It pays to play (and it costs dearly not to)

All work and no play makes one dull. But, really, what does it mean to "play"?

Happy woman on the beach / play concept

In the last century, most cultures have approached life in overly mental and emotionally suppressed ways. We have been over-thinking and placing too much emphasis on intellectual intelligence rather than a whole, full-bodied sensory approach to life.

Play is a state of mind

Play is a state of mind, yet more so it is also a state of body, emotion and spirit. Living in today’s world with so many demands on our time, it is difficult for most to fathom taking time out to play. We have been conditioned from a very young age to “grow up” and become responsible adults. Remember when you sat in class and were told to stop day dreaming and focus on learning so you could get good grades and become someone? What happened to that kid? To the person you were born to be? Over time, enculturation took over and conditioned you away from play and into a dutiful adult with no time allowed for recreational activities.

The silent killer is the responsible adult

Meet Dimitra, mother of two children, owner of multiple businesses, an attorney, and a yoga instructor. The responsibilities of wearing many hats had Dimitra running from her life when I met her. She was living in a town that drained her spiritual energy; she was trying to escape at any opportunity to avoid the boredom that her soul was crying out against.

We have been conditioned from a very young age to “grow up” and become responsible adults

Brief escapes were temporary solutions to what was brewing inside. She was running from the many pains that her childhood conditioning was causing. She couldn’t fail at her businesses so she had to keep striving to make them better to make more money; she couldn’t be away from her children because she had to be a good mother and be there every day after school for her children.

We can’t escape pain by running from it

Adults should play all the way up to the last breath. Play allows us to engage with our authentic self without self-imposed or cultural judgements. We were born into this life fully engaged and connected to our fullest expression until the world started teaching us how to shut down, constrict and disconnect from what makes each of us unique.

Play allows us to engage with our authentic self without self-imposed or cultural judgements

Marketing in our culture is set up to get you focussed on your pain and then to move you away from it. What we know through the law of attraction is that what we focus on, we get more of. Thus, by talking about our pains and what we don’t want to experience, we are actually creating more pain, or the exact thing we don’t want. We can never escape pain by running from it. Moving away from pain is an illusion. It keeps the past in our present and future.

Pleasure seeking is not something we are taught

Play gives access to a differently ordered space and time. Through engaging in the act of play we begin to be fully present in the moment and open to infinite potential. When Dimitra was able to stop running from the pain and begin to tune into her authentic self, she was able to remember things about herself that she enjoyed and wanted to do more of. Focussing on pleasurable experiences that you wish to experience opens you up to new possibilities and allows for the Universe to conspire on your behalf to make them happen.

We can never escape pain by running from it

Re-creational activities are fuel for your soul

When travel to her home country of Greece was impossible due to the country’s economic situation, Dimitra could have stopped there and had a miserable summer. Instead, she booked her summer trip to somewhere she had never been. Her month long adventure began on the Caribbean Island of St Croix with her family as she explored the island and enjoyed learning the island culture. She expanded her passion for cooking in exciting new ways because she was limited to the food of the island—by necessity she became a creative chef on a two burner hot plate. She produced amazing gourmet meals from the fresh fish her kids caught snorkelling and the local produce. She played with everyone at home too by sharing all the sights and sounds of St Croix via social media to everyone back home.

Play lightens our load

Dimitra’s excitement ignited thousands of people who were enjoying her trip through photos of gorgeous beaches and foods, along with videos of crab races and steel drum music. Many were wishing they were there because she was so engaged during her playtime. Her energy was extremely contagious because it was so vibrant. She was authentic and true to herself.

At play, we are all children. Unburdened by consciousness or self-consciousness, we are fully in the moment. Suffused with pleasure, we exult in the sheer lightness of being. Yet, as welcoming and wonderful as those feelings are, play’s value among adults is too often vastly underrated. It refreshes us and recharges us; it restores our optimism; it changes our perspective, stimulating creativity; it renews our ability to accomplish the work of the world.

At play, we are all children. Unburdened by consciousness or self-consciousness, we are fully in the moment

Play is an opening to our very being

But there is also new evidence that play does much more. It may in fact be the highest expression of our humanity, both imitating and advancing the evolutionary process. Play appears to allow our brains to exercise their very flexibility, to maintain and even renew the neural connections that embody our human potential to adapt and meet varied environmental conditions. Play is an opening to our very being.

When Dimitra’s family departed and headed back stateside, she remained and a girlfriend joined her for a week. Now she used the knowledge she gained in the previous week about the island to become tour guide and hostess sharing her gifts. All this time she was at play just with a new adult twist instead of family play. She was able to explore the island from a new perspective of rum, dancing and of course, shopping—a girl’s favourite pastime.

Play is a way to open up and take risks and go into unexplored territories

Play from the boardroom to the bedroom

We learn a lot about ourselves and others through play. Relationships and how we interact with others remain a constant in our personal and professional lives. If we are absent and disconnected from our co-workers, we will be so from our partner also. The mirror of life will reflect how we engage with our playmates in all arenas. If we eventually see ourselves as unappreciative or controlling at work, generally we are that way at home too. Play is a way to open up and take risks and go into unexplored territories. It opens up the brain and connects the heart into a more coherent state. Playing with others on the playground of life creates intimacy in ways that will help us learn more about ourselves.

The wonderful thing about playing is that everyone is successful at it. Don’t just use playtime to test or stretch your workday. Play is a time to feel good about yourself and each other—and to just have fun together. Perhaps, most important of all, play is fun. Years later, when we recall our life, it is the happy times spent playing with special people that we will remember most fondly.

This was first published in the February 2016 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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