruth. I could dance off in a million directions. The music notes that resonate the strongest for me are your words about "the journey" and our attitude towards it. When I first came to live in Japan nearly 20 years ago, I became aware of how much emphasis many Americans (and maybe other Western people as well?) give to this idea of "happiness" that seems to color all they experience. Are you "happy" here? Does it make you "happy" to do xxx? - these were questions I often heard Westerners asking each other. But it was rare for me to hear people in this part of the world talk about being happy in the same way. Having an expectation of being happy really affects the way we experience things. So I was very happy(!) when a good friend introduced me to the writing of Thich Nhat Hahn, a Vietnamese Buddhist now living in France. One of his sayings was particularly meaningful to me: "There is no road to happiness; happiness is the road." This simple and slippery idea contains a lot of the same spirit that involves our approaching life playfully, I think.
The other thing I couldn't help but feeling as I read your words was some sense of sorrow, because the environment of most schools and workplaces that I see are unconsciously evoking totally opposite feelings from what we both value. This certainly relates to your last phrase - about "unlearning" old ways.