It’s been a big discovery for me. I’ve had an ambivalent relationship with play. For a long time I’ve been aware of the longing for more fun and lightness in my life. I’ve even called it play, but I think I’ve been stuck with the idea that play is something that kids do. I’ve associated it with games, and crafts. And I’ve been very aware that many of the things others ‘do’ for play aren’t resonant for me.

It’s Summer time in the Northern Hemisphere. Many are on vacation. In North America, Canada and the USA have just celebrated their national holidays – July 1 and 4. Over the long weekends picnics and family events, parades, concerts and fireworks were in the air; ready made invitations for playing and having fun! I grew up with the idea of this kind of play – on holidays and special occasions.

Hmmm – what’s it all about anyway?!
Discovering a fuller understanding of play …
But what about play on a day to day basis?


Of the 21 dictionary definitions I discovered of the noun “play”, the one that felt most applicable was “an exercise or activity for amusement or recreation.”

I was fascinated when I looked up the source of the word “amuse” to discover in the 1670s, it was looked down on. Then, amusement was seen as anything that “pleasantly diverted the attention from duty, work, etc.” and that was NOT a respectable thing to do. No wonder for many of us adults steeped in the value of work, there’s a deep-seated disquiet around the idea of play!

So imagine my relief when I realized in this definition of play, amusement was coupled with the notion of “recreation” – “a resource affording, relaxation and enjoyment, restoration, recovery and re-creation”.

It wasn’t that I took this definition as giving me permission to play. What the exploration did was allow me to see and hold a fuller understanding of the richness play offers. I can now feel in my body more clearly, the value of play as a powerful combination of pleasant diversion of attention from duty, work etc., that offers me the relaxation and enjoyment that’s essential for re-storing and re-covering my re-sources so I can re-turn to re-create anew. There’s such a sense of aliveness in this!

Writing my last eNews triggered this reflection. I’d been remembering the Practical Steps in Coming Back Home to Ourselves – the work that’s so powerful and dear to my heart. And the notion of expanding practices for developing hearts that are more supple and resilient as we face the pain that’s in our world. I particularly recognized how deeply the idea of taking time for story telling, dancing, singing and silence, was resonating in me.

Finding balance between these two – doing the ‘work’ of coming back home to us, AND attending to nurturing ourselves in the uniquely resonant way that’s true for each of us – is crucial for our well-being. While we don’t want to have our attention focused ONLY on ourselves, attending to the care of our own spirit FIRST is an ongoing practice for me, and for many of us who seeing the enormous pain and need in our world, feel called to make a difference.

As Thom Bond, Founder and Director of the New York Center for Nonviolent Communication reminds us “one of most important skills that we can develop to have more compassion in our lives is the skill of feeling feelings. This empowers us to connect to needs, which in turn, engenders compassion.”

So though not surprised, I’ve been struck that in their online Compassion Course that started a few weeks ago, once again we were invited to begin by looking at the basics – our own feelings and needs.

And in the Needs list (a wonderful resource, I hope you take a look at it), I was particularly taken by the Play section! I loved seeing the different facets of Play that were listed – adventure, excitement, fun, humor, joy, relaxation and stimulation … ahhh! These were things I could relate to. This list really helped me expand my sense of what play is – much more than just games and crafts.


Having fun together …

I recognized that I’d been judging myself as not playing much because I don’t enjoy or engage in many of the things others consider play or fun – team sports, motorcycles and roller coasters are not me!

At the same time, I’d not been acknowledging as play the things like watching recorded episodes of Chopped, or discovering and exploring delicious new ideas (especially in conversation with others!) that both pleasantly divert my attention from work, and stimulate my creative juices in many ways.

And relaxing quiet walks in nature (particularly when there’s sand and water involved), or enjoying music at some of our local music festivals are wonderful ways I enjoy and feel my creativity restored and renewed.

Beach walking relaxation …

Having a fuller and more accurate idea of play, along with an expanded in-my-body understanding of what play feels like for me has been a powerful shift. I now have many more ways of thinking about playing. I can feel the inner draw to diversion of attention from ‘duty’ in service to re-newing my creativity. It’s made it easier to give myself permission to notice when it’s time to play, and a clearer and bigger menu of options to choose from. AND, I know that having company in engaging a new practice makes things both easier and more fun!

So I’m wondering about you? What has play meant for you? Has this exploration triggered any new thoughts or possibilities in you? Might you be ready to join me in exploring? If so, do be in touch!

BTW, I’d just posted this when a friend pointed me to this series of wonderful photographs (and hopefully as fun for you as they were for me!) of kids playing around the world. Perhaps inspiration? Have a look!

Image Credit – Curious boy. frank mckenna on Unsplash.

Nurturing juicy co-creative partnerships
…with ourselves, others & life!