How To Work Less And Play More
Baby foxes, children and the nature of play…
Last week I was on FaceTime with my sister-in-law and my one of my nieces. From the second the call started my niece and I were engaged in a “Silly Face Competition” of epic proportions. We were sticking out our tongues, crossing our eyes and communicating mostly in meows. It was pretty awesome.
Even when I was talking to my SIL, my niece and I were still at it with the crazy faces and sounds. At some point during the conversation my niece ran off and when she returned she had drawn the most fantastic picture of me in a dress that I wish I actually owned, it was so super cute. Later she came back with a second drawing, this time a beautiful family portrait of Mike, Bhakti and me. That one is going in a frame in the living room for sure.
Later, as I reflected on our “virtual visit” I was struck by the nature of play involved in our communication. There was no formality, no structure of niceties —“How are you? What have you been doing?” — we went full tilt into the goofy stuff that is so much in our hearts. We bypassed the expected and dove straight into play. Not only was this fun and creative, it closed the gap of time and distance between us. There was no need to ask all those typical “catching-up-on-life” questions; we were right there in the moment, living our giggle-filled, playful life together.
This brought back a memory from last spring on our farm. I woke up at dawn and looked out our bedroom window to the top of the pasture where I saw three animals moving across the field. The binoculars helped me confirm that they were a mama and two baby foxes! This was our first fox family and I was so excited. I watched them for a while and the babies were playing non-stop: tumbling, wrestling, batting each other and sometimes their mom, hopping and jumping, and exploring the terrain of the steep pasture and forest.
Later in the day a friend came to visit and we climbed high into the forest above the pasture and stood watching the babies play for a very long time. I felt as I often do when I am in the forest that I could have stayed there forever. My friend and I didn’t speak much. What we did say were a few phrases centered on our wonder at the way the fox cubs’ sole activity was one of play, and yet this play was obviously deeply instructive and productive on many levels.
When we went back to the farmhouse we began to talk about our lives and the nature of play versus work. We are both very driven woman entrepreneurs so we “work” a lot. But, inspired by our foxy friends, we asked ourselves, “How can we infuse everything we do with the Spirit of Play?” And, “Why can’t all of life emerge naturally out of the innate playfulness of our hearts?”
So this week, inspired by both these events, I decided to investigate those questions more intently. The first thing I did was make a list of what play is, and what it is not. Here is some of what I came up with.
Play is versus play isn’t…
Spontaneous vs. planned
Receptive vs. unreceptive
Responsive vs. unresponsive
Fluid vs. static
Creative vs. impotent
Natural vs. artificial
Experimental vs. conventional
Emerges from intuition and internal feelings, not external commands.
It is generated by deep emotion, not externally imposed thoughts and feelings.
Often it occurs as a natural result of meditative states.
It is a deep well of creativity connected directly to Source.
Then, I wrote a little more…
Play is wild! It emerges from our True Nature that is in unity with All Things.
Play doesn’t recognize a speed bump or roadblock in its process as a “failure.” Instead its fluidity and generative energy allows it to move into a powerful matrix of necessity, inventiveness and inspiration from which truly original ideas and solutions emerge.
Play is what we would do all the time if someone/something didn’t tell us “NO,” and these “NOs” mostly come from external “agreements” in our societies.
So what keeps us from making everything play versus work?
I whittled this down to these main factors:
1. We have been scammed into believing that if we aren’t working hard we are lazy.
2. We’ve been taught that only hard work is productive and creates results. We are afraid that if we play nothing will get done and we will be failures.
3. We are addicted to the idea that our level of busyness is a measure of our level of success. We have elevated busyness to a status symbol.
4. We have sacrificed our spontaneity and play on the altar of rigid external expectations and a fear of what others will think.
5. We distrust and feel guilty about things that feel too good.
How can we become Players instead of Workers?
We can begin to reclaim Play as our natural state and recognize it for the deep wellspring of creativity and productivity that it is by practicing mindfulness and realizing in the moment when we are clamping down on an activity and making it static and work-oriented, instead of fluid and play-infused.
We can take time each day to follow our hearts and allow them to erupt into spontaneous creative events. We can laugh, dance, sing, create, explore, connect and do things just for the hell of it…just because we want to…just because it feels good. In this way we can retrain ourselves to trust play and put down the burden of our work-addled lives.
In time, I believe these mindful moment-to-moment conversions will allow the Spirit of Play to emerge from its forced exile and take up permanent residence in our lives, and that with this resurrection of our playful selves will come new insight, creativity and communities of human beings living more easeful and joyful lives.
If we slow down and allow our true selves to come out to play who knows what wonders we may become.
Today, many of us are celebrating sacred days connected to resurrection and rebirth. Take some time today to resurrect your playful self.
Take some time to unbind your heart from the shackles in your mind that keep telling you that it’s not ok to follow your joyful, silly, playful Soul Path.
The warrior says, “Today is a good day to die.”
I say today is a good day to let the parts of you that are holding you back die so that the miracle of who you truly are can live.
Share your stories of playful living below.
Wishing you playful days and miracles,