The other day while I was outside with my kids, they got on their bikes and started riding around in circles.
After a few minutes, they stopped to save a fuzzy caterpillar undulating across the trail, watching and nudging it along. Then they got back on to ride around again.
They weren’t trying to get somewhere, or burn calories, or master a skill. They were just playing and experiencing life as it was happening.
Children are masters at this.
Then at some point, usually around age 10 but sometimes earlier, we become aware of and care about what other people think. We try to live by others expectations, we conform to who society is telling us we should be.
And play starts to take a back seat to being responsible. Just saying that word, responsible makes my shoulders and neck tense up.
Sadly, by 23 as a society we nearly stop playing altogether because it’s time to get to work.
Stuart Brown of the National Institute for Play (this actually exists! It’s a real place!) has studied play for decades and what his research, and many neuroscientists have found (#nerdalert), is play floods our brains with the feel-good hormone dopamine, allowing for greater fun and flow.
Essentially, playing makes us better at work and better at life.
Playing allows for learning and making new connections. It helps us get out of our routine, makes us more interesting, and creates space. Play makes everything seem more vivid, vibrant, and technicolor. It’s where the magic is.
As Rumi says, “close the language door and open the love window.” When we stop talking and start playing, we get out of our heads and thoughts and instead open up our bodies and feeling states. We are better able to sense what we need and tap into our inner knowing, our intuition.
Play makes us smarter and saner (we could all use a little more sanity right now!).
Our culture has taught us that play is something to do when you have leisure time. But we would like to make a suggestion. What if we eliminate the word, “work” altogether and instead call it’ “play”. With play, you don’t have to have a reason other than that it’s fun and there’s no right or wrong way to do it.
Try it during this long weekend. When you get on your bike, or take a walk, or camp, or even do “work”, experiment and explore. Note what happens when you bring more playful energy into everything you do.
Have fun with this. Isn’t that the whole point of this wild and crazy life?
Enjoy, stay safe, and play!