You might wonder why there’s a section here on play. This probably seems like one area of your life where you don’t need help. This is where you know how to be present, mindful, happy, and serene. This is where, whether it be during a tennis or Monopoly game, while running or bowling, you’ve experienced losing yourself and just playing. Even if you don’t take the time out very often anymore, even if you have to summon childhood memories, you do know how to play and enjoy it. You don’t need to be taught a thing.
There are only two things to say here. One: play as often as you can. And two: take what you know in this realm of your life and apply it elsewhere.
While at play, we can be both serious (we want to play our best and win) and lighthearted (it’s about having fun and not the end of the world if we lose), and we can get so completely absorbed that we become “one” with whatever it is we’re playing. But if playing has become so serious a pursuit for you that there are times when it’s not fun, then it’s time to look at that and begin to change it.
Go back to a time in your life when you weren’t so serious, when playing was what it’s supposed to be. Bring that child mind into your present-day play activities. Then when play is once again fun, bring this mindset into other areas of your life. Carry a sense of play to work with you, into your relationships, and out into the community.
Whenever you begin a new and challenging project, approach it in a balanced, playful way, with a serious yet lighthearted attitude.
This may take some practice and you’ll never be “perfect.” But isn’t that what play is all about? Focus on loving the doing of it as you love the playing of play. Put the consequences out of your mind, and just be in the moment-to-moment engagement.
As you develop your habits of mindfulness, your self-awareness will increase. So whenever you become aware that you are in a much more solemn mood than the occasion calls for, or you are taking things much too personally, take a moment to regroup your faculties and encourage your mind to enter into a play mode. In other words, lighten up.
Play always utilizes the body. Go for a fast walk or a run around the block to help you shift gears. Notice that when your mind is serious and self-involved, your body is most likely tense or highly agitated. When you move your body, you will stir your mind. And then laughter, or at least a deep smile, will be possible. Anytime you get close to this, you are that much closer to serenity. So call a friend who makes you laugh or read something funny and transform your too-serious mood into a more playful one. Just by way of a smile, your whole attitude and outlook will change.