First off, I would like to ask you a question: When did you start being an adult and what switch did you make in your life in order to be one? Think about this for a moment.
Then I want you to think about when you experience stuckness in your life. Think about the times when you feel insanely frustrated, annoyed, discouraged, and bored. Think about the times when you work your butt off and NOTHING happens.
All of these situations have one thing in common: THE ABSENCE OF PLAY.
In order to be our best selves, to problem-solve creatively, to think innovatively, to feel healthy and alive in our bodies, to love another person deeply, and to experience ourselves without judgment, we need PLAY.
Throughout my life and from what I have learned and seen in my friends, family, and clients, I have observed over and over again that one of the deepest forms of rest and rejuvenation is PLAY.
Personally, it doesn’t matter if I am stuck in figuring out what my next career move is, what’s creating hindrance in my relationships, or how I can restore my health… for me the way back to equilibrium always seems to be through PLAY.
So, if I create the space to play, what is inevitably true is that everything else begins to flow. My work becomes alive. My purpose is clear. Clients find me. My productivity sky-rockets. My relationships are supportive and nurturing. And I am happy.
BUT, what does PLAYING even mean?
This past Sunday, I was sipping my morning coffee in the company of Martha Beck’s writings. In her book Finding Your Way In A Wild New World, she writes about some of her findings when she asked adults about what it means for them to play.
“When I ask adults to find pictures of play or relaxation in the pages of magazines, they typically –I mean, like 95 percent of the time—cut out images of people lying inertly on some sort of low-slung beach furniture, getting plastered on margaritas. News Flash: this is not play. It’s just evidence of two sad things about modern life: (1) most of us are desperately sleep-deprived, and (2) we’ve largely abandoned our playful, imaginative true nature to media clichés. Real play is actually a wildly creative application of deep practice.” (p. 28).
What I find fascinating about her findings is that both -sleeping and drinking- passively help us do one thing: they help us cancel our inner dialogue that often instructs us that we “should” do certain things.
They help us gain some distance (by being asleep or tipsy) from our stressed out thoughts about what we “need to do.” That tells me that people are deeply yearning for a time and a place where our commanding or restricting thoughts aren’t clouding our simple presence.
Beck’s point is to show us that, as responsible grow-ups, we have often lost our ability to use play to enter a space she calls “wordlessness.”
Beck describes this type of space as a place where your brain stops thinking in words and your whole self simply experiences. Most of us are so used to taking things in through our mind and then quickly attaching words to them, that the moments when we experience spontaneous joy are often short AND few and far between.
So, instead of working so hard to be “proper grown-ups” who put creative play or “wordlessness” on the backburner (just to chronically catch up on sleep or find relaxation in the comfort of alcohol), what if we began to incorporate play actively in a way that allowed us to drop into this deeply relaxing and playful hemisphere that in turn, allows us to be more successful AND happier?
You might start playing more by trying something new and challenging (think: an art class, a cooking session, a book club,...), by being physically active and getting into your body (think: try a challenging hike, join a sports team, get certified as a yoga instructor,...) or even by infusing simple every day task with a playful attitude (think: dance while you get ready in the morning, chop your veggies in a rhythm, add a funny edge to usually boring work emails, decorate your dining table before you sit down to eat etc.)
In the comments below, I would love to hear from you about 2 specific things:
a) In what areas in your life are you too grown-up? In what areas of your life are you pushing really hard without seeing any results?
b) What is a way of playing that you would like to try? How can you consciously start playing more, so that you can fuel your creative mind and re-create positive movement in all areas of your life?
I cannot wait to read what you have to say!
P.S.: If you struggle with incorporating play into your life, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org by Sunday, June 30th and enter to win one of 3 Strategy Sessions that I am giving away for FREE in the month of July. First come, first serve!