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The Play’s the Thing

It is a happy talent to know how to play.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

If ever there was a season to re-think our capacity and intent to play it is the winter holidays. The darkness and all of the twinkling lights hanging everywhere is the modern day backdrop for all our collective holiday stories celebrating the rising light, re-birth and renewal. And yet, for many of us, this annual pageantry is flooded with past, unresolved pain and suffering that overshadows with a story line of its own. One of the greatest gifts and things I miss most about the end of my child raising years was the wonder and play that my kids inspired in all the daily aspects of living, let alone the holidays. One of them always had a true perspective or pertinent question that cut to the heart of what was happening.  And the boys were always looking for a laugh. I learned how joyful holidays could be from watching my kids and I miss it enough that I am now learning how to cultivate this urge to play in myself. I hope this short list of how to get your own play on is helpful.

Play the Heavy, Play the Fool

“Seriousness is a disease.” Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh

Too often we lose the integrity of play in adulthood, and get stuck in ridiculous roles that become so familiar over years that it becomes impossible to distinguish our authentic selves from the weighty cloak we wear.  Carrying around past mistakes and constantly listening to the repeating negative self talk is one of the most common ways that our play degenerates into a caricature of who we really are. Especially when we stop to remember how brilliantly and creatively we lived and imagined ourselves as a child. I often find myself stopping into the baby store on the corner of our building to watch the kids play. They switch new roles every two minutes and sometimes faster than that. So the first challenge is this- Even if only for five minutes, change your mind, switch roles and imagine yourself and life from another perspective. Make yourself laugh.

Play it Cool

“Whoever wants to understand much must play much.”  Gottfried Benn

As you practice playing and becoming more spontaneous with your perspective, it will surprise you with a few happy consequences. The more fluid your sense of identity becomes, the more curious you can be about what is actually happening around you and the less you are driven by the old tapes in your head. The more we can play with our idea of ourselves, the more access we have to the present moment.  Becoming fully present within our lives gives us the added benefit of not reacting so much, literally keeping our cool. Next time the holiday pressure starts to boil up, get out of your head and start using your senses to anchor you to the moment you are in. Play with replacing judgment with witnessing the environment and notice how cool you are.  Might even make you want to dance.

Play for Keeps 

 “Someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” C.S. Lewis

Tapping into the creativity and innovation that our childhood play selves thrived on transforms and inspires.   We spend less attention on how it looks to others and more to how it feels to be there. This shift allows you to actually hear that little voice inside of you nudging you in one direction rather than another, it allows you to follow your hunches and turn them into good ideas. You become capable and intent on believing not only in your dreams and aspirations, but in your own goodness.  The idea that work and play are not so different from each other becomes more real and the happy endings that we dismissed as fairy tales become available to us when we re-focus on our ability to play. Start noticing all the things that went right in one hour a day, and then go back in time and count all the things that had to go right for the ones you noticed to work. Suddenly you witness yourself in a chain of positive outcomes that just minutes before seemed like a fairy tale. What are you waiting for, let the play begin.