Play: Verb 1.engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose: "the children were playing outside”.
When was the last time you took some time to play? Pull open your calendar and book a one-hour session to play at your favorite thing this week! Measurable benefits of play include lowered blood pressure, improved cardiovascular function, decreased inflammation, and improved brain function. Emotionally, play connects people, increases empathy, and produces fun, joy, and wonder. After giving it a try, I can say that the science is real.
I am taking a 12-week class based off of the work, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. One of the weekly assignments is to have an artist date with yourself to play, to create, or foster joy. This is challenging for me. “Who has time?!” “Work to do.” “Soup does not cook itself!” My habit wants to dismiss play as silly and trivial. Play is silly and trivial…and so much more!
Play is increasing my capacity to notice and appreciate what is happening in the moment. It is like exiting the freeway and taking the scenic route to discover beauty. It causes me to really look and experience the moment while I am in it. It has a freedom to risk trying things that does not involve failure but rather an unexpected outcome. I can create a world of form that invites freedom to imagine something entirely different. Play pulls things out of me that are dormant until the conditions of play germinate possibility.
“Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature.” ― Tom Robbins
Where to begin?
First set aside the time once a week. Mark a weekly space on your calendar titled “JUST FOR ME”. Decide what amount feels right for you and block it off. Now, imagine what you would love to do. What is whispering, “I need this. Take time to…” Feeling stuck on how to begin? Allow yourself some nature time to watch play in action. Children flop on the earth in relationship to what is going on from the ant on a blade of grass to watching the clouds drift by above with wonder. Play is being a part of this by willing yourself to notice and participate in the environment. Go for a walk with the idea that nature is wanting to give you a message.
“This is the real secret of life -- to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.” ― Alan Watts
What do you notice?
This week, I have had family play with a game and word play using poetry. I entered both activities with the mindset that doing this is the most important thing right now. 100% present. Not wishing to be productive or get anything done, my focus was on play. Games with the family pushed me to problem solve and sequence in new ways. The risk I spoke of earlier has ended many games with me winning laughter and appreciation of another’s victory. I am surprised by the raucous delight in a family group game. Exploring poetry has opened astonishment. This playdate created room to ponder, “Does the soul arrive as big as it is, and we reveal more over the course of our lives, or do we create entire new rooms with wonder and appreciation?”
Play is messy. It is an endeavor that has no clear path or destination. My play is pen and paper with words jumping around, jostling things over, wanting to be chosen as ink on the page. In using these words, I wrestle with embracing what is not yet in existence and love the feel of rhythm and choice. Play is best when we can leave our egos on the side and show up to seek, to create, to be willing, to participate. I am here. I have a date with play. I am ready to dabble, try, explore, and wonder.
As I am getting to know play, I am discovering it in other places. It’s like a friend appearing unexpectedly in my day. I did not know my work was play before. I knew the feeling of working in spirit, in flow. I’ve never connected that to play. Play is recognizable now in new ways. I am appreciating the whimsy in the moment. Being in flow, wonder can unfold. I am having more fun. I found Alan Watts’ secret, “This is the real secret of life -- to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.”
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