by Jenny Ward
I was sitting on the beach the other day when I saw a girl with her mom digging in the sand in front of me. They were giggling as they dug their purple shovels into the sand. The girl seemed to be about 5, and was full of life and joy. There was no right way to dig and she didn’t care how messy she got. Moments later, the girl starts skipping towards me. “You are pretty” she says innocently. I began to cry, not out of sadness, but because I felt loved and appreciated. In two seconds I remembered the simplicity of this PLAYGROUND called LIFE.
When do we lose this? At what age do we feel as if we need to stop telling others they are pretty? Smart? Awesome? Loved…you name it. Why do we mute ourselves into becoming adults? When we choose to PLAY in this game of life, we are choosing to be in the moment of NOW. Dig deeper into the sand and understand that the castles we build are created by the beliefs we hold.
Watching children play is watching masters at work. They get it. For years, I lived off my belief that LIFE was meant to BE HARD. I got the degrees, won the awards, got married, had the perfect home and still something was missing. Becoming an adult has many requirements: responsibility, success, marriage, stability and security. I checked each box off every day, yet found myself feeling heavy and lost. Years of dieting to be perfect, working to be successful and auditioning to be famous led me to a great place.
NOWHERE. At the age of 28, I stopped, looked at the sandcastles I had built, and asked WHO SAID LIFE IS MEANT TO BE LIKE THIS? From that moment on, everything changed.
I believe our world is on autopilot most of the time. In order to choose your own path, one must believe in the possibility of MAGIC, PASSION, PLAY and LOVE. Play is all about believing. Believing that life is meant to be enjoyed, not survived, embraced not memorized, loved not loathed. Being a visionary takes believing in the infinite possibilities of the answer to WHAT IF? Watch a kid make a sand castle, or paint a picture and notice their willingness to create without rules, design without limitations, and build without expectations. Choosing to add playtime into our lives is a key ingredient to creating a life of your own. A life designed for and by you, and magnificently lived.
I began to look at the beliefs I had about myself slowly and with compassion. ” I am not enough” came thru loud and clear for me. This not enough syndrome led me further away from play, love, creativity and honor. I spent most of my life trying to please, be something I was told I had to be, not playing within my own heart.
Life begins to shift when you decide to live for yourself. As a kid, I was taught that selfishness is wrong, that it’s not “right” to think of yourself first. Being a visionary involves looking within first, getting to know your own dreams and joy’s and taking steps to create that. I have re-defined selfish, and I triple dog dare you to do the same. Life begins on the edge of your comfort zone. It begins when you look at yourself with loving eyes and make choices that are for your highest play-full good. Giving yourself time to play, breathe, love, explore and share is essential to creating a life that is YOURS, not someone else’s.
Deep down inside, we are all craving to color outside the lines, or “mess” up without labeling ourselves failures. Perfectionism bruises the soul. Play allows your heart and soul to come out and dance. When I work with clients, I encourage them to erase “SHOULD, RIGHT, RESPONSIBLE and PERFECT” from their dictionaries called our minds. These words have very powerful intentions that have been passed down from generation to generation.
“You should be this, you should do this, you better do that”, all over our society, placing tons of ideals and expectations on our plates. One step at a time, we continue to search for the answers, buy the self-help books, take the classes, get the better job, climb up the corporate ladders and try to attain …..what? Being “successful” is a matter of whose guidelines? Why isn’t it successful to take time out every day and honor yourself with PLAY?
I was tired of being told that I need to grow up and be responsible. Instead of “going with it” I chose to step outside that box and create a new way of being responsible. Instead of struggling I wanted to celebrate. Instead of being “the best” I chose to be happy. Life became a playground, offering new slides to climb up and new jungle gyms to easefully explore. PLAY became a way of life, not something on my “to do” list. In our world I notice that most adults are waiting until they are 65 in order to play. I don’t want to wait.
What is play? Remember when we were kids how important playtime was? Everyday I was outside, playing tag or building forts. I was using my mind, body and spirit every moment I could without labeling it or fitting it into my schedule. We played with all the kids on the block, not just “some” people. Race, religion, age or gender didn’t really matter. What DID matter was what game to play next and how many games of kickball we could play before dinnertime. Simple pleasures. I wonder why those simple pleasures become less and less important with each birthday we have. I believe that each year we blow out the candles we should celebrate getting younger! Dance around and declare how we will spend the next play-full year of our lives. How old are you begins to be, wow…how young you are! Many people ask me how “old” I am. When I share that I am thirty, I always hear, “Wow, you look so much younger!” I FEEL younger on the inside. I believe what we FEEL on the inside radiates on the outside. A PLAY-er radiates youth, spontaneity, curiosity and blissfulness. Do you ever just meet someone and they affect you? Last week I met a girl who was fifteen who blew me away. She giggled and hugged with her heart. I didn’t have to be any particular way to hang out with her. It was simple and free, no requirements, rules, ideals or expectations. What a feeling. Her presence inspired me to be more of a play activist. To take the gift she offered by her presence and carry it with me and share with all others I meet.
It is my intention to start a play revolution. To bring back play into all or lives. Te celebrate the magnificence of being alive. To hug, share, nurture ourselves and those around us, without fear. Most of us are looking at our lives and sensing something shifting. Maybe we are noticing that we crave more quiet time, or we are watching kids and feeling the urge to just BE without the rules or requirements we have set upon ourselves.
How can we add more play into our lives? We can begin to incorporate play into our family, partnerships, workplace and personal time. Here are some play-licious ideas.
*PLAY as a team with your family:
Teamwork is very playful. Have play meetings where you share and come up with a play dates. Start at home. Bring fun and creativity into your every day life. Being a “grown up” doesn’t mean the fun ends. Learn from your children the purest and simplest way of being. Explore without limits and know that life is your greatest playful teacher. Create a playfull dish for dinner. Eat dinner with your fingers. Add sprinkles to the main course. Make ice cream sundaes for each other. Tell each member on your family team one thing you love about them. Create a play-full vacation without leaving your house/yard.
What playful things can you do together? Skip down the street. Play tag. Create a new way of doing “Twister.” Hug every other minute. Color huge hearts together.
Count the stars.
Make a picnic and go somewhere new. Hold hands. Steal kisses wherever you go. Go on a play-full adventure. Wear something out of the box for you, and go out in public. Pretend its Halloween for a week. Applaud your partner for just being them! Serenade each other.
Put smiley faces on everything. Write I love you everywhere in the house.
What other ways can you and your partner/spouse be playmates?
*PLAY-full Personal Ideas to Explore:
1. How do you honor yourself daily?
2. Write a letter to someone you love in crayons. Send it.
3. Every day, write one thing you love about yourself (don’t think and don’t edit)
4. Find a picture of you at the age of 5. Hang it up where you can see it everyday.
5. Start visualizing that in which you have always wanted to be/experience. What are the feelings? STAY in those feelings…be in them. What other voices come up for you? Write that inner dialogue down. Notice what words you choose. Bring that sheet of paper in with all the “critics” on it. We will have a ceremony to let go and recreate NEW words for you.
6. Say this every morning and every night: ” I am playful and fun!”
7. Take yourself on a vacation. (At least twice a week, 10-20 minutes) Outside of your normal routine. Go somewhere you have never gone. Take a new route to a familiar destination. Get out of the comfort zone. Go to the beach and draw in the sand without making it “perfect”. If you can, do kart-wheels, or make angels in the sand. Let go of that voice that is saying, “people will be watching”… by letting your soul out to play, it INSPIRES others!
8. Begin to notice who you surround yourself with. With love and compassion, be aware of energy you are receiving. Is it encouraging? Make a list of beings that encourage and support you unconditionally. Be honest with yourself.
Play with life, not against. Life is about going with the flow, exploring and being an adventurer. Life offers many experiences to play with. It’s all on how we choose to perceive them. It can be an adventure or we can just go with the motions, without seeing the PLAYFULLNESS life truly is about. When you meet a stranger, talk to an old friend, walk down the street, buy your coffee, all of this can be playful. You can smile openly at a stranger, you can tell your friend how much you appreciate them with your giggle. You can walk down the street and skip on every fourth step. You can put whipped cream on top of you grande coffee.
Life is what we want it to be. Be a play-full liver.
Create your sandcastle with the intention to be playfull, and pass it on.
I triple dog dare you!
1. Roll around in the grass, and don’t brush the grass off.
2. Drive/walk a different way to work, or wherever you usually go.
3. Wear glitter underneath your work clothes.
4. Wear a bright orange tie.
5. Smell a flower fully, and thank it for its beauty.
6. Smile at stranger.
7. Go thru the children’s aisle in any store and imagine what toy you’d love to play with.
8. Buy that toy.
9. Do kart-wheels.
10. Say yes when you would say no.
11. Say no when you would say yes.
12. Stand in front of the mirror and say ” I am king/queen of the universe!”
13. Call a friend and invite them over for play time.
14. Climb up the slide at a playground.
15. Turn the volume of your thoughts down.
16. Turn the volume of your heart up.
17. Stop. Breathe. Giggle. Look around you.
18. Remember that its never too late to be what you always wanted to be.
19. Take yourself out for a play date.
20. Laugh at yourself as much as possible.
21. Remember you are a child of god, you are loved.
22. Put stickers on your bills.
23. Learn something new, without judging if its right or wrong.
24. Erase good or bad from your dictionary.
25. Re-define responsible for yourself.
26. Selfish means- self -fishing for love and honor of me.
27. Eat whipped cream right out of the can-right in mouth.
28. Hug your family, friends and yourself with playful abandon.
29. Paint rocks and line your driveway.
30. Order the happy meal instead of the super size.
31. Drink with straws.
32. Receive with a playful heart.
33. Give with a playful heart.
34. Send someone a bucket of crayons for no reason.
35. Know that you are magnificent, AS is.
36. There is nothing you have to DO.
37. Write a letter to someone who needs to play more, and tell them you want to be there!
38. Buy stickers.
39. Make a picnic and go to your bedroom for a playful intimate picnic.
40. Play with your hair, your friends hair, your partners hair.
41. Be a super hero for a day.
42. Stop. Jump up and down and yell.
43. Find time to laugh at your self.
44. Remind a stranger of how awesome they are with your eyes.
45. Mow the lawn outside the lines.
46. Watch children.
47. Be messy.
48. Name each star for your self.
49. Put marshmallows in everything you make for one day.
50. Hang poster board in your kitchen : write one thing you love about life on it in crayons everyday.
51. Invite your roommate/family/partner to participate in writing on the board in crayon.
52. Be aware of perfectionism ,and with love, recreate a new way of looking at perfect.
53. Be confidently playfull.
54. Celebrate your body…dance naked…take sea salt showers.
55. Finger paint your to do list.
56. Erase SHOULD from your dictionary.
57. Watch lady bugs.
58. Watch a football game, and during commercial blast music and dance.
59. Order a banana split with an extra cherry.
60. Ask your children if they enjoy what they are up to- all ages apply.
61. Throw a temper tantrum if you don’t get your way…(c’mon its fun.)
62. Finish this sentence I AM…
63. Finish this sentence “roses are red….”
64. Make pictures with your food.
65. Eat your meal with your hands without a napkin.
66. Pile all those you love in one bed and snuggle watching a playful movie.
Be you. Be love. Choose Play.
By Jenny Ward
Jenny Ward lives in California, USA.
She is a “Play Activist” and the author of two books, “101 Ways to Play”…a guide to bringing joy into your life, and “Who Said So?”…creating life outside the box.
She also offers workshops and courses.
You can conatct Jenny at firstname.lastname@example.org
© 2006-7 Jenny Ward and Starchild Global
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.