Play With Me

I received some wonderfully affirming and encouraging feedback about a recent post. It’s fascinating to me what speaks to people; what connects in ways that other things don’t. That people will go out of their way to tell me that something I’ve written has “spoken” to them is especially powerful, and humbling. Mostly I take it as a good push to keep on going. Let me say “Thank You” to whomever is reading this and to those who have sought me out to comment and connect – it means a lot.
I find myself compelled to keep exploring this idea of “living from innocence.” What I am referring to is our child-like self. That part of us that remembers and remains connected to the best attributes of being young. That part of us that only knows how to be vulnerable, unsophisticated and unproven. That part of us that knows that our physical, mental and spiritual well-being is deeply connected to our creativity, our curiosity and our imagination. That part of us that remembers how to play.
I found a wonderful description of the “Elements of Play” in the book, Play, by Stuart Brown, MD. The elements come from a framework for play devised by Scott Eberle at the Strong National Museum of Play (yes, there actually is such a place…).
He suggests that play involves the following attributes: (and, I’ve included my own story in italics after each one)

Anticipation – waiting with expectation, wondering what will happen, curiosity, a little anxiety, perhaps because there is uncertainty or risk involved (can we hit the baseball and get safely on base?), although the risk cannot be so great that it overwhelms the fun.

DB: last summer I was invited to speak at the New York Times (the big one…in Manhattan…yes, that one) and I was freaked out. I knew I had a good story to tell but why the hell would they want to hear it from me?

Surprise – the unexpected, a discovery, a new sensation or idea, or shifting perspective. This produces…

DB: I got safely on base. They were curious about me and interested in what I had to say and I delivered the goods as if I did this all the time.

Pleasure – a good feeling, like the pleasure we feel at the unexpected twist in the punch line of a good joke. Next we have…

DB: Pleasure? Absolutely. Once I realized I could pull this off I relaxed into the day and made the most of it.
Understanding – the acquisition of new knowledge, a synthesizing of distinct and separate concepts, an incorporation of ideas that were previously foreign, leading to…
DB: I was thrilled to realize that I really could do this, that I had something to say and that it mattered to these folks. That was a “previously foreign” concept for sure…I just hadn’t had a chance to prove it and I was pretty good at telling myself a story that turned out much differently.

Strength – the mastery that comes from constructive experience and understanding, the empowerment of coming through a scary experience unscathed, of knowing more about how the world works. Ultimately, this results in…

DB: Check. My confidence was through the roof.

Poise – grace, contentment, composure and a sense of balance in life.”

DB: Check, again. I found a new level of contentment because I was able and willing to “play” in this new way.

As I read these elements all I can think of is what I’ve come to understand as the process of development. That these play elements are a great way to describe how it is we grow when we are willing to risk from a place of curiosity and possibility. When we reach back into ourselves and access the child who once walked onto the playground with a mixture of trepidation, energy and sheer unadulterated “kid-ness.”
My invitation? Relocate the child in you. Remember what play used to mean; how you used it instinctively to fulfill and deepen your learning and your relationships. And remember that, above all, it was fun.

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