Play: It’s Not Just For Our Inner Children

I don’t know about you, but I think one of the worst not-actually-true “truths” that is so commonly bought and sold by adults in our culture is the one that casts play as frivolous, even taboo.

I’ve both bought and sold this falsehood for sure. Just the other day what I’d intended as a lighthearted conversation with a beloved turned into some deep processing despite both of us really wishing for some levity and laughter between us. We wished for it, but the truth, in hindsight, was that neither of us was actually prioritizing it in that moment. We weren’t insisting on playfulness the way a child might, giving it just as much value as any other facet of relating.

We reach a certain age and poof! It’s no longer appropriate to allocate time to silly banter, rolling around on the ground, using our imaginations to create games and other playful expressions that were once so natural and frequent in our lives. And even when a part of us so clearly knows what it’s longing for, the louder and stronger part often calling the shots says it’s time for work, for seriousness, for emotional heavy lifting . . . basically anything but play.

Yet play is essential to our thriving on so many levels. Play is a pathway to greater vitality, body, mind and spirit. And it is a key ingredient in any recipe book for cultivating inspiring, enduring intimacy in a romantic connection. Play offers an outlet for our primal energies and can be amazingly helpful in the face of certain conflicts.

So how do we, as adults who actually do have to tend to work, seriousness and emotional heavy lifting at times, invite more play into our lives and our relationships? Here are a few ideas that I like to play with, pun entirely intended, that you might want to try on for yourself, whether solo, with a friend or in the company of your special someone(s):

·      Get dirty, and I don’t just mean naughty! There is something so freeing about being close to the earth. Root around in the soil, climb a tree, bury into the sand, throw snowballs or handfuls of fallen leaves or whatever nature provides you in the way of props. Let your wild animal claw and dig and run amuck. Play tag or scramble around on some big climbing rocks. Working up a bit of sweat and having some dirt under your nails or grass stains on your knees is good for you. And know that nature can be an incredible aphrodisiac, so be prepared to transition from feral to fantasy if the mood strikes.

·      Play with your roles! Role-play is an amazing way to spice up your sex life if you have an impulse to experiment with different personas or power dynamics. Yet it doesn’t have to be just about sex. You can bring this facet of play into your daily life. Make a game out of household chores or create different characters to inhabit while on an outing. You can play with being the master or mistress of the castle or the foreigner with the intriguing backstory or . . . Your imagination is the only limitation here!

·      Take it to the mat . . . Wrestle! The power and efficacy of a good old-fashioned wrestling match cannot be emphasized enough! I wrestle with clients, or guide them to wrestle with each other when seeing couples, on a regular basis. Highly therapeutic! Having a non-sexual space to move energy in a very visceral way, to push, pull, pounce and play like the animals we are is so very good for the spirit and for creating connection. You can even weave a pillow fight in to keep things interesting.

·      Dance yourself silly! To me, dance is medicine, prayer, ecstatic expression and, yes, an incredible forum for inviting a sense of playfulness into your life. At conscious dance offerings such as Ecstatic Dance, Soul Motion, Open Floor and 5 Rhythms, you have an opportunity to be in a space where you can literally explore what wants to move through you in a field of vast permission without the pickup scene, alcohol, shoes and other trademarks of dancing at a club. In these spaces a game of cat and mouse or hide and seek can easily turn into a dance when set to music. Funny faces and silly gestures can become part of your choreography.

While it might seem counter intuitive, I highly recommend that you take play seriously. Insist on it being present in your life, your relationship with yourself and with those dear to you. Tap into the wisdom of your inner child and let them take charge every once in awhile. There’s a better than good chance that doing so will bring more lightness to your heart and levity to your days.