Reconnecting to play…

Pencil sketch of squirrel with quoteI have lost count of the number of times that my eyes have been drawn outside, to the sight of a squirrel scurrying across our back fence or doing gravity-defying acrobatics to reach the last shriveled up crab apple. Just the sight will stop me in my tracks, as I watch these little whirlwinds of energy leap from branch to branch, chasing each other up, down and around our trees.

So what does my reminiscing about squirrels have to do with this blog? If you read Pets and the Present Moment, you know how our furry friends have a way of pulling us into the present moment. Yes, I know: squirrels are not pets. Stay with me (even if you don’t like squirrels – smile). What pulls me in, is the incredible sense of play that I associate with the antics of a squirrel.

Yes, I realize the up-and-down spiraling pattern around a tree is a territorial dispute and that other chasing behavior is about dominance, aggression and mating () – but my eyes only see playfulness. I see fun, freedom, and play: all the things I enjoy in my own life…but are the first to go when I get caught up in daily stresses, distractions, expectations, past thoughts, and future worries. Seeing Mr. Squirrel reminds me of that part of myself that needs to let go and play.

“Play energizes us and enlivens us. It eases our burdens. It renews our natural sense of optimism and opens us up to new possibilities.” – Stuart Brown, MD

In the adult-world, it is easy to forget this side of ourselves. We self-edit, concern ourselves with what others think, are too busy, too serious, too focused. The busyness of life can easily get in the way.

Even the practice of mindfulness can even take on a “serious” edge to it (if we let it). Doesn’t this well-known definition of feel a tad bit serious (almost like work): “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgementally.” But what about when we add in that element of playfulness? When being mindful of what is in this present moment is also about seeing the laughter, the lightness, the play all around us.

I am a deep thinker: a serious, introspective person who wants to know myself at a deeper level, wants to experience life on a deeper, more passionate level…but when I’m in that mindset, I sometimes forget an essential ingredient: light-hearted playfulness with a good dose of child-free abandon.

 “We are never more fully alive, more completely ourselves, or more deeply engrossed in anything, than when we are at play.”  – Charles Schaefer

Play connects us to ourselves and to others. It allows us to engage with the world with all of our senses, and grounds us so solidly in the present moment that we experience ourselves and others through the unclouded lens of a child. Think about it for a moment. Recall a memory of a child (yourself or a child you know): see how totally engaged they are in what they are doing, the sparkle in their eyes, the pure bliss they are experiencing as they fully interact in the world of play. Through play, they are connected to the present moment.

Now ask yourself: are you connecting to this sense of play within yourself? We all know the benefits of laughter and play, but do we open ourselves up to this gift enough each day? Can we do more of it?

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.” – George Bernard Shaw

If you want a refresher on all the benefits of play and laughter or want to find ways to bring more of into your life, here are some interesting links:

  • The website sums it up perfectly in their opening line: play is a simple and natural pathway to our authentic Self. It returns us to joy, freedom, creativity and self-care. Their  are definitely worth reading.
  • There is a TEDTalk by , that looks at how, as we get older, we tend to forget how to fully let go and play — and why it is so important that we remember again.
  • World of Psychology has a great article called .
  • The book  was reviewed as: A fascinating blend of cutting-edge neuroscience, biology, psychology, social science, and inspiring human stories of the transformative power of play, this book proves why play just might be the most important work we can ever do.
  • The article covers not only the benefits of play but also talks about learning how to play again. It also has links to other related articles.
  • Adding childlike playfulness to yoga (in order to add in the physiological and psychological benefits of laughter) has made  a world wide phenomenon. There are now more than 6,000 Social Laughter Clubs in about 60 countries.

Okay…enough editing. Any grammatical errors in this post will have to stay: I am off to play. :)

6 Responses to “Reconnecting to play…”

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  1. says:

    What a great post. I love what you said about Play at the end. Sometimes I get so caught up in the “rat race” of life I forget about what is really important. Thanks again for the great post!!

  2. brenda says:

    That is one thing I miss about not working with children anymore–PLAYING!!! I often thought that I would like to set up a play center for adults. No, not the rock climbing kind or jet skiing, but playing like a kid with kid things. Setting up a train set, building with blocks or lego, playing in water with funnels and cups, play dough and rollers, laying down on a mat for a nap. For those in the world with no young children [ now, never, or a long time ago] to reconncet with childhood delights to de-stress and connect with simplier times.

    Even now, sitting at the table playing with goop [cornstarch and water] is soothing and a fun way to be with a 6 year old [actually I set it up because I want to play!]

    Happy playing Diane… try the goop, add just enough water…squeeze some in your hand, open your hand…if it “melts” perfect!!!
    Love ya, Brenda

  3. says:

    It’s always great to be reminded of the importance of play to our life, our creativity and even our overall health and well being. Thanks!

  4. Kim says:

    I am blessed to have two dogs in my life who remind me on a regular basis that the day is not complete without some element of play. And there are times when some adults watch me with a “she’s lost her marbles” look when I’m on the floor making whinnying sounds as I play with toy horses….with the grandkids, of course! Hmmm…perhaps the next step is to play with the toys when the kids aren’t around haha.

  5. says:

    Thanks Diane.
    Sometimes I can’t remember how to play without worrying.
    I used to love to swim – at the river hole, and there was laughter and abandon – now I swim lengths for exercise.I worry what people think about how I look in my bathing suit.
    I used to love to ride my bike – I could do tricks and all sorts of things for hours – now I ride a stationary bike in the basement for exercise. I worry what people will think if they see me on a regular bike.
    The one thing that I didn’t like to do, but that feels like play now is walking in the woods. Alone, or with a dawg, and the bears and deer and birds, and hear the gentleness of nature around me. That is play to me. I don’t worry about anything at all – not even the bear.
    When did worry take away my play? Sometimes being 59 sucks.

    • Diane says:

      Young kids (until they hear otherwise) don’t care what anyone thinks about what they look like when they play — let’s both agree to try to get THAT back too! :)