“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” ~ Dr. Seuss.
Play is training for unconventional and creative living. One could say play is a radical act – for adults! When we allow ourselves to live as authentically playful beings, we stand out from the crowd, from the ways we, and others, are expected to be.
As we grow up, we lose our spontaneity and freedom. Look at how children behave. They twirl around street posts and skip over lines while the rest of us walk straight down the sidewalk. They dance carefree to a busker’s music while the rest of us stand and watch. They engage strangers like friends while we offer only a generic courtesy. They speak up fully and emotionally, while we keep our voices and emotions in check. They dream up ideas such as being a butterfly and flying across the sky, while we limit life to what’s “realistic” and practical. They colour monkeys purple, when we only know brown. Clearly their playground is much bigger than ours!
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain
Here are six ways to live a playful live. By practicing these you will shake yourself free from habits or default behaviours that limit your playground, while expanding your range of choices and awareness of Self and Life!
1. Play with movement
Children have a wider range of body expression than adults. We tend to move our bodies in the same, often rigid and predictable way. When walking down the street try moving your body differently. Start in small ways. Swing your hands in a different way, bounce your head from side to side, or shift your shoulders back and forth, one at a time. After a while try something bigger. Zig zag or walk backwards or sideways, or skip over the lines on the sidewalk. Or while walking in your office hallway twirl around one time…or perhaps more than once, tap the walls, or strut like you just made a million dollars for your organization! Walk like you are the bees knees…because you are!
2. Play with perspective
Instead of always looking straight ahead, or in your usual direction, look up or down, and in a direction you would not normally point your eyes. You may notice something different that you have never seen before. A bird, a lovely coloured leaf, a funny looking cloud, a happy couple cuddling. It is easy, especially in big cities, to point our nose to ground and plow forward. Let’s remember that life is not about getting there but rather enjoying the ride. As you point your eyes in new directions, you never know what you might see, and what may come about from this new perspective.
3. Play with words/conversation
Whether it is, “How’s it going?”, “How was your day?”, or our conventional ways of starting a Monday morning meeting, we have many verbal or conversational routines. It takes awareness and creativity to inject something new and fresh into the mix. For instance, instead of saying Hello to your friend, you could say, “Hey Hey, what do you say!?” Instead of calling your friend by their name, give them an unexpected nickname. Call them “Sunshine” or “Peaches”. (For over three years, a friend and I have consistently called each other Steve. It still brings us and others a good chuckle!) Or start your meeting off by having everyone share the last time they had a really good laugh. Read Creative Connections for more ideas.
4. Play with your surroundings
What you surround yourself with either feeds or depletes your creative, authentic Self. How often do you watch the news? Is the TV blaring in the background? What books do you read? Do they inspire you? What colour are your walls and what pictures do you hang from them. What music do you listen to? Could you play more music in the background, say when cooking dinner or cleaning your home? Do you have plants, or earth coloured tones in your home? Who do you spend your time with? Do your friends support your playful, authentic Self? Can they hold space for the fullness of You? Part of living a playful life is creating the container for playful living, and this means being clear on what supports or does not support authentic living.
5. Play with diverse activities
As creatures of habit, it is easy to always order the same food, buy the same groceries, visit the same theatre and run the same route. Play means looking up when we normally look down, turning left when right is our regular choice. As we expand our range of choices and travel down new paths, we improve our brain functioning by building new neural pathways, and open to new possibilities. So instead of always seeing a movie, go to a live show instead. Instead of always eating the same meals, try to make one new meal a week. Join a class, take a spontaneous road trip, visit a local museum, volunteer your time for a good cause, talk to a homeless person, pay for your friend’s meal, stop to smell a flower, play with a dog that is waiting for its owner, organize a games night, or start a book club. Do one thing different and you never know who you might meet or what adventure may unfold!
6. Play with your smile
A single smile can change someone’s day for the better. I have experienced this when feeling a bit down, someone offers me a warm smile and suddenly I can feel my heart again. Life is not so bad anymore. In the same way that a picture is worth a thousand words, so too is a smile. So share your smile freely and fully. And share your smile with You as well. When feeling down, close your eyes and imagine a soft, warm, loving smile slowly appearing inside you. Allow it to get brighter, filling you with joy and light. Let your inner, playful spirit smile at you from the inside.
As Thich Nhat Hanh says, “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”
Wishing you a most Play Full day. Play on everyone!
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Check out Vince’s book: Let the Fire Burn ~ Nurturing the Creative Spirit of Children, A Children’s Book for Adults