Number 19 in a Series
What are your thoughts and experiences about adult’s being playful?
Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama in their book The Book of Joy remind us that “Joy is in fact, our birthright and even more fundamental than happiness. While happiness is often seen as being dependent on external circumstances, joy is a state of mind and heart.”
Well into adulthood I still believed that play was just for kids and games were serious and highly competitive contests. Winning meant something. Winners were better and more masculine than losers. Rules were written and unbreakable. Mature people put their nose to the grindstone and were productive.
I never experienced the joy of heart-connected play until I was blessed by friendships with two men who unleashed my bottled up play genie.
Dr. O. Fred Donaldson in his ground-breaking book, Playing By Heart, develops a compelling case for play as an egoless, non-self-conscious state present in all living things. During one of his workshops, before letting us play he said, “There is only a flow that spontaneously moves us together and apart, like kittens rolling on a rug, or puppies frolicking in a game of tag.” The T-shirt he was wearing said it all, “You don’t quit playing because you get old. You get old because you stop playing.”
Lee Shapiro, my other play guru, is a deep thinker as comfortable playing like a child as closing a business deal. One day as we walked along the top of a snow-covered trail, Lee fell into a snowbank and spontaneously began laughing and whooping it up as he rolled down the hill. When he got to the bottom he yelled up at me, “What are you waiting for?”
I gulped and launched myself into the snow. Tumbling down toward him I was met by a big snowball. The fun continued as we ran and threw snowballs until collapsing giggling into a heap. “You’re pretty good at this! Lee chided. I grinned back and replied, “I don’t remember the last time I had so much fun.”
Our “magical mystery tour” extended into everything we did. Whether dancing at a party or skiing in the majestic Rocky Mountains, without an internal critic my body was given permission to move in ways connected to my internal rhythm. The by-product was always the joy of play.
Heart-connected play is an intimate connection of joy with myself as well as others. When not self-conscious or attached to an outcome my life flows with joy. My heart freely expresses and feels the tickle of connection and laughter often arises spontaneously.
Laughter is a natural expression of joy. Rather than emanating from a constricted throat, a full-belly laugh consumes my entire body and leaves me spent and satisfied. I never had such an experience until well into my thirties.
The window into that hidden capacity opened when I smoked marijuana for the first time. I played and laughed until my stomach ached. Upon coming down to “normal,” my wife said to me, “I’ve never seen you that way.” I replied, “I’ve never been that way.”
Knowing that I didn’t want to be dependent on something outside myself for that experience began explorations into the fears and beliefs that blocked my natural ability to experience the full body of joy. That journey has meant confronting fears such as looking foolish and being judged by others and most importantly by my inner critic.
Feeling joy requires not taking things so seriously and maintaining a sense of humor. As I think back on my life I’m struck by the countless number of times I became upset with things such as being late, a spilled glass of milk, a friend’s rejection, my expectations not being met, and how I looked physically. Only to think sometime later, “Why did I make such a big deal over that? It doesn’t seem very important right now.”
Maintaining a sense of humor requires seeing the lighter side of things. As the Buddhist saying advises, “Act always as if the future of the Universe depended on what you did, while laughing at yourself for thinking that whatever you do makes any difference.” I also like remembering that, “The reason angels can fly is because they take themselves lightly.”
For Your Journey
- What do you experience in the intimate connection of play with your mate, children, and friends?
- If you find it easier to play with a pet rather than with other adults, what gets in the way?
- If you feel any sadness about losing your playfulness, think about what fears and beliefs block your ability to let go into spontaneous play?
First in the Series: From Head to Heart
Next Week: # 20 – Overcoming Guilt By Not Taking Things Personally
BECOMING YOUR OWN HERO illuminates a path available to us all to attain the kind of personal power demonstrated by our most revered and inspirational heroes. Marianne Williamson, #1 New York Times best-selling author said, “I highly recommend this illuminating and touching look into the possibilities of staying connected to our hearts, even when facing difficult situations.”
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