The Case For Lightening Up, Letting Go and Living

How to Have Fun While Seriously Living

From Patrick Williams’ book Getting Naked: On Emotional Transparency at the Right Time, the Right Place, with the Right Person

“Don’t die with your music still inside you. Listen to your intuitive inner voice and find what passion stirs your soul. Listen to that inner voice, and don’t get to the end of your life and say, ‘What if my whole life has been wrong?” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

One chapter is about the need to have fun, but without the hurt of biting sarcasm – which is a clue to something hidden.

Good humor is jovial, energizing, and attractive. If you experience humor at the expense of others — or are even overly self-deprecating — it is a clue to something that could be explored more deeply in order to achieve wholeness.

Comedians often come from dysfunctional and lonely childhoods which they have turned into comedy…the best transcend…the others are funny on stage but not in their lives of drugs, depression, food addiction, etc. So how does play and fun help us transcend the negative things done to us??? We can learn to lighten up, to take life seriously; while not always being serious. How? That’s a paradox worth exploring.

There are many stories from children’s books that bring nostalgic memories to our minds, but often the classics also contain much wisdom for adults. They help us in connecting to the art of whimsy and playfulness.

reading-timeThe Caterpillar and Alice looked at each other for some time in silence: at last the Caterpillar took the hookah out of its mouth, and addressed her in a languid, sleepy voice.

`Whoooooo are YOU?’ said the Caterpillar.

This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, `I–I hardly know, sir, just at present– at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.’

`What do you mean by that?’ said the Caterpillar sternly. `Explain yourself!’

`I can’t explain MYSELF, I’m afraid, sir’ said Alice, `because I’m not myself, you see.’

`I don’t see,’ said the Caterpillar.

`I’m afraid I can’t put it more clearly,’ Alice replied very politely, `for I can’t understand it myself to begin with; and being so many different sizes in a day is very confusing.’

That passage, from one of my all-time favorite books, is one of many passages that make me smile, and take me back to my time as a child of make believe and imagination.

The Value of Play: Can it Coexist with Work?

Too much fun at work: That is something I rarely hear these days. Yet, I wonder if we don’t discount the value of enjoyment for high performance on the job. There is power in play, even for the most serious of careers.

Studies show that play has a survival advantage in the wild. When young animals engage in rough and tumble pretend-fighting or play, they are learning skills and social rules. Those that play the most, grow more neurons, and have more robust mental and physical stamina.

Humans also benefit from play during their entire life span, not just as children and adolescents! In older adults, those who engage in the most “mind” activity (doing puzzles, reading, engaging in mentally challenging work) have a 63% lower chance of getting Alzheimer’s disease than the general population. Adults who continue to explore and learn throughout life are less prone to dementia and less likely to get heart disease. The people who stay sharp and interesting as they age are the ones who continue to play and work.

According to Stuart Brown, MD, author of Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul (Penguin Books, 2009), the opposite of work is not play. Play and work are mutually supportive. Yet most of us have learned to be serious when it comes to our careers. We squelch our natural drive to have fun.

Play is not the enemy of work; in fact, neither can thrive without the other.We need the newness of play, the sense of flow, imagination, and energy of being in the moment. We also need the sense of purpose in work: the economic stability it provides, the sense of meaning and competence. The quality that work and play have in common is creativity. In both we are creating new relationships, skills, and making things happen.

birthday-partyOften an overwhelming sense of responsibility and competitiveness can bury our inherent need for variety and challenge. If we deny our need to play, we will eventually fall to stress and burnout. Recognizing our biological need for play can transform work.

Play helps us deal with difficulties, handle challenges, tolerate routines and emotions such as boredom or frustration. Play provides a sense of expansiveness, promotes mastery, and is vital to the creative process.

What ever happened to unbridled joy in our daily lives? Remember the fun of play as children? Nearly everyone starts out in life playing quite naturally, with whatever’s available. We make up rules, invent games with playmates, fantasize, and imagine mysteries and treasures.

Maybe we need to renew ourselves more through purposeful play. Something happens to most of us, as we become working adults: we shift our priorities into organized, competitive, goal-directed activities. If an activity doesn’t teach us a skill, make us money, or further our social relationships, we don’t want to waste time being nonproductive.

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