Make Room For Play

What We Play Is Life

Louis Armstrong

We often over analyze adult play and playfulness. We’re grateful when friends pass along simple things of beauty we can share that need no explanation.

Credit: Morgan Harper Nichols – Artist, Poet, Musician

Thanks to our friend Sara for sharing the beauty of “How To Play” from Morgan Harper Nichols.

Let’s go out and PLAY!

No one ever said on their deathbed ‘I wish I’d spent more time at the office.’ —

Rabi Harold Kushner

Americans are terrible at taking vacation days and each year we get worse and worse at taking time off – really.

Time off is key to recharging your batteries, critical to maintaining a fresh perspective and more hours at work doesn’t necessarily translate to greater productivity.  Here’s more on how and why to go on vacation.

Elissa Strauss writes in CNN’s Health Newsletter: “Adults need more Play. Many adults have an unhealthy relationship with time. Our collective obsession with productivity, work and self-optimization have left us with this relentless feeling that we are always behind the ball, never getting enough done.” Really? Sound familiar? If so, a tell tale sign you, too, may want to enjoy summer a bit more while you can.

Another nugget to inspire and motivate from the American Psychological Association “researchers examined the association between ‘positive affect’—feelings like happiness, joy, contentment and enthusiasm—and the development of coronary heart disease over a decade. They found that for every one-point increase in ‘positive affect’ on a five-point scale, the rate of heart disease dropped by 22 percent.”

In other words, doing something that affects you positively decreases the rate of heart disease. Maybe vacation and play can save your life!

If you’re simply struggling to figure out just what to do for fun …. check out “100 Things to do this Summer.”

WE all need inspiration – just pick one!

So, let’s go out and PLAY!

Image by Manfred Steger from Pixabay 

Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability.

Sam Keen – Philosopher

The Opposites Game

Furious/curious They rhyme, but they have opposite meanings. It’s very difficult to feel both emotions at the same time, and one is far more productive than the other.

Seth Godin

At Practice Playfulness, for the most part, we are not fans of ‘should.’ You should, he should, they should, we all should. We also try to stay clear of politics. Yet the Opposites Game (Poem) struck a chord.

Credit: Ted-Ed, A Poem by Brendan Constantine and film by Anna Samo and Lisa LaBracio

On the other hand we do color outside the lines and believe all adults should have agency when it comes to play and playfulness as long as it does no harm. The right to enter and leave play at will — to decide how, what, when, with whom to play — are all important and part of agency.

Summer is in full swing, Everyone is getting out for fun. With the heat climbing, tempers are rising, homicides are up, hurtful games on social media are emerging in real life, and the blame game is at full tilt. 

We’re skipping the blame game. Instead we are practicing the old-fashioned child’s game of opposites!

The Game of Opposites as described by the Chateau Meddybemps website is “a simple and playful tool for helping young children build language skills.”

Of course there are all sorts of variations on the theme and a silly ‘app for that’ was easy to find online.

Credit: Opposites Game

Then there’s the adult version of the Opposites Game. It’s only for the advanced player. It takes a bit more ability and includes 4 P’s a K, and a twist. Patience, practice, participation, presence, kindness, and the twist — ‘counter-intuitivity’ — which may or may not be a word.

In “How to Train Your Mind to Focus on the Positive” Rebecca Muller shares insights from Alison Ledgerwood, Ph.D., associate professor U.C. Davis on the practice of responding counter intuitively.

As we are out and about more in public we play the game of opposites. It takes some skill and practice to react counter intuitively.

If wait staff are unkind give them a larger tip. If you accidentally bump into a parked car and no one sees you don’t scurry off without leaving your contact info. Do the opposite. If that’s a difficult move to play remember karma can be a bummer.

Or, if you wake up to a cloudy grey day wear your brightest shirt. Choose to deliberately smile to everyone along your way.

Finally if you feel like screaming in anger take a deep breath. Choose the opposite. Sing a song even if it’s just in your head.

As Ledgerwood suggests “You have to work to see the upside,” practice doing the opposite, respond counter intuitively.

Things are heating up. It’s time to do the opposite. Simmer down. Be cool and curious rather than furious. That’s how to play the game of opposites. Perhaps let peace begin with you through play. 

BEE KIND

Play More. Exploit Less

Curiosity – It keeps us moving forward, exploring, experimenting, opening new doors.

Walt Disney
Credit: Pixabay – santiagotorrescl95

Early in the creation of Practice Playfulness we discussed how we are adults much longer than we are children. This became a cornerstone for our exploration of why play and playfulness could be as important if not more so for adults than children. 

An original touch point that sparked our enthusiasm was Zat Rana who believes “life is a playful act best guided by curiosity.”  His essay  “Why Playfulness is More Important Than Ever”  blew us away.  His contemporary, thoughtful and interesting perspectives jump started our thinking. 

He shares “We can roughly divide life into two realms of existence: a period dominated by exploration and a period dominated by exploitation. You spend the first part of your life exploring, seeing, and understanding, but once some of it has sunk to a satisfactory level, you start to exploit the fruits growing on the foundation you have laid.”

Our adult brains prevent us from play?  That a child’s brain is built for exploration (one way we think of play) and the adult brain exists to  process or exploit learned info?   How then do we get back to a kid’s brain, more fun, more play, more exploration?  

In our prior post “Spend More Time Thinking Like A Playful Kid” we highlighted a fascinating podcast with Alison Gopnik. She shared how kids’ brains and adults’ brains function differently including a funny anecdote of how an octopus seems to use both brains at once.

She suggested “you’ve got one creature that’s really designed to explore, to learn, to change. That’s the child form. And then you’ve got this other creature that’s really designed to exploit, as computer scientists say, to go out, find resources, make plans, make things happen, including finding resources for that wild, crazy explorer that you have in your nursery. And the idea is that those two different developmental and evolutionary agendas come with really different kinds of cognition, really different kinds of computation, really different kinds of brains, and I think with very different kinds of experiences of the world. So, the very way that you experience the world, your consciousness, is really different if your agenda is going to be, get the next thing done, figure out how to do it, figure out what the next thing to do after that is, versus extract as much information as I possibly can from the world. And I think adults have the capacity to some extent to go back and forth between those two states.”

In her recent WSJ article, “The Many Minds of the Octopus”,she added “Human adults are “neotenous apes,” which means we retain more childhood characteristics than our primate relatives do. We keep our brains in our heads, but neuroscience and everyday experience suggest that we too have divided selves. My grown-up, efficient prefrontal cortex keeps my wandering, exploratory inner child in line. Or tries to, anyway.”

Does this mean we can in fact (as adults) be more like the octopus, but with just one brain, capable of both exploring and exploiting out of the same space?

The explore/exploit theory isn’t new.  Gopnik playfully leans into it’s importance for adults. Yet what will it take for us, in America, to truly embrace the benefits of play and playfulness for adults?

Playfully Practice

“…..And allowing no answers, and just saying, you just have to observe it and be in wonder the whole time.”

Amy Tan – Unintended Memoir

As Seth Godin shares: “Creativity is the generous act of solving an interesting problem on behalf of someone else. It’s a chance to take emotional and intellectual risks with generosity.

He also suggests, “Do that often enough and you can create a practice around it. It’s not about being gifted or touched by the muse. Instead, our creative practice (whether you’re a painter, a coach or a fundraiser) is a commitment to the problems in front of us and the people who will benefit from a useful solution to them.”

The Practice Playfulness Blog is just one commitment to ourselves to “Practice Playfulness” and to share our moments of awe and wonder around play in hope we inspire others to also Practice Playfulness!

Being “creative” does not always arrive when we most want it, or need it; however, our little habit to practice our own form of diligence, determination and discipline enables us to eventually share a sliver of an insight into Practicing Playfulness.

To paraphrase Julia Cameron’s work in “The Artist’s Way” there’s something to …doing the work, filling in the blanks on the page, and embracing the process.  And, part of our process is practicing.  Practicing Playfulness. 

Yes, it’s a little like riding a bike with training wheels.

Image by Frantisek Krejci from Pixabay

Start (practice) with training wheels and repetition to gain confidence and experience. Then a time when the freedom to peddle with abandon will arrive. The training wheels come off. Thanks in part, to practice.

Play On Words

The power of words is not a metaphor; it’s in our brain wiring…Other people’s words have a direct effect on your brain activity and your bodily systems, and your words have that same effect on other people. Whether you intend that effect is irrelevant. It’s how we’re wired.

 Lisa Feldman Barrett PhD

Words matter. THEY ARE EVERYWHERE. Inescapable unless of course you’ve mastered meditation. Even then, daily practice is needed to rid the brain of chatter.

Credit: Brett Jordan – Unplash Photo Community

Words shape meaning, enable communication among people, across cultures, and between humans and other species. Just look at people and how they talk to their pets.

In her article “People’s words and actions can actually shape your brain” Lisa Feldman Barrett discusses “how the power of words over your biology can span great distances” and that “the power of words is not a metaphor; it’s in our brain wiring.”

Words shape us, our thoughts and how we view the world. Regardless if they are communicated through poetry, prose, spoken, or visualized, they impact bodily functions and they always have.

Words impact the body and mind directly. We might find ways to avoid negative words that impact how we think or feel but we can’t otherwise avoid how our bodies function and respond to words. It’s in our wiring.

What we say to ourselves is equally important. Countless tips and strategies on self talk can be found online. Negative self-talk is bad. Positive self-talk is good.

In her article “What Are the Benefits of Self-Talk?” Susan York Morris suggests how Brené Brown playfully “refers to the negative voices in her head as her gremlins. By giving her negative thoughts a name, she’s both stepping away from them and poking fun at them.”

Credit: Ben Hershey – Unsplash

The wide and deep impact of words collectively and individually suggests the importance of playing with words. Especially now. Words, like play, should not harm or come from a malicious place. And great words, really great words, are endless fun in games, crossword puzzles, and banter.

Credit: Complied by AdGrayVisions and found on twitter

Lighthearted humor is a basis for playful word banter. When it involves the entire community it’s especially fun. The recent Canadian Sign Wars “take the cake.” See how we did it right there with “take the cake?” It’s easier than you might think.

A sign reads 'Hey DQ, Wanna have a sign war'
Credit: BBC News

Truly playful words do no harm. Playful words can change our thoughts, change our bodies, change the world. Choose your words wisely and playfully.

Playing at Taxes (Really!)?

Nothing is certain except death and taxes

Attributed to Benjamin Franklin

For those of us in the U.S. taxes seem to be a most “certain” thing…. Why not make them Playful? Or, at a minimum, ease the stress and find a way to “Play” when gathering all the tiny bits of information that go into the making of the sausage which is a tax return?

Rather than spending months juggling papers …… choose to tackle taxes like a playful game! (Note to self: Last year’s taxes due May 17, 2021).

Breaking tasks down helps us to see large tasks as more approachable and doable, and reduces our propensity to procrastinate or defer tasks, because we simply don’t know where to begin.

Melissa Gratias, Ph.D. workplace productivity coach and speaker

Check out Kat Boogaard’s 6 min read “What’s Microproductivity? The Small Habit That Will Lead You To Big Wins” for all the insights to setting yourself up to “Play at Taxes.”

And, maybe…. just maybe… at the end there’s a big ole cookie waiting just for you.

Spend More Time Thinking Like A Playful Kid

We need to spend more time and effort as adults trying to think like kids.

Erza Klein paraphrasing Alison Gopnik

What do an Octopus, Kids, Adults, Play, and artificial intelligence have in common? Carve out time for “Why Adults Lose the ‘Beginner’s Mind'” and learn the answers. Trust us, it’s all about play.

Crank up your brain and pay close attention — you don’t want to miss a moment of this energized conversation between Erza Klein of the New York Times and Alison Gopnik, Professor of Psychology and Philosophy at U.C. Berkley.

The podcast runs about an hour. If short on time start 20 minutes in. If reading the transcript is easier click here.

Credit: The Erza Klein Show Podcast – Why Adults Lose the ‘Beginner’s Mind’

Sticking with the theme of play and an eight-armed cephalopod have you seen “My Octopus Teacher?”

This enchanting exploration of the friendship between a documentary film maker and a wild playful Octopus dives into how one creature with divided brains can do things and learn things at the same time. As Craig Foster shares “You see play in social animals. Here’s a highly antisocial animal playing with fish. It takes an animal to a different level.”

Check out the trailer below or click on the credit to get right to Netflix.

Credit: My Octopus Teacher – Netflix

Finally, had enough of “My Octopus Teacher” and Craig Fosters’ mildly pretentious narration? Tune into “My Kreepy Octopus Teacher” for some clever silly play.

Sometimes humor gets lost across cultures but this parody by a South African about a South African hits the mark. Who knew the thing that cleans the pool is apparently called a creepy in South Africa? It’s the little things.

Credit: Written and Directed by Glen Biderman-Pam

Ok enough Octopus play for one day. Bye Bye!

Practicing Playfulness. As simple as Salmon and Rice.

It’s a prayer for her, for me, for you, for the whole world. I figure it’s a perfect time to pray for the whole world twice a day, morning and evening…

Mandy Patinkin

Ralph Waldo Emerson is quoted as saying “It is a happy talent to know how to play.”

Talent (more often than not) takes practice. During Covid few have stood out in their ability to Practice at Play in a meaningful way. Through their Instagram antics Mandy Patinkin, Kathy Grody, and son Gideon thrive and play their way through life with humor, love, warmth, tenderness, and simple camaraderie.

Mandy in particular shares the power of practicing at play, twice a day, through a morning and evening task (turned ritual) with his tiny bundled habit of song, prayer, and play.

For more on tiny playful habits click back to Make 2021 YOUR Year of Playfulness and PRACTICE…It can bring Magic to Play

The Sacred Activity of Free Play

Holiness and play always tend to overlap. So do poetic imagination and faith.

Johan Huizinga

There is much to learn on the value of play and playfulness for adults. In his formative work “Homo Ludens A Study of the Play-Element in Culture” Johan Huizinga explored ancient culture, mythology, ritual, contests, and humor around the the sacred activity of play.

In 1938 Huizinga noted “as civilization increases in spiritual amplitude, the regions where the play-factor is weak or barely perceptible will develop at the cost of those where it has free play. Civilization as a whole becomes more serious — law and war, commerce, technics and science lose touch with play; and even ritual, once the field par excellence for its expression, seems to share the process of dissociation. Finally only poetry remains as the stronghold of living and noble play.”

That quote may take a re-read to digest and this post doesn’t speak directly to poetry yet these words hold power for us today. We’ve strayed from our ancient relatives in many ways yet the fundamental yearning for play still exists.

In a recent article from Classicfm.com, Maddy Shaw Roberts shares how “Thirteen Redemptoristine nuns at a County Dublin monastery have mastered a viral dance challenge, to “cheer people up” in lockdown.”

These nuns thoughtfully, deliberately, and most important playfully match the recent viral Tik Tok Jerusalema Dance Challenge.

We’re not sure which is more heartwarming…the nuns above or the backstory below from Master KG a South African Musician.

Occasionally wonderful, communal, and touching moments of play reappear in contemporary society. What are we to make of these and their importance? Should we, can we, how do we return to fundamental aspects of free play as originally described by Huizinga?

Credit: Youtube, Master KG, South African Musician and D.J.

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