March 5, 2023
March brings a prelude to Spring and a shift in consciousness. In this corner of the world, birds are returning with joyful song and trees are beginning to bud. We went to one of our local parks recently and I was hoping to find an empty swing. However, all were child-size and occupied. We walked the trails through the woods, greeting cyclers and dog-walkers. It was a playful and happy place to spend a Sunday afternoon.
Brene Brown explains the importance of play in her book The Gifts of Imperfection. She says that “play shapes our brain, helps us foster empathy, helps us navigate complex social groups, and is at the core of creativity and innovation.” As an adult, did you have any idea it was still so valuable? I’ve been reflecting on this in my own life and noticing what brings me joy. Brown says that play is purposeless; “we play just for the sake of play.” This does not come naturally for most of us, as we have been conditioned to work, strive, and achieve. Play and rest can be perceived as wasting time or missing out on something more important.
Play helps us deal with difficulties, provides a sense of expansiveness, promotes mastery of our craft, and is an essential part of the creative process. Most important, true play that comes from our own inner needs and desires is the only path to finding lasting joy and satisfaction in our work. In the long run, work does not work without play (B. Brown).
Okay, so it’s priority!? I need to find more ways to integrate play into my work and my leisure time. I’ve been paying more attention, and where attention goes, energy flows, so a shift is taking place. Thoughts become things, and I’m thinking of swings! One of my favorite forms of play is swinging on a swing. When I was a child, my dad built a wood frame on the side of the house and hung up a swing. When he and my mom became a grandparents, he and Art built a large A-frame in their backyard for 2 swings. Every time we visited, I would spend some time swinging high up in the trees. I felt like a kid again.
I’ve identified 4 components of play from my own experience and observation:
1. Curiosity - This is one of the keys that opens the door to play. When we are curious enough to seek new experiences and explore new places, we forge new pathways in the brain. We get out of old ruts and habits and learn something new.
2. Spontaneity – This, too, is a way to break out of our default settings and surrender to the present moment. Spontaneity is the essence of play.
3. Release of expectations, tension, and judgment – Letting go is required for true play. As we release these barriers to playfulness, we experience lightness of being, joy, and fun.
4. Authenticity & aliveness – Being true to ourselves, our gifts, and our goofiness increases our energy and aliveness. It opens us to the creative power and life force within.
Connecting to my younger self through the things I enjoyed as a child awakens the playful part of me. I’ve made a list of activities that help me cultivate a spirit of playfulness and joy. This is a great starting point if you are curious about your own path to playfulness. Then put some of these on your calendar every week and see what begins to sprout and flourish in your life. Spring into more light and laughter this season!
Fun & Frolic,
Elisa J. Juarez