It would be hard to make a complete list of the value of play. Its benefits seem endless. Play isn’t simply something we do, as in the opposite of work. It is a lens to look through that shapes your life. Anything can be play and anything can be work.
Play has never failed me. I can work and be inspired, expanded, creative and nourished. Love my work. Yet it is play that deserves the credit for carrying my life in its arms. Work is, indeed, love made visible as Kahlil Gibran wrote. Yet it is play that feeds and fuels that love, that gives us the ability and inspiration to spread that love around.
A trip to the grocery story can be play, a game, a date. Or it can be made drudgery. Pruning the trees, a financial spreadsheet, the marketing strategy for your team, cleaning the house, catching the moles in your back yard can be made play or work. A game with yourself about what you accomplish, how you design the tree, how inspired your team becomes, where the dusty bunnies are hiding out, how much your money loves organization, a competition with your neighbor to catch the moles, how much your mate loves your surprise hidden in the grocery cart.
“Everyone lives a life shaped by others until they awaken to the life story trying to unfold from within them,” says mystic and teacher Michael Meade. Often, we focus on work as a way of expressing our callings. Yet for that work to have fresh fuel and ongoing meaning, we need play. Play as a lens we look through to shape the whole of our lives, for spontaneous laughter and surprise, for changing the chemistry of our brains and bodies, for awakening to the life story unfolding from within.
It’s something like our musculature. There is so much awareness and knowledge available to us these days on how to strengthen our little muscles. How those muscles and tendons do the work of balancing us, keeping us nimble and agile for our timeless lives. It’s the little muscles we forget about that are supporting all the big ones.
That is, until we workout in a different way that accesses those so-called little muscles, or we become less confident in our balance over time because we have neglected those muscles in our bodies.
Work may get the credit as the big muscles carrying the weight, jumping, and lifting (work being anything we are doing, paid or unpaid, as a sense of purpose in our lives). But it is play that strengthens the so-called little muscles supporting our balance, agility and nimbleness—metaphorically and literally.
If you didn’t grow up with play woven through your day to day life, it can bring extraordinary value and joy to the way you live and shape your destiny. Single or with loved ones, you can make a game of things with yourself and with each other. Not that you’re going to lose touch with the sacred and serious moments. You know when those are.
What little surprises can you make up and leave for a loved one? What games can you play in the garden, during dishes, the grocery store, the hallway, on movie night, during the work day, breakfast, dinner, workouts, reading a book, a bike ride, and in the car?
I happened to do a search on my computer and found that it was the exact same Monday in 2019 that I also posted on the value of play. Go figure. I have included an excerpt below.
An excerpt from my blog on August 26, 2019:
What feeds and rejuvenates you? Do you take yourself to exhaustion before you play? Or can you maintain a dynamic that doesn’t require extremes for you to listen to your own needs? Do you use play to avoid stress or is it part of your flow, so you feel truly rejuvenated by it? Does your mind still run rampant or can you be truly present in play? Are you surrounded by people who match you and raise you in your play or are you dispersing your energies even further? Can you enjoy the silence and stillness?
Play comes from wholeness and it grows your wholeness. Play feeds your work and sense of purpose. I see the relationship between work and play kind of like the relationship white man has had with the brain and the heart. The heart is actually much more powerful, sending thousands of times more information to the brain than the brain sends to the heart. Yet white man in his linear focus lived for centuries thinking the brain was the control center.
Thanks to science and ancient spirituality and indigenous peoples, we now know and continue to grow in our understanding of the heart as the true center.
Likewise, I see play as the true center. It’s not a matter of how much time is spent in play and work, but the balance we hold within and our relationship to them both.
It can take a lot of faith to play, because you’re letting go of “control”, of keeping track of everything, and trusting co-creation. An incredible thing happens when you truly play and have all the belief structure within yourself to enjoy it freely. Your brain and subconscious organize the other parts of your life while you’re totally focused on playing. You receive what you need for the rest of your life, your work, your writing, your relationships, when you are playing. You heal. Your body reorganizes and takes in the message that all is well. Because it is. And then you experience more of that.
Play. All those tasks and responsibilities will be there when you get back. I promise ;-). And the free-er you are in your belief structures to play and enjoy it—not as avoidance, or something else to do or fill space with, or ‘do self-care’–the more your whole being, your business, your relationships, your body, your spirit and true nature, will thrive on it.
Here’s to more of You in the world, ❤️