By Chelsea Elkins, Simple Intentions Program & Marketing Manager
On the most foundational level, to be in play means to be in a state of presence, spontaneity, and above all to allow yourself to let go. The highest form of play taps into our inner child and allows us to experience a pure lightness and joy that temporarily washes away all the heaviness that can come with adulthood. We abandon our worries, doubts, mortgage, and perhaps just for a moment truly experience play.
A few weeks ago I was able to attend my very first Seattle Wisdom where we gathered to explore the topic of play both in and out of the workplace. When our host Sameer placed a large box of toys and coloring tools in our midst, the room grinned at each other shiftily, everyone fully aware that as adults most of us would feel more comfortable talking about play than actually playing. One participant even bravely announced she was feeling a bit anxious about “playing wrong” – a worry that I think was on more than one mind.
It seems our confidence around play (and often a slew of other things) that we had when we commanded the sandbox inevitably starts to fade, or rather, is pounded out of us by a demanding and often anti-play society. As a result, I realized that I am a culprit of halfway play. Similar to halfway conversations, halfway play is a suppressed expression that usually doesn’t accomplish the desired outcome (which in this case would be having fun). Perhaps your body is playing but your mind is preoccupied with tomorrow’s meetings or your upcoming move. When we are merely going through the motions of play, it is because we are unable to be fully present. We may be uncomfortable, anxious, or uncertain about something which prevents us from truly surrendering to play.
Funnily enough, we were experts at playing through those very situations as kids. We thrived in the unfamiliar as children and gravitated towards the thrill of the undiscovered, the delight of fear. Games like Hot Lava Monster, Marco Polo, even Hide & Seek all encouraged us to find exhilaration in the unknown. Everyone faces difficult circumstances as well as unpleasant or just boring situations. What if we chose to exercise a playful spirit during these times and embraced uncertainty just like we did as a child? Next time you find yourself preparing for an audit at work, assembling your new couch, or in an awkward social situation, take pause and think of Hot Lava Monster. We have the choice and the capability to smile and challenge ourselves to see some small shred of humor, exhilaration, or beauty that is likely lingering near the moment.
The act of play is spontaneous by nature, making it something you can’t really plan out. Though you can’t plan play, you can plan playtime! Set aside an hour a week, 5 minutes a day, or whatever you are able to achieve – just make sure that play is on your schedule.
Play in fear, play in fun, just play on!