POST BY DIANA TURNER-FORTE, 4/18/23
As an adult when was the last time you played? No, I don’t mean a card game or backgammon. I mean a lost in time spontaneous, noncompetitive activity stimulating unbelievable energy, excitement, and joy.
Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.—John MuirBLUE RIDGE MOUNTAINS POST RAIN STORM, WESTERN N. CAROLINA (Photo by Gaye Abbott 4/2023)
The occasions in which I took myself way too seriously or I was on the edge of an insightful idea trying to break through and allowed myself to play some interesting things happened. By doing something as carefree as doodling—taking out a pencil and a blank sheet of paper, making squiggly lines all over the page, no format, design or pattern—thereby freeing thoughts, tension and stress; I actually became more functional. After the brief respite in apparent idleness, I experienced clarity, lucidity, and became a vessel for profound information—even I was surprised. Everything came to me as needed. The doodling relaxed the nervous system, turning off the mind chatter and temporarily releasing the brain circuitry for ideas to flow. It was like unclogging a sink.
I’m not sure when I lost the ability to lapse into unsolicited moments of imagination and intuition but in the past few years I’ve reclaimed the skill of “play.” I’m healthier, happier, and more inclined to truly connect with others as the result of that decision. When I spent a year with Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way a couple of decades ago I don’t think I realized the impact it would have as a place holder for ongoing transformation in my life. One of the practices was “Morning Pages” which cleared and opened the mind first thing upon waking up. I still engage in this process in a somewhat diluted manner through morning journaling. I begin the day with a clean slate.
Another part of the process that was just as important was the “Artist Date.” You take yourself on a date, yes, to experience something unique and meaningful. This does not have to cost anything; a walk in nature will do, and often does. The point is to commit to being present with yourself in a light-hearted, open, and unencumbered way. This happens weekly. I’ve renewed that practice, as well.
It turns out what children need to grow and develop, adults need as well to harness ongoing imagination and intuition. And this state of creativity comes about through play!
Ah yes, I can hear it now: “Nonsense, I’m an adult. Who has time for play?” But, it seems as we get older play becomes even more important to support our well-being by releasing healthy chemicals our bodies thrive on—oxytocin, dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins. Play Therapist, Theresa A Kestly has this to say:
Our brains are built to benefit from play no matter what our age.”
But of course that would mean stepping into our fears and releasing the baggage we carry around with us from past experiences that keep us trapped in habitual patterns of which we are often unaware. It would mean that we would have to change the rules we have set for ourselves eons ago and step into new territory. And it would mean ignoring those who love to hobble at our insecurities and lack of personal faith. Or we can do as Kyra Davis proposes, face our true selves:
Sometimes we have to step out of our comfort zones. We have to break the rules. And we have to discover the sensuality of fear. We need to face it, challenge it, dance with it.
Like everything else in our toolkit for healthy living, play requires making time for it and ensuring that it has priority in our lives to aid us in becoming who we want to be. Yes, I know sometimes it seems like all hell is breaking loose, but the element within that springs from the depths of your heart is still alive as long as you are breathing and merely needs to be tapped. And perhaps that is what Ralph Waldo Emerson was referring to when he said:
It is a happy talent to know how to play.
Especially in adulthood, play needs to be cultivated and nurtured like a plant. It needs to be given attention, time, and diligence. This pays off in enjoying more of life and it keeps the world beaming with light. Joyful people reflect Light.
Whether your “play” is improvisational dance, contemplative walks, a leisure stroll through an art exhibit, tending a rose garden, strumming a guitar, attending a live concert—whatever it is, consider setting a play date with yourself this week.
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You can find ALL of the 2022 31-Days Elder Muse posts in the archives here: https://wildlyfreeelder.com/2022/12/
Gaye Abbott, Wildly Free Elder, 04/18/23