Friday, October 09, 2015

Cultivating play

Guidepost #7 of Brene Brown's book 'The Gifts of Imperfection' is "Cultivating Play and Rest: Letting Go of Exhaustion As A Status Symbol and Productivity As Self-Worth." While I have never really thought I had a problem with this, I had to admit that the lack of "play" in my life is an issue. Argh.

The author is quick to point out the importance not so much of just crafts, hobbies, or sports, but rather, "a critically important component of Wholehearted living is [simply] PLAY!"

She points to psychiatrist Dr. Stuart Brown's work, who says that of the seven properties of play, the first is that play is purposeless. Basically this means we play for the sake of play.

Dr. Brown also argues that play is not an option. He says,

"The opposite of play is not work - 
the opposite of play is depression." 

He explains, "Respecting our biologically programmed need for play can transform work. It can bring back excitement and newness to our job. Play helps us deal with difficulties, provides a sense of expansiveness, promotes mastery of our craft, and is an essential part of the creative process. Most important, true play that comes from our own inner needs and desires is the only path to finding lasting joy and satisfaction in our work. In the long run, work does not work without play."

Again, I have to admit, I'm not good at play. I'm not sure I even know what it means for me. I feel guilty taking a nap, or watching a stupid movie for no apparent reason.

The author says on p.102 though, "If we want to live a Wholehearted life, we have to become intentional about cultivating sleep and play, and about letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth."

She suggests one of the best things she ever did was make an "ingredients for joy and meaning" list with her family. They answered this question together: "When things are going really well in our family, what does it look like?" They came up with things like: sleep, working out, healthy food, cooking, time off, weekends away, going to church, being present with the kids, a sense of control over money, meaningful work that doesn't consume, time to piddle, time with family and close friends, and time to just hang out.

They compared the "joy and meaning" list to their "dream list," and realized their dream list was all about things they wanted to accomplish or acquire (bigger house, trips, salary goals, professional endeavors, etc), and that by letting go of the things they wanted to accomplish and acquire, they would actually be living their dreams.

She ends the chapter by encouraging us to make our own "ingredients for joy and meaning" list. And taking a nap.

I think this is something I really need to work on. Too many of my hobbies, even, are about accomplishing or achieving something (running, guitar, reading etc.). Even having simple conversations about nothingness can sometimes irritate me because it seems so meaningless. As a somewhat overly "focused and intense" person, I need a mind-change on this subject. Perhaps I should order Dr. Stuart Brown's 'Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul," or Daniel Pink's 'A Whole New Mind."